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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Leann Sweeney

Leann, I was a fan even before you began your Cats in Trouble series, so this is special to interview you for MMC.

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?

I believe Mystery Most Cozy has always been so wonderful for reader interaction and fan support.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I searched for groups a long time ago that brought together those who love the cozy genre and I joined as soon as I found this group. I’ll be a member as long as the group continues!

How did you know you were meant to write?

I started writing mysteries when I was in the 4th grade so I believe I was always meant to write. It just took me a long time to get up the courage to learn what I needed to know to create a coherent story and to get published. It’s tough putting your work out for criticism and rejection, but I survived and persisted.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I love puzzles and I love human motivation. What makes a person a killer? What puts a person in harm’s way? I always look at mysteries from both sides of that equation. I do like a juicy secret.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

First it was Dame Agatha. But then, I think the first truly awful mystery I read was the final motivation, as strange as that may sound. I thought, “If this can get published, then I can do better.” Of course I was quickly humbled by the gigantic learning curve involved in becoming a published writer. It took eleven years from the time I finished my first book to its publication. That’s persistence!

What intrigues you about writing a series?

I love making sure that my characters grow from each crime they become involved in. In reality, no ordinary person would find he or she stumbling over one murder victim after another, but oh, the fun. But I have to bring a touch of reality and that means, character evolution.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

For me, unfortunately, it is the challenge of the several “invisible” illnesses I deal with on a daily basis. That means I need to manage my time and energy. Who knew the complexities of creating something out of nothing? That a “what if?” question would consume so much energy? But it does.

What do you enjoy reading?

At this stage, I only read mysteries and an occasionally true crime. I don’t have time for anything else.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Earl Stanley Gardner, Dorothy Sayers, Gillian Roberts, Carolyn Hart, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell—but there are more. I could go on and on!

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I begin a new book with a synopsis—I am an outliner—so the start of a synopsis is always a “what if” question. For example, I began the synopsis of my first Cats in Trouble mystery with the “what if?” question “What if a cat was allergic to people?” I like to turn things on their head and that was something I hadn’t seen done in any cat cozies before.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

I love Abby Rose in my Yellow Rose Mysteries. She is completely fearless, confident and fun. I love Jillian Hart in the Cats in Trouble Mysteries because she is so kind, forgiving and curious—rather like a cat in many ways. Speaking of secondary characters, I loved Ritaestelle in The Cat, The Lady and The Liar. She is such a strong lady. I also admire teenager Finn in The Cat, The Wife and The Weapon. He chose to remove himself from a difficult life at a young age. I can relate to that and it was the first time I consciously dealt with family dysfunction in a book. I’d done it before on a smaller scale, but in that book, my goal was to confront it head on. It was very cathartic.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

I cannot thank my readers enough for their support and for helping me make that coveted NY Times list. Never in a million years when I first started writing did I ever think that would happen. And twice? Wow! Thank you so so much!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Learn your craft. Read. Take classes. Enter contests. Submit. Learn to accept criticism and change what you’re doing that’s NOT working—listen to what is being said. Find a writer’s group with like-minded people who are writing what you like to read. Know your goals. Do you want to write for pleasure? Or do you want to be published? Neither goal is better than the other. Persist!

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I enjoy creating characters others can relate to. DEADLINES drive me crazy.

If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select?  What would you discuss?

I would choose Agatha Chistie because she was brilliant, but I doubt she’d talk about her process. I would choose Rex Stout because I absolutely loved the fact he created a main character who was NOT the narrator (Archie Goodwin was the narrator) and I want to ask him why he did that. Third would be Daphne DuMaurier. I’d ask her what the main character’s name was in Rebecca. It’s a secret we will never know. J

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

 

Yes. But the mystery has to be paramount. I do add romance. It’s part of life, after all!

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Jeans and a t-shirt.

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 don’t submerge, I observe. I ask myself, what does s/he look like? Sound like? What secret is s/he keeping? What’s his/her greatest strength and greatest weakness? What does s/he want? What’s stopping him/her?I never dream about scenes, but right before I go to sleep or right when I wake up, I often work through plot issues. The shower seems to be another hotbed of creativity! J

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

It was what I wrote best, probably because it’s the genre I grew up reading.

 Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?

I cannot read cozies while writing. They influence me too much. I read much darker stuff, but still mystery or thrillers.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so,why?

 Yes, because cozies need the luxury of time. The books are shorter than say a thriller or literary mystery. In cozies, characterization develops over time as I mentioned earlier. My story people are affected by the crimes in their small town. (Although my Yellow Rose Mysteries were set in an urban environment, which I thought made them a little different).

What are you writing now?

I just finished the 5th Cats in Trouble book. I am thinking about the 6th book in the series.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

 The Cat, The Mill and The Murder comes out in May. I can tell you that it the most researched book I have ever written, it involves a cold case and it also involves an element that is very different than anything I have ever written before.

 Where can we find out more about you and your books?

 I’m on Facebook as Leann Sweeney and Author Leann Sweeney, on twitter @leannsweeney, on Author Central on Amazon and my website is www.leannsweeney.com

There are bios on each book you pull up on B&N.com and Amazon.com

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 
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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Esri Allbritten

Hello, Esri!  It’s so nice to have you join our MMC interviews.

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating its 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?

Reader interaction. Some of the best recommendations on what to read next have come from this group. It also has a mellow yet polite vibe, which I credit to its creator, Jenny Hanahan. She has just the right amount of housemother.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

Oh, gosh. Two or three years ago. It may be longer. I’m no good with time.

How did you know you were meant to write?

[Fellow author] Steve Hockensmith and I discussed this, and agreed it was because we’re “slightly crazy, very spoiled, and terrible at all other jobs.” This is only slightly exaggerated.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

Crime almost always stems from strong emotions. Fear, anger, protectiveness. People dealing with that kind of pressure behave in extraordinary ways, and nothing is more interesting than the extraordinary.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

It’s funny…even though mysteries are almost the only fiction I read, I wrote and published other things first because the form intimidated me. Eventually I realized that while mysteries are rigorous when it comes to plot, there is actually more freedom than in a lot of other genres. You can have romance or not, you can explore any theme and set your story in any time period. Your characters don’t even have to be particularly likeable. Sherlock Holmes is a riveting character, but you wouldn’t invite him to your wedding.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

I love layering my characters’ personalities and including subtle references to past stories. It’s like on TV, when a fleeting reference to something in the past elicits a pained expression on a character’s face. It won’t mean anything to a first-time viewer, but those of us in the know howl with laughter or wince with sympathy.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Writing fast. I have trouble writing anything if I’m not excited about what comes next. This is a stupid mental block, because I love revising. My number one goal is to learn to be okay with writing crap. Crap can always be improved. Or deleted.

What do you enjoy reading?

Humor, historical mysteries, biographies (Thomas Edison, Houdini, Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker), neuroscience, stories of scams and con men, and those books that go into the surprising history of everyday objects, like salt or eggbeaters.

Which authors have influenced you?

Betty MacDonald, Dave Barry, Terry Pratchett, M.C. Beaton.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I have a complete story arc when I begin, but 50 to 100 pages in, I discover that I need more to carry a whole book, or the action happens mostly in the backstory, and I have to rework the whole thing. This happens with every book. Every. Book.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

I love my three sleuths in the Tripping series. Having an ensemble of protagonists gives me more options with dialogue and plotting, and I hope it gives readers more of a chance to find a character they love. Angus MacGregor has the perspective of age when it comes to dealing with people, but age hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big. He wants to achieve fame by finding proof of the supernatural. Michael Abernathy is young and manages to be both a cynic and idealist. That’s not a comfortable mindset, and he uses sarcasm and humor to deal with his discomfort. Then there’s Suki Oota, my half-Japanese photographer. Suki is very female in that she just wants to get whatever it is done and move forward. Some of this urgency comes from knowing that youth and beauty are temporary assets, and they’re burning a hole in her pocket. No one would call Suki a “good girl.” Not if they wanted to keep their teeth.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you so much!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Write because you enjoy it (or because you can’t help yourself, which is more often the case). If you want to be a career writer, ask yourself, “Can I tolerate uncertainty about my success?” Writing is full of uncertainty. It’s hard to tell when you’re writing well. Financial validation is elusive, and you’ll get bad reviews even on your best stuff. The best overall advice I can give is to approach writing as a really involving hobby. You’ll dodge a lot of mental bullets that way.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

The best moments are when I look at something I’ve written and know that it illustrates something funny and true about being human. When that’s confirmed through fan email, I’m overjoyed. I also like that I get to finish things. With so many jobs, you don’t get to say, “Done!” Finally, I have a lot of creative control over what I do, there’s no dress code, and I can put up all the inappropriate cartoons I want.

