Week 32 is my stop on a blog hop set up to help readers discover authors new to them. On each stop, you’ll find an author’s answers to 10 questions about a book or a work in progress and links to three to five other authors. We include behind-the-screen tidbits about why we write and how we choose titles, characters, plots, themes, etc.
My thanks to fellow author Thomas Kaufman for inviting me to participate in this event. To learn more about him and his work, click on this link: http://thomaskaufman.com.
Here are my answers to the questions of the Next Big Thing.
1: What is the title of your latest book?
Show Me the Murder, the first in a series, comes out February 15, 2013. The title fits the plot and indicates the Missouri setting, but I arrived at that title only after numerous drafts. I started with a working title of Second Adolescence, an indication of my main characters’ age (mid fifties) and their crises and opportunities. Upheavals in their lives compel the three women to begin again much as they had as teenagers. My critique group hated that title. Several drafts carried the title Phoenix Rises, both an illusion to the protagonist’s first name and to the mythological story of the phoenix rising from the ashes. A lot of other writers liked a similar title. I kept looking.
Show Me is part of the title of each book in the series. The next one is Show Me the Deadly Deer (December 2013).
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I got the idea from newspaper stories about outed CIA covert operative Valerie Plame during the Bush Administration. Having worked in Vienna during the Cold War, I could imagine the suspicion anyone she knew even casually would face and her anguished desire to protect both CIA contacts and friends. My protagonist, wounded on a post-retirement mission in Istanbul, loses both her day and night careers—and her home in Vienna. I lived in the Washington, D.C., area, but I was preparing to move back to Missouri. That led me to send Phoenix there and to research local problems when I visited there. I was surprised to learn that Missouri ranks at the top in meth use. This easily made, terribly addictive drug ruins many lives and strains the resources of rural law enforcement.
3: What genre does your book come under?
It’s a mystery with a lot of suspense. It cuts across subgenres, with an armed amateur sleuth, a bit of police procedure, and a rural setting often associated with cozies.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Ex-spy Phoenix is brilliant, athletic, and immodest with a well-developed sense of irony and a passion for fairness. She’s a little above average height and wears her black hair short for easy care and quick covering when putting on disguises. One possibility would be Jamie Lee Curtis. Civic leader Annalynn is reserved, aristocratic, and both intimidating and charismatic. She’s tall, wears her long brown hair in a French roll, and remains impeccable at all times. She has the kind of presence that Marcia Cross had on Desperate Housewives but with more warmth. Never-been singer Connie is short, blond, and trim with great warmth and considerable insight. Phoenix complains that Connie is irredeemably perky. Kristin Chenoweth could capture Connie.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A former covert operative returns to her hometown to relax but instead must use her skills to solve a murder—and to survive.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
The publisher, Five Star, is a fiction imprint of Gale, Cengage Learning, a giant in library and education publishing. Five Star distributes through bookstores (including online ones) but emphasizes library sales.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft, roughly 123,000 words, took me about a year. The next dozen or so drafts took several years, including breaks for other projects. I cut the manuscript down to 89,000 words and, after several drafts, changed the point of view from third to first person.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Like every book and every writer, Show Me the Murder is unique. In the decade or so since I became serious about writing mysteries, I have enjoyed reading many mystery writers, among them Barbara D’Amato, Nevada Barr, Robert Crais, Earlene Fowler, Tess Gerritsen, Carolyn Hart, Joan Hess, Tony Hillerman, P. D. James, J. A. Jance, Laura Lippman, Margaret Maron, Grace Miriam Monfredo, Sara Peretsky, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Nancy Pickard, S. J. Rozen, and Julia Spencer-Fleming.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve wanted to write stories since I learned to read. After decades of earning a living writing and editing articles, a wide variety of documents, and a few nonfiction books, I longed to write a novel, to create and populate a world.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I hope readers will enjoy watching the interactions of three old friends who’ve led very different lives for decades but come together as each faces a crisis. I suspect readers will love the dog, a Belgian Malinois who flunked out of K-9 training. Conceived as a walk-on character, he forced his way into the characters’ lives and my pages. In fiction as in real life, once you name an animal, you belong to it.
On Week 33 of the Next Big Thing, the following four writers will answers these questions on their websites/blogs.
Elaine Douts (writing as E. B. Davis): http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com
Maria Hudgins: http://mariahudgins.com
Karen McCullough: www.kmccullough.com/kblog
Erica Obey: http://ericaobey.net
Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions.