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Monday, October 22, 2012

Author Interview - Carolyn Hart

This week we have a great author interview with Carolyn Hart.  Growing up she worked on school newspaper, anticipating a future in journalism. She is a mutliple award winner, and was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her WWII novel "Letter from Home." From her website: She was born in Oklahoma City and met her husband to be, Phil, on a student trip to Europe during her junior year in college.  Her current felines are charming (and huge) Cat-A-Thomas and imperious but beautiful Sophie (who bites).  Please extend a warm welcome to a fellow cat and mystery lover!

Photo credit: Robert H. Taylor, Univ. of Oklahoma

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?       

I love language and books. Fashioning a good sentence is a huge pleasure.  Moreover, I've always felt that I am supposed to write. That is my purpose in life.

What is your routine when you're facing your next novel? What is the process like for you.  Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I am a what if . . . writer. I will have an idea, what happened the night of the Fourth of July dance? (The basis for DEAD, WHITE AND BLUE which will be out in May.) The Peking Man bones disappeared during the early days of WWII in China and possibly reappeared briefly in New York City in the 1970s. What if someone had those bones and contacted a young anthropologist? (The reissue of SKULDUGGERY in November.)

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 not write a formal outline. I start with my "what if" question and that gives me a possible background. Then come the characters, at first shadowy and indistinct. They become more clearly delineated as I write. When I begin I know the victim in a traditional mystery or the goal in a suspense novel. I know who committed the crime and why, but I have no idea how I will get from page 1 to page 300.

Nela Farley is a great every-person character, and the rest of the crew is great as well. 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? 

The characters become themselves as I write. Often there will be changes and I go back and rewrite.

What do you and your main characters, like Nela Farley, have in common? How are you different?

Nela and I both love reporting. I planned to be a reporter but worked as one only briefly before turning to fiction. Differences? I am not as crisp and asssertive as she is.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling? 

Touching would be a better description of my feelings when a reader told me how my books had helped her during long hours spent at the hospital with a dying husband.

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?

I work in a small office behind my house. I remind myself that I have a deadline to meet. That is always a powerful impetus.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?  Writing more than one series (Death on Demand series and Bailey Ruth Raeburn series, now Nela Farley)  must be a challenge, how do you manage that in your schedule? 

If all goes well, I can complete a ms., including revisions, in five to six months. I am a morning person and usually start about 8 am. I try to write 3 to 5 pages a day. I am currently writing two books a year and that is a challenge.

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries? 

I grew up loving mysteries, reading widely, everything from Agatha Christie to Raymond Chandler. I majored in journalism. I have always thought of life in terms of writing.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character and who is your favorite paranormal character? 

I have many favorites. Miss Marple, of course. Juanita Sheridan's Janice Cameron and Lily Wu. Erle Stanley Gardner's Donald Lam and Bertha Cool. Phoebe Atwood Taylor's Leonidas Witherall. Noel Coward's Elvira in "Blithe Spirit" is my favorite paranormal character.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter? 

I read The Writer magazine, saw a contest for a mystery for girls 8 to 12 and wrote THE SECRET OF THE CELLARS, which won the contest and was my first published book. Next spring's DEAD, WHITE AND BLUE will be my 50th book.

If your Nela Farley mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?

I will have to ask readers who are movie goers to nominate an actress. I will confess that though I enjoy movies, I always prefer a book.  [Okay readers - comment on who you think the DreamTeam would be to portray her characters in the movies!]

Tell us your thoughts on the growing genre of paranormal mysteries and its popularity (i.e. is it here to stay or a fad, is it pushing the mystery genre envelope etc?) 

I suppose it is odd, but I never consider myself a paranormal writer because the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn who returns to earth to help people in trouble is simply a sleuth who happens to be dead and my cat in WHAT THE CAT SAW is, as one reviewer said, simply a cat who watches and sees as all cats actually do.
    Re: paranormal fiction in general, all things are possible in heaven and earth and readers respond to that deep primal understanding.

What are you working on now? 

I am halfway through a new Annie and Max, FATAL CHOICE.  A doctor looks across a room and recognizes evil in a glance and makes a fatal choice. 

Thank you so much for the interview.  Congratulations on you upcoming 50th book!!  Readers, please chime in.

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