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
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.
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
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!