Autor Interview – Judy Penz Sheluk

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Penz Sheluk, the author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. I have read several of her books and loved them all. If you like small town mysteries with a strong, female lead character, look no further. Her books feature murders, antique stores, coffins and tarot cards—all the good stuff! On September 21, the second book in the Marketville Mysteries, Past and Present, is coming out. Certainly something I am looking forward to! 

Welcome Judy!

What made you start writing? Was it something you always did or picked up later?

I’ve been writing stories inside my head for as long as I can remember, certainly as far back as elementary school. I thought everyone did that. It wasn’t until a few years after I was married, and commuting a fair distance to work, that I mentioned a story I’d been “working on” to my husband. He was like, “You write stories in your head?” And I said, “Yes, don’t you?” He bought me a Creative Writing Workshop for my birthday. That was in 2000. I remember the first time I had to read a story out loud to the class. The theme was “painful teenage memory.” I wrote Cleopatra Slippers (later published in THEMA Literary Journal). When I looked up from reading (nervously and badly), everyone had tears in their eyes, and a couple of people were actually crying. I remember thinking, “Maybe I can do this.” That was 2002.

Which character mostly resembles you?

They all have a bit of me inside of them. For example, Emily Garland (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) is a runner, a journalist, and she’s in her early thirties. I’ve run 4 marathons and countless half-marathons, I’ve been a journalist since 2003, and I used to be in my early thirties! Arabella Carpenter (same series) has a motto “Authenticity Matters” and I very much follow that philosophy. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable (Skeletons in the Attic, Past & Present) is also a runner. She’s also inquisitive, no-nonsense, and somewhat haunted by her past. I’ve got a few skeletons in my attic, too.

How do you come up with ideas for your books?

From life. For example, The Hanged Man’s Noose was about a greedy developer who comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening all the local businesses and indie shops. We see that happen all the time. I just thought, “What if someone was willing to murder to stop it?” My latest book, Past & Present, was inspired by the contents of my late mother’s train case. As I started researching her journey, I knew I’d found my latest idea for a book.

Any specific writing routine? Bound to a specific location? Favorite chair?

In my Philipsburg Blue (Benjamin Moore historical colors) office on my iMac or at our camp on Lake Superior, watching the water, on my iPad, or sometimes, by writing longhand in a notebook. Never in a public place like a coffee shop. I don’t know how people can do that. I generally listen to talk radio when I write, though sometimes I’ll write with country music in the background. When I’m super focused or easily distracted, I opt for silence.

You have a publisher. What would you say to all the indie-writers out there? Should we all try to get one?

I have a traditional MWA approved publisher (Barking Rain Press), but in February 2018 I started my own imprint, Superior Shores Press, so I’m now a hybrid author. However, I think if you’ve never been published, trying to self-publish right off the hop would be incredibly difficult, if only because you won’t understand the business (because publishing is a business) and you won’t have a following. After 3 years of books, blogging, and other social media, I’ve developed a modest following (not in Stephen King territory yet but hope springs eternal), and so I thought it was time to take the leap.

Who are your favorite writers (and why)?

John Sandford for his dry humor and bang-on pacing. The late Sue Grafton, who improved with every book and made me want to write mysteries. Agatha Christie for leading the way.

What do you do to relax?

In the summer months, I love to golf. I still run, but not the crazy distances I used to (sometimes I think a marathon would be fun, and then I get a grip on reality). I love walking my dog, Gibbs, a three-year-old Golden Retriever. I read a lot, mostly mystery and suspense.

What would you tell any writers out there that are struggling?

Don’t give up. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was turned down 61 times over three years and it’s brilliant. Accept constructive criticism and learn from it. Write every day, even if you only have 15 minutes to do it. You can’t edit a blank page.

Last question… What can you tell us about your latest book?

Ha! I thought you’d never ask. Here’s the back of the book synopsis.

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

Past & Present is now available, http://authl.it/afj. Publication date Sept. 21, 2018.

Thank you Judy! 

More about the author: Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic; Past & Present). Her short stories appear in several collections.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.

Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com or at Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Bookbub.

