Category Archives: Interviews

Awesome Authors–Ellis Vidler

photo of the authorMy guest today on Awesome Authors is the fabulous mystery-suspense author, Ellis Vidler. I’ve known Ellis since I found the supportive writer’s group, Sisters-in-Crime, and their sub-group, the Guppies. Ellis is an author, editor, and speaker. She grew up in North Alabama, studied English and art at All Saints College for Women, and thoroughly enjoyed studying creative writing under the great Scott Regan. She also taught elements of fiction at a community college. Her home is now the South Carolina Piedmont with her husband and dogs.

(From the author’s bio): As a child in the South, Ellis spent long, hot days imagining herself an Indian or pioneer or musketeer. At night she (and her whole family) read. From Tarzan and D’Artagnan to Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew, she lived them all. No angst in her childhood. So what did she do as an adult? Write fiction, what else? She loves creating characters and making them do what she wants, but mostly they take off on their own and leave her hurrying to catch up.

Hi Ellis! Thanks for joining us 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:

EV: I grew up on everything from Tarzan to Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. My career began with illustrating and morphed into editing and technical writing. Now I write fiction and love it.

DV: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

EV: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer.

DV: What compels you to write?

EV: The characters in my head—they want to have their stories told, even though the stories evolve and shoot off in new directions as I write them.cover for cold comfort

DV: What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?

EV: Suspense is what I aim for, but there’s always an element of romance. Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer. I can’t stick with the required elements long enough for them to be called romances. For example, in Prime Target (coming out late this year) the main characters don’t meet until Chapter 10, a no-no in romance, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s a love story on my terms.

I research everything, trying to get the details right. It’s an obsession, but it’s also a good way to get sidetracked. One interesting fact can lead me down a lengthy detour.

“Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer…”

DV: Sounds familiar 🙂 In the McGuire Women series, your protagonists have psychic abilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your main characters? What were the challenges you faced?

cover for time of deathEV: My grandmother was psychic. I think hers was considered telepathy. She knew when any of her family was ill or injured, no matter where they were. I was there and saw it, so I know it was real. After Haunting Refrain came out, I found out her brother had the same ability. Psychic ability has always fascinated me, in spite of the charlatans. One of my cousins has some of it; however, none of the family “gift” passed to me.

DV: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?

EV: Yes, they do work their way in, but I alter them to fit the story. My main characters tend to like what I like and experience many of the same things. In Cold Comfort, Claire is with Riley in a small plane. The events of the flight and the storm actually happened to me and my husband—proof that ignorance is bliss.

DV: What are you currently working on?

EV: I just approved my first audio book, Time of Death (Note: see link at end of interview) Haunting Refrain will be out next month. I have two terrific narrators and can’t wait for the books to be released. Also, I’m trying hard to wrap up Prime Target and get it to my beta readers. I love it, but the story is different, and I don’t know how it will go over.cover for prime target

DV: That sounds intriguing! I can’t wait… What’s your process when you write? Do you outline or just get an idea and run with it?

EV: Until now I’ve been a pantser, running with a vague idea, but I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.

DV: I know that feeling 😛 Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?

EV: Study your craft and persevere. My first book, Haunting Refrain, was much more luck than judgment. I had no idea how little I knew. It’s amazing that a publisher actually wanted it. I’ve been both traditionally and self-published. There are pros and cons to each. Writers have to decide which one suits them. Personally, I like the control I have in doing it myself and intend to stick with “indie” publishing.

“…I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?

EV: Ideally, I’d like to have several more books out. Ebooks are becoming more and more popular, but I don’t think print books are going to disappear. With the advent of earbuds and tiny players, audio is gaining too. It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story. That won’t change.

DV: What strategies work best for you when promoting a novel?

EV: Goodness, I’ve tried so many. Twitter, Facebook, freebies (I doubt if I’ll do any more of those), ads on certain reader sites… I have a blog with lots of articles, I but rarely post now.

Luck, timing, and word of mouth are the best, and you have no control over any of those things.

“It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story.”

DV: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go and why?

EV: I wouldn’t give up electricity, hot water, the microwave, or the Internet. I like my creature comforts. 🙂  I’d probably go back to my twenties (a long time ago) and get serious about my writing sooner.

DV: Hmm. Good idea. Now, if I could just figure out where I put that pesky Time Machine… Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ellis! Good luck on your new releases 😀

If you’d like to find out more about Ellis and her work, please check out the links below:

Amazon author page:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Blog

Buy links (Amazon):

Haunting Refrain

Time of Death

Time of Death Audio (NEW!)

