- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
I usually start with a victim. Every character in my stories runs the risk of being killed or being a killer. I never know when the idea will strike. But I don’t want the characters I love to be killed so I choose them and then think of a way I can involve them in a murder.
- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
I do a lot of thinking and talking with other writers. I also bounce ideas off my sister, who is a great mystery lover.
- What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
If I’m basing the character on a friend, I try to use their actions, reactions, & thoughts. If it’s a character I’ve
created on my own, I go with my gut and flesh them out as I need to. But I never write anything down. I let the character grow in my mind as I write it. If my character is based on a friend (someone real) then I talk to them too, and ask if they have an idea for what there character might like to do.
- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
Rudy was my boy, the very best dog in the entire world, and I miss him every day. He and Ellie have the same relationship I had with my Rudy, and that will never change. Often in their dialogues, Ellie is saying the same thing to her Rudy that I said to mine.
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
I look at my writing as if it were a job. I get to my desk by 9 every morning, take one hour lunch break, and go back to work. I’ve very disciplined. If I need a hair cut or have to get my nails done or go to the grocery store, I schedule it on the same day so I don’t waste time more than one day in a week.
- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?
Absolutely nothing. I was getting bored writing what I thought to be ‘one note’ books (romances) and wanted to do something more exciting, but I hate violence. That meant no thrillers and a carefully constructed mystery that showed a murder without blood and guts. That is NOT easy to do.
- How did you get your first break toward getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter etc?
I was lucky enough to find an agent first. She was/is wonderful. Was patient with me as my writing grew stronger, encouraged me, and always let me write what I wanted. She was even the one to encourage me to try a mystery, even after I told her I had no idea how to construct one.
- What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started a book by Carl Hiassen, who I love, and I just finished the first book in the ‘Repairman Jack’ series. I heard the line was the favorite books of Stephen King and thought I’d try one to see what a master enjoyed. I always buy the first book in a series because I want the ‘set-up’ so I got number one. It was a good read, so I’ll probably go back for book two
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm. I don’t know. Would talking to the picture of a deceased dog be considered a quirk?
- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?I think critique groups are very important, especially for a new writer. I participated in one where the group met face to face each month and a few others that were done on line. I was very insecure about my writing and used a critique group up until book nine or so. Then the group fell apart and I had to make it on my own—which I did. But I still go back to a good writing friend to discuss ideas, plots, character dialogue, etc.