NiFtY Author: Geraldine Evans

Geraldine Evans is the author of seventeen books, thirteen of which belong to her popular Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series. Below she shares her books and her thoughts on writing.

BH: Dead Before Morning is your first book in your Rafferty & Llewellyn series. Could you tell us a little about it?

GE: It was published in hb the US in 1994 by St Martin’s Press. It’s almost ready for publishing as an ebook on kindle, iPad, iPhone, nook, kibo, android, etc. It introduces DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty, some of his rumbustious family and DS Dafyd Llewellyn, his straightlaced sidekick. In this book, a naked girl is found murdered in a private psychiatric hospital, her face horribly mutilated. Rafferty has to solve the crime as well as get one of his many cousins out of jail. And it is only when he does his good deed for the day with regard to the latter, that the fates help him solve the murder.

BH: How about your most recent installment in the series, Death Dance?

GE: Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty is getting married; the last thing he needs is another murder that puts his plans in jeopardy. Adrienne Staveley was strangled, and is soon revealed as a woman with several lovers, a stepson who hated her and a husband who tramped the streets rather than spend time in her company. Altogether, there are a number of suspects who could have reason to kill her. Another possible disruption to Rafferty’s plans and his heart occur when some of the fingerprints in the Staveleys’ home are revealed to be those of his fiancee, Abra. She’d never mentioned knowing the dead woman, moreover, her prints had been found in John Staveley’s bedroom. Was Abra cheating on him even before they married? Or was she a possible murderer? His mind in turmoil, he wasn’t sure which option he preferred. But, somehow, he must put his problems aside and find the murderer.

BH: Which character do you feel is most like you? Did the similarities make it easier or more difficult to write the character?

GE: Definitely Joe Rafferty. He is me – the me I would be if I were a man and a cop. The similarities made it a lot easier to write about him. He’s a bit more of a rule-breaker than I am, but our sense of humour is the same. There’s something of my mother in Ma Rafferty, as well as a bit pinched from the various ladies I used to know when we went to Dublin for the summer holidays when I was a kid. But having said that, there’s a little of me in Llewellyn as well, as I’m quite a studious type.

BH: Which book in the series would you encourage new fans to begin with? Should they start with the first book, or can they pick up somewhere in the middle?

GE: It’s not necessary to start at book one as each book can be read as a standalone. But I suppose all authors prefer readers to start from the beginning and learn about the characters gradually. But if they would like to start with my favourite book, I still think I like Dying For You best as it’s the one where I get my poor old Rafferty deep inthe mire. It’s number six in the series and came out in, I think, 2005 in the US.

BH: Is it hard to write from a male perspective? Do you have any tips for authors who wish to write from the perspective of the opposite sex?

GE: I don’t find it hard, but then I’m not a very girly woman; I  was never very fond of pink, for instance, even when I was a little girl. Tips. Hmm. I would say try not to make them too tough. All men have their feminine side, even the most macho types. I’m not saying have them spend hours prinking and preening, but make them rounded, rather than a stereotype. Think about the men in your own life – they will all have their weaknesses and emotional times; maybe use them to help you build your characters.

BH: Tell us a little about your path to publication.

GE: It was a long one! I started writing in my early twenties, but I never finished anything. It was only when I hit the milestone age of thirty that I really got down to it. I wrote a novel a year for six years, only the last of which was published. That was Land of Dreams, a romance set in the Canadian Arctic (don’t ask!). When my next romance was also rejected, I turned to crime and – apart from one historical novel Reluctant Queen, about Henry VIII’s little sister, which was written under the name Geraldine Hartnett – I have written crime novels ever since. All during the years I was rejected, I had also written articles on subjects like historical biography, writing and New Age and these were published, not just in the UK, but in foreign magazines also.

BH: What is your writing schedule like?

GE:  I’m not an early riser. I generally start writing around 10.00 a m and carry on till around 6.30 or 7.00 p m. I’ll often continue to write later in the evening as well, though nowadays, I tend to give myself the weekends off (if I don’t, my husband moans! Quite rightly, really. He married me because he likes my company, after all).

Of course, as with other writers, I have other calls on my time. I’ve just finished proofreading my latest Rafferty novel, Deadly Reunion, which is out in the UK at the end of February 2011 (out in the US a few months later). Next, I have to do the final proofread of the ebook version of Dead Before Morning, after which I’ll have to get myself in gear to get the next out of print Rafferty novel, Death Line, ready for epubbing. I give talks and interviews. I do all my own marketing and produce flyers, bookmarks, news releases and postcards.. I also interview other writers for my blog, which I started recently. I use facebook, I tweet and belong to various Author websites, where I post and which I regularly update. So altogether, I keep quite busy.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

GE: I do most of my work downstairs in the living room by the fire (nearer the kettle for tea!). It’s quite a small room and is not very tidy (no Domestic Goddess, me!). I used to work all the time in my study upstairs, a small boxroom as we call them in the UK, but since Mark, my stepson, gave me one of his spare laptops, it’s been wonderful to have the freedom to work anywhere. I’ll get my husband to take a picture. The living room’s a bit of a shambles at the moment because I was busy yesterday evening wrapping Christmas presents for my family (nearly done. Only four more to get, though we also have four December birthdays and three in January L). Wish my lot went in for a bit of family planning!

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

GE: I like the one by Lawrence Block. I can’t find it at the moment and I can’t quite remember the title (From Plot to Print?), but I’ve read that from cover to cover many times. I love his humour. Some writers who try to teach about writing get a bit too precious, but I’d definitely recommend his book.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

GE: I know it’s difficult. I’ve been rejected many times. Have a cry, then dry your eyes, grit your teeth and say: ‘I’ll show ‘em’! Try something different and shorter, like an article, something you don’t need to put your heart and soul into Anyone can research facts for a non-fiction piece and put them in order with a bit of flair. Don’t forget to do your research on your intended market, too, regarding what their requirements are (word length, subject matters covered, etc). As I mention on the Advice Page on my website (www.geraldineevans.com), this will, hopefully, give you something, maybe several somethings, to put on your writer’s CV, which should lead editors to at least consider you a professional. Getting non-fiction published is a lot easier than trying to place a novel. But with regard to your novel, please don’t follow the herd with the latest hot ticket. All would-be writers do that. Do your own thing and write what matters to you: that way, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

BH: Thank you, Geraldine, for the interview and for your thoughts on writing and publishing! For more of Geraldine, you can visit her in various places on the internet:

Website: http://www.geraldineevans.com Here you can visit Geraldine’s blog, find links to her books on Amazon, and read all sorts of writerly advice.

Blog: http://wwwgeraldineevanscom.blogspot.com (If this link doesn’t work, try going from Geraldine’s website.)

Twitter: Geraldine_Evans

Facebook Fan Page:
http://www.facebook.com/search.php?q=www.blogger.com&type=users#!/pages/Geraldine-Evans-Crime-Author/134541119922978

Crimespace: http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/GeraldineEvans

NiFtY Author: Katie Pickard Fawcett

A few months ago I reviewed Katie Pickard Fawcett’s book To Come and Go Like Magic (click here for the review), and I was delighted when she agreed to an interview on my blog. So without further blather on my part…here’s a truly inspiring interview!

BH: I could be wrong, but To Come and Go Like Magic seems like one of those books that the author just had to write…like you couldn’t not write it. What inspired the story?

KF: My own childhood growing up in Appalachia was the inspiration for the setting, characters, and experiences.  Some years back I read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and loved the way she told the story in vignettes.  I was excited to write a book about Appalachia in this style with glimpses into the lives of many different characters.

BH: Chili, the main character, longs to see the world. Then she befriends her teacher Miss Matlock, who has traveled extensively. Did you ever have a Miss Matlock in your life?

KF: No.  I didn’t have a teacher who had traveled the world and came back with stories to tell.  I did, however, have several wonderful teachers who read great books to us, encouraged me to write stories, and offered interesting classroom activities.  The trip to Mexico chapter in To Come and Go Like Magic was very similar to a geography activity we did in fifth grade.  Miss Matlock’s travels, her interest in the Monarch butterflies, in hiking in the Andes, and in the rainforests of Central America come from my own experiences.

BH: Another fantastic element of To Come and Go Like Magic is the setting. How much of the story’s setting is based on your imagination, and how much is based on your actual experiences in Appalachia?

KF:  I grew up in Eastern Kentucky so the setting is based entirely on the actual area and the environment, activities, problems, and concerns of the 1970s.  The characters, story, and most of the place names are fictitious.  I kept the name (Cumberland) of the real river.

BH: Your book is told in vignettes, and in some places these vignettes have such flowing language I think of them as prose poems. Was this your intent from the beginning, or did the format emerge as you told the story?

KF:  I love poetry and I enjoy writing “snapshot” pieces, so my writing tends toward the poetic.

BH: Can you tell us about your experience publishing To Come and Go Like Magic?

KF: I sent To Come and Go Like Magic to Random House and got a call and a contract within the month.  Sound too good to be true?  The complete story is a bit longer.  I worked for ten years in the publishing department of an international organization writing pieces for the house journal, summaries of development projects, and publicity pieces, and didn’t have much time to write fiction.  I was also a social worker in Kentucky, worked for a consulting firm in Washington, DC, and spent three years at various jobs at a university.  I majored in psychology, sociology, and education in college.  I also tutor and teach writing workshops and SAT prep on occasion.  I wrote a young adult book several years ago and sent it to Dutton.  They had me do two rewrites and then rejected it.  Ditto for Scholastic.  Then off to Random House.  After the second rewrite, my editor said she was willing to read it one more time.  I figured it wouldn’t fly.  So I asked if I could send her another manuscript I had lying around and she agreed.  That was To Come and Go Like Magic.  I spent about 6 years researching, writing, and revising the first book that got rejected by three big publishers over a period of 3 or 4 years.  I spent about 6 weeks writing To Come and Go. Just goes to show that “write what you know” makes sense.  Research was limited primarily to fact checking the dates for songs and foods and movies mentioned in the book.

BH: That is amazing, and heartening at the same time. I’m not surprised, though – I really get that “inspired” feeling from To Come and Go.

What does your workspace look like?

KF: My preference by far is to work outside and I love my laptop.  I enjoy the flowers and birds and furry critters that visit.  When it’s raining or too cold to be outside I work in my study.  I have a window that looks down to the front garden and three bird feeders – two for the squirrels and one that’s squirrel-proof.  A family of blue jays comes by almost every morning for peanuts.  They often respond to my whistle if they’re in the vicinity.  My study is filled with books and doo dads.  I have a hummingbird mobile above my desk, starfish on the window sill, green plants, and a CD player because I like music in the background while I’m working.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

KF: I have three books that I enjoy opening and reading a chapter or two when the mood strikes.  Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose is entertaining and filled with great humor and wisdom and excerpts from some of the best writers past and present.  On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser has been around since the late 1970s and is still an excellent guide.  Many of these fundamental principles can be applied to fiction as well as nonfiction.   If I had to choose a favorite, however, it would be a little book published in 1996 titled Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  This is a marvelous little book filled with many inspiring exercises for getting the creative juices stirring.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

KF: I have been writing stories for almost as long as I can remember.  I passed stories around in elementary school and in high school study hall.  It seems that I have always needed to write and, although it can be physically tiring and mentally exhausting at times and rejection is always disappointing, it has never truly felt like work.  Publication is a big plus, but has never been a necessity for me.  The old saying that “it’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else” applies.  I love to write and it’s the passion, I believe, that keeps the hope alive.

BH: Thank you, Katie, for the great interview. I learned from this, and I appreciate your responses, insights, and inspiration.

Studio Audience! For more of Katie Fawcett, and where to order her book, check out the links below.

