Author Interviews

K.M. HumphreysPSIC-box-mglass
Lila Shaara
Lee Ann Dawson
Annette Dashofy
Kathryn Miller Haines
Kathleen George
Nancy Martin

 

An Interview with K.M. Humphreys

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
That’s a tough one to answer. There are so many.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
Janet Evanovich – I admire how she creates such memorable characters and keeps readers interested through the series.

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
The Stephanie Plum series keeps me reading because I want to know if Stephanie and Joe are going to end up together.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years?
I think there’s going to be a move towards ebooks and self-publishing. Next 5? I think a lot of writers will flood the market when you can publish a book for free in ebook format and get people to read it instead of being rejected by a publisher over and over. Ten? Books being available on the tv to read?

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
I’m attending the Pennwriters convention for the first time this year (2011).

What is the best fan letter you ever received?
I have never received a fan letter.

The scariest?
I have never received a fan letter.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
Alex Stenton – he’s a lot like me, only male.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
I don’t have any tidbits around my computer, but one piece of advice I try to live by, but don’t always do, is to write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph.

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
A little. I always thought of my life as pretty boring, but I try to work a little of my personality into some of my characters.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and how
would you get away with it?
I’m a law abiding citizen. Nobody would suspect me of any crime. I could do whatever I wanted. I am currently writing a mystery about an heir to a family business who gets killed. The murder could be a multitude of people from the brother who thinks he should have inherited the business, to a jealous ex-girlfriend who was used to get the victim into the right circles. It could also be his dads business partner who was caught embezzling money from the company. The story is still in the early stages.

An Interview with Lila Shaara

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
One character? Oy. Let’s say……Sherlock Holmes.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
I’m a big sci-fi geek, so probably Ursula K. LeGuin. Beautiful writing, cool ideas, and since she was spawned by anthropologists (which I am by training), I like her understanding of how culture shapes stories. If I had to pick one writer.

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
I love Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series, because she’s a beautiful writer, and has a wonderful way with both character and plot, which is hard for lots of people. She’s also great at telling stories with some social meat on them that still ring with humor along with the grimness. She also takes some interesting risks with the plots, some of which don’t work all that well. But sometimes they do, and the results are lovely.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
I’m terrible at predicting trends, but here goes. E-readers, e-readers and more e-readers. Publishers need to learn the lessons of the big record companies – the big houses aren’t going to be able to control what content people have access to like they used to, which means there will be some opportunities for writers who could never have gotten a publishing contract before, and loss of prestige/money/resources for those that could. It’ll be a mess, but I hope that in the mess there will be new creativity and enthusiasm for writing and reading. It’ll be harder for people to make a living at writing, but it’s been pretty hard for a long time anyway.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
Nope. I should, but I don’t.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
In my last book, there was a character named Maggie who is probably my favorite. My husband pointed out that it was probably because she was sort of a combination of my sons and the daughter we never had. Idealized, but still.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
A quote from Winston Churchill on a card sent to me by a dying friend: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your
stories?
Tons.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and how
would you get away with it?
I would never, ever commit any sort of crime. Never. No way. For example, I would never electronically defraud every BP executive of every dime they had so that each of them had to go work as a pump jockey in a BP station. Because I could never get away with it, because I have no skills in that area. Really. I know nothing.

About Lila

Lila is the author of EVERY SECRET THING and THE FORTUNE TELLER’S DAUGHTER.Visit her online at www.lilashaara.com.

An Interview with Lee Ann Dawson

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
It is impossible for me to pick just one character. My favorite books are cozy mysteries so characters like Lois Meade, Hamish Macbeth, and Jude from the Fethering Mysteries are like old friends.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
P.D. James has the ability to describe a place so completely that it becomes a character. It is an incredible talent that I admire greatly. However, my favorite writer is Mark Twain for two reasons: his humor and his talent of
conveying so much in just a few words.

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris is my guilty pleasure. No other series causes me to race to the book store on the day the newest book is released. I love the world that Charlaine Harris has created. Her creativity is astonishing.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
My guess is that within 5 years ebooks will eclipse printed books. Within 10 years, authors will generate and market their own ebooks and the business of publishing will be completely reshaped.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
The only event I have attended is the Pennwriters Conference. My primary motivation in going was to take advantage of the fantastic workshops available. One day, I would like to go to Bouchercon to immerse myself in all things mystery for a few days.

What is the best fan letter you ever received? The scariest?
I am a non-published, neophyte writer who receives encouragement but no fan letters.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
Phil Majors in Old Acquaintance Not Forgotten. He’s the father I would have liked to have.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
A psychic once told me that writing would bring me everything I ever wanted in life,
except money.

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
All of my stories reflect my personality and experience, except for the murders, of course.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and how would you get away with it?
I’d rather keep that to myself.

An Interview with Annette Dashofy

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
This is hard! I have so many favorites for so many reasons. And it changes from day to day. I’m going to say Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan, but if you ask me tomorrow I might say any one of six or seven other characters I adore.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
Another answer that changes with the day of the week. However, I’m going to say Lisa Scottoline because I love her as a person and as a writer. She’s smart and funny and super-supportive of up-and-coming writers. And she agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Pennwriters Conference the year I coordinated it, so she’ll forever be one of my
favorite people for that!

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. She does such a great job of immersing the reader in the lives of her characters and the setting, I never want to leave.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
Oh, gosh, I wish I knew. Or maybe I don’t! Everything is in such turmoil right now, I’m pretty much just waiting for the dust to settle like everyone else. However, while I don’t see real paper books disappearing, I suspect the e-book is going to become an ever stronger presence. If the author gets a higher percentage of the profit on them, I don’t see that as being a bad thing, either.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
I always attend the Pennwriters Conference. It’s like old home week…I’ve made so many friends there. I had a great time at Bouchercon the one time I went. Now, I’m waiting for it to come back a little closer to home so I can attend again. It was great fun rubbing elbows with all the big name authors I read and love.

What is the best fan letter you ever received? The scariest?
I haven’t received any real fan letters yet. Sigh.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
That’s like asking which of your kids you love the most. But I’m going to pick Peter Mosley, a character from my second racetrack veterinarian mystery. Peter was a challenge to write at first because I couldn’t get a grasp on his voice, but suddenly I felt like I was channeling this strange, quirky, rather dark character who said things I’d never think of saying and who took me on a wild ride. By the end of the book, I’d fallen completely in love with him.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
Besides the tech support number for my Internet provider? I don’t have it on a Post-It, but the bit of advice I keep close to my heart is “the only way to not get published is to quit trying.”

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
Each of my characters carries a little bit of me with them, even the villains. I’ve used a lot of my traumatic life experiences in my stories, if not the actual event, then the emotion surrounding it. But I really enjoy writing characters totally unlike me. I’m boring, and I get to live all sorts of exciting lives through them.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and how would you get away with it?
Well, the only way I’d get away with it would be to not tell anyone about it, so I’m not going to answer! Ha!

About Annette:
Annette Dashofy has had her short crime fiction published online in Spinetingler Magazine and Mysterical-e. One of her short stories was a finalist for the 2007 Derringer Award, and another will be published in the upcoming Guppies anthology, Fish Tales. She’s a regular contributor to Pennsylvania Magazine, and is currently seeking representation for three completed mystery/suspense novels. She is a past president and vice-president of the MRR Sisters in Crime and has been an area rep for Pennwriters for more years than she cares to count. She lives in Washington County, Pennsylvania with her husband of nearly 28 years and two very spoiled cats.

An interview with Kathryn Miller Haines

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
I’m usually in love with whomever I’m reading at any given moment. I prefer female voices, especially ones changed by extraordinary circumstances. If I had to pick one it might be the narrator in Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. She’s a fascinating relic of her time and circumstances. Or possibly Jane Eyre for the same reason.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
I think any writer who can keep me up at night, make me look forward to the bus trip home, help a long layover at the airport pass quickly, or make me envious of their prose is pretty darn worthy of admiration. And that list, I’m afraid, is much too long to post here.