Author Interview – Janice Richardson

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Richardson, the cozy mystery author of the Spencer Funeral Home Series. I read the first book in the series, Casket Cache, in which we meet Jennifer, a funeral director in Niagara (Canada).  While she is trying to solve a compelling mystery, she also has a funeral home to run. Not your most common profession, I grant you, but…it made for a very interesting, different, and most of all, appealing read.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to read it, and I was hesitant at first. Like many people I read to escape, and a funeral home wouldn’t be my first pick. However, it turned out to be a lovely read. Written with emotion, this is not your typical cozy; the stories of Jennifer’s workdays and the grief of her clients feel very real. But Jennifer is compassionate, empathetic and kind, and a wonderful protagonist to follow.

Welcome Janice! To start off, can you tell us a little about the Spencer Funeral Home Series?

Recently I watched the PBS special Into the Night:  Portraits of Life and Death.  What a beautiful and compelling documentary.  As baby boomers age, people are confronted with their discomfort around death and dying and learning to face their fear and uncertainty.  It was an uplifting, gentle, positive and at times, sad documentary.

It is for those reasons I wrote the series. First—to educate readers.  Not everyone has been in a funeral home, or had to speak with a director or plan a funeral.  It is a traumatic and difficult time.  Second—to present a portrait of a funeral director in a way that was realistic and endearing.  Last, but not least, I wanted the story to entertain without being silly or disrespectful.

Since the series was published I have noticed more funeral directors have jumped on the bandwagon and are writing fictional stories about the funeral profession and helping to allay the fear, secrecy and unknown.  There are memoirs galore by funeral directors (The Making of a Funeral Director is my non-fiction contribution), all of which make for interesting reads, the fictional reads open new doors for readers who don’t like non-fiction.

What made you start writing?

The memoir was written in the ‘90s and put away.  With the advent of self-publishing, I chose to spruce it up and put it out there.   It is serving its purpose, I have students and individuals who are looking at funeral service who write me to say the book helped them.  That means the world to me.

As for the cozy mystery series, it just sort of happened.  I moved from the northern part of the province to the south, leaving behind my life as a special needs mom.  For a while I felt lost.  I did not plan to write a book, let alone a series.  It just happened, pouring out onto the keyboard over a two year period. Being alone became a pleasure, my special needs children are happy and well cared for, so it was time to move on.  The books helped me with that process, almost writing themselves.

Just like Jennifer, you were a funeral director yourself.  What made you choose the profession?

When I was eight, my adopted mom took me to a relative’s funeral.  She was a realist, an old school nurse who didn’t sugarcoat life lessons.  She explained everything to me.  I loved the solemnity of the funeral home and service, the peaceful atmosphere and the support the funeral director provided.  My instinct was to comfort people who were crying and sad.  At the graveside, as I watched the committal, I knew then and there I wanted to be a funeral director.  It was years before I was able to go to college and pursue my chosen career.  I have no regrets.

What is your writing ritual?

Ha ha – it’s 90 miles an hour, up to 12 hours a day.  Add to that half the night chasing plot bunnies.  I do like absolute quiet, which is possible since I’m retired.  I sit in an easy chair, laptop on knee, fingers flying.  Stopping to eat, stretch or go outside and sniff the air is an inconvenience.   That method does make for some serious rewrites and edits, but it’s how I write.

You write about the place where you live (Niagara).  What do you love most about your home town?

The Niagara region is beautiful.  I moved here six years ago and often wonder why I didn’t move south sooner.  The peninsula has a temperate climate (for Canada), the Niagara region known for its wine, fruit, and tourism.  Toronto is a few hours north, Niagara Falls is 25 minutes away, the US border is ½ hour away.  My town is on the old Welland canal, similar to the Erie Canal across the border.  When I want excitement, I go to the Falls for the attractions, casino, and shopping. I love the vineyards and orchards and lavender fields.

Are you and Jennifer much alike?