Cold Comfort  (On sale for .99!)

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Thriller Ink Interview

Keyboard and penThere’s a fun interview over at Thriller Ink today–find out why I write action/adventure and whether I put real people in my novels 🙂

http://thrillerink.com/d-v-berkom-author-interview/


New Interview!

Today, the tables are turned and the inimitable Lucy Pireel interviews me on her blog. I’d love it if you’d stop by and leave a comment 🙂

And here’s her great review of Yucatan Dead…

 


Awesome Authors–Donnell Ann Bell

Photo of authorToday on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.

Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀

(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013).  Her website is www.donnellannbell.com

DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂

Donnell: Hi, DV!  Happy to be here!  cover for Betrayed

DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.

Donnell: Thank you.  As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived.  All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver.  I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.

DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?

Donnell:  I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished.  In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder.  This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.

I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps.  These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often.  I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work.  That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed.  As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me.  I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story.  If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.

“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”

DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?

Donnell:  Long 😉  I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft.  I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready.  In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe.  In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart.  Deadly Recall finaled in 2010.  In 2010, my agent and I parted ways.  My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit.  I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query.  She said, “Hey, this sounds good.  Send it.  Send Deadly Recall, too.”  I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.     

DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?

Donnell: Oh, great question.  Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.  And I think our childhood shapes us.  The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques.  I’m not a fan.  I also detest bullies.  The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.

“…everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉

DV:  What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?

Donnell:  I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand.  (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard.  This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3.  I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking.  I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD.  I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.  I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.

DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂  Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

EPIC awardDonnell:  Oh, everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉  I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast.  Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?  

DV:  Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?

Donnell:  Probably as much as you do, given what we write.  Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know.  I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure.  I find that every thread I create leads to more research.  Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project.  I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.

“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”

DV:  In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?

Donnell:  I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing.  I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me. 

I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me.  I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.)  As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.     

DV:  What advice would you give to new writers?

Donnell:  It’s so tempting, but don’t rush.  Learn craft.  Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read.  Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute.  Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel.  If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong.  Every writer develops a process.  Do what works for you.   

DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED.  So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED.  I had a lot of fun writing it.

EXCERPT

Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play.  And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off.  But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble.  He was notorious for lurking in the distance.  He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.

“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.

Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction.  “I wish.”

Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball.  “Work on your dribbling.  Be right back.”

Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill.  This was no high school student she was about to face.  This was an adult male watching her team.  He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.

“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward.  “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”

“What if I’m not interested in the players?  What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.

Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun.  She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking.  “Nate?”

“Hi ya, Kins.”

She gulped in disbelief.  She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”

“I’m working.  Is there something I can help you with?”

He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt.  “Maybe.  I’m here on police business.”

An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest.  Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop.  Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.

Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed.  Not that she’d accepted.  She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.

Men.

Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned.  “Does it concern one of my players?”

“It concerns you, Kins.”  He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space.  There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough.  “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”

END EXCERPT

DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell.  Good luck with your new book!

Donnell: Thanks so much for having me! 

DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!

Check out Donnell’s author page or follow her on Facebook or Twitter  She’s also on Goodreads


Awesome Authors–Marilyn Meredith

author Marilyn MeredithToday on Awesome Authors, please welcome prolific mystery author, Marilyn Meredith.  Marilyn writes two different series with which you might be familiar: The Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and, writing as F.M. Meredith, The Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

(From the author’s bio): Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Dangerous Impulses from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/

D: Hi Marilyn! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

M: I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra (CA) near a place much like where my heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. I lived many years by the beach in Southern California which was the inspiration for my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

I raised five children, have eighteen grandkids (raised some of them too), and now thirteen great-grands. I’m still married to the cute sailor I went on a blind date with years ago and when I’m not writing, we enjoy doing things with our family, and we’re avid movie goers.

D: How long have you been writing? Have you always written mysteries?

M: It seems I’ve written all my life—beginning when I was a child, however my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother. Though I wrote all through those years, I didn’t start sending manuscripts out until later, after the child rearing, PTAing, Camp Fire Girls, and many different jobs.

D: Tell us about your latest release. What was your favorite part of writing the book?

M: Spirit Shapes is number 12 or 13 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series (depending upon whether or not you count the prequel). cover for Spirit Shapes

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Though there is often a touch of the supernatural along with a mystery, Spirit Shapes is full of all sorts of otherworldly beings as well as Native American lore—and always a favorite of mine to write about.

“…I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other.”

D: What inspires you and why?