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
I don’t technically have a favorite series, though Sue Grafton probably deserves a mention. The fact that her series has managed to get better the longer she writes it, and the extraordinary number of books the alphabet conceit demanded out of her, is pretty astonishing.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
It will absolutely be increasingly digital. I desperately hope that opens up more opportunities for more writers though, thus far, I’m not seeing evidence of it. I think we’ll see more genre mashups and more mining of traditionally adult genres for younger readers. And for my own sake, hopefully the young adult market will still be going strong.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
The closest I’ve come was participating in the Edgar Week symposium in 2009. I would love to be more active, but it seems like every time a conference approaches I either have a deadline or some major life change going on.

What is the best fan letter you ever received? The scariest?
The best is any piece of fan mail that didn’t come from a family member. Seriously, just hearing from total strangers who love the series and love the character has meant so much to me (and made me wish I hadn’t been so reticent about contacting writers whose work I admired over the years). And I even enjoy the dreaded letters that are written solely to point out mistakes I’ve made in my historical details. I’ve developed some wonderful friendships with vets who initially contacted me to point out my research errors.
The scariest? I haven’t had one yet.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
Oh Rosie, absolutely. It’s been such a fun journey to watch her grow and change and become, I hope, more real.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
Buy milk and pay visa bill. Er…I guess that’s not writing advice.I don’t really have anything posted. I do have my book covers on the wall behind my desk (they’re so pretty) and a framed copy of a my starred Publisher’s Weekly review that Nancy Martin gave me. I suppose that’s inspiration enough.

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
Not as much as some people think, but more than I might be willing to admit.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and
how would you get away with it?
My husband swears it will be maritricide (that’s killing one’s spouse, not to be confused with matricide, though my mom has been towing the line lately). I really don’t think I could commit a crime. I have too much Catholic guilt in me, damnit.

About Kathryn:
Kathryn Miller Haines is an actor, mystery writer, and awardwinning playwright. She grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and received her BA in English and Theatre from Trinity University in San Antonio and her MFA in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

Her most recent book is When Winter Returns. In addition to writing the Rosie Winter mystery series for HarperCollins, she’s also writing a young adult mystery series for Roaring Brook Press, a division of MacMillan, the first of which will be out in 2011.

An interview with Kathleen George

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
OMG, I don’t know. I fall in love with characters on a daily basis. Is it cheating to say Hamlet? That isn’t even fiction, but he is the most f***ing intelligent character ever written and his story is a murder mystery, too.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
I think . . . (these are not mystery writers for the most part, but please forgive me for that) Chekhov for utter, blinding TRUTH, William Trevor for patience, patience, patience, Margery Allingham for teaching me how to write a mystery.

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
Eek, don’t hate me. The old gals—P.D. James talks about them. Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. There is so much characterization and emotion in their works.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
It will get increasingly digital and I don’t know what to do about that. I love books. Love them. But even I have caved in to digital forms for convenience. I could cry when I say this.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
I sometimes go to conventions. I went to Bouchercon once and wandered around and didn’t know who to talk to or how or why I was there. Ditto Thrillerfest. At Pennwriters I had friends, so I thought that was nice, comfortable. I think it will get better. My editor wants me to go to the next Bouchercon and if she goes, too, she will introduce me to a few folks. Our own Rebecca Drake is totally brilliant at conventions. She is utterly charming. She remembers everyone’s name. She is kind and helps people to make connections. I wish I could be Becky.

