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!

Advertisements

An interview with Anita Page

Anita Page is an author who’s new to me, but I like what I see. I hope you will too!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Anita: I’ve been writing short stories for many years and also worked in journalism. I only began writing crime fiction, and to seriously think about writing a novel, after I retired from teaching five or six years ago.

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

Anita: I don’t know that I see success as a place where you can put down roots. It’s more a fleeting moment. When the writing goes well, I feel successful. And then there are the days it doesn’t. It’s gratifying to have your work published, but you still have to sit down at the computer each day and face the terrifying task of writing fiction.

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

Anita: Years ago, out of college, writing was just you and your typewriter and your Wite-Out. I wasn’t prepared for how connected the writing life can be now. Largely this is because of the Internet, but also because of the supportive nature of the mystery writing community. I’m very grateful for the friends I’ve made through Sisters in Crime, including my blogmates at Women of Mystery, MWA, and online groups like the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

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

Anita: My focus right now is the WIP. I’m usually at the computer by five-thirty a.m. I shoot for four or five hours, though sometimes the gears get squeaky sooner.

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

Anita: After I pitched my first book-length manuscript to a very nice agent at Crime Bake, she said, gently, that most first books don’t get published. I thought: Well, she hasn’t read mine. This is to give you an idea of how clueless I was. That first book never sold, and with good reason. I went on to write Damned If You Don’t, and then spent close to a year trying to find an agent. Eventually I decided to submit to a small publisher. I sent the manuscript to L&L Dreamspell because they’d published an anthology in which I had a short story. They accepted the manuscript fairly quickly. It was about a year from acceptance to publication.

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

Anita: The agent search, which was almost as much fun as root canal, had been going on for months when a good friend was picked up by a top agent who got him a multi-book contract with a major publisher. Part of the deal was that he had to hand in a manuscript a year. At around the same time, another friend was dropped by her publisher because her books hadn’t sold enough copies.

These events made me question whether I wanted the kind of pressure that’s guaranteed if you sign with one of the Big Six. At that point I stopped querying agents and sent the manuscript to L&L.

Does that mean I’d turn down an offer on the new book for a six-figure contract from a major publisher—some of whom are now pressuring writers for two books a year? I think I know the answer to that, but of course the hypothetical is not the same as being there. I do know that I’m happy with the choice I made.

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?

Anita: Here are my personal rules for hanging onto my sanity. Put the writing first; develop a tolerance for weeds and dust; no Internet, including email, before three p.m. Do I follow these rules religiously? Take a guess.

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

Anita: The following are in the running: the email from Lisa Smith at L&L Dreamspell offering me a contract for Damned If You Don’t; winning a Derringer award in 2010 for my short story “‘Twas the Night;” the day I finished the final draft of DIYD and realized I’d actually written a book. My big fear when I was working on the manuscript was that I’d be hit by a bus before I finished.

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

Anita: Not too long ago I did a library reading in the Catskill Mountain town where we lived for nine years, and which inspired Laurel Pond, the town where Damned If You Don’t is set. That evening felt like a homecoming, especially when old friends turned up. I’d used the library as a setting in the book—my protagonist Hannah Fox teaches a summer school class there—so in addition to feeling that I’d connected with my past, I also had the sense (spooky music here) that I’d stepped into Hannah’s life.

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

Anita: If you’ll forgive the BSP, here’s a quote from the Gumshoe Review:

“Page’s characters come alive with the everyday concerns, fears, and challenges of real people, the sort of challenges that most of us deal with on a regular basis. The situations and scenes that Page draws are believable and down-to-earth, sometimes gut-wrenchingly familiar. From Hannah’s involvement at a help center for battered and at-risk women, to the shady, graft-ridden politics of small town America, it all rings true.”

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

Anita: I’ve learned to write—and continue to learn—by reading good writers. Early on, when I was struggling to bring the characters to life without getting bogged down in detail, I began re-reading Donna Leon. I’d read her books the first time for pleasure, but this time I was reading for the bones—i.e., trying to figure out how she did it. I remember being struck by the deft way she handled a scene in which Brunetti meets a friend at a café. To paraphrase advice an agent once gave me: She didn’t give the reader directions on how to eat a meal.

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

Damned If You Don’t (L&L Dreamspell) is my debut crime novel.