Hmmm.  I would like to think so.  Jennifer would be the ideal funeral director.  She has her weaknesses, she is driven, doesn’t like to ask for help.  As we get older, as the years pass and we reflect back, there are chapters or paragraphs in our lives that we wish we could rewrite.  An author is given a chance to do just that in their characters. I think Jennifer is a composite of several people I admire and respect and the type of person I wish I had been sometimes.   In the last book she faces some major challenges.  I left it up to the reader to decide how the story ends.  I know how I wanted her to face the future and I love it when readers share their version of how it should end.

What do you like most about being an author?

Encouraging new authors is one the best jobs an author has.  Now that I have published five times and my books are doing well, I enjoy encouraging and supporting others.  It can be as simple as retweeting or liking a post or offering support by reviewing a book.  We are a community.  Attending Facebook events, local author events or signings is part of giving back.  I am so grateful for the support I received when I started from beta readers, my editor, authors, bloggers and friends.

This is so very true. Support within our community is invaluable. 

It was very kind of you to interview me and review Casket Cache, Lucia.  Your Dunnhill series is a delightful read and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Thank you Janice, that warms my heart! And thank you for sharing your story. It was wonderful to hear more about you and your work, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.  

You can find Janice on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook, and Casket Cache is currently free as e-book (Amazon and other retailers)

Author Interview – Laurel Heidtman

This month I interviewed Lolli Powell (Laurel Heidtman), the writer of The Body on the Barstool. Ricki runs a bar, and one morning as she walks in, she finds a dead body—murdered—sitting at the bar… The book is a fast-paced cozy mystery, with funny dialogues, and good plot twists. If you like cozy mysteries, you won’t be disappointed.

Welcome Laurel. You have written quite a number of books. You have published mysteries/thrillers under the name Laurel Heidtman, and a few cozy mystery/romance novels as Lolli Powell. Can you introduce some of your work?

As Laurel Heidtman, I have three books published in my Eden mystery series: Catch A Falling Star, Bad Girls, and A Convenient Death. Each novel can stand alone, although the characters’ personal stories continue to evolve in each new book. The Eden series is set in the fictitious college town of Eden, Kentucky, near Daniel Boone National Forest. I also have a thriller, Whiteout, that takes place in Daniel Boone National Forest (with a few scenes in Lexington).

As Lolli Powell, I have a contemporary romance, The Boy Next Door, set in Kentucky, and a romantic suspense, The Wrong Kind of Man, set in Indiana. I also have two books, The Body on the Barstool and Whiskey Kills, in the Top Shelf cozy mystery series. This series is set in a fictitious Ohio River town in southern Ohio about halfway between West Virginia and Indiana. I write the Top Shelf books in first person, while all the others are in third person.

Some of your books are set in Kentucky, where you live. The Body on the Barstool is set in Ohio, and I thought your descriptions were wonderful. How do you go about writing about the setting of a book?

I’m from Ohio originally—although farther west than the setting of the Top Shelf mysteries—so I’m familiar with both states. To get some details right about the geography of an area, I use the Internet. I also use that to verify details about plants, sunset/sunrise times in a particular month, the way locals speak (for example, pop versus soda), common surnames, etc. I think that descriptions of settings should be painted in broad strokes—just enough detail to give the reader a feel for the place, but not so much that it bogs down the story.

Is there a genre you like writing more than others, or do you enjoy mixing them up?

I’ve enjoyed doing all of the genres I’ve tried so far, and I’d like to try other genres. I’ve probably enjoyed doing the cozy mysteries most, though. I do them in first person and find I prefer that, plus I do my best to make them funny (sarcastic humor). I wasn’t sure I could write humor, but readers seem to be “getting it,” so I guess I’m succeeding.

How do you typically get your ideas for a book and does the story change much during writing?

I honestly don’t know how I get most of the ideas. My latest one, A Convenient Death, was sparked by two murders that happened while I was a police officer. A convenience store clerk and a customer were murdered one night, and the case was never solved. I started with this, but I made up everything else about the victims and the crime. Sometimes news stories provide the germ of an idea, such as stories about human trafficking and the Dark Web (both of which play a part in my book, Bad Girls).

However, most of the time, a story just seems to pop into my mind, which means, I suppose, that my subconscious is busy working while I’m not aware of it. I call my subconscious “the boys in the basement.” When I hit a stumbling block during the course of writing a book, I don’t worry too much about it, and sure enough, a few days later “the boys” present a solution.

