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.
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