I’ve had short stories published in the following anthologies:

Murder New York Style (L&L Dreamspell)

The Prosecution Rests (Little, Brown)

The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)

Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices (L&L Dreamspell)

I’ve had short stories published in a number of webzines, including Beat to a Pulpand Mysterical-e. There are links to some of the stories at anitapagewriter.blogspot.com.

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

Damned If You Don’t (L&L Dreamspell), set in the Catskill Mountains, features community activist Hannah Fox, a daughter of sixties radicals, who, together with the intrepid Women of Action, battles a fraudulent eminent domain scheme that threatens a friend’s land. When the scheme ends in murder, and her friend becomes a suspect, Hannah is drawn into the police investigation—and into a relationship with the lead investigator that complicates her already shaky marriage. As she probes the victim’s past, Hannah comes to suspect the murder was a heroic act, even when it’s clear she may be the killer’s next victim.

Where can we buy it?

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available at the Bohemian Book Bin in Lake Katrine, NY and Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe in Warwick, NY.

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

Anita: The victim in my first (unpublished) book was loosely inspired by someone I know casually and don’t see very often. One day I was in the supermarket and saw him walking toward me. I swear my jaw dropped. My first thought: But he’s supposed to be dead! So that’s my dark secret—the line between book world and the real world sometimes gets blurred.

Thanks so much Anita for sharing with us. Readers, Damned if you Don’t is on my TBR pile. Want to add it to yours?

An interview with Elizabeth Zelvin

Elizabeth Zelvin is an incredibly versatile woman and a talented author who consistently utilizes her personal skills and professional knowledge in her writing. Listen and learn:

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Liz: I’ve been writing my whole life. I first said, “I want to be a writer” when I was seven, and I didn’t even have a Plan B until I was almost forty, when I got a master’s degree in social work and became a psychotherapist. Today, I do both.

 

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

Liz: Although I’d published three books (two poetry, one professional) and a lot of professional material, articles and book chapters, I didn’t feel I’d fully succeeded as a writer until my first novel came out. Success as an author is something else again. That’s a matter of business rather than craft.

 

PJ: That’s an important distinction! Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Liz: The writing life is different from what I expected when my first mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, came out five years ago. As a young woman, I visualized social success and validation rather than the task of writing, but if someone had asked me, I would have said it would be a solitary task. I spend a lot of time at my computer, alone in my apartment, but I’m constantly connected to the community of mystery writers and the larger community of mystery lovers, thanks to the Internet. And since I’m lucky enough to live in New York City, I go to all the parties—book launches, Edgars Week, monthly meetings of MWA and Sisters in Crime—as well as mystery conventions. The support and guidance of other writers has been crucial to the development of my craft as well as the business of getting and staying published.

 

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

Liz: May I ROFL (roll on the floor laughing)? The experience that’s best helped me deal with the reality of what most fiction writers earn is my thirty years as a published poet. Nobody expects to make any money whatsoever writing poetry, so the expectations are realistic from the start.

 

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

Liz: The entire publishing industry, the definition of “getting published,” and the very nature of reading have changed in the few years since my first novel, Death Will Get You Sober, appeared. My first publisher, one of the biggies, dropped me a week before my second book came out because my advance sales weren’t bigger than the first book’s—at the precise moment the economy crashed. I took a year to lick my wounds—and in that year, getting dropped by one’s publisher became the norm, even for successful authors with devoted followings. The e-book market exploded, small presses started to get a lot more respect, and self-publishing became an option that didn’t necessarily put a writer beyond the pale forever. One effect of all that is that I am more conscious about asking myself, “What do I want? What am I willing to do? What part of this process do I like? What do I do best?” My answers to all these questions may change, but they’re very personal. I may not make the same decisions as any of my writer friends about my career direction.

  

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

Liz: From age seven, thirty years to the first book of poetry, fifty-seven years to the first novel.

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

Liz: I would network with other writers a helluva lot sooner, and I would revise my first manuscript a lot more before starting to query agents.

 

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?

Liz: My list includes, in addition to all that, the other “hats” I wear—as a psychotherapist currently working online and a singer-songwriter with an album that’s just been released, so I’m promoting both the new mystery, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, and my CD, Outrageous Older Woman. My way of allotting my time is completely intuitive. I sit down at the typewriter every morning and start tackling whatever seems most pressing. When I’m working on a first draft or have had a brainstorm about a new short story or even a blog post, that gets my morning energy, if possible. But if I have a scheduled session with a client, the writing may have to wait.

