by Karen E. Rigley
Steve, thank you for joining our MMC author interviews. You’re our first male volunteer, which is very fun. 😉
Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary. What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what and why?
My favorite aspect to the Mystery Most Cozy site is the sense of camaraderie. As an author who has been published by an independent publisher, I do a substantial amount of self-promotion—I expected it to be very challenging. I have been pleasantly surprised at how embracing the cozy mystery community of authors and fans (and the MMC group in particular) has been to a new author in this domain.
How did you know you were meant to write?
I’ve always been an avid reader. Writing seemed like a natural extension of my passion.
What fascinates you about mysteries?
Everything! Mysteries provide a wonderful platform to include all of the things I love about books— unique characters, plot twists and red herrings. Cozies fascinate me because both the authors and readers can take a topic that would otherwise be gruesome (usually murder) and turn it into something that’s lighthearted.
What inspired you to write your mysteries?
Writing allows me to give something back to the bibliophiles of the world and lets me express myself in a creative manner. Mysteries have always been near and dear to my heart, so when I decided to start writing, I knew it had to be in the mystery genre.
What intrigues you about writing a series?
The opportunity for character development is endless. A series allows me to start a subplot (e.g., my protagonist’s love life) and carry it from book-to-book. It also provides a comfortable and familiar setting to the reader and allows the author to leave the reader wanting more.
What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?
Finding the time to do it well. I’m the General Counsel of a national non-profit organization and I’m trying to raise a six-year-old with my wife (who is working and pursuing her PhD). That said, I love writing so spending my limited windows of time doing it are relaxing and enjoyable!
What do you enjoy reading?
Mysteries and crime novels of all types (from Lawrence Block to John Sandford). For some reason, I’ve always particularly enjoyed British writers (Ken Follett, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Jeffrey Archer).
Which authors have influenced you?
Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton have been the most influential on my writing. Ms. Christie is a true role model in developing a mystery from the core. Just reading her books taught me so many elements of mystery writing. Ms. Beaton’s books showed me how to weave playful local characters and romantic undercurrents throughout my first book (and the rest of the series to come).
How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?
Quite a large amount. I have the cast of locals already set. Then I sketch out the players in the mystery at hand and plan rough cuts of the plot (including some of the major twists). But a lot of the smaller twists and sub-plots develop as I’m writing.
Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?
I’ve only published one book so far. While I adore my protagonist (Damon Lassard), my favorite characters are Damon’s mother (Lynne Lassard-Brown) and the community gossip (Mrs. Chenworth).
What would you like to say to your readers & fans?
Thank you! For me, it’s not about the number of books I sell, it’s about having people enjoy what I’ve written. My goal is to have my stories to entertain as many people as possible. So if you’ve read my first book—It Takes Two to Strangle—I sincerely hope you enjoyed it and are looking forward to my next book in the series (anticipated in spring/summer 2013). If you haven’t read it, please give it a try!
What advice would you offer a beginning writer?
Write until you finish. Like most people, my life is hectic. You simply have to find the time to write. For me, that’s after my daughter is in bed. With my wife working on her PhD research at night, we can sit side-by-side with our laptops (like nerds) on the couch.
Be relentless when trying to get published. Send out scores of query letters. If you don’t get positive responses, change the query and consider modifying the portions of the manuscript you’re sending.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take a chance. My original manuscript was 93,000 words. Before signing me, Cozy Cat Press (my publisher) asked me to cut 30,000 words. I did it and now the dialogue pops and the story flies at a wonderful pace.
Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?
Yes! I love it when I’m reading them and I certainly put it into It Takes Two to Strangle. I think a touch of romance adds flavor to a book and depending on your characters, potentially comedy and anguish. My protagonist has a capricious love life and I think it adds depth to his make-up.
As author you create magic offering readers an escape into your story. As you write how deeply do you submerge into your own characters, setting and plot? Do you dream any of your scenes?
I delve deeply into my characters, setting and plot. I don’t dream my scenes but I lie awake in bed at night and in the mornings visualizing them. I also spend time in public places observing people and taking note of their physical attributes, facial features and body language.
Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?
I spend so much time in my professional life being serious—I need a cheerful outlet.
What are you writing now?
The next book in the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series will feature the murder of a person who has a fairly rare physical abnormality. It’s near to my heart because I was born with such a condition. That said, while it’s emotional to me, to the general public it will be a super-fun read. My principal character—Damon Lassard—gets himself into all kinds of trouble, solves a smaller mystery along the way and tangles his love life even further with Rebecca (his best friend) and Bethany (the woman he’s been pining over for years).
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
Thanks for allowing me to participate in the celebration of Mystery Most Cozy’s 10th Anniversary!
Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of his mysteries.
Mystery Most Cozy links: