Cindy Sample doesn’t quite fit the mold for my typical, Not-Famous-Yet author interview. For one, she’s jumped ahead of the rest of us and actually published her book, and two, she’s a romance/mystery writer. She’s also funny – much funnier than I am – so without further blather, here’s the interview!
BH: So, published! How does it feel?
CS: It feels wonderful. Sort of like giving birth to my children. It just took longer.
BH: Tell us a little about your book, Dying for a Date.
CS: Dying for a Date is a humorous romantic mystery about a single mom who gets talked into joining a matchmaking service called “The Love Club,” the safe alternative to on-line dating. I discuss the trials of dating as a single mom, and throw in a few dead bodies just to keep it entertaining.
BH: Laurel McKay, the heroine in Dying for a Date, sounds funny, charming, and feisty. Is she based on anyone you know in real life?
CS: There is a slight possibility that my protagonist is based on me twenty years ago. I was 39 and a newly single working Mom as well.
BH: What was the greatest challenge in finishing Dying for a Date and getting it ready for publication?
CS: The hardest part was letting it go and knowing I could never revise one more word again.
BH: Can you tell us a little about your path to publication? Did you get an agent first, or did you go directly to a publisher?
CS: I did get an agent and we had great responses from NY publishers but February 2009 was not a great time to sell a mystery series from a debut author. I ended up receiving offers from two smaller publishers. I liked the feedback that I received from the other authors published with L&L Dreamspell and chose to go with them. It’s been a great experience working with my publisher. They did a great job of editing and I love the cover they designed.
BH: Where do you get most of your ideas and inspiration?
CS: I seem to have an incredibly fertile imagination. Right now I have more plot concepts than I would ever have time to complete in this lifetime. An example would be one time when I was in a spa and they asked if I was allergic to shellfish. Minutes later I had concocted a plot where I killed someone allergic to shellfish with a seaweed wrap. Yes, I know I’m kind of strange but they say mystery authors are very well balanced because we just off the people who annoy us on paper.
BH: Are you currently working on another project, or are you focusing more on publicity for Dying for a Date, or something else entirely?
CS: Right now I’m marketing and writing. I’ve been planning events all over the 4 county area. I’ll be visiting several local libraries in the area and giving presentations along with several other authors from Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime. We’re a group of mystery writers (published and pre-published) as well as mystery fans. I’m also attempting to squeeze in time to complete the sequel, Dying for a Dance, a murder mystery that takes place in the glamorous world of competition ballroom dancing.
BH: Do you have a set writing schedule, or are you more of a “when the mood hits” kind of girl?
CS: I am a very social person so the most difficult part of writing for me is to sit my butt down in my chair. What I’ve discovered works best is to block out an entire week and just write. On those weeks I can start at 8 AM and work until midnight almost every day. One of my friends refers to my rather unusual technique as binge writing.
BH: Binge writing – I love it. What does your writing workspace look like?
CS: I have a beautiful office overlooking Folsom Lake. The walls are crammed with books and photos. But where I write is usually in the kitchen just because it’s cozy. Plus it’s closer to my coffeepot.
BH: You’re the first mystery writer I’ve interviewed. Can you share anything that’s unique to the mystery-writing process?
CS: A friend of mine who has authored over 40 non-fiction books and is working on her first novel says mysteries are by far the most complex books to write. You have to ensure that your clues are subtle yet give the reader the ability to guess who the villain is, along with red herrings to lead them astray.
BH: Who is your favorite author?
CS: Too many to choose from. Of the greats I think Leon Uris and James Clavell. In the mystery/thriller spectrum, I enjoy Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, and Robert Crais. In Women’s fiction Jennifer Crusie, Claire Cook and Jennifer Weiner are my favorites.
BH: How about your favorite book on the writing craft?
CS: I have two full shelves of books on the craft of writing, particularly mysteries. I think my favorite is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.
BH: I’m already drawing comparisons between your novel and Janet Evanovich’s writing. Have you read her books? What do you think of them?
CS: I love her Stephanie Plum series, at least most of the books. When I was pitching my book I used the pitch that my protagonist, Laurel McKay, was like Stephanie Plum as a soccer mom.
BH: One of your strengths as a writer is your sense of humor. Do you have any tips for other writers on how to develop humor in their writing?
CS: For some reason whatever can go wrong normally does go wrong in my life and I learned years ago that the most annoying mishaps can usually be turned into a wonderfully funny anecdote. It’s rare for anything to bother me because I know that it will become an entertaining story down the road. Many writers keep daily journals. If you’re interested in incorporating humor in your work, jot down those things that strike you as funny during the course of a normal day. You’ll be surprised how much material you end up with.
BH: What is the best advice anyone has given you with regards to your writing?
CS: The three P’s which are persistence, persistence, persistence. My first version of Dying for a Date was at best, mediocre. But after taking classes and attending mystery conferences, reading every recommended book on fiction, reading and analyzing the work of my favorite authors, and being persistent with my own numerous revisions, I’m thrilled with the published version. It is an enormous amount of work to publish a novel but the joy it brings is unparalleled. Follow your passion, be patient, and definitely be persistent.
It sounds like there are two alternate P’s there: passion and patience.
Thank you so much, Cindy, for joining me for an interview. Free t-shirts to the studio audience! (Um, there is no studio audience. And no t-shirts.)
For more information on Cindy and her writing, as well as Where To Buy Her Book (so cool!), you can visit her website.