Things that drive me crazy: The aforementioned uncertainty. Did I tell this story in the most interesting way possible? Have I found the sweet spot where my work is different enough to be appealing, but not so different that only a few people like it? How do I get the attention of those readers who will enjoy me the most? The isolation of working at home can also make you a little odd. My office mates are a Chihuahua and a cat. I love them, but they don’t like to eat out and they suck at discussing the latest episode of The Good Wife.

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

I don’t include romance in my stories, and that’s primarily because I approach life from a very irreverent place. My stories aren’t hospitable to romance in the same way that a Seinfeld episode or an Oscar Wilde play isn’t hospitable to romance. Putting romance in that setting is like tying a pink ribbon around a rubber chicken. It’s jarring. As for romance in other people’s mysteries, I can take it or leave it. Romance is very hard to write well. It’s rare that I really feel it in a book.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Whatever I pick up off the floor that’s loose and doesn’t smell. Sad, I know.

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?

Dreams would be a great resource if I wanted to write about overflowing toilets and missed planes, but I think Seth Rogen has that market sewn up. As for how deeply I get into my own fictional worlds, it’s pretty deep. When writing is going well, stopping is like coming out of a movie theater in the middle of the day. Another thing that makes my stories feel real to me is that I set each one in a different tourist town. My husband and I visit, take a ton of pictures and chat up the locals, then I go home and send my sleuths there on assignment. In a way, each book is a record of the emails and phone calls my characters might send from the road. “Interviews going well. Got a picture of a flying saucer, which turned out to be a water tower. Mayor has a crush on Suki. We think he might be a murderer.”

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

I’m not sure what qualifies as intrigue. It sounds intriguing. I write cozies because they study the subtleties of human interaction. That’s something women are good at, and doubtless it’s why so many cozies incorporate other feminine interests, such as cooking, crafts, and tiny, adorable dogs. I currently have an idea for a series that feels like it needs a harder edge, maybe sort of a noir thing. I think noir is how men see the subtleties of human interaction – murky, confusing, full of traps and unexpected weapons. As a writer, I’m kind of in the middle. Chihuahua noir, that’s me.

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own work too much?

As long as the subject matter is different, I’m good. My own voice is so ingrained these days, I’m not influenced.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so, why?

I think series are far more satisfying. Readers go to a fair amount of trouble to find books with characters and settings that they like. Once you’ve spent the time and money to find this new set of friends, you want to get some mileage out of them.

What are you writing now?

Critter from the Black Lagoon, book three in the Tripping Magazine mystery series. It involves the possibility of a prehistoric pig beast rampaging through Florida’s Ocala National Forest. It’s basically black-market paleontology meets extreme bacon.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My most recently published is The Portrait of Doreene Gray. Portrait is about twin sisters in their fifties: one a painter, one a dissolute jet setter. The jet setter doesn’t appear to age, but the portrait her sister painted of her does. The story takes place in Port Townsend, Washington, on Puget Sound. The town’s frozen-in-time Victorian character lends itself to a nice gothic feel. It could have been a very dark book, but my three sleuths come barreling in like the Marx Brothers if the Marx Brothers were an aging Scot, a half-Asian sexpot, and a skeptic, working for a crappy travel magazine.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

EsriAllbritten.com has big ol’ excerpts of all my current books, so you can try before you buy. If you want an ongoing look at the life of a writer, mostly involving pets and procrastination, then look me up on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Esri.Allbritten

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Ellery Adams

Hello, Ellery.  Welcome to our MMC interviews.  It’s always intriguing when I get to interview one of my favorite authors.

