Q. What’s your favorite smell?
A. I like the smell of Italian food, Mexican food, Indian food, Chinese food,… I guess you could say I pretty much like the smell of food.
Q. Is there something that makes you hold your nose?
A. I recently discovered that I hate the smell of boiling bones. Don’t ask me how I know this. Let’s just say the life of a mystery author has more strange aspects than you might think.
Q. What’s your favorite music?
A. If I’m just listening for pleasure, I like rock. When I’m writing, I need to have only instrumental music in the background. It drowns out the noise of my brain scurrying around looking for good sentences. Whenever I listen to music with lyrics while writing, I find that I end up writing down the lyrics and fitting them into the story. Sometimes I think this works out pretty well, and when my editor agrees, they stay in the book. A few of my books have this but I was more disciplined in listening to instrumental music while writing Fish Out of Water so I avoided that particular variety of silliness.
Q. Is there any music that makes your ears bleed?
A. I hate loud, thumping repetitive music that just repeats and repeats and … you get the picture. I’d tell you what kind that is, but I never stop on those stations long enough to figure it out. Just enough to know it’s not for me.
Q. Are there any things you always put in your books?
A. Humor, quirky side characters, mostly realistic decisions made by characters, and a mystery that can be solved without having the police give the amateur sleuth a critical clue. That just feels like cheating to me.
Q. Are there any things you never put in your books?
A. I write clean cozy mysteries where violence or sex takes place off the page, if at all — mostly because writing violent scenes when it’s dark outside would probably frighten me and writing sex scenes would frighten my family and friends.
Q. What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?
A. Compared to people who actually have hard jobs or difficult lives, it seems strange to complain that being an author is hard. For me, the writing part isn’t difficult; it’s figuring out the plot. Knowing who killed whom and why before I start writing is essential. Once I thought I could whip a novel together without doing this and I found myself changing the killer and victim several times during the story. Definitely not a reader-pleasing move!
Since then I figure out the outline first. I like to have all the main parts of the novel pretty much settled before I start writing.
Q. What’s the easiest thing about being a writer?
A. Besides working in an imaginary world where I can knock off anyone who displeases me in an instant? When I first started writing a novel, I was surprised to find that I was far better at dialogue than I had expected. My friends and family kept telling me that they weren’t surprised that I could write about talking since I do that so much.
When I have a good outline, I find I can focus on crisp writing and coming up with funny situations/anecdotes to throw in. This also means less editing and I can hang on to what little sanity remains.
Q. Are there any things you never want to run out of?
A. I used to answer this question by saying Cheese. But now because of the pandemic, I think I’ll change my response to toilet paper.
Q. Are there any things you wish you’d never bought?
A. Percussion instruments for my kids. No wait, that was my sister who bought a drum set for my kids. So the thing I bought that I wish I hadn’t would be a record player for my son. Do you know how hard it is to ship albums and a record player across country to college? Why can’t he listen to Spotify like everyone else?
Q. What word would best describe you?
A. I’d hate to say ‘persistent’. I hate to give up when one more attempt might solve the problem. That’s usually a sign of a good engineer. Or detective! It’s not always a word that endears you to your spouse, however.
Q. What word might describe you but you wish it didn’t?
A. Some have called me ‘obsessive’ at times because I don’t like to give up. Yet, one of my favorite bosses once told me that often a person’s biggest strengths could often be described as their greatest weakness. So, I’ll stick with ‘persistent,’ it’s more positive.