An interview with Shelley Freydont

Shelley Freydont is the author of the Lindy Haggerty Mysteries series and the Katie McDonald Sudoku mysteries. Shelley also writes popular romance novels under the name Gemma Bruceis. She is a past president of the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers and Kiss of Death RWA chapter. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she recently worked on the films Mona Lisa Smile and The Game Plan.I first worked with her through MWA. Hope you enjoy!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Shelley: I’ve been a closet fiction writer since I was a child. This continued through high school and college and when I was a professional dancer.  I finally bit the bullet and submitted a mystery manuscript in 1998.  It sold and was published in 1999, and I’ve been writing openly ever since.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Shelley: I reach that place whenever a scene reads just the way I envisioned it, or when a scene I think stinks and I despair over, actually turns out to be good. As far as achieving “Success,” I think it’s too elusive to chase.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Shelley: Having been a professional dancer, it didn’t even occur to me was how quiet and solitary it is. Dance is communal.  You start every morning at class with a teacher cajoling, inspiring, and correcting your technique five days a week.  Then you go to rehearsal where the director and the rehearsal director give instructions and let you know if you accomplish it. At the theatre, the applause is a measure of your success. In writing, I go for days talking and listening to people who don’t exist except in my head. And months before even showing my work to others.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Shelley: I didn’t really have expectations.  I was at the end of one career, I chose another. I think it’s ironic that I found a career that often pays as poorly as dancing did. I do manage to scrape along.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Shelley: I worry a lot more.  Really. Waiting to get published the first time doesn’t prepare you for the nerve-wracking business of staying published, always trying to write a better, more compelling book, trying to juggle the writing, editing, marketing, and getting enough down time to let the brain fill up between projects.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Shelley: I was a finalist in the St Martin’s contest, I didn’t win, but I had spent the wait time researching agents. Within three months of submitting, I signed with an agent, and he sold three mysteries a couple of weeks later. A Cinderella story.  The rest hasn’t always been so easy.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Shelley: I tend not to look back and wonder.  It’s counterproductive for me.  I try to just look to the now and to the future and try to live by the “It is what it is” philosophy.

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?

Shelley: It’s always changing for me.  I write in several genres: mystery, women’s fiction and romance. So I’m constantly shifting from one to the other. And it depends on where I am in each project.  I pretty much always have a new project in the works.  I try to give it morning priority while the brain is fresh. Though I confess I do start each morning looking at my email, but answering only the most urgent.  When I’ve done as much as I can do productively, I’ll switch to edits if I have any, write blogs, guest blogs and interviews, then to social networking.  I sometimes have to let the internet slide. So much of it’s chatter, so I try to use it for information and some sharing and go easy on the pictures of cats.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Shelley: Meeting other authors and talking about writing.  I love to hear ideas being dissected and put back together. So much talk is about marketing and the changing industry, I get a thrill when someone just wants to talk craft.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Shelley: I had just started a series for Carroll and Graf when they were sold and eliminated.  I was really in love with my characters. My editor was perfect for the project. I think that sometimes losing anticipation and enthusiasm, having the possibilities of unwritten books thwarted, can be worse than poor numbers or a bad review.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Shelley: Well this isn’t good or bad, but it stuck in my mind. I was in Missouri working with the Kansas City Ballet, and they’d agreed to set up some book signings for me.  One of the signings was in a bookstore in a small strip mall surrounded by corn fields as far as you could see.  I was sitting at a table with stacks of books and no one stopping to talk or buy.  Then a man who looked very much like the man in Grant Woods’ American Gothic, came in.  He passed my table, giving it a wide berth, but he came back later and passed by a little slower.  This went on for several passes; he finally slowed so much that I said,  “Do you like to read mysteries?”

He said (from where he was standing).  “Is that what that is?”

I said “yes,” but he was already backing away. Then in a rush of words he said, “My wife’s in the car.  I think I’ll get me one of them things.”  He snatches a book and heads for the cashier before I could even pick up a pen.  He left the store without glancing my way.

PJ: How interesting! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Shelley: I hope it’s because I hone my craft, I see the humor in life, and speak to the heart.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Shelley: Perfect your craft. Try to understand why you write.  So much of what you do and expect is out of your control, you’ll need the commitment to yourself and to your work to see it through.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Shelley: For me, it’s still the one on one, face to face appearance.  I was a performer after all.  I relate to people, and I care about them.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Shelley: The 140 character post. It’s too faceless for my liking or my comfort zone.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Shelley:  I had two.  They unfortunately have gone out of business.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Women’s Fiction as Shelley Noble

Beach Colors

William Morrow/Harper Collins

A renowned designer loses everything and returns home to Crescent Cove, Connecticut, where she once knew love, joy, and family, three things she’s lost on her climb to fame.

Mystery as Shelley Freydont

 

Celebration Bay Mysteries

Manhattan event planner, Liv Montgomery and her Westie terrier, Whiskey, leave the city for the small town of Celebration Bay, Where Every Day’s a Holiday, and murder crops up in the strangest places.

Foul Play at the Fair

Berkley Prime Crime

The Katie MacDonald Mysteries

 

Puzzle museum curator and Sudoku champion, Kate MacDonald solves murder with the help of her teenaged near-genius assistant, Harry and her Maine Coon cat, Aloysius.

The Sudoku Murder 2007

Sudden Death Sudoku 2008

Serial Killer Sudoku 2009

The Lindy Haggerty Mysteries

Backstage Murder 1999

High Seas Murder 2000

Midsummer Murder2001

Halloween Murder 2002

A Merry Little Murder2002

Show Business Is Murder

Anthology edited by Stuart Kaminsky

 “The Dying Artist”

Nineteenth Century actor learns the meaning of the “Method.”