And, yes, the story sometimes changes during writing. Any fiction writer will tell you that characters seem to take on a mind of their own once they’re on the page. I often say it’s as if I’m channeling the characters and just writing what they tell me.

Your bio describes a very interesting range of careers. A dancer, a bartender, a police officer, a registered nurse and a technical writer. Not to mention two English degrees? How did you end up doing so many different things? And where did you find the time? 

I had plenty of time to do all these things because I’m old now! 🙂 I spent my twenties working as a dancer and sometimes bartender, as well as attending college part-time (I started at age twenty-two and graduated with a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing emphasis six months before my thirtieth birthday). The dancing and bartending jobs supported me and paid for college. This was in the late sixties/early seventies, and those jobs paid better than most jobs for women.

I was close to graduation when the police officer husband of a fellow student told me his department had to hire their first female patrol officers or lose federal funding. I took the civil service exam, did well, passed all the other tests (background, psychological, etc.) and was hired. The department ran their own recruit school to train their new hires. I spent my thirties as a police officer.

I finally burned out on police work and decided to go to graduate school for a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree (fancy way of saying technical writing). I got a paid internship that turned into a job with what was then Armco Steel. I was never so bored in my life and was not unhappy when the duties of the department I was in were transferred to another state and I was laid off.

My husband was three years away from retirement by then. We decided we’d buy a motorhome and travel, but I was too young to retire. Travel nurses were in demand at the time, so I decided quite logically that nursing would be the perfect career. Back to school again, this time for an associate degree. Before my husband retired and we bought an RV, we fell over a gorgeous home overlooking a lake in Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, and there went the motorhome/travel dream. I got a job on the mental health unit at the Lexington V.A. and worked as a nurse there and later at another hospital for the next four years.

I always read the Sunday classifieds and happened to see a job posting for a technical writing job for a Lexington company that wrote software for large court systems. Thanks to the combination of my police background and my master’s degree, I got the job to write manuals and online help. That technical writing job was more interesting than my first one, the pay was good, and the sweetener was they let me work at home most of the time. I stayed with them until I was eligible for early social security, at which point I retired. Now I’m finally writing fiction, which is what I should have been doing all along. I’m not sorry my life played out this way, though, because the different experiences help with writing, I think.

By the way, those aren’t the only jobs I’ve had. They’re just the ones that have lasted the longest. I always say I have a short attention span. 🙂

What made you want to write novels?

I was an only child, we lived in the country, and we didn’t get a television until I was 13. I had other children to play with sometimes, but not every day, so books became my daily “playmates.” I loved reading, and as far back as I can remember, I wanted to write fiction. For too many years, I allowed life to get in the way of that.

What do you like best about being an indie author?

I’m a control freak when it comes to my own life, so I like the ability to publish what and when I want.

Are you working on something right now?

I published A Convenient Death, the third book in my Eden mystery series, at the end of January, and I’ve started on Name Your Poison, the third book in my Top Shelf cozy mystery series. I hope to release it no later than April.

Thank you Laurel! I look forward to reading more of your books. Check out Laurel’s website, blog, or Lolli Powell’s website to find out more. 

 

Author Interview – Sarah Stovell

This month I interviewed Sarah Stovell, the author of Exquisite, a psychological thriller. Exquisite was a great read. It was not too long, not too short, and had just the right amount of suspense. I can’t say too much about it—it would ruin the fun. The story is about two women; one is an aspiring writer, the other a happily married, well-known author.  The book alternates between the two women, as they describe their life and their deepening relationship. But, as you’ll find out, something is clearly not right… 

Welcome Sarah. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am about to get a puppy because I am that stereotype of a woman whose children are now at school and I clearly have a compulsion to keep on cleaning up shit. That’s all you need to know.

What made you go into writing?

I didn’t much fancy any of the other jobs.

Exquisite is a psychological thriller. Your other books aren’t. What made you change genre?