 

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

Liz: Maybe this is not objectively the most exciting event, but the thing I got the most excited about was the call from the person who became my agent at the time I had to negotiate the contract for my first novel. He was not my first agent, I’d already received the offer from the publisher, and I have a different agent now. The story is far too complicated to go into. But I was in the shower coloring my hair when the phone rang, and when I heard the agent starting to leave a message, I absolutely had to take the call. Thank goodness no one Skyped yet back then. We talked for half an hour, and please don’t ask what my hair looked like by the end of the conversation.

 

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

Liz: I’ve already mentioned it: getting dropped by my prestigious publisher a week before my second book came out. It meant I had to revise my expectation of writing a lengthy series. The third book, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, has just come out with another publisher. But in the interim, my whole vision of my mystery writing career had to change. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly different.

 

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

Liz: One very touching moment took place at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ. PJ Nunn, of all people, had arranged for me to appear on “Good Morning, Arizona” that morning to promote Death Will Get You Sober. I’d spent my four minutes talking about how passionately I feel about the transformational power of recovery from alcoholism, particularly through AA, as personified by Bruce, my recovering alcoholic protagonist. When I got to the bookstore that evening, only a couple of people had shown up. It was one of those moments when my long experience of poetry readings came in handy. But the chairs had been placed in a circle, and Barbara Peters wanted me to give my talk anyway, so I went into my spiel for the two customers, Barbara, and a couple of her staff members. I was just winding up when the door of the store opened and a guy came in. The clerk at the desk waved him in our direction—we were way down at the far end of the store—and he walked toward us. When he got there, he looked at us sitting around in a circle, nodded as if he found it reassuring, sat down in a vacant seat, and said, “Hi, I’m Bob, and I’m an alcoholic.” He felt right at home, and I that made me very happy. He bought the book, too.

 

PJ: Wow, that’s a great story! I hadn’t heard that before. You just never know who’s watching, do you? With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Liz: I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous, but I think that my voice, my characters, my dialogue, and my themes are all distinctive. I’ve had my share of crummy reviews like everybody else. But when a reader or reviewer says, “Her characters leap off the page,” “Her dialogue sparkles,” “She has the ability to make readers laugh and cry, sometimes in the same sentence,” or “I was profoundly moved by the struggle of the recovering addict,” I feel tremendously validated. They’re getting out of it not only what I put into it, but what made me want to tell the story in the first place.

 

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

Liz: Don’t do it alone. Join Sisters in Crime, especially the Guppies chapter, and Mystery Writers of America. Don’t start querying until you’re comfortable with critique and revision. Don’t rush the process—including, these days, deciding whether you want to try to get an agent and go the traditional route or e-publish your book yourself. Remember that  in today’s market, distribution and promotion are as important and craft. But don’t forget what made you want to write fiction. If it was for the money, you’re in the wrong business!

 

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

Liz: I was born to schmooze. My tools are my fast-talking mouth, my virtual mouth, ie my fast-typing fingers on the keyboard, and the empathy that made me choose to be a psychotherapist and serves me well both in creating believable characters and networking the way we have to do to promote our books.

 

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

Liz: I confess I’m not on Twitter. You could say it’s the ultimate schmoozing tool, but a limit of 140 characters suggests relationships that are too superficial for me. Hey, I do psychotherapy online. I like to go deep. The other reason is that my brain can only take in so much new technology. I love my iPhone and my GPS. I coexist with my computer and Facebook. So far, Twitter is simply one too many for me.

 

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

Novels (series):

Death Will Get You Sober

Death Will Help You Leave Him

Death Will Extend Your Vacation

 

Short stories (series):

“Death Will Clean Your Closet” (Agatha nominee)

“Death Will Tie Your Kangaroo Down”

“Death Will Trim Your Tree” (Agatha nominee)

“Death Will Tank Your Fish” (Derringer nominee)

Short stories (other):

“The Green Cross” (Agatha nominee)

“Navidad”

“The Silkie”

“Dress to Die”

“Choices”

“The Saxon Hoard”

“The Emperor’s Hoard”

 

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

Death Will Extend Your Vacation is the third mystery in the series that started with Death Will Get You Sober. Recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends, Barbara the world-class codependent and Jimmy the computer genius, take shares in a clean and sober group house in the Hamptons. Their first day at the beach, they find the body of one of their housemates, a beautiful investigative reporter who was passionate about environmental issues and other people’s boyfriends.