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

My latest title is a mystery, Foul Play at the Fair-A Celebration Bay Mystery (Berkley Prime Crime)

Sick of the bridezillas, the mad men, the anything but sweet sixteens, a burned-out Manhattan event planner takes a job in a small upstate town. But her dream job turns into a nightmare when an itinerant entertainer is murdered during the annual harvest festival.  Aided by two retired school teachers, a rebellious teenage farm girl and the handsome, but lazy, editor of the local newspaper, she must navigate lies, secrets and Yankee ingenuity to save her town and herself from Foul Play at the Fair.

Where can we buy it?

Anywhere books are sold.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Shelley: I’m not sure.  You pretty much put yourself out there when you write a novel.  But one thing I do, being from the theatre, is sometimes act out my scenes to see if they really work. It can also be pretty entertaining for your critique partners.

Shelley, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! Looks like you’ve provided a wealth of books from which to choose. Happy reading everyone!

An interview with Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain writes some of the most intricate and interesting characters and relationships I’ve seen in many years. I’m honored to have worked with her and think you’ll really enjoy her writing if you’ve not read it before. Here’s what she has to share with us today:

How long have you been writing?

I started my first novel thirty years ago (!) but it wasn’t published until 1989. The Good Father is my 21st book.

At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

What an intriguing question! The number of times I felt successful in my early years as a published author were matched by the number of times I felt like a failure. I would say, though, that with the publication of my fifteenth novel, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, I truly started flying high. CeeCee was selected by Target as their summer Bookclub Pick, which allowed me to reach thousands of new readers. It’s hearing from readers who are touched by my books that really makes me feel like a success.

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Oh, this makes me laugh! I started out so long ago that I thought all I would have to do was write stories. That was hard enough, of course, but I had no idea I’d need to also become a master of promotion and social media. Still, Facebook and Twitter and blogging keep me close to my readers and that makes it worthwhile.

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

I’ve had years where I’ve thought I’d need to go back to my previous career (clinical social work) and I’ve had years where I could handily manage the mortgage on my beach condo.  Neither extreme was what I expected. A writing career is always full of surprises!

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

My focus has not changed all that much. I started writing because I wanted to entertain people and that’s still why I write. Of course, I hope to increase my readership with each book, but again, it all boils down to writing a story that grips the reader. That remains my focus.

How long did it take you to get published the first time?

It took me six months to get an agent and a year of rejections to realize I needed to completely overhaul the book. Once I did that, it sold right away.

Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

I have a fantastic agent. Prior to signing on with her, I truly didn’t understand how critical it is to have an excellent agent. If I had it to do over again, I would have changed agents many years sooner than I did.

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?

I wish I did a better job of “divvying up my time.” It’s a challenge. As far as the writing/rewriting/submitting goes, that has a natural progression and I just take one step after the other. The real challenge is balancing the writing with the other demands on our time: promotion, traveling, maintaining a website, keeping up with social media and taking care of ourselves and our families. I try to address those demands as soon as I think of them (which is why I’m answering these interview questions so quickly after receiving them!) so they don’t pile up and contribute to my stress level.

What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Even though it was a very long time ago, I think the most exciting thing will always be winning the RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for my very first novel, Private Relations. I’ll never forget how it felt to hear my name called out. I was so shocked and thrilled.

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Nothing stands out as “the single most disappointing thing,” but I will say that in the early years, it was very painful to work hard on a book and then have the publisher pay little attention to it, getting out so few copies that the book’s failure was guaranteed. I have the rights back to many of those early books and have been able to make them available as e-books, so I guess I get the last laugh as those books are now finding an enthusiastic readership.

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Years ago, I was doing a signing in a bookstore when two middle-aged men came into the store. They looked like they might be homeless–wearing ragged clothes and appearing unkempt. The bookstore owner was trying to figure out how to usher them out of the store, but the men approached me and held out a dogeared copy of my novel, Keeper of the Light. Joe and Lefty introduced themselves to me and told me they found the book a few years earlier, shared it with one another and loved the story. They were excited when they learned I’d be at the bookstore and asked if I’d sign the book for them. I was happy to do so and will never forget those two guys who really showed me that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

My readers tell me they feel as though they’re a part of the story, they empathize deeply with my characters and they stay up all night reading my stories. I can’t ask for more than that.

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Make sure your book is the best it can be. I think there’s a tendency with new writers to think that one or two drafts of a manuscript are sufficient. Books need tweaking and polishing. Get feedback from several honest friends and really listen to what they say.

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

A dynamite website is an absolute necessity. I used to think a website needed to entertain, but now I believe it needs to be a place readers can communicate with me as well as learn more about my books. My books are particularly popular in the United Kingdom and Australia, so I’ve created a special International Page for those readers, as well as a printable booklist to help readers keep track of pub dates, linked books, etc.

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Twitter. I am not a good tweeter. I love Facebook, however. More and more, the information on my website is migrating to my Facebook page.

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Quail Ridge Books

My two favorite indies are Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC and Quarter Moon Books in Topsail Beach, NC. I call them my “Q-Team”.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Here is the printable booklist on my website: http://dianechamberlain.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Chamberlain-Printable-Books-updated-4-2-12.pdf

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title: 

The Good Father: When a young single father loses his home and his job, he resorts to desperate action to provide for his little daughter.

Where can we buy it?

All bookstores, both bricks and mortar and online, should be carrying The Good Father. It’s also available for all e-readers.

Thank you, Diane, for taking the time. I hope lots of new readers discover the joy of reading the books you write for them!