What is the best fan letter you ever received? The scariest?
Best was recently—a guy who said how much THE ODDS had uplifted him in a time of sadness. It was a very touching letter. Scariest was a guy from Europe saying things like “I think about you all the time,” but it turned out he thought I was Elizabeth George so he’s her problem. I sent the letter on to her editor.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
I always love the current one, but I have to say Meg from THE ODDS really sticks with me. The wonderful writer Margot Livesey came up to me and said how much she loved the books and then she said, “I want to be Meg when I grow up.” She’s in her fifties I think. We laughed, and I said, “You know, I want to be Meg, too.”

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Is this weird?

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
Pretty much. I am emotional when I write. I get tense. My heart pounds. I cry.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and
how would you get away with it?

I doubt that I could commit a murder even if my own life depended on it. I have always known this and feared it, too. Perhaps I would take a chocolate from a buffet not intended for me? Yes, I would do that.

About Kathleen
Kathleen George was born in Johnstown Pennsylvania. As a child, she wanted to be a writer. She wrote stories and plays in high school and in her undergraduate years as a creative writing major at the University of Pittsburgh. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Theatre (also at Pitt). By then she had made her home in Pittsburgh. For eight years she taught theatre at Carlow College, where she directed many plays. Then she accepted a teaching position at Pitt where she continued to direct and teach dramatic literature and playwriting; in the early 80s, she began to add fiction writing back into the mix. In 1988, she earned an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing (also at Pitt!) on the side. She is a Professor in the Theatre Arts Department.

Book-length fiction publications are: THE MAN IN THE BUICK, a collection of stories, BKMK press, 1999; TAKEN, a novel, Delacorte 2001; FALLEN, Dell 2004; AFTERIMAGE, St. Martin’s Minatour 2007; and THE ODDS, St. Martin’s Minatour 2009. TAKEN has been translated into French, German, Japanese, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian. Coming next is another novel, HIDEOUT.

An Interview with Nancy Martin

Who is your favorite character in all of fiction?
I don’t think I could narrow them all down to one! But I love Anne Elliot, Jane Austen’s heroine in her final book, PERSUASION. Anne has endured tragedy–the loss of her dear mother and her family’s rejection of her lover–and in the course of the novel she must rise above all that to cope with her ridiculous father, a trying sister and the return of the man she was forced to jilt years ago. Her story is witty and tragic at the same time, her longing is palpable, her resourcefulness endearing. She’s a product of her time–too passive perhaps–but I think she’s a masterpiece.

Which writer do you most admire, and why?
Another impossible question! Usually, I admire the writer I’m reading at the moment. Right now I’m in awe of Kate Atkinson, whose beautifully crafted WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS is keeping me up late. But I greatly respect Michael Chabon for his beautiful prose. Growing up, I adored Mary Stewart’s stories. I loved Robert Parker for his Spenser character. Gee, my list could get very long, couldn’t it?

If you have a favorite series, why is it your favorite?
My favorite mystery series? I read Janet Evanovich for her effortless ability to make me laugh. She can create a very vivid character with just a few lines of dialogue, which is a gift. I bought Robert Parker’s books in hardcover because I couldn’t wait to read who Spenser was up against and the snappy way he’d handle it. I loved Anne George’s Southern Sisters series because the characters felt so much like family. Her voice was homey and
familiar. Dick Francis kept me turning the pages, too, maybe because he wrote about horses and England. Each of these writers has different strengths, so I guess I’m drawn in many directions.

Gazing into your crystal ball, where do you see publishing headed in the next 2 years? Next 5? Ten?
I think we’re headed inexorably toward e-books. And I think because people don’t do as much shopping in stores with great booksellers who actually enjoy talking about books or by exchanging information by word of mouth with other readers, we rely on lists and the automated systems like Amazon to choose our reading. Which is very limiting. We’re all reading the same bestsellers or the currently popular “book club books.”

Also, I see fewer and fewer women fiction writers getting good publishing deals these days, and the result is a further ghetto-ization of women writers. (We’re either at the top or the very bottom, hardly any in-between.) So I think most writers will be either big bestsellers or those who are scrabbling at the entry level (and must therefore keep their day jobs)–which is tough for those of us in the midlist who write to pay the mortgage. Not a pretty picture? Depends on where you’re standing, I guess.

