Button Hollow Chronicles #1: The Leaf Peeper Murders is my first book. It’s a cozy-ish murder mystery set in a small, fictional New Hampshire village called Button Hollow. The main character, Sheriff Jeff Ramsey, loves his small hometown and becomes worried when two locals seem to commit suicide under unusual circumstances. Much to Jeff’s dismay, the mayor has set up a local Citizens’ Brigade—comprised of overzealous senior citizens—and one of them, Mrs. Anne Jolie Watson, decides she’s going to solve the mystery of the deaths as well as all other crime that she imagines is taking place in the village. Meanwhile, Jeff’s beloved wife is contemplating a job offer in Boston which threatens to tear Jeff’s happy home life apart. Jeff finds himself trying to prevent additional deaths from occurring as the Brigade gets too close to danger while trying to decide if he should follow his wife to Boston or stay in Button Hollow without her.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m from Southern California, raised in the desert heat. Professionally, I have worked in various areas of entertainment, primarily in the music industry, since the early 1980s. I love to be around and work with creative people, and I have had the amazing opportunity to work with some amazing musical artists and songwriters. I even spent a lot of the early 80s working as an extra and production assistant, taking any job that I could get so that I could learn about all aspects of the entertainment industry.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been interested in writing for decades, but never got very far at finishing a manuscript because I used to take criticism so hard. I started to join some writing organizations like Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime a few years ago when I decided to really try my hand at completing a manuscript. I got close to finishing one, but didn’t know if it was any good, even though I loved the story and the characters. I was still afraid to let anyone see my work, and my writing partner and sister, P.I. Barrington, would rip apart the problems in my story, dialogue and so on. I’d get depressed and want to give it up. Then, in 2008, I lost two friends within a couple of months of each other and I realized that I didn’t want to die without at least trying to be a published author. I learned to deal with criticism and finished that manuscript, called Lights, Camera, Murder. I figured I loved it even if no one else did.
What inspired you to write this book?
In 1990 my sister and I began vacationing in New England. It was love at first sight. Throughout that decade we went back almost every fall, taking our mom with us. It is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Fast forward and one day we were driving around and I mentioned to her that I thought it would be funny if someone organized a citizens’ patrol type of group that became more detrimental than helpful. We loved the idea and she began a manuscript that sat on a shelf for a couple of years. I picked it up one day and began some re-writes. We based it in New Hampshire after a tiny town that we fell in love with, where the sheriff lived right in the middle of the village and knew everyone. When we heard that Mainly Murder Press, a small publisher that focuses on mysteries that take place in New England, was open for submissions we knew it was perfect for them. Luckily, they agreed.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Writing is the hardest part of writing. I mean, actually sitting down and putting 60, 80, 100 thousand words down on paper. Since I have become very active with my writing I have a website now and email dozens of people with updates. So many friends that I have known for years will confess to me that they have always wanted to write. I tell them to stop waiting and do it. I think that everyone has great ideas for stories and characters, but not everyone has the patience and dedication to sit down and finish a manuscript. For years I couldn’t finish one myself. But once you finish the first one and you prove to yourself you can do it, then there will be no stopping you. So, sit down and write, and remember that every writer has to face fears and doubts, just don’t let those stop you.
How do you do research for your books?
I once wrote an article for Suspense Magazine and covered this topic. Travel is a big research tool. It’s hard to make your descriptions about a place authentic if you have never been there. Also, ask experts. Joining writing organizations is a big help because it gives you opportunity to meet other writers that have expertise in certain areas. My brother-in-law is a homicide detective so we’re always asking him questions. But even doing research I do get lazy and then have to correct things in my manuscript. For Button Hollow, we spent a lot of time in New England years before we knew we’d ever use it as a story location. For Lights, Camera, Murder, well I’ve worked in Hollywood for thirty years and love the history of the place but I made sure that I take time to visit places and tourist spots that I hadn’t been to for a while to get inspiration.
Did you learn anything from writing this book?
Oh, God, yes. I learned about editing the hard way—by making mistakes that I had to painstakingly go back and correct for the publisher. I learned how to write the descriptive narrative for the back of our book (I thought someone would do that for me). I also learned how to suppress my fear and ask other authors to read an advance copy to give us blurbs for the book (again, thought someone else would take care of that for me). I think the most important thing that I learned is how writers will really help each other. The writing community is a great group of people and I have heard the phrase “other writers helped me when I was beginning so I am just passing that along” so many times that the reciprocity astounds me.
What are you reading now?
A great medieval noir book called Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I love to read everything but I am partial to mysteries and paranormals. Charles Dickens is my all-time favorite author and I’ve read a lot of his work. My favorite contemporary authors include Heather Graham (I’ll be reading Unhallowed Ground on my way to Orlando this summer) because I enjoy romantic suspense, and I must admit that I have hundreds of cozies in my house. I love M.C. Beaton, but I also love John Steinbeck. Agatha Christie is a must-have, especially They Came to Baghdad.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
My next book is Lights, Camera, Murder which is coming out right after Button Hollow Leaf Peeper Murders. Lights, Camera is a cozy mystery about a forty-year-old woman who sends her daughter off to college and returns home to find that her husband is leaving her. With nothing left to keep her in Tucson, she decides to follow her dream of acting and moves to Hollywood. She gets a small part on a soap opera, which leads to a date with the womanizing star of the show. When he’s found murdered outside of her condo she becomes a suspect and finds herself trying to solve the crime. And, of course she has a couple of love interests in the story as well, who wouldn’t want a little romance in their life? Luckily, I got a contract on it and Lights, Camera, Murder will be available in paperback from Hilliard & Harris in September.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
We’re having a book launch party at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California on August 21st, 2010 at 4 pm. There will be food, fun, giveaways, and of course a lot of copies of our book. We’ll also be speaking at some libraries and bookstores throughout the fall. We’re doing bookmarks, postcards, mugs, t-shirts and giveaway items. We’ll be at RWA and possibly some other conferences and book festivals, as well as blogs and interviews.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
To write and keep writing. There is a lot of rejection in this business and, writing and everything that goes along with it, the promotion and everything, can become overwhelming. It’s easy to lose sight of why you wanted to write in the first place so it’s easy to give up. But you have to keep writing, and make time to focus on your work: the plots, the characters, the setting. Once you get back to focusing on your work you’ll remember why you enjoy writing. Also, join writing groups with experienced writers, like RWA and Sisters in Crime. I cannot stress how helpful it is to communicate with other authors and to take advantage of the learning opportunities that these organizations provide.
Where can readers learn more about you and your books?
We’ve started a website http://thewordmistresses.com and are filling it up with info on our books, photos of us at events, important links for writers and readers, and other fun things.