Patricia Batta has been a writer since the fourth grade when the teacher instructed the class to write a story. She was so thrilled with process of creating a different world on paper that she wrote another one, and another, and another…. For many years Pat wrote mainly for her own pleasure and between jobs, but by the time she retired she had drafted one mystery novel and was working on a second. With time to dedicate to writing, she revised and completed work on the first of the Marge Christensen Mystery Series, then another, and another….
Pat lived and worked in Ohio and Pennsylvania before she and her husband moved to Seattle, Washington, where they lived for twenty one years, and where the Marge Christensen Mystery Series was born. Now back in Michigan, in addition to writing Pat is active in church and community, plays Bridge, reads, walks, travels, and enjoys almost anything a friend would like to do. A Michigan native, Pat attended Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, received her BA from the University of Puerto Rico, and went on to Oberlin College for a Master’s in
PJ: How long have you been writing?
PB: I discovered the power of writing when I was ten years old. I, a shy withdrawn child, could control a world with my pencil. I waited a lifetime, though, before retiring at age fifty-seven from work that put food on the table in order to fulfill my writing dreams.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
PB: That depends on how you define success. Financially, I’m not successful yet. If I weren’t retired, with enough money to subsidize publishing my own books, I couldn’t keep putting them out. I am doing what I set out to do with this mystery series, however, so in that way I am successful. The satisfaction of creating a product that many people enjoy reading and want more of began as soon as I published my first mystery novel, but I probably won’t feel completely successful until I think something I’ve written has a positive effect on someone’s life. I’m still “practicing” my craft and try to improve with each book.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out?
PB: I expected to write books which a publisher would buy. Then I would write another book while eventually collecting royalties. I didn’t expect to self-publish and I didn’t expect to struggle with distribution and promotion issues. On the other hand, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be (once I again conquered my shyness) to get out there and talk about my books with interested readers. Writing has also given me an excuse to travel to conferences and book festivals, keeping me active in my old age!
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
PB: At first, I thought I wanted a traditional publishing contract. I got dizzy trying to decide whether I needed an agent first or a publisher first and how I’d ever get one without the other. Of course, my books also were not quite ready for publishing when I started sending them out. Unfortunately, publishers and agents don’t have time to tell you why they don’t want your book, just that they don’t want it. By the time I had ten rejections each from agents and publishers, I gave up on them. But not on writing. I kept working on those same books until I thought I had something worth publishing. By now I was pretty sure that what I wanted to write would never have enough zing for the current market. I didn’t know what to do with them. Finally I decided that at my age I didn’t want to wait until someone wanted to publish my work. I would publish my books myself. People who know publishing have asked me why I don’t pursue a traditional contract now. They feel my books are good enough to interest a publisher. But I’ve become accustomed to owning my work and having complete control over it.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
PB: Holding a completed book in my hand – especially the first one.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
PB: Holding that completed book in my hand and realizing I can’t change anything in it any more.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
PB: I never quite got over being that shy, withdrawn little girl. Once I had a book out, I knew I had to face the public. I started with “meet and greet” signings where at first I sat, waiting for someone to show interest in my books. I watched other authors and gradually learned to put myself out there and engage the passers-by. I graduated to presentations and soon grew to love doing them. This has affected every part of my life – I now lead a Bible study class at church, chair a committee, initiate conversations rather than waiting for someone else to recognize me. Sometimes I wonder where that tongue-tied girl has gone and have to shut myself up.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
PB: I set out to write a mystery series about an average woman closing in on middle age. Marge might live next door to the reader – she’s not drop dead gorgeous, not a PI or involved with the law in any way at first – not tougher or braver or any of those other things outside the experience of the average reader. I wanted books that would attract a main-stream audience while embracing the values of Christianity without preaching. I hope that each book explores a value or relationship that we all deal with in our own lives. Some of the very things I want for my series keep it from selling more, but it is the series I wanted to write and the people who find it and enjoy reading that type of book (as I do) are always after me for the next one.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
PB: Whatever route you take to publication, be sure the book you publish is the best work you can do. Don’t even think about publishing until someone has given your book a thorough editing and proof-reading. If you are self-published you may have to pay to have someone give your book a professional reading. Self-published authors who neglect this step end up with typos, grammar problems, and other errors that turn off readers not only for themselves but for all self-published authors.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
PB: Book promotion is a total challenge for me. My innate shyness still makes it difficult for me to approach book stores and libraries and initiate conversations about my books. It is hard to decide which on-line promotion is worth doing, then it takes huge chunks of my time to master the technology I need to do it.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
PB: Horizon Book Store in Traverse City (with branches in Cadillac and Petoskey) Michigan is very supportive of local authors. Seattle Mystery Bookstore in Seattle and Parkside Books in Redmond, Washington, have also been helpful.
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title
PB: “Something is warring in this palace,” are the first words Marge hears from her mother, Edith, when visiting her in Michigan after her last stroke. “I thimble somebody was kibitzed.”
Was someone truly killed, or had Edith lost more mental capacity to her last stroke than her ability to find the word she needed?
Marge, her mother, her staid and proper Aunt Valerie, and her rebellious and reckless niece Lisa form an unlikely team to try and discover the truth about what’s going on before Marge has to head back to her home in Bellevue, Washington.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order
What Did You Do Before Dying?
Why Did You Die in the Park?
Who More Than Wished You Were Dead?
Where Did You Die?
How Many Old Ladies Will Die?
PJ: Where can we buy it?
PB: Print versions of the books are available on my web page www.lillimarpublishing.com. They are also available in both print and Kindle from Amazon, and the first four are on Audible. The fifth will be there soon.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
I usually don’t know “who dun it” until I’m at least half way through the book. Even then, it sometimes changes. When I finally know for sure, I have to go back and plant clues so I don’t blindside the reader.
Thank you for sharing with us Pat!