Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association. Visit her at www.dianestuckart.com or www.alibrandon.com.
PJ: How long have you been writing?
DS: I’ve actually been published a little over twenty years now, but I’ve been seriously writing for about twenty-five.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
DS: I’ve had a couple of nice recognitions. I won a Florida Book Award for my second Leonardo da Vinci Mystery, PORTRAIT OF A LADY, and my second Black Cat Bookshop mystery, A NOVEL WAY TO DIE, made the New York Times extended bestseller list. And, sure, more awards and more lists would be great. But I feel I am a true success every time I get a message from a reader telling me that my books helped them through a bad or sad time. It doesn’t get any better than that!
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
DS: Well, I don’t have my limo or mansion or personal assistant yet, and I’m still working the day job, but other than that it’s even better than I hoped for.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
DS: I’m sorry, my accountant and I just hurt ourselves laughing. J
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
DS: For mid-list authors like myself, staying published is almost as much of a challenge as getting there in the first place. My focus is on trying to make the next book even better than the one before, so that the publishers and the readers keep buying.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
DS: My first book I ever sold was a version of my first book I ever wrote. So, looking at it from that point of view, fifteen years. But actual knuckling down, hard work, trying to sell it writing? Probably three years.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
DS: I would be more willing to expand my writing horizons into different genres and sub-genres than just my original comfort zone.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
DS: Sleep is optional (she said this morning at 4 a.m.)
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
DS: Making the New York Times Extended list.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
DS: Finding myself being but one of many, many writers at a national conference I’d been excited to attend (and then having my books for the signing be a no-show!).
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
DS: Let’s just say I rarely do individual book signings anymore because there have been too many times when it’s been just me and the very lovely bookseller.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
DS: I think my characters are fun and relatable, the kind of folks (and felines!) you’d like to have as friends. And while my plots may wander toward the wacky side, on occasion, they also stay grounded and ring with true emotion.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
DS: Don’t scorn traditional publishing without even giving it a legitimate try (a month is not enough time). And while there’s nothing wrong with well-done epubbing, don’t rush to upload a poorly edited draft of your first-ever book just so you can tell your friends that you’re a published author.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
DS: By far, it’s reader word-of-mouth.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
DS: What is this thing they call Pinterest?
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
DS: I don’t want to pick just one, so I’ll simply remind everyone to support your local brick-and-mortar stores as often as you can.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
THE BLACK CAT BOOKSHOP MYSTERY SERIES –
Double-Booked for Death
A Novel Way to Die
Words with Fiends
THE LEONARDO DA VINCI MYSTERY SERIES
The Queen’s Gambit
Portrait of a Lady
A Bolt from the Blue
DS: When Hamlet the Cat’s karate video goes viral, he and Brooklyn bookstore owner Darla Pettistone accept an invitation to appear at the Feline Society of America’s championship show in Fort Lauderdale. But all is not sunny in South Florida. The fur flies as they encounter vengeful cat breeders and angry animal rights protestors, all the while trying to collar a killer on the loose .
PJ: Where can we buy it?
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
DS: Hamlet the cat does all the writing. I just take the credit!