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Monday, March 10, 2014

Author interview: Kate Parker

Today we have the author of the new Victorian Bookshop mystery series.  I reviewed the debut book, The Vanishing Thief (click here.)  Please welcome Ms. Kate Parker to our little piece of the blogosphere with comments.

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

I write because I feel compelled to create stories. It's not unlike the compulsion people feel to run marathons or to do anything else where effort needs to be put in every day to get the result they want. I enjoy writing and I enjoy finding out what I can do with words.

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

I start with a bit of a scene. It involves a location, a couple of characters interacting, and a sliver of dialog that makes me wonder: what comes next, why are they there, and what happened to get them there.

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?

No. I suppose my outline is my first draft. It's only half the length of the finished work and has all sorts of problems I have to straighten out in subsequent drafts. I start on page one of the first draft and keep going until I finish with very little rewriting.

What do you and Georgia Fenchurch have in common? How are you different?

She's just turning 30, has violet eyes, a swan-like neck, and a mass of reddish curls. I'd love to say I have all that in common with her, but I'd be lying. She's also more adventurous and outspoken than I am. More self-reliant. Georgia is the person I'd like to be, but then I'd never remain tied to my computer to create her stories. Perhaps it's just as well we have little in common.

Georgia Fenchurch is a refreshing 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?  How do you handle minor characters?

For me, characters develop as I work through the various drafts of a story. I get a mental image of them in the first draft, but sometimes their names change in subsequent drafts because the first thing I name them doesn't fit. I'll often get through several drafts before I discover a character is missing who should be doing various things throughout the story. Then I'll need to think about it until I can see the character and hear him or her.

I remember once hearing a writer say that every character, even minor ones, are the central character in their own story. I've found it helpful to imagine all of my characters, even the minor ones, with some of their opinions and likes and talents to make their appearance on the page more lifelike.

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 have to have quiet to write. Any sound is a distraction to me, so I have a room at home where I always work.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

I'm a morning person, so I like to write in the morning as soon as I have breakfast with my husband. I'll write until it's time to go swimming or I have to run errands. Then once I get home in the afternoon, I'll get some more writing done until my brain says "that's enough" and I stop for the day. I suppose it takes about six months of actually working on a book to create it, but there are pauses in the process between some drafts while 1) I have to let it sit so I can come back to it with fresh eyes and 2)my critique partners are reading it and getting back with their suggestions. During those breaks, I'll work on another story.

How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?

I've been fascinated by the late Victorian period for ages, so I have a wealth of research built up. But I've found I'm always looking something up or checking a fact or a spelling or the date of a Underground station opening.

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries?

I've been reading mysteries since elementary school. They've always been my favorites, and we had shelves of them at home. I still have some of my mother's 25 cent Agatha Christie paperbacks. A comparable book today would be $6.99. I've tried writing historical romance, and I can't do it. Somebody's dead on the ballroom floor by the third chapter.

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

There are so many of them. Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey and Campion from the older works. Margaret Frazer's Joliffe, Simon Brett's Carole and Jude, Candace Robb's Archer, and Caroline Roe's blind physician Isaac from more modern works.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

The list is too long to even try to put here, but two authors we lost last year that I'd like to bring back to life so they could write more stories for us would be Robert Barnard and Margaret Frazer.

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

I had been pounding my head against  the wall for years, getting better and better rejection letters and finaling in RWA's Golden Heart contest three times in four years. My husband told me to change up  what I was writing or I'd never get published. I took the historical romance I'd just finished and reworked it as a cozy mystery.

A couple of months later, I entered the "American Author" contest at the Washington Romance Writers retreat where the first 250 words of unpublished manuscripts are read to three editors. When they read mine, the three editors said it had everything it needed. An agent I was interested in was in the audience, and she later asked me to send a partial. I did, and the next day she asked me to send the full manuscript. The next day she signed me. Three months later, we had a contract with Berkley.

Everything happened quickly, but this was after twelve years of constant effort.

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

Every time someone tells me they loved The Vanishing Thief and do they really have to wait until August to read the next installment (The Counterfeit Lady), I'm amazed. There's nothing more gratifying to a fiction writer than to hear that someone enjoyed their story. I created something other people get pleasure from. For me, that's priceless.

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

I loved Jennifer Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, so I'd have her play Georgia. The Duke of Blackford. How about Benedict Cumberbatch? Seeing him in Sherlock, I can see him playing an imperious duke.

Tell us about your next book in the series - or next project?  What is your biggest challenge with it?

The second book in the Victorian Bookshop Mystery Series is
The Counterfeit Lady, coming out August 5, 2014. It's been through copy edits and is all ready to go, so I'm done with all the challenges for that story. I think the biggest challenge was coming up with the title. I want something that really connects to the story, but follows the adjective noun pattern I began with The Vanishing Thief.

Do you have a newsletter or blog for readers to stay informed of your news?

No newsletter or blog. I'm pretty active on Facebook and I have a website
I'm also on the blog about once a month.

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THANK YOU Ms. Parker for your interview.  Your path to getting published is interesting.  It sounds like you were meant to write mysteries, and I am happy for that.

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