 

Where can we buy it?

Death Will Extend Your Vacationis available at online bookstores or can be ordered from your local mystery or independent bookstore if it doesn’t stock books from Five Star.

 

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

Liz: If you’re old enough to remember Jack Benny, he had a comedy routine where there’s a hold-up, and the robber says, “Your money or your life!” There’s a long, long pause, and then Jack Benny says, “I’m thinking.” If it makes a good story, I’ve probably already told it. If I haven’t told anybody yet, it’s probably something I should keep to myself.

Liz, you’re delightful! Keep doing what you’re doing and writing what you’re writing. Folks, I know I say it a lot, but here’s an author who’s worth reading. She’ll take you to new and interesting places. Go buy her books! Till next time…

An interview with Avery Aames

This lady reminds me a lot of the energizer bunny, although she’s not annoying =) I just don’t know how she gets it all done and done so well. If you haven’t been introduced to her work before, it’s high time because I know you’re going to be hearing a lot more about her in the future!

PJ: Avery, how long have you been writing?

Avery: I have been writing a long time. Lo-o-o-ng time. I started my career as an actress. I turned to writing television and screenplays, hoping that I could write something that I could “star” in. That didn’t happen, though I did sell a television show for which I created the format: OUT OF THIS WORLD. It was on NBC for 4 years in first-run syndication. I turned to writing mysteries and thrillers when my family moved out of the Los Angeles area (for my husband’s career). I’ve always loved mysteries. I grew up on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie novels. I even attempted to write my own “Nancy Drew” episode around the age of nine. Granted, you’ll never see that one published. J

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

Avery: When my first Cheese Shop Mystery came out, I felt “successful” as a writer.  Seeing the book sitting on a shelf at the bookstore was a major thrill! {Getting a copy of the cover, sans book, prior to publication was a “wheeeee” moment.}

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

Avery: Writing is still the same. I make deadlines. I write an outline. I write, write, write, and I enjoy the process. I love developing stories and characters. What is different is that I had NO IDEA how much publicity was required to help make a book a success. I had no idea of the time involved to do publicity and the expense. It’s exhausting. While there is help from my publisher, there is not enough to cover all the costs and time.

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

Avery: Didn’t you know, I’m a millionaire?  We all are. LOL

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

Avery: I’m so lucky and thrilled to be published by a wonderful, well-known publisher. What my publisher is able to do is get my book into the biggest stores, the chains and independents, and the publisher (certainly on the first in the series) did a big promotion to get the title out there so that bookstores and reviewers jumped all over it. I have a fabulously talented editor who is my great cheerleader. She has a good eye and has made my writing better. My print run was quite sizeable and nice. That offers me the chance to find more readers.

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

Avery: A lo-o-ong time. Ten years at least. I wasn’t a bad writer; I didn’t have luck and that “it” factor when it came to my books. Agents liked my work but they couldn’t sell “that one” that I had submitted. They often asked for my next book. I have a number of previous manuscripts on my shelves. I intend to rewrite at least four of them (when I can find the time). I was crowned the “Queen of Rejection” by one of my writing groups. I like to think of that title as queen of perseverance. I was just about ready to give up, maybe go back to acting, but then along came an opportunity – the Cheese Shop Mystery series – and I was on my way.

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

Avery: I would try to understand what a “hook” is (earlier) so that I could fashion a book better in that regard. I would work with an independent editor so that I could have had my writing at a top-notch level. And then there’s luck. I think I might have spent more time searching for lucky pennies and four-leaf clovers.

PJ: I’m glad to hear you say that. I don’t hear it enough. If you’re writing as a career move, you have to make some effort to write what publishers want to buy. 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?