Links:

http://katiepickardfawcett.wordpress.com/ (On my blog I write about Kentucky, DC, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Caribbean, books, food, flowers, squirrels, and anything else that strikes me.)

Order from Amazon –

http://www.amazon.com/Come-Go-Like-Magic/dp/0375858466/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287454169&sr=1-1

Order from Random House — http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/catalog/results.pperl?keyword=to+come+and+go+like+magic&submit.x=17&submit.y=10&submit=submit

To Come and Go Like Magic was a Parents’ Choice Award Winner in the fiction category for Spring 2010   http://www.parents-choice.org/award.cfm?thePage=books&p_code=p_boo&c_code=c_fic&orderby=award

Also nominated on October 9 for the Amelia Bloomer Project Award – an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers chosen by the Social Responsibilities Roundtable of the American Library Association  http://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

NiFtY Author: Sunny Frazier

For today’s NiFtY Author I give you…drum roll…Sunny Frazier! Sunny has published two mysteries, Fools Rush In, and Where Angels Fear, as well as contributed to numerous anthologies. She’s also active in her publishing house, and works to help other authors promote their work. Keep on reading to learn more about this nifty author!

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the first Christy Bristol book, Fools Rush In?

SF: Astrologer Christy Bristol is egged on by a former boyfriend to do a horoscope for a drug dealer and finds herself the one with a precarious future.

BH: Can you tell us a little about your path to publication? Did you go the traditional “agent” route, or did you use some other scheme?

SF: I won a spot as one of the seven authors chosen for the Seven By Seven anthology. The publisher liked my flash fiction so much that he offered me a contract for my book.

BH: Ah, that’s the kind of success story we unpublished authors salivate over. What are some of the challenges you faced by not working with an agent? Were there benefits as well?

SF: I only experienced the benefits. I got not only a lot of say with how my own books were published, but both my past publisher and my current publisher have looked to me for input on picking manuscripts for the publishing house. They also picked my brain for marketing ideas.

BH: Your publisher, Oak Tree Press, is an independent publisher. What are some of the benefits of working with an independent publisher?

SF: Trust and immediate access. We communicate constantly, by e-mail and phone. I am now acquisitions editor for the Dark Oak mystery line. I also introduced two new lines: Wild Oaks Westerns and Mystic Oak for paranormal novels.

BH: Are there any disadvantages to working with an independent publisher?

SF: It’s never easy to get books into brick and mortar book stores. However, many are closing and the reading public is ordering on Amazon. Also, e-readers are finally finding acceptance with Kindle and the I-Pad. Aggressive Internet marketing is leveling the playing field for authors with smaller houses.

Sunny standing with publisher Billie Johnson at a pitch session in Las Vegas

BH: I tried to write a mystery—once. It quickly turned into a (not very good) thriller/suspense novel because I couldn’t figure out how to give just enough information without making the killer’s identity obvious. Do you have any tips on this for aspiring mystery writers?

SF: I think the definition of “mystery” has blurred considerably. The “puzzle” type mysteries such as Agatha Christie wrote are not common these days. Instead of being plot driven, we are seeing more character-driven story arcs. I don’t write whodunits, I write whydunits. In fact, I tell you who the victim is and who the killer is on the first page—the “Colombo” formula. The reader keeps reading to see how my character Christy uses astrology to her advantage.

You should have stuck with your suspense novel.

BH: Oh, I did. Unfortunately the premise wasn’t a wowzer, so I’ve moved on, and I read other peoples’ mysteries now.

Every unpublished author thinks all her problems will be solved as soon as she gets her name in print…even though published writers tell us this isn’t true. Did you have any unfortunate wake-up calls?

SF: What I try to instill in writers is to start promoting as soon as you decide you want to write a book. Name recognition is very important. Getting people accustomed to your “voice” through blogging, learning about the industry by monitoring group sites, getting comfortable with promotion. People want to make it a chore and it’s more of a mindset. I work on promotion on Sundays. I have 35 sites I belong to, all are professional sites for writers, readers and publishers. They each give you your own page, so it’s like having 35 websites. I developed what I call “the posse” to teach people how to effectively promote. All I need is an e-mail and attentiveness to my nudges. It takes years off people’s careers, unless they want to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel.