Do you attend conventions and if so, which ones and why?
As much as I enjoy getting out of the office and going to conferences and conventions, it’s an expensive proposition. And it takes me away from what I should be doing and what I enjoy most–staying in my office and writing books. That said, I do enjoy getting out now and then. Writers must be choosy and must decide why we want to attend conferences in the first place. For camaraderie? For the latest information? To sell books? To promote ourselves? To meet agents and editors? To get away from winter and see some sunshine? For every reason, there’s a good conference.

I don’t feel the need to go to writer conferences regularly anymore to learn about my craft, because so few conferences really address that well. (I went to one Robert McKee weekend workshop, however, and I still refer to those notes.) I gave Malice almost ten years of attendance, and I enjoyed those experiences because I tend to write for women, and that’s who mostly attends. But the conference in general didn’t really embrace what I write, and I started sensing that writers were there to promote themselves and that feels mercenary to me, so I stopped going. Bouchercon is huge and wonderful, but uneven and expensive, so it’s not something I can do every year. Thrillerfest is terrific because it’s in New York where–let’s face it–the publishing industry lives–so it’s a good place to see everybody. But, man, the Big Apple is pricey. Sleuthfest is great–good craft info and lots of New York people in attendance, and the weather’s wonderful in February, but that’s always the month I’m bearing down on my deadline, so the timing’s wrong for me. I think I’m going to try some of the western events in the next couple of years, just because I’ve never gone to any of them. Lately, though, I’ve been going to regional book festivals more and more, rather than writer conferences. Book festivals attract readers–the people I most enjoy getting to know.

What is the best fan letter you ever received? The scariest?
The best fan letters are always those from people who want to acknowledge that their mother or sister was reading my books in the final weeks of her life. You’d be surprised by how many of those I receive every year, and they make me cry and feel humble that anyone wants me to be a part of their lives in that way. It gives real meaning to what I do. The scariest letters came from prisons when I was writing romance novels. Very scary, let me tell you.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which do you love the most and why?
I’ve written nearly fifty books, so that’s a lot of characters. There was a group of seven little boys in a romance I wrote called NIGHTCAP—each one had to be individual enough so the readers could tell them apart, and I fell for every one of them. I love Nora Blackbird, who had tragedy in her life, but rose above it and could laugh and be a true sister, a passionate lover, a kind of mother, too, who longed for children of her own. She was complex and appealing. My aunt says that Michael Abruzzo sounds just like my brother, but I think he sounds like me! I have a soft spot for him, too, because he’s a bad boy who tries to be good. Most of the time.

What saying or tidbit of advice about writing do you have on a post-it around your computer?
“When the horse dies, get off.” Words of wisdom from Kinky Friedman. For a writer, I think this means I have to stay ahead of trends, watch for the writing on the wall and bail out of a bad situation before it gets worse. It means ditching a book idea if I don’t think it’s going to sell. Sometimes we have to be ruthless about our ideas and think about how readers will or won’t respond. Which is tough sometimes, but I don’t want my horse to die when I’m trying to gallop across the prairie!

How much of your own personality and experience do you put into your characters and your stories?
I try to make all my characters their own people–not too much like me. Whether I succeed or not, that’s up to my readers, I guess. But I took acting courses long ago, and The Method–using emotional memory to create drama–has been very useful to me.

As a Sister in Crime, if you were going to commit a crime, what crime would it be, and how would you get away with it?
You seriously think I’m going to confess before I’ve even committed it?

About Nancy
Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels in three genres, including the bestselling Blackbird Sisters mysteries and OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION, featuring Roxy Abruzzo. She serves on the board of Sisters in Crime, and in 2009 she was given the Romantic Times magazine award for lifetime achievement in mystery writing. She blogs at www.thelipstickchronciles.typepad.com.

Visit her website at www.NancyMartinMysteries.com