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?

I love discovering new books through MMC. The readers give such specific recommendations that it’s easy to add to one’s TBR pile all the time.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I found the Yahoo! Group somehow. It was years ago and my memory has become a sieve. All I know is that the group is wonderful!

How did you know you were meant to write?

I used to write stories when I was a kid. They’d star my friends as the heroes and those gals always ended up saving the day and going out with the cutest boys. I loved how my stories made them smile. That was at about age 8. I was a goner from that point on.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I love puzzles and mysteries are a puzzle. You must gather the pieces and fit them together correctly to see the whole picture.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

Honestly, I need a series because I need my characters to change and grow and make mistakes and fall in love and fall out of love and go through all the things we go through as we age. Having a series means that my characters are never static.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Finding time for all of the ideas I have. I’m pretty much writing seven days a week at this point and still can’t get caught up. I’d like to write a young adult novel (I have 3 chapters) and a women’s fiction novel (I’ve written the first chapter) but I have to keep putting them aside to work on the books I actually have contracts for.

What do you enjoy reading?

My reading tastes are all over the place. I don’t read many cozies because I don’t want to be accidentally influenced by one of my fellow writers in any way. My favorite genre is historical fiction, then any kind of  mystery, then young adult, then fantasy.  I usually listen to one genre in the car, have another on my iPad, and a third on the nightstand.

Which authors have influenced you?

My idol is Agatha Christie. Whenever I get stuck on something I think, “What would Agatha do?”

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

In addition to thanking them for their tremendous support, I would say to keep talking about your favorite writers. We mid-list writers survive mostly because people like the ones on MMC recommend our books to friends. We truly depend on that word-of-mouth promotion.

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Don’t quit. If you can finish a short story, that’s a huge accomplishment. If you can complete an entire book, then you can write another and another. Finding a market for them isn’t always easy, but don’t give up. Not ever!

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

I love cozies because they zero in on people and not the crime or the gore or rough language. Cozies are stories about people and their determination to set things right. I like that the sleuths could be people you might know. They’re members of a community and together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the sleuths can bring about change for the better. They can right wrongs. Along the way, they can laugh, suffer loses, forge new relationships, and eat lots of amazing food.

What are you writing now?

I am working on two projects. The third installment in the Charmed Pie Shoppe series and the first book in an all-new series about a resort for book lovers. That series will debut in 2014 and I absolutely love it.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

Written in Stone, the 4th Books By the Bay mystery, is my best book to date. It was released on November 6th and I hope you get a chance to read it. Olivia and the Bayside Book Writers are really out to the test in this book and between a witch, a powwow, a food festival, and a possible ghost, Olivia’s world feels turned upside down. I really make things tough for her in this book, but I think it had to happen so she could finally admit that she needs a certain police chief by her side.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

Stop by my website at www.elleryadamsmysteries.com or friend me on Facebook. And Happy Anniversary to Mystery Most Cozy. Ten years of supporting mysteries is amazing! Congratulations!

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Sara Rosett

Hi, Sara. Thanks for joining our MMC interviews.

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?

I love interacting with other mystery readers–sharing new titles and discovering new authors.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I joined during the Yahoo phase and I was thrilled to find a group dedicated to cozies!

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I love the puzzle aspect of mysteries, the figuring out who did it and why. I also love returning to favorite characters and settings.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

I’m always nervous when I start a new book. During the writing process I’m always terrified that it won’t be long enough, but it always works out about right, thank goodness!

Which authors have influenced you?

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon then moved on to Phyllis Whitney, Elizabeth Peters, and Mary Stewart. The first modern cozies I read were by Carolyn Hart and they had a big influence on me.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I know the beginning, the main characters, the murderer, the victim, and the suspects. The middle is always a little hazy. I have to get into the book to sort out the middle.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

My latest favorite character is Gabrielle in MISTLETOE, MERRIMENT, AND MURDER. She’s a rival professional organizer and a thorn in Ellie’s side. I’d never explored a rival for Ellie and the interaction between them was fun to write.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you so much for reading my books and supporting me. I appreciate every email, tweet, and review so much!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Read, read, read! Things are changing fast in publishing, so stay on top of what’s happening. Go to writer’s conferences to meet other writers and refine your writing.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I love having written. I don’t like the first draft. Great sigh of relief when that’s over.