BH: When you first wrote Fools Rush In, were you already planning a sequel?

SF:  I had six books in mind: titles, plots, characters.

BH: What was the most enjoyable part of writing the sequel, Where Angels Fear?

SF:  I didn’t realize that Fools Rush In was one of the hardest types of mysteries to write. My protagonist was stuck in a room for most of the book. In the sequel, Christy and her sidekick Lennie get to traipse all over the Central County uncovering clues to a sex club. There’s more humor as well. I had a hard time keeping a straight face while writing.

BH: Is a third book in the works?

SF:  Slowly but surely, A Snitch In Time is making its way on paper. I’m so busy speaking at conferences and conventions as well as reading query letters for Oak Tree Press that my own work suffers.

BH: Can you compare your series character, Christy Bristol, to anyone you know in real life?

SF: Uh—me. I worked as an office assistant with an undercover narc team for 17 years in the sheriff’s department and I’ve done astrology for nearly 40 years. Christy is much like I was in my earlier years.

BH: What is your writing schedule like?

SF:  My computer is on for 12 hours a day. I write in small clumps, fitting in the novel when I get tired of reading manuscripts and conducting business via e-mail. My eyes get so tired staring at the screen, sometimes I just hit the couch and close them. My brain keeps going over the story until I’m ready to tackle the keyboard.

Oh, and I don’t have kids, a husband or a job to interrupt me. Just a bunch of cats who give me space when I’m at the desk. If not, they have to go out in the yard and play.

BH: What does your writing workspace look like?

SF: It’s usually a mess with notes scattered all over. I have a rolodex, a Victorian calendar, and a pen carousel with a fake raven stuck in the center. For some reason I work well in chaos.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

SF: Self-Editing For Fiction Writers—How To Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. I checked it out at the library and loved it so much I ordered a copy from Amazon.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

SF:  Early on I heard authors say “Enjoy the journey, not the destination.” That’s the truth. If writers fret too much about publication they will miss the whole point of writing. It’s all about the people you meet, the sharing of minds, the art of creating, giving your ideas to the world. Money is usually lousy, hours are bad, solitude wears on you and there are no health benefits. But still, it’s a wild ride.

BH: Any words on advice to unpublished writers for keeping the hope alive?

SF:  Small presses are worth taking a chance on. I always tell writers “You can’t promote what doesn’t exist.” Get that first book out there and get the machine rolling. Don’t think the first book you’ve written is the only one you have in you. Start another right away.

Sunny, thank you so much for the interview, and for sharing your books and insights. To our studio audience: don’t forget to check out the links below to learn more about Sunny, her books, and her publisher! Simply click on a description to reach the site.

Sunny’s website. This is where you can find The Murder Circle.

Oak Tree Authors are assigned blog dates. Meet us!

Order Oak Tree Titles, learn about our contests, get the latest info on what we’re doing in the publishing world.

Diary Books I Have Known and Loved

The topic today is diaries. I have more books than I care to count, and most of them are full (although I just bought two new blank ones when I was picking up my copy of Mockingjay).

So here are photos of the book covers and some of the pages, in all their glory, spanning over ten years of writing. Except for one, every one of these has been filled up with my (often pointless, repetitive, self-obsessed) writing (something like this blog, actually).

By the way, I had quite a few extra “excerpt” photos, chosen for their bright, colorful pages and/or illustrations. Upon closer examination, though, I found either embarrassing confessions or cruel, vindictive entries (usually about ex-boyfriends. Sorry boys).

What makes a good diary? An accidentally pornographic cover is always a plus (see black & white photo diary, above). My preferences include plain, quality paper so I can use a variety of pens and they won’t bleed through. Spiral-bound is easier to write in. I prefer somewhere in the ballpark of 6 by 8 inches, although some of my favorites are 8.5 by 11.

If you have a favorite diary, or diary preferences, I’d love to hear about them.