M: All sorts of things inspire me from all sorts of challenging weather to meeting a new and interesting person who might end up as a character in my book. I also love to hear people tell tales about their encounters with haunted places and ghosts. As for my other series, I know a lot of police officers and I am definitely thrilled to listen to their stories. The inspiration always leads my imagination on a new path to write about.

D: What do you find most challenging about writing two series? Why?

M: The most challenging is that I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other. Writing each one is easy because there are so many differences between the two. The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is written almost always from her point-of-view. Most of the action goes on in the mountains or on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is about many officers and their families so is written from several different points-of-view. The location is a beach community in Southern California. It’s like putting on a different mind-set for each series. One thing that helps me is I write the Tempe series as Marilyn Meredith and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F.M. Meredith. It’s a bit like changing my persona when I change author names.

“…my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother.”

D: Tell me about your process: do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

M: A tad of both. I always begin by thinking about the new characters I’ll be introducing whether it will be the murder victim or those who wanted this person dead. Or perhaps I’ll decide to do a different way of presenting the crime and what kind of twists I might use. I start making notes about what I want to happen. Most of my stories take place over a short period of time, so I start making a daily calendar. On Tuesday this happens, etc.

When I begin writing, the story starts telling itself. Ideas come in a jumble and I always write them down otherwise I’d never remember. And of course, when I think I’m through, I have to go through and make sure I’ve tied up loose ends and not left anything out.

D: What do you like best about writing mysteries?

M: In my mysteries, though not all the personal issues may be completely tied up, the bad guy or gal always is discovered in the end. Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that way. I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil, no matter what form it might be in.

“I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil…”

D: Do your books have an underlying theme or message?

M: When I’m writing, I don’t think in terms of theme or giving a message, though sometimes when I’m done I realize that I have. One of the early readers of Spirit Shapes said the story left her feeling hopeful.

D: What advice would you give to new writers?

M: My first advice is to not talk about writing or what you’re going to write, but put your bottom in the chair and write—and write—and write.  Second one is to never give up. No matter how many rejections you get, learn from them, rewrite and keep on learning and submitting. (I received nearly 30 rejections for my first book that was finally published.)

D: Which writers have influenced you the most?

M: Probably Tony Hillerman when it came to writing about Native Americans. I also love both of J. A. Jance’s series. There are many, many more.cover for Raging Waters

D: What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your work?

M: I love blogging and going on blog tours—when I go on a tour my sales go up. But lately Facebook has also been effective. Also when you go to a mystery convention, I like to find readers and make friends with them. Some of them actually buy my books.

D: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?

cover for dangerous impulsesM: If I could take with me what I know now, I’d go backwards enough so that I’d handle my writing career a bit differently. I’d learn more about writing first. When I thought my work was done, I’d find a good editor. Once I was published, I’d do lots of promotion.

D: I like it—always committed to the craft 🙂 . Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Marilyn. Good luck with SPIRIT SHAPES.

Below is an excerpt for Marilyn’s latest release, SPIRIT SHAPES. For more information about the author, please see the links after the excerpt.

Excerpt from Spirit Shapes:

The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson House, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she’d guided these enthusiasts had been a bust.

The evening began perfectly. Everyone arrived a few minutes before nine. Low clouds settled over the mountains. Looming up from atop a hillock, the two-story structure peered at them through darkened windows. The only light came from flashlight beams as the ghost hunters approached and climbed the rustic steps created from railroad ties.

Lorna gathered the group on the porch to give her instructions. Each person who came on this ghost hunt had been required to read and sign an agreement. The first rule was to keep an open mind. Participants could bring cameras and audio or visual taping devices. Phones could be on, since many used the cameras in their cells, as long as the ring tones were silenced. There were other rules, such as carrying proper identification in case someone noticed the lights in what was known to be an unoccupied structure and sent law enforcement to investigate. Since all other houses were located at least a half mile away, Lorna wasn’t worried about that kind of interruption.

“The quieter we can be as we move around, the more likely we are to hear or be able to tape any strange noises or voices. You can take as many photos as you like. There are two types of spirits we may encounter. One, someone who was alive at one time and has remained on this earthly plane for some reason. The ghost might not realize he or she is dead. Or perhaps it may have some unfinished business. These spirits could be good or bad, depending on what kind of person they were when they were alive.”

A slight murmur rose from the group.

“Don’t worry. They aren’t dangerous. You might also witness what is called a residual haunting. This is an echo of something that happened at another time.” Lorna paused. “I am obligated to tell you that though I’ve yet to encounter this kind of spirit, there are those that were never human. They are malevolent and some might call them demons.”

Again the group whispered among themselves.

“Because of that unlikely possibility, we’ll take a few seconds to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. If you are a religious person, say a prayer of protection.” Lorna bowed her head and counted to ten. “Okay. Here we go. Explore to your heart’s content.”

END EXCERPT

To buy Spirit Shapes in all formats directly from the publisher:

Mundania Press

And of course, it’s available on Amazon.

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

 


Interview on A Book and a Chat with Barry Eva

Old radio.jpgJust finished up another live interview, this time with the charming Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. Barry’s a Brit living in Connecticut who has been hosting authors on his show for a few years now and is one of the best interviewers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. We had to deal with a couple of technical difficulties but all in all, a fun interview! Click here to listen.


Awesome Authors–Denise Hartman

Author Denise HartmanHappy Thursday, everybody! Today on Awesome Authors I get to interview mystery author and intrepid world traveler, Denise Hartman. Denise is a former journalist and has worked as a freelance writer, graphic designer, and video producer. She currently lives in Madrid, Spain.  Here’s her bio (from the author)

“Denise’s background in journalism and television production has influenced her writing style and habits, while living overseas for several years, currently in Madrid, Spain, gives Denise’s imagination new sights and sounds for her mysteries. She has been a member of Sisters In Crime since 1996. Denise has a passion for reading, books, travel, dogs, tea, and teapots– not necessarily in that order.”

And now, heeeere’s Denise 🙂

DV: Hi Denise! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Tell us something about yourself.

DH: I’m short and that seems to be the first thing people want to talk about with me. I stopped growing vertically when I was 10, it’s been a horizontal journey ever since!

DV: LOL. When did you realize you were a writer?

DH: When I was in fifth grade (around the time I stopped growing!), I wrote a mystery play and the class performed it. I already loved stories but I realized I wanted to be a writer. When I started getting paid to write after college, I thought, “I’m really AM a writer.”

“This perspective of not just visiting but living day in and day out in and with another culture has forced me to consider other ways of doing life…”

DV:  Don’t you just love that ‘aha’ moment when you know you’re a writer? Tell us about your latest book. What was your favorite part about writing it? Least favorite?

DH: Nosy Neighbors will be released on Dec. 1. I have loved spending time with these characters, many of them in their senior years in retirement in Florida. It’s an environment I’ve spent a lot of time in with my grandmother. It’s fun for me.

The hardest part of writing for me is editing. By the third or fourth pass, I know the story so well and it’s not as much fun. I also seem to always write when I’m somewhere else geographically, so keeping things accurate is a challenge too.

DV: How has living abroad influenced your writing?cover for Killed in Kruger

DH: I love new places.  I grew up in Kansas City and now I’ve lived in Brussels, Belgium and in Madrid, Spain. This perspective of not just visiting but living day in and day out in and with another culture has forced me to consider other ways of doing life, whether I like it or not. This new way of looking at perspectives on life I take to my characters and my places in my stories. I hope it gives more authenticity to the various personalities and environments. It’s easier to step outside of my way of looking at the world and incorporate some other ideas because I’m forced to look at life differently than I naturally would by the common place every day situations of living in a foreign country.

DV: Totally get that, Denise. It’s one of the best reasons I can think of to travel. What inspires you and why?

DH: Exploring new spaces is really energizing for me. I see more detail in faces and imagine intrigue behind every new facade. It can be the simplest thing that triggers an idea, a look or a street corner. It just sets off my writer antenna and my mind starts whirring.

DV: What do you find most challenging about writing a novel? Why?

DH: I love to plot and that comes to me naturally. My first job was as a news reporter and we didn’t have space for description, so it is always a challenge to me to put enough detail and keep it consistent thru out the length of the book.

“It can be the simplest thing that triggers an idea”

DV: Tell me about your process: do you plot your novels or are you a “pantser”? What do you like best about writing?

DH: I have done two books and numerous short stories “pantser” style. I enjoyed the exploration of the characters and what would happen next. Nosy Neighbors which is coming out soon started life as a short story. The short story worked as an outline and I added to it as I had ideas. I enjoyed this and found the book came together better, so I’ve started “narrative” outline for my next idea.

DV: How do you develop your characters?

DH: Some characters are just whole in my mind after the idea strikes me. Others come from mutations of things I read or images I see or a mishmash of people I have met. I once saw a guy in an airport that was a dead ringer for a character in Killed in Kruger, my first novel. He wasn’t a nice character so I was a little creeped out.

DV: Do you do much research for your novels?

