Why do you write cozy mysteries?
I started out writing romantic suspense that dealt with serial killers, spousal abuse, and other gritty topics. Then 9/11 occurred in my backyard, and I found myself spending most days staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor. I just couldn’t write about such gruesome topics any more. The seamier side of life had become too real. In an effort to escape reality, I began reading books that made me laugh. Laughing releases endorphins and makes you feel better. It helped.
My agent suggested I try writing a cozy mystery. I had written one chick lit book several years earlier, and she thought my humorous voice would be a good fit for the cozy genre. Turns out she was right. I’ve written five novels and three novelettes in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series and am currently working on the sixth book. Literally Dead is the second book in my Empty Nest Mystery series, following Definitely Dead.
I’ve learned to never say never, but I don’t see myself going back to gritty realistic suspense any time soon. I’d much rather make people laugh than have them jumping up at night to check the locks on their doors and windows.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
A few years ago I stumbled upon the William Powell/Myrna Loy Thin Man movies on TCM. After watching the first, I binge-watched the remainder. I loved the rapport between the two characters as well as the humor in the movies. I began to think about writing a series that paid homage to them. However, I wanted to give my series a modern day spin. In the Empty Nest Mysteries, Gracie Elliott, the wife, is an amateur sleuth. Her husband Blake does his best to try to keep her out of trouble.
Literally Dead takes place at a writing conference. Gracie is an aspiring romance author. I’ve attended dozens of writing conferences over the years and have witnessed quite a bit of infighting. I thought it would be fun to extrapolate this to its ultimate conclusion—murder. (Note: All characters in the book are purely fictional and are not meant to represent any actual authors.)
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
My books are meant as escapism. They’re for readers who are willing to suspend disbelief and who enjoy a good laugh.
Please describe your writing routine.
I really don’t have one. There are days when I can write for eight hours straight and other days when I’m lucky if I can get a page written. I don’t outline my books, but I do write a short paragraph that gives me Point A (the start of the book) and Point B (the end of the book.) I know the victim before I begin writing. Sometimes I know the antagonist, but that’s subject to change as the story unfolds. Getting from Point A to Point B is a meandering road, often filled with detours and dead ends, but I eventually arrived at The End.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Don’t quit your day job! The reality of publishing is that very few authors can make a decent living from their writing. This is something Gracie learns in Literally Dead. When her job in the textile industry is outsourced to a Third World nation, she begins writing, thinking it will provide her with the kind of income she’s lost. Too many aspiring authors only hear about the six and seven-figure deals scored by authors like James Patterson and Nora Roberts. They sit down to write a book thinking they’re going to get rich. Few do. If that’s the reason you’ve decided to write, you’re writing for the wrong reason. Write because you can’t not write. If you’re lucky and persevere, you may beat the odds and succeed.
More about Literally Dead:
After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.
With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.
Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.
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