I was a political blogger for a while. In 2008, the Democratic Party invited the writers from a single blog in each U.S. state to attend the Democratic National Convention with press credentials. Our blog, Bluegrass Roots, represented Kentucky. Twenty-some years after getting my degree in journalism, I had my first reporting gig. It was a heady experience, attending meetings with real political wonks, listening to elected officials give their pitches in person, and generally sharing in the excitement of the convention. I also won a seat in the skybox lottery on the final night, and had a great view of Barack Obama addressing the crowd and the fireworks afterward.
If you weren’t a writer, what you would be?
I would still be an editor and publisher for other authors.
When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was very young. My father taught me how to read, and books were where I found the most joy. The stories and characters came alive in my head. I couldn’t imagine anything nobler than giving this gift to others.
Who are your cheerleaders?
My spouse, my friends, certain relatives, the members of Sisters in Crime, and, in November, the National Novel Writing Month crowd. Other writers are my best cheerleaders. So many of us want to encourage one another.
When you made your first sale, how did you celebrate and with whom?
I went to a spa and had a massage. I wasn’t being paid for the story, but it was a real victory and deserved a special reward.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Indeed I do. I try to find music that suits the story in some way – setting, time period, or theme. My Great Unfinished Novel was written under the influence of Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Paganini, and the Alan Parsons Project. There were several shifts in the time period, in case you couldn’t tell. I listened to a large number of standards while working with Murder on the Mullet Express.
Other things I listen to: instrumental music and shamanic drumming, if it’s not too jarring. Plus more Alan Parsons. It’s evocative.
What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
I had a gentleman, Keith Stewart, show up for my first book signing (for All This and Family, Too). He’d decided to come, based on the description in the paper. He liked the book well enough to share an excerpt on an Internet radio program covering local authors for Halloween. He was an absolutely hilarious author in his own right. When he did a signing in the same store for his first book, Bernadette Peters Hates Me: True Tales from a Delusional Man, I called the shop and had the staff snag me an autographed copy.
With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Gwen and I have a great synergy when we write together. She brings her strong sense of justice and history together with my command of Murphy’s Law and good snark, and you get an intelligent story with layers of both comedy and tragedy. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Get beta readers. You will develop mental fatigue after going over and over your work, missing typos, awkward sentences, and, worst of all, places where you know what you were talking about, but you never explained it to the reader.
What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
The Internet. I love it, and I love social media. It’s amazing what you can learn, and who you can meet. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword, but the rewards outweigh the risks in my case.
What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
In-person sales. My father was a great salesman, but that gene seems to have skipped me. It takes a certain amount of nerve to approach a stranger and convince her to buy something. I’ve heard other authors frequently have the same problem, at least the ones who write fiction. Many of us are introverts, and selling our work to an editor is taxing enough.
Your favorite books and authors?
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol
The first five books of the Amber series by Roger Zelazny
The Heritage of Hastur, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Face of a Stranger, by Anne Perry
Tales of the Unexpected, by Roald Dahl
It, by Stephen King
Which genres do you prefer to read?
I like mysteries the best, because I love puzzles. I also like true crime, and horror that doesn’t focus on splatter.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
New is a relative term. I didn’t begin reading Louise Penny until a few years ago, but I love the Gamache series.
What book is currently on your nightstand?
I don’t really read in bed; sitting up on that soft surface annoys my back. I’m hoping to read The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny in the near future.
Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?
The Amber series got me to try writing prose. I’d been writing and drawing comic book stories before that.
How many books do you read/month?
Not enough. I listen to a great number of stories on YouTube, mostly creepypasta and audiobooks (FYI, many H P Lovecraft and Poe stories are in the public domain).
What is the one book that you think everyone should read?
I don’t think one size fits all with any book. Even the Bible has multiple translations.
Do you have an all-time favorite book?
No single book for all time, no. I engage in serial monogamy where books are concerned.
Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?
Oh, that’s a difficult choice. I enjoy talking with friends on Facebook, but I also love the quick spread of news and humor on Twitter. I join in the humorous hashtag wars and I even have a list of accounts I follow simply for the amusement value.
Where can your fans find you?
Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Books at Park Place in St. Petersburg is very nice. They have events and a wide selection of genre fiction. I also like Gene’s Books in Sanibel. The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, Kentucky was where I did my first book launch, but the owner is retiring and the future of the store is uncertain.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
I have a number of short stories published in various places. My first novel, All This and Family, Too (a vampire comedy), is currently out of print but the rights have reverted to me and I hope to re-release it.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
It’s 1926, and the Florida Land Boom is in full swing. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn takes leave to travel to Florida with her ancient uncle, who claims that he wants a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they take the local train, The Mullet Express, into Homosassa. By the time they arrive, though, a passenger is dying of poison. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the sheriff’s prime suspect. Furthermore, the little old man has run afoul of the local mob. Cornelia and Teddy Lawless, a twenty-year-old flapper in a body pushing sixty, must chase mobsters and corner suspects to dig her uncle out of the hole he’s dug for himself.
Where can we buy it?
Initially: from Amazon, CreateSpace, or our site at http://www.mysteryandhorrorllc.com. Nook and Apple versions of the ebook will follow. You can also order it through your favorite indie bookstore.
Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?
I’ve been puttering with a story that’s an offshoot of my vampire comedy, but it’s on the back burner at the moment.
What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
My writing began as fanfiction. First, I wrote Black Stallion fanfiction (with horse drawings!), then Archie comics (I learned to draw the human figure from these comics). This was followed by X-Men fanfiction. After reading Zelazny, I made the jump to prose writing. So, there was Amber fanfiction and, later, Darkover fanfiction. During the process, I learned a lot about writing that I was able to apply later to my own material. All writing is valuable.