Money.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

I’m not a fan of the word ‘inspiration’. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt inspired as such. I get ideas when I’m out walking. I try and walk at least four miles day, and that’s when I get small ideas that slowly, after a lot of thought, develop into bigger ideas.

Is there a genre you prefer, as a writer? As a reader?

As a reader, my tastes are fairly eclectic but veer towards women’s literary fiction. As a writer, I like to produce a page-turner.

Your descriptions of the Lake District in Exquisite are beautiful. Locations of your previous books The Night Flower and Heartwood include Tasmania and America. Did you do anything special for your research on all these places?

I set ‘Exquisite’ in the Lake District because it is a place I love. I really, really love it. I could wax lyrical about the Lake District for literally a million hours. I plan to live there one day with a Border Collie and he and I will tramp the fells for ten hours a day. I can’t wait… Anyway, what was the question? The other books … Well, I just read about the places and imagined them. I actually don’t think that is the best way to do setting. It makes a massive difference when you are psychologically connected to a place, as I am to the Lake District.

Your books seem to revolve primarily around women (who are often damaged in some way), and female-female relationships, like the mother-daughter bond, friendship or even obsession. What is the appeal for you about these female characters and their interaction with other women?

Yes, I am very drawn to female relationships. Partly, this is because I am a woman, but also because the most significant (by which I mean complicated, not necessarily fulfilling) relationships in my life have been with women. I am interested in the deep bonds of friendship that women often forge. I also interested in mother-daughter relationships, which can be the most fraught relationships around but can also, if you get it right as a mother, be incredible (so far, I have a great relationship with my daughter, but she is only eight, so there’s a long way to go). I am also interested in romantic relationships between women, how loving and nurturing they can be, but also how terrible. I wanted to look at female violence, which is often psychological in action, but no less wounding for that.

Are you working on a new book? (And if so, can you tell us about it?)

I am almost finished! It is about an eighteen-year-old woman named Annie, who is impoverished and desperate and who goes to work as a nanny for a very wealthy family because her mother has gone missing and Annie has been evicted for not paying the rent. While there, something happens to a child in her care…

 

I am looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much, Sarah!

Author Interview – Melissa Burovac

Meet Melissa Burovac, a writer living in Hawaii. She has published two books so far, and I read her second book, Sylvie Writes a Romance, which I took with me on vacation. There were many things I liked about this book. It’s light—nothing too heavy—I read it on the beach, and it left me with a smile on my face. The lead character, Sylvie, is funny and brave: a woman in her forties who’s trying out the online dating scene, which leads to all sorts of awkward moments. But…she is resourceful and not afraid of discovering new things. Be careful though, it really made me want to go to Hawaii (without the dating though).

Aloha Melissa! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a writer and photographer on Kauai, Hawaii. An avid outdoors woman, I enjoy outrigger paddling—both one-man and six-man—SUP, running, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving, as well as yoga. I’m always up for adventure and loves doing things that scare me a little. My days are divided into two sections – mornings are in the ocean looking for wildlife to photograph, usually by swimming out with my Nikon and watching for animals to swim by; the afternoons are spent writing short stories or working on the two novels I have in progress. My entire life was interrupted in July when I adopted a rescue puppy, Lucy, who is far too cute to ignore when she wants to play; I am training her to be an ocean dog and my photo assistant, and eventually she’ll be independent enough to allow me to get more work done.

Why did you start writing a novel/how did you get your inspiration to write?

I began blogging when I did a round the world solo trip, mostly to reassure my mother that I didn’t die in some horrific accident somewhere in the world. I got great feedback from my blog, mostly from women who couldn’t believe I spent nearly a year on my own, and several mentioned I should write a book. From childhood I’d written short stories and had dreams of writing books but just never got around to it, so I decided I’d give it a real try; I had much of the material written in my blog, with all the detail of my day-to-day travel written daily on the road, so I spent the time to make it a coherent story and self-published my first book – Wandering – published in 2014. I was so pleased at writing a book and started a second shortly after – Sylvie Writes a Romance – a romcom published in 2016.

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

The hardest part of my writing process is sitting down to get it done. I dream of stories all the time, but allow my life to get in the way too much. Scheduling writing time is essential for me.