DH: I don’t start out doing so much unless you count trips I take to the places I write about before the ideas are fully formed. I do speed researching of individual facts while I write and also do more of a research-edit pass to get things as right as possible after the draft is done.

DV: Is there an underlying message in your books?

DH: I’ve thought about underlying messages or themes after the fact, not as a precursor to writing. One consistent theme I find in my short stories and novels is a strong woman protagonist which was never intentional on my part. I was happy to discover that learning contentment was also a theme in Killed in Kruger.

DV: I think if you’re a strong woman yourself, you tend to write them as characters. What advice would you give to new writers?

DH: Persevere and find ways to enjoy the journey. It’s easy as a writer to only look at a finished book or a sold book or a certain number of sales as “success” but if you enjoy the process, there’s less pressure.

DV: Which writers have influenced you the most?

DH: Sometimes it’s the last book I read is what is influencing me but I particularly like suspenseful, tight plots. Mary Higgins Clark, Edna Buchanan, Charlotte Bronte, Agatha Christie, and I could go on!

One consistent theme I find in my short stories and novels is a strong woman protagonist…”

DV: What made you decide to go indie rather than traditional publishing?

DH: I have actually worked in the book publishing business, doing layout or interfacing with printers in my graphic design side of work. When self-publishing became common and it was clear that books were headed into the same sort of renaissance situation that music has experienced, I decided why not? I had the knowledge for much of the process already, and besides it’s more fun than asking agents to look at query letters.

DV: No kidding 🙂 What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your books?

DH: Don’t stop. I have a busy day job and I’ve found that if I just keep pecking away at social media and blogging etc, I grow bit by bit. I’d love to have more marketing time but some is better than none.

DV: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?

DH: I think I’d go sci-fi. I don’t know how far in the future but I know I don’t want to go to less utilities and modern amenities. I’d be a pilot who could fly in outer space or a captain of star ship.

DV: That would be way cool 🙂 Thanks, Denise, for submitting to the interview today. To hear more about Denise’s travels or books check out her blog, her website, or find her on Facebook. An excerpt from her new book, Nosy Neighbors, can be found below.

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EXCERPT

Nosy Neighbors, a novel of suspense

Chapter One

Blanche pulled up short with her key in the door. Something was wrong. Blanche’s key flipped loosely in her apartment door. She stared at the tiny brass knocker and peep-hole. It didn’t feel right. It was like the door wasn’t locked. She knew she locked it. She always did even when she trotted down to knock on a condo neighbor’s door.

She crept inside and looked around. Footprints in the freshly vacuumed cream carpet pattern weren’t hers. She’d vacuumed this morning. The sliding patio door was open a crack. She knew she’d closed it after breakfast outside. Temp predictions for 90 made sure she popped the a/c on before she left.

“Burgled!” She said out loud when her eyes moved to the kitchen counter. Her last ATM withdrawal of cash was not on the counter where she left it. She’d taken the tip for Sammy, her hair dresser and left the rest lying on the counter.

She reached for her weapon of choice and pushed 911 on her telephone.

“All operators are busy. Please be prepared to explain the nature of your emergency.”

Right. Blanche knew that meant that officers were busy too and weren’t going to be dispatched to her tiny burglary in the Seaside Flats. She dialed Alice the condo secretary and explained the situation.

“Oh yeah. Sarah in 201 has missed some cash and the Achmeds in 420 reported some silver figurines missing.”

“What? Why haven’t you sent out a warning or something to the residents?”

“We’re getting one organized, but Klaud had problems with his duplication-thingee.”

“Printer?”

“Yeah, something.”

“You guys are incompetent.” Blanche drummed her fresh red nails on the end table by the red phone appreciating how they matched.

“What are you all worked up about? Would you have put your jewels in the bank or something?” Alice knew how to dish it back. They’d been on the condo board together for years.

“Maybe.” No one needed to know that Harry had never been the jewelry buying type. He wasn’t really the buying of anything type.

“You coulda left your door unlocked. You should be more careful,” Alice said.

“I never leave my door unlocked. Not even when I go to the laundry room.”

“Well, we’re all getting older. Maybe you forgot.”

“I did not forget. And who are you calling old?” Blanche heard Alice snort on the other end of the line. She knew Alice was older than her. They always exchanged good-natured banter. “Anyway, I thought someone in the condo should know. I’m driving over to the police station now and talk to them.”

“To tell the truth, they haven’t been much help.” Alice complained.

“We’ll see what I can do about that. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Nobody walked off with $200 from Blanche Binkley’s kitchen and nobody was getting away with thinking she was an absent minded old lady either.

END EXCERPT


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