Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I actually started writing when I was only eight-years-old, and I haven't been able to put a pen down since. Needless to say, I have improved since then. It took many years to get published because life got in the way - earning a Ph.D. and college teaching. Still, I always kept perfecting my craft and when the market opened up for 1940s-style mysteries, I was ready.
What makes writing your passion?
I love writing because I love to create. I've always been an old movie buff, and writing my noir-style mysteries has enabled me to bring to life stories that add to that canon. It's so exciting to give life to characters, then challenge myself to craft the twisting plots that take them, myself, and my readers on unexpected adventures
How long have you been writing?
Well, if you count that first story, for 55 years. However, I'd rather start from when I was a mature writer (though still maturing). So, I'd say since I was a teenager.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
When my first book came out, I felt as if I had "arrived." I loved my career as a college teacher, but the writing was a special dream. So, I felt as if I was achieving an extraordinary place in my life where I could share my writing with so many others.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Since I'm an old movie buff, and I see myself as almost writing one of my favorite types of films, I cast my characters as actors that I like. Because these performers each have a unique presence, they give me a starting place for physical descriptions, ways of talking, ways of acting. For example, the two sisters who are the main characters in my Jessica Minton series are based on Joan Bennett and Rosalind Russell, two actresses known for their smart, witty, and independent characters. I often blend in the traits of people I know as well - and then the characters sometimes just take off and grow on their own.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
I find it sometimes hard to get the word out on my writing. promotion takes a lot of time, and it can be fun. However, it's just not always easy to get the word out on your writing.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I don't usually have this problem. Usually, if I hit a roadblock, I give myself some time off and let my unconscious work out the problem.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
1. Don't get discouraged. Getting published can take a long time, but that doesn't mean you won't get there.
2. Keep perfecting your ability. Keep writing. Listen to feedback but learn to distinguish what is relevant and helpful versus what is just someone just not getting what you are trying to do.
3. Research your agents and publishers. Check out who is looking for new authors, who is interested in publishing the type of writing you do.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Don't worry. Publication will come. Enjoy the work you are doing. Draw on experience to make yourself a better writer. hang in there
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
So far, the only bad reviews I've gotten came out of spite by an oddball. I think you have to consider if the negative review can teach you something you need to know or if the review came from a person who didn't get what you were writing - who basically just wanted a different book.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Too many times to count, but nothing I could be sued over. I would never write something to hurt someone. Mostly, I might draw on a childhood experience or an in-joke to either create verisimilitude or to give people in the know a chuckle.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
There is a lot of me in my main character, Jessica Minton - especially the sense of humor. However, I would be the last person to get caught up in spy plot with Nazi fifth columnists.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Well, a good book cover does catch the eye. However, if what's inside isn't good, a snazzy cover isn't going to save the writing.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love talking to readers. It's great to know they have connected to my writing, and I'm happy to share any knowledge I have that will help them write better or be published.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Well, no one has really "recognized me in public," but I love it when readers talk to me about my characters as if they are real people and have strong reactions to them. I also get a kick out of knowing that I kept them in suspense.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I couldn't just narrow down my favorite to one person. For writers in general, I love Elizabeth Gaskell. She knows human nature and she has a sense of humor. For mystery writers, I like Lisa Lieberman, Patricia Wentworth, Margaret Millar, Craig Rice, and Francis Crane. They can write a tight and twisty mystery; they also know human nature; and, to varying degrees, they have something important to say about our world.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
Gosh, no. I went through so many drafts and revisions, I've got nothing left to say. I might want to catch some typos or errors that didn't get mended in the editing and printing process.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I don't want to say anything. They just want attention, so why should I indulge them?
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you for following Jessica's, James's, Liz's, and Dusty's adventures. I hope you enjoy seeing how they grow and change. I hope that I can keep you guessing with the mystery.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I'm married to a physicist and we live in a Victorian house. He also does my book covers! No children, but we are bossed around by two highly intelligent and loving cats.
What is your day job if you have one?
I recently retired as a full professor in the English Department at Worcester State University (Massachusetts). My main fields are Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, Nineteenth-Century British Literature, Renaissance Literature, and Film and Literature.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love gardening, ballroom dancing, bicycling, watching old movies form the 19302-50s, hiking, bird watching, acting in a Shakespeare Club, obeying my cats
Did you have a happy childhood?
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I have a fourth novel in the Jessica Minton series, which is under contract with TouchPoint Press. I also have two others outside the series: Surprise! (mystery), Redeeming Time (supernatural/noir/romance).
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Don't get me started. I just retired. I'm off duty, now.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
Can't go there.
What is your favorite music?
I love progressive rock - Moody Blues; soul, like post-Diana Ross Supremes; swing; classical
Share a secret with us 🙂
No, no, no.