Your first book is about your travels. Where did you go? Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

 My first book, Wandering, is the day-to-day account of my life on a solo RTW trip. I detail everything, from the adventures to the mundane to the anxiety of travel and meeting new people. I am not a great traveler, being directionally challenged and full of social anxiety, but waiting for a partner to travel with me was not working and I wanted to see more of the world. Some parts of the book are exciting with crazy excursions I took while other parts show the loneliness of spending so much time solo. I travelled to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia and Tasmania, Cambodia, and Thailand. I made many new friends, found some old friends, went scuba diving in all but Cambodia, and drank a little too much trying to escape my fears.

Your second book is a romcom. This is very different from the first. Is it in any way auto-biographic? Why did you change genres?

 I wrote a romcom, Sylvie Writes a Romance, because of an idea I had while reading an article about female romance writers. I wanted to be a full-time writer, but my first book wasn’t selling enough to quit my day job (and I hadn’t started a photography company yet). The article was about a few writers who made several thousand dollars each month from mass market romance novels, and I thought I would give that a try, make some money, then go back to writing books more my style (and I have yet to figure out exactly what my style is…). After a few tries at writing a romance I gave up, they were awful. And the idea of writing about a writer trying to write a romance novel was born. The book is autobiographical in that it is about a writer, but her methods of going about her writing – using online dating to learn about romance – is fiction.

Are you working on a third?

 I have two additional books in various stages of progress. One is a sequel to Sylvie Writes a Romance, and the bulk of it was written during NaNoWriMo 2016; I had just ended a relationship and wasn’t in a great mental space, and used the writing challenge to take my mind off my sorrows. The result was a full-length novel which was just a little too depressing – I write a lot of comedy – and I’m currently trying to untangle the story from my emotions at the time. The second book is a biography of a smuggler on Kauai. I have been conducting interviews with him for nearly a year, but progress is slow both because I have never written a biography and have spent a lot of time reading, and also because he is so fun we end up drinking a little too much on his boat during our “talk story” time.

What has made the deepest impression on you while traveling?

My deepest impression from traveling is the kindness of people all over the world. If we all simply stayed at home and read news stories we might think evil things about every other culture – but the fact is most people are well-meaning, helpful, and just as wonderful as our friends; plus they have so much to teach us about their histories and ways of life. In my nine months of travel I met very few individuals who had bad intentions, and none of them as violent as my mother imagined. I truly enjoyed the people I met in every country.

Thank you Melissa!

 
You can reach Melissa on her website, Facebook and Twitter.  Her books Wandering and Sylvie Writes a Romance are available on Amazon. You can also check out her photography company.

Author Interview – Amy Vansant

Get ready for Amy Vansant, who I got to know after reading Pineapple Lies, the first book in The Pineapple Port Series. In Pineapple Lies, Charlotte, a young woman living in a retirement community in Florida, discovers a—eek!— body hidden in her back yard. But…Who is the deceased? And who in the community is the killer? A fun read all over, despite the dead body. The dialogues are strong, fast and often hilarious. I could easily picture the ‘older’ people in the retirement community, especially Mariska and Darla, each with their own quirks. If you are looking for an entertaining book this summer that will put a smile on your face, this is it.

Welcome Amy. Can you tell us a little about yourself. (And why does your website describe you as a “delusionist?”)

My writing bio wanders a bit…

  1. I was a freelance writer in high school and college. Also quietly worked on novels that were really terrible.
  2. I sent an article to Surfer about colleges near waves and they bought it.
  3. A week later their east coast editor quit and I think I was the only east coast writer they knew. They asked if I wanted to be east coast editor and I just about fell over with happiness.
  4. I did that along with freelancing for five years or so, and then I started to do graphic design for some extra money.
  5. I sent a novel to a publisher who loved the first three chapters and asked for the rest. I hadn’t written it. So I rushed through it and lost my opportunity.
  6. Started doing web design (again to support my writing “career”, started a company, and then quit writing for about thirteen years like an idiot.
  7. Then in 2010 I had literally had a dream that would turn into my novel Angeli.
  8. I started blogging to get used to writing again and all of a sudden I remembered I was supposed to be writing.
  9. For the blog I went back to humor, which is what I’d always liked to write best. After Angeli was finally done, I decided it was time to do straight humor and wrote Slightly Stalky.

