Sunday, May 21, 2017