Avery: I try to write five days a week for at least two to four hours. I really need concentrated time. If I hit my mark on pages, then I can go do promotional things. There are times I find I don’t hit my number of pages (word count) and I’ll have to focus harder the next day. Some days are totally devoted to rewriting and outlining. But I create a schedule for producing a completed manuscript, and I try to keep to that schedule at all times. My family is very supportive. They don’t like when I’m pulling out my hair.

PJ: Must be working. You hair looks good. What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Avery: Being published. Seeing my book in print. And then I was lucky enough to win the Agatha Award for best first novel in 2011. That was a huge high point, though I do have to admit that it was wonderful just to be nominated. There were some terrific writers alongside me, including Alan Orloff, Sasscer Hill, Laura Alden, and Amanda Flower. This year’s flock of new writers is just as outstanding. Janet Bolin, Rochelle Staab, Kaye George, Sara Henry and Kari Lee Townsend.

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

Avery: There isn’t a “single” thing. Constant rejection was hard. I had to continually buoy myself up. I got “close” many times with agents, as I said previously. Hearing “I like you, but…” over and over is a blow to the ego.

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

Avery: What has been so much fun is meeting all my writing pals online. I have many. I adore them. The group has blossomed over the years. I started out by joining a group called the Guppies, an online division of Sisters in Crime. That group, which was small when I joined, gave me so much support. It continues to foster good writing and good conversation among writers. And then I went to conferences and met many of my friends in person. There’s nothing better. Friendships with those who understand the ups and downs of a writer’s life is invaluable. And then, of course, there are the fans. I LOVE hearing from and meeting fans. It’s so much fun connecting with them online and at conferences.

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

Avery: Cheese. Food. Good stories. Fun. Family. Good characters. Snappy dialogue.  A sense of pace.  But, honestly, lots of writers offer these same things, so really it comes down to luck again. And possibly beautiful artwork on the covers. I love my artist Teresa Fasolino!!

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

Avery: Don’t give up. If you do, you won’t be published. And don’t sell yourself short. You have a voice. Nurture it. Develop it. Keep it fresh.

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

Avery: There are so many opportunities: Facebook, Twitter, a website, conferences. I can’t point to any one that really works. I have sent out postcards, done radio spots, gone to book signings in lots of different states. I have a newsletter that I send out every three months. I’ve had contests.  Who knows, really? I know authors that don’t do any of this and they are successful.  Uh-oh, here comes that word again: luck.

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

Avery: I can’t seem to figure out how to do things on Facebook so I’ve hired someone to help me navigate. I can post and add pictures, but all the specialty things on that site confuse me.

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

I love a couple of them around the country: Mysterious Galaxy, Mysteries to Die For, Book ‘em Mysteries, Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Murder by the Book, Mysteries & More, and Foul Play Mystery Bookshop.

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

The Long Quiche Goodbye, July 2010

Lost and Fondue, May 2011

Clobbered by Camembert, March 2012

To Brie or not To Brie, February 2013 (not out yet)

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

Charlotte Bessette—proprietor of Fromagerie Bessette, affectionately known in Providence, Ohio, as the Cheese Shop—is busy setting up her tent for the town’s Winter Wonderland faire, where she’ll offer fine wines and scrumptious cheeses. In the midst of the preparations, Charlotte meets an old friend of her mother, Kaitlyn Clydesdale, who has come back to Providence with plans to start a new honeybee farm. When Kaitlyn is found dead, suspicion falls on Charlotte’s assistant’s boyfriend, a honeybee farmer himself. Charlotte knows this beekeeper wouldn’t hurt a fly, so she decides to find the real killer.

Where can we buy it?

Barnes and Noble, online at B&N, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and all the independent mystery bookstores. To make it easy, here’s a link on my website that takes you write to an order page for all of those stores: http://www.averyaames.com/book_sellers.html

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

A little tidbit about me…my real name is Daryl Wood Gerber. I’m very excited to announce that starting next year, I (Daryl) will have a new series out in July called The Cookbook Nook Mysteries featuring an avid reader, 
admitted foodie and owner of a cookbook store in picturesque coastal California. I have two websites: www.Averyaames.com and www.Darylwoodgerber.com  and two identities on Facebook and Twitter, but they’re both “me.”  And another “little known fact,” as an actress, I did a co-starring role on “Murder, She Wrote.”

Like I said, she’s one busy lady, and deserves much success on the heels of all that work. I love cheese, I love her books and I hope you will too!