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?

I don’t have much romance in the Ellie books, just a bit here and there, because Ellie is married so there’s not going to be a huge emphasis on it, but in my new series, the On The Run books, there is more romance. I’d classify it as “sweet” or romance at a low simmer. That’s about all I can handle as a writer!

What are you writing now?

I’ve just finished Ellie #8, which takes place during a family beach vacation. I’ve started the second book in the On The Run series, Secretive.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

Super organizer Ellie Avery could really use some Christmas cheer when Gabrielle Matheson, a grinchy professional rival, sets up shop in the same small Georgia town. But before the halls are even halfway decked with holly, someone uses Ellie’s terrifically tasteless white elephant swap gift as a murder weapon! Ellie’s now a suspect. Besides playing Mrs. Santa for her Air Force pilot husband and their two kids, shielding her eyes from the garishly over-decorated house down the street, and helping a client who’s a hardcore hoarder, Ellie also has to solve this ho-ho-homicide and find a killer who wishes her a very deadly Christmas.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

You can find me at http://www.SaraRosett.com, Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and Pinterest.

Book link:

Mistletoe, Merriment, and Murder:

http://www.amazon.com/Mistletoe-Merriment-Murder-Ellie-Mysteries/dp/0758269218/ref=tmm_mmp_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1351869744&sr=1-1

Elusive (Book #1 in the On The Run series)

http://www.amazon.com/Elusive-Book-1-Run-ebook/dp/B0094HZVWC/ref=la_B001IXRPSS_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1352161606&sr=1-9

Bio:

A native Texan, Sara is the author of the Ellie Avery mystery series and the On The Run travel thrillers. As a military spouse, Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest travel thrillers. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.”

Sara loves all things bookish, considers dark chocolate a daily requirement, and is on a quest for the best bruschetta. Connect with Sara at www.SaraRosett.com or sign up for her newsletter list here. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

Sara bk 1

sara bk 2

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Linda O. Johnston

Linda, thanks for joining our MMC interviews. It’s a delight to get acquainted with you.
 
 
Murder 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?
 
I have to admit I’ve mostly been a lurker, although I hope to change that. Mostly, I’ve enjoyed observing the interactions between authors and readers and how they communicate so delightfully!
 
When and how did you discover the Murder Most Cozy group?
 
I joined the Murder Most Cozy Yahoo Group on January 31, 2005. I know that because I went onto the Yahoo Group list and checked! I’m not sure how I first heard about it, but I’ve always loved mysteries, and my own first cozy mystery SIT, STAY, SLAY, a Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter mystery, was published in 2005. Seemed like a good fit!
 
How did you know you were meant to write?
 
I’ve always written. Even as a kid, I started to write a novel–a sci-fi story about a boy and girl who explore the universe together. I never finished it but I found the pages I’d written a few years ago when my mother passed away. She had saved them.
 
What fascinates you about mysteries?
 
There’s such a variety of mysteries, from cozy to hard-boiled, and yet they all have something in common: something goes wrong, such as one or more person getting killed, and a person–the protagonist–who’s dedicated and interesting to read about is determined to figure out whodunit by the end of the book. Too bad real life isn’t always so satisfying!
 
What inspired you to writeyour  mysteries?
 
Since I loved to write, and I always enjoyed reading mysteries, it was a natural fit.
 
What intrigues you about writing a series?
 
In my two mystery series, the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries and the spin-off Pet Rescue Mysteries, I’ve enjoyed introducing, in each, a protagonist who must change during the first story from someone who has no interest in solving mysteries to a person who has no choice–and of course succeeds. Throughout the series, I also enjoy providing a character arc for my protagonists, as each comes to realize that, like it or not, she’s going to have to keep solving murders to help her friends or acquaintances. Each one has also had friends whose characters develop, too. And of course they’ve all had animals in them. I love pets, especially dogs!
 
How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?
 
I generally have a theme for the story that fits into the series. From there, I create a short synopsis that I work from–so I go into writing the story knowing who’ll get murdered, whodunit and how and why, and how my protagonist will solve it.
 
Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?
 
I love Lauren Vancouver, protagonist of my Pet Rescue Mysteries, because of her dedication to saving animals. Her stories have inspired me to become a dog adoption counselor at Pet Orphans of Southern California, a wonderful private pet shelter. I also love Kendra Ballantyne, protagonist of my Pet-Sitter Mysteries, because she lives in the Hollywood Hills where I live, she’s a lawyer, as I’ve been, and she has a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie, as I do. Do you see a theme here? My protagonists tend to be my alter egos!
 
What would you like to say to your readers & fans?
 
Keep on reading! And, if possible, make your reading a blend of print books and ebooks so both will continue to thrive. Oh, and while you’re at it, why not try some of my mysteries if you haven’t already, and if you have, I’d love it if you’d make the rest a target of your continued reading. J I’d also love to hear from you.
 
What advice would you offer a beginning writer?
 
Keep at it. Join writing groups, local or online, to get support for what you’re doing and critiques to help you continue to develop your skills. And never give up! You’re entering into a new world of publishing with lots of possibilities, from the standard established publishers to smaller publishers to self-publishing, so one way or another you should be able to share your creations with the world.
 
Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?
 
Yes, and yes! In addition to being a mystery writer, I also write romance for Harlequin Nocturne (paranormal) and Harlequin Romantic Suspense. I’ve always said that my mysteries always contain an element of romance, and my romances always contain suspense or mystery.
 
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?
 
My characters do seem to speak to me, to tell me what comes next, or that I’m taking them in a direction they don’t want to go. I don’t dream my scenes, but they often flow into my subconscious at night as I’m taking a bath and preparing for bed.
 
Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?
 
I enjoy reading all of them, but realized that, to include animals in the way I wanted to–for fun, with all of them getting out of any fixes I’d put them in unharmed–cozies would work best. Even so, I haven’t closed my mind to the possibility of trying thrillers someday. And I do write romantic suspense–for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
 
Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much? (tone, voice, etc.)
 
Unlike a lot of authors, I do like to read the kind of story I’m writing as I’m writing it, including cozies. That helps me get into the mood. But my stories derive from my own subconscious and my characters talk to me. I’m not concerned that I’ll start to mimic anyone else.
 
Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so,why?
 
See my responses to character development, above. I love to see my characters develop and learn from their experiences as they solve more mysteries.
 
Do you enjoy “stand alone” cozies that are not part of a series if written well?
 
Sure–although most cozies I read are parts of series, I’ll read any kind of cozy as long as I enjoy it.
 
What are you writing now?
 
At the moment, I’m writing the fifth Pet Rescue Mystery. I just turned in the manuscript for my fourth Alpha Force Harlequin Nocturne–about a covert military unit of shapeshifters. As I mentioned, I love animals and I enjoy writing about them in any form!
 
Tell us about your newest mystery:
 
My latest published mystery is HOUNDS ABOUND, the third Pet Rescue Mystery themed around a special sanctuary for special needs pets that may be hard to rehome–seniors and those with disabilities, including some with prosthetics. When the owner of that sanctuary is accused of killing her ex-husband, protagonist Lauren Vancouver has to get involved to help keep the sanctuary in business. My next Pet Rescue Mystery OODLES OF POODLES will be a February 2013 release. It’s themed around the film industry and the “No Animals Were Harmed” trademarked phrase of the American Humane Association. Lauren is helping to observe the filming of a movie about rescue dogs and has to solve the murder of the director to keep the film going.
 
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
 
Come visit me at my website–although it currently needs to be brought up to date. It’s at http://www.LindaOJohnston.com You can also friend me on Facebook, or read my weekly blog on Wednesdays at KillerHobbies.blogspot.com

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Stephen Kaminski

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?

http://www.DamonLassard.com

http://www.amazon.com/It-Takes-Two-Strangle-Detective/dp/0988194317/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350952797&sr=8-1&keywords=stephen+kaminski

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6541735.Stephen_Kaminski

http://www.facebook.com/DamonLassard?ref=hl

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:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Mary Ellen Hughes

By Karen E. Rigley

Mary Ellen, it’s such a delight to interview you for MMC. Thank you for joining us.

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?

That’s a little like asking which is your favorite child! 😉  I love all those things about Mystery Most Cozy. The best thing about the group is our organizer – Jenny Hanahan. It’s obvious she loves cozy mysteries and loves sharing everything about them. It amazes me how generous she is with her time, because this is a very time-consuming project. Thanks, Jenny!

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I stumbled on it a few years ago when I first signed onto Yahoo and was looking for discussion groups I might like. That was a definitely lucky day.

How did you know you were meant to write?

I suppose when I started getting positive reactions to things I wrote. That started way back in elementary school when I got a laugh from the class as I read something of mine aloud. Since I meant it to be funny, that was a great feeling. From then on I was hooked.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I think it’s the psychology involved. What makes a person go to such an extreme as murder? That’s why I like cozies. They’re more involved with the why than the how.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

Probably what inspired me was the simple fact that mysteries were what I loved to read. When I’d finish a really good mystery I’d savor it, then wonder if I could write something like that. Eventually, I tried and discovered I loved it, though it definitely my first few attempts were definitely forgettable.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

Series are great for giving an author the chance to develop a character much more than in a single book. A series could cover years in the character’s life. That can offer many interesting and challenging changes: love relationships, job changes, location – you name it. Plus, a long running series character can become like an old friend to readers – and to the author too!

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

The hardest thing for me to do is to be tough on my characters. I usually become very fond of them and want to have only good things happen to them. That, however, won’t make for an interesting story. I have to give them problems to solve, put them in dangerous situations and generally be very hard on them. The only thing that makes it easier is knowing that somehow they’ll come through it all right.

What do you enjoy reading?

Mysteries, of course, but I also enjoy a variety of books. I like historical fiction once in a while, biographies, or whatever I happen to be in the mood for.

Which authors have influenced you?

Oh, so many I wouldn’t know where to start – or stop. Growing up I enjoyed Louisa May Alcott and Nancy Drew. But any book that made me think, laugh, cry or shiver probably influenced me.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I have a general idea of what will happen and how it will be resolved. I work out the details, usually, as I write.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you! You don’t know how much I appreciate your encouragement!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Write, write, write! Then join a good critique group to get thoughtful feedback on what you’ve written. You’ll learn a lot (and develop a tough skin about your writing), plus giving feedback on other members’ writing will help you understand more about what works and what doesn’t.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I love hearing that someone enjoyed one of my books. (Who wouldn’t?) 🙂 I’m not fond of getting the question, “where do you get your ideas?” because I have no good answer for that. I wish I did!

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

I do add it, and it’s usually just a touch. My main characters so far have been young, single women. Meeting an attractive man just seems natural and often adds tension.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Hah! Anything comfortable, though I try to be presentable in case someone comes to the door!

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 don’t think I’ve dreamt of scenes, but when I’m working on a book my story is always in my head. I’ve been known to think something had happened to me once, then realize that no, it only happened to one of my characters. That can be a little weird! 😉

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

I just find it interesting and sometimes fun to have ordinary, every-day people run into something like murder and be able to deal with it. Also, I think you can get into the psychology of the murderers much more in a cozy – not in the clinical sense but it a “what made them decide to do that?” sense.

What are you writing now?

I’ve started a new cozy series: The Pickled and Preserved Mysteries. The first book, The Pickled Piper, might be out in a year or so.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My most recent books are the Craft Corner Mysteries. Jo McAllister owns Jo’s Craft Corner and teaches craft classes in between solving murders – like that of the clown, hired for her grand opening, who she finds dead in her stock room.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

Check out my website: http://www.maryellenhughes.com  I’ve just started to put the Craft Corner mysteries up as new ebooks. I’ll add news on the new Pickled and Preserved mysteries as it becomes available in my newsletter, which anyone can sign up for on my website.

Website: http://www.maryellenhughes.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/MaryEllenHughesauthor

Wreath of Deception: http://tinyurl.com/9darfv4

Amazon author page: http://tinyurl.com/8percup

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

Mystery Most Cozy links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links: