Under the pseudonym Avery Aames, I write the nationally bestselling Cheese Shop Mystery series. As Daryl Wood Gerber, which happens to be my real name, I write the not-yet-released Cookbook Nook Mystery series. (The first debuts July 2013)
Avery and Daryl share a lot of things in common. The same husband, house, computer, and editor at the same publisher. However, they don’t share the same due dates, and they definitely don’t share the same fictional worlds.
As of a few years ago, I only wrote mysteries as Daryl, but I was not fortunate enough to find publication for any of them. Along came an opportunity to write what is known as a work-for-hire. Berkley Prime Crime Publishing wanted a series about a cheese shop owner; the series was to be set in Ohio. Eager to be published so I could prove to the publishing world that I could not only write well but sell well, I auditioned for the material. Within a few weeks, I found myself with a three-book publishing contract. (I now have a contract for five. The fourth, TO BRIE OR NOT TO BRIE, debuts February 2013.)
Because I suddenly had deadlines every nine months, I set aside all of Daryl’s works-in-progress and focused on Avery’s output. I lived and breathed cheese, Ohio, and the cast of characters that populated A Cheese Shop Mystery including cheesemonger, Charlotte Bessette, her feisty grandparents, her cousin and his twin daughters, and her friends and coworkers. I built a fictional world known as Providence, Ohio, a darling tourist-based town in Holmes County near Amish country, and even created maps for the town. I attended writing and fan conferences and introduced myself as Avery. My slogan became: Say Cheese. People started calling me The Cheese Lady.
In the beginning of this dual-personality relationship, I (Daryl) would speak to Avery to bandy around ideas. Needless to say, this nearly drove my husband crazy. A couple of years later, he has gotten used to the fact that he lives with a woman with multiple personalities. I keep telling him that I…She…We…are not crazy. He is almost convinced.
About a year ago, when I (Daryl) realized that I had not only the time but the verve to write more than one book a year, I crafted together an idea for a new cozy mystery series. I wrote a few chapters and created an entirely new world, and then, with the help of my agent, pitched it to my editor. A Cookbook Nook Mystery series stars Jenna Hart, an admitted foodie and avid reader, who helps her aunt reopen a cookbook store and café in the fictional seaside town of Crystal Cove, California. My editor loved the concept, and suddenly I found myself spending a lot of time with Jenna, her aunt, her friends, and the townsfolk of Crystal Cove. The town is beautiful, by the way, and situated north of Carmel and south of Santa Cruz.
What is the most fun about writing two series is that I spend time with two totally different groups of people in entirely different areas of the country. I rarely get my casts confused. These characters come alive when I’m living in that world. Think of it like your own world of friends. You rarely get your best friend from college confused with your mother, right?
However, here’s the tricky part. Because I have two series, I have double the promotion. Eek! That means two Facebook presences, two Twitter names, and double the amount of bookmarks and swag to hand out at conferences and other functions. Not to mention I need two websites. I don’t know if any of you will go from this blog to my website, but if you do, you’ll see that I’ve created a portal that allows you to visit both Avery and Daryl. Sure, Avery and Daryl have similar biographies—okay, they are identical—but after that, the sites are different in content. Why? In addition to cozy mysteries, Daryl—I…are you starting to see the problem here?—writes short stories (published) and thrillers (soon-to-be-published, I hope). That means Daryl needs her own site so fans won’t be confused.
In addition, I have created a writing schedule for both series and both personalities. On the current schedule, I have about three to four months to write a book. As long as I keep focused, I can do it. When I turn in that book, I switch hats (and personalities) and write the next series. Back and forth. Avery, Daryl. Daryl, Avery. Cheese/cookbook. You get the idea. During 2013, Avery and Daryl will each have a book debut. TO BRIE OR NOT TO BRIE, the fourth in A Cheese Shop Mystery series comes out February 2013. FINAL SENTENCE, the first in A Cookbook Nook Mystery series debuts July 2013.
Also in 2013, Daryl is considering a brain transplant or possible cloning. Avery is against both ideas. What do you think?