Then I just kept writing!

As for “delusionist” – That’s sort of an inside joke with my husband.  I’m so overly optimistic about everything he jokes that I’m delusional.  He says I’m not allowed to be excited about how many books I’ve sold until I’ve sold as many as Stephen King, so it will be a while…

Where or how do you get your inspiration to write?

I was “born” with the general inspiration. As for specific ideas, things will just grab me and I’ll feel the need to write them.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I write about an hour or two a day if at all possible…sometimes life intervenes!

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

Plots, probably. The characters literally talk in my head, and I just write down what they’re saying, so that part comes easy. The problem comes when they’ve run out of funny things to say and look at me as if to say “What now?” and I don’t know! Then sometimes I have to take off a day or two and chew on what comes next and how it all wraps up in the end.

Do you have any advice for other Indie authors?

Do things right. Don’t throw books together with no editing and cobbled together covers because you can’t afford it or can’t wait any longer. You’ll just end up with bad reviews or no sales. Take some time, bounce things off other people, save up. Join Facebook groups with experienced Indies and learn from them. Don’t think you know it all…ever. And don’t throw money at every promotional opportunity that rolls down the pike — there are a LOT of people out there trying to rip you off.

The Pineapple Port series are cozy mysteries. You have branched out to different genres. Why do you like to cross genres? What can you tell us about your other books?

I get ideas I really want to explore and if they don’t fit a series, I need to start a new one. It’s been a good way to find what genres sell better than others too. Angeli (3) was my first (urban fantasy), then Slightly Stalky (that’s autobiographical so that had to come out), Pineapple (4), a middle grade book (The Magicatory) I wrote for my nieces, and then finally the latest series is Kilty as Charged (2) – a highlander time-travel romance thriller. That happened because I realized I liked writing mysteries like Pineapple, but I wanted a series that could have a little more edge.

If you could choose a character from Pineapple Port, who would you want as a neighbor and why?

Mariska is my mother-in-law, so I have to say her or she’ll kill me. 🙂

What can you tell us about your upcoming Pineapple Port mystery?

The group goes traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and gets trapped in a house full of body bits! I’m about 70% done.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit and why?

I think I need to go to Ireland. All the men in my books end up Irish! I had a crush on Pierce Brosnan when I was a teen, so I guess I’ve always had a thing for Celtic men. Ha! In fact, my husband, who thought he was mostly Polish, took a DNA test and it turned out he was mostly Irish! I must have known it before him!

Thank you Amy, for your time! I look forward to reading the other books in the Pineapple Port Series.

If you sign up for her newsletter on her website, Amy will give you a copy (ebook) of Pineapple Lies for free!

Check out Amy’s books on Amazon, or follow her on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter.

Author Interview – Jennifer S. Alderson

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_TwitterFor my first author interview, I am featuring Jennifer S. Alderson. I reached out to Jennifer after reading her second book The Lover’s Portrait (check out my review in the section “On Books”), which was a great read and I highly recommend.

Jennifer, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for having me, Lucia! I’m a long-time expat, an American who’s been living in the Netherlands since 2004. I am also the author of two novels, Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking and The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, as well as my new travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand.

In America I worked as a journalist and multimedia developer until massive burnout lead me to quit my job, buy a backpack and head off to Nepal as a volunteer English teacher for three months.

After several years on the road, I moved to the Netherlands to study art history and never left. After completing degrees in art history and museum studies, I worked for several museums before the economy crashed and the cultural sector imploded.

While applying for jobs, I wrote my first novel as a way of keeping my mind occupied. Writing about my adventures in Nepal and Thailand also helped curtail my wanderlust. I finished it between contracts, but never pursued publication.

After my son was born, I had the luxury of staying home to raise him. Writing became a way to connect with ‘grownup’ life and use the knowledge I’d gained during my studies. The Lover’s Portrait was so well-received by everyone who read it, I decided to publish both of my books and see what happened. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the overwhelmingly positive reception so far.

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

The most difficult part about writing a mystery for me is creating a ‘secret’ worthy of being kept and working out the motivation of all of the parties involved. There has got to be a compelling reason for one person or group to want the object or information in question to remain hidden, but also an important reason for another party to want to locate or reveal it. The next step is figuring out how my series’ heroine fits into it all!

Why do you feel this is your genre? Could you branch out?

Mystery, travel, adventure and thrillers are the genres my books fall into. I love to travel and mysteries have always been my favorite genre as a reader. When I set out to write my first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu, combining the two came naturally.

In my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait, and current work-in-progress, The Anthropologist, I branched out to include aspects of historical fiction. This was incredibly difficult for me because, aside from Philip Kerr, I had read very little of the genre and was not sure how much historical detail I should include.

After reading several popular historical fiction books, I felt like I had a grasp of the genre’s expectations and the level of detail expected. Only then did I feel confident enough to add in to The Lover’s Portrait several historical chapters centered around the character Arjan van Heemsvliet, an art dealer in Amsterdam in the 1940s.

The Anthropologist is more thriller than mystery, which is a challenge for me to add in more action and increase the story’s pace, in comparison with my first two novels. We will see how it all works out in a few months.

Your first novel takes place in Nepal. Did you stay there for a long time to get to know the place?

I volunteered as an English teacher in Kathmandu for three months and then spent another three backpacking around Nepal and Thailand. During my ‘volunteer and cultural experience programme’, I learned quite a bit about the cultural and ethnic diversity of Nepal and visited many important temples and holy sites with my volunteer group.

An important side story in Down and Out in Kathmandu takes place in several cities in Thailand I visited. Without having traveled through both countries, I would not have dared to describe either in the detail which I have done in my debut novel.

Your second novel takes place in Amsterdam, where you live now. Is it in any way auto-biographic?

My protagonist’s professional background and academic experience s are largely autobiographical. We both studied art history and museum studies at the University of Amsterdam and interned at the Amsterdam Museum. Unlike Zelda, I spent my time researching the connections between a ceramic and book collection, an assignment which had absolutely nothing to do with the restitution of art or World War Two.

But that is where the similarities between Zelda and I end. In many ways, she gets to do what I wanted to do. While the jobs dried up in the cultural sector before I could work my way up the professional ladder, Zelda is able to conduct the kinds of research and work on the kinds of projects I hoped to. It is fun to live vicariously through her and write about what ‘could have been’.

What can you tell us about your third and upcoming novel?

The third novel in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, working title The Anthropologist, is set in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum, an anthropologic and ethnographic museum, as well as Papua New Guinea, a country I have never been to. It is an art-mystery-thriller about Asmat bis poles, missionaries and anthropologists.

The storyline was conceived during my time as a collection researcher at the Tropenmuseum while working on a fascinating exhibition of Asmat bis poles held in Dutch museum collections. While searching through photographs and film fragments of Asmat tribes, missionaries and anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea during the 1930s through 1960s, I discovered that a well-known Dutch missionary – Reverend Gerald Zegwaard – was one of the last people to see Michael Rockefeller alive. During their meeting they’d made an appointment to meet again after Rockefeller returned from an acquisition trip upriver. The young American disappeared days later, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries of our time. That little detail about his un-kept appointment with Reverend Zegwaard stuck with me and eventually inspired this novel.

I only dared to write about Papua New Guinea because all of the chapters which take place there are set in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the country has changed so much since then, I relied on film footage and travel journals as the basis for my descriptions of the villages, landscape and people.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit?

Kenya is a country I have wanted to visit for quite a while. While at the Tropenmuseum, I worked on a historical photography project in conjunction with the Nairobi National Museum of Kenya. Archival research was also part of this assignment. It is a fascinating land with diverse cultures and a turbulent history.

Thanks so much Jennifer, for your time. I look forward to reading your third novel!

Here you can find Jennifer’s website, her Amazon Author Page or follow her on Goodreads or Facebook. And definitely check out her books!