|1. You write the well-known Brandy Alexander Mystery series, also known as the No Such Thing As series, absolutely one of my favorites. How did you come up with the idea for this character and her appealing (and oh-so-easy-to-remember) name?
I think it began with a mid life crisis. I was feeling pretty restless and started reading romantic comedy mysteries for an escape from everyday life. They did the trick, but soon I found I wanted to go deeper, emotionally, than the books I had been reading. One night I sat down and began to write whatever popped into my head. What popped out was Brandy Alexander. Since this was “my” adventure, I made Brandy a younger, braver, cuter version of me, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to write about her. Her friends are a conglomeration of friends I knew in Philly. After I had the characters in place, I realized she needed a job that would allow her to have lots of adventures. That’s when I remembered a local puff piece reporter on the news that morning. I thought about how frustrating it might be for someone with aspirations of really making a difference in the world, to be stuck reporting on the best place to get your holiday turkey. It all just seemed to fall into place after that.
2. Smart choice, Shelly. Brandy is such a fun character! Tell us about your latest book.
No Such Thing As A Free Ride is the fourth book in the Brandy Alexander Mystery series. It’s my “darkest” novel to date and the one that’s dearest to my heart. In this book, Brandy runs across a young, homeless girl named Crystal, who is desperate to find her friend. The friend disappeared one night and Crystal is sure something nefarious has happened to her. In her efforts to help Crystal find her friend, Brandy discovers a world she never knew existed, and of course she takes care of the bad guys in her own, inimitable way. I did a lot of research on the subject of homeless youth, because it was vitally important to me that I portray them realistically. But, even delving into this dark world, there are things to laugh about. (The humor in my books tend to be more character-driven than situational. )
3. What I love the most about your books are the one-line zingers that are unexpected and have me laughing out loud – which can be embarrassing while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room! What’s next in the series?
I’m working on the fifth book now, but I’m taking my time with it. The last story was a culmination, of sorts, and now I’m rebuilding the tension and examining Brandy’s relationships with her friends and her love interest. Originally, I had planned to write only four, but I felt there was still more to explore. That said, I want to give fans of the series my very best efforts, and part of that deal is knowing when to quit. I am Brandy’s number one fan, and if I stop being true to her and her wonderful support group, I’ll know it’s time to stop.
4. I hope you continue this series for a long time, Shelly, it’s that good. Any plans for future standalones or to switch genres?
Not at the moment, although I’m always writing down ideas for future use.
5. As long as you stay with the series and don’t drop it. Just saying! Your series is based in Philadelphia and reading your books has me salivating over the food you describe. Any reason you chose Philadelphia?
I grew up in Philadelphia, and South Philly is one of my favorite places in the world. The city is a character unto its own. It is rich in history and culture, and there is a warmth and familiarity that I’ve never quite found anywhere else. Even though I write fiction, my characters really are taken almost straight from the people I’d known growing up. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend a visit!
6. Never really thought about visiting Philly until I read your books, and now I’d love to visit. You make it sound so interesting and fun. I note you have an active fan group at Yahoo. A great way to promote! What do you think works best for you in regards to promotion?
Oh, Christy, I wish I knew! LOL! The truth is I am terrible at self promotion. I have been very lucky, in that a few people who managed to find out about my books very generously offered to start groups for me. They told their friends, they wrote reviews, they cajoled fellow mystery fans into reading my books, and, slowly, word began to spread. It is a painfully slow process and there are days I wonder if it’s worth it. But then I think about all the truly wonderful friends I’ve made through the series, and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to connect with them.
7. Count me a fan! Are you a pantser or outliner?
Oh, most definitely a panster!
8. Me, too. What do you love most about writing? What do you dislike the most?
I love controlling my universe. I hate getting started! I love writing dialogue. I hate making decisions. I love “having written.” I hate writing.
9. I love writing when it flows; if it isn’t, shoot, I’d rather clean the bathroom. The Dames love animals and I note you share your home with cats and a dog. Can you tell us about them?
I have three adorable cats, Megan, Phoebe and Rocky, and a wonderful, mixed breed, 40-pound trouble-making dog named Romy.
10. What’s a home without cats and dogs, huh? Do you borrow from your own life when you write about Brandy?
If I had half the adventures Brandy had in the first book alone, I’d be dead. Aside from that, I borrow on a daily basis. Brandy gets her immaturity, her inability to keep her mouth shut, her absolutely terrible eating habits, her love of chocolate, the ridiculous things that happen to her all from me.
11. And that’s what is so great about her. She’s a hoot! I have to touch on all that great food you describe in your series. What’s your favorite Philly food?
That would have to be Pat’s cheese steaks–although I did have an AMAZING cheese steak from Jim’s in the northeast, the last time I was back there.
12. I have got to try that! If they ever make a movie or television show out of the No Such Thing As series, who would you like to see playing your characters?
While I have definite ideas about who I’d like to see in those roles, I always hesitate to share them. The great thing about a book is the readers can create their own image to suit their individual taste. I remember reading a book once, in which the author likened her male lead to an actor I didn’t like. Although I enjoyed the series, it sort’ve ruined if for me, because I couldn’t get the actor’s face out of my mind.
For more information about Shelly: http://www.nosuchthingas.com/index.html