Meow – our guest today is Stephanie Jaye Evans!
Stephanie Evans received her Master of Liberal Arts from Rice University. Her Masters capstone project, a mystery novel set in Sugar Land, Texas, won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, an international grant from the organization that awards the Agatha. Faithful Unto Death (June 2012--Berkley Prime Crime) earned a Library Journal starred review and Debut of the Month, it was a Houston Chronicle Ultimate 2012 Summer Book List pick and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel.
Safe From Harm (March 2013--Berkley Prime Crime) is the second book in the Sugar Land Mystery Series. Kirkus Reviews: "As charming and wry as Evans’ bright debut (Faithful Unto Death, 2012), filled with reasons to own dogs, love your children and your wife, and have faith"--Criminal Element: "Evans is capable of achingly beautiful prose; at times, her writing is so lush and vivid that you just want to sit and stare at the pictures it paints in your mind."
R: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Rocco, I’ve been a storyteller all my life. That makes sense because I’m the daughter of a first grade teacher and a minister—to do either job well, you have to be a good storyteller, and my parents were very, very good. So storytelling is in my blood. To become a writer was a logical next step. Oh, and when I was young I had a cat named Kitty, and I would tell her stories at night. She would purr so I think she liked them. Or else she was asleep.
R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?
Rocco, you wicked cat--this is such an impossible question because there are so hopelessly many! But here is an off-the-top-of-my-head, very incomplete list:
Dorothy Sayers, Martha Grimes, Peter Robinson, Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell, Peter Lovesey, Jonathon Gash, Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie…
And I can’t put my finger on how they influenced me except that they wrote such wonderful books and I wanted to do the same. These are all people who were writing when I was very young. There are so many, many writers who I admire with all my heart.
R: Tell us about your latest release.
Safe From Harm is the second in the Sugar Land Mystery series and, like the first, Faithful Unto Death, it’s about good people doing really bad things. Writing it kind of broke my heart because I write about the kind of people you have over to dinner, who get into trouble and make bad decisions. So I empathize a lot with them. I make bad decisions, too, but so far none of those decisions have resulted in murder. Fingers crossed.
R: Which of (your character) adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?
I love writing in Bear’s voice. I get to be a guy and say all the things I think they’re thinking when they’re dealing with women. But writing Liz was hard. She does something pretty unforgiveable but she is such a hurt and broken thing herself. When people are broken, it’s not surprising that they have sharp corners, right?
R: Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share? How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?
Best. Story. Ever.
I entered the Malice Domestic-William F. Deeck Grant for Unpublished Writers contest (loooong name) and I won. That meant I got to go to the convention and make a two minute speech. My lovely husband, Richard, honed my forty-five minute speech down to forty-five seconds. I didn’t talk about my book, I talked about the characters that have peopled my life—the characters written by the people sitting in front of me. Afterwards, several authors came to thank me for mentioning their characters. Finally, this woman introduces herself as Janet Reid and I could not think of one thing I’d read by her! I had to ask her what she wrote. She drew herself up and told me that she wrote rejection letters, and that if I could write the way I spoke, she’d like to see my manuscript. Yes.
That’s my favorite bedtime story.
How did I feel when the first book sold? See the cat pic.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
This Is Tommy. We are a writing team. I can’t write without him. Because he won’t let me.
R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I don’t want to go back. I’ve read Ray Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder. I know I would mess up the world. I’m doing all I can not to mess things up in my own time.
R: If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?
Oh, fun question! Definitely Safe From Harm because it has more action and I’d want the young Tommy Lee Jones (my Tommy is named for him) to play Bear, and the National Velvet-young Elizabeth Taylor to play Jo, and the teenaged Shelley Duvall to play Phoebe and James Dean to play Alex and…
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see. Hmmmmm. Really hard because I am agonizingly conventional. Well, if Richard counts out loud for me, I can do a decent tango. How’s that? Here’s another I just thought of—I write under Stephanie Jaye Evans because if you go to Stephanieevans.com, you are directed to an adult entertainment site. Hah!
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
One night after a dance, I put on Richard’s dinner jacket (it came to my knees) and slipped off my dress and gave it to the Walgreens clerk who had admired it earlier in the evening. I slipped it off in the car. Not in the Walgreens. I’m not that crazy.
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
A scene that touches their heart. I can remember scenes from books that I read when I was seven. I want to do that. Yeah.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Both. Absolutely.
R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :) Well, there’s the tango. I do go dancing with Richard and I have a terrific herb garden and two dogs and I give lots of dinner parties and I read all the time.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write until you love what is on the page. If you don’t love it, I don’t think anyone else will.
Night or Day? Both
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Tommy is a pug. As everyone knows, pugs are cat-dogs. Ask Eloise.
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Both, please, and butter and sour cream and chives and bacon on the baked potato.
Favorite Drink? Chocolate milk, and dry martinis and diet Coke and homemade lemonade and cheap Pinot Grigio and Earl Grey tea. Not all in the same glass at the same time, please.
Favorite Book? No, Rocco. We aren’t doing that. Why don’t you ask me which of my sons I like best? No can do.
Favorite TV Series? I’m watching Breaking Bad right now but it’s not my favorite. I feel compelled to watch it but I’m pretty much horrified the whole time it’s on.
Favorite Movie? The Quiet Man
Favorite Actor: Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King
Favorite Actress: Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Bombay Sapphire, two jalapeno-stuffed olives. Very dry. Hey! Why does sapphire have two ‘p’s?
Hawaii or Alaska? The Lake District in Great Britain
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jo Bass, my grandmother. She’s gone now, but, oh, she would have been excited about my books. I name Jo for her.
If I had just one wish, it would be to be the kind of person who makes everything better.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one. I wouldn’t trade with anyone. “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalms 16
Webpage and blog--stephaniejayeevans.com
Stephanie will give the first two books in the Sugar Land Mystery series to the reader who leaves the most interesting comment in our comments section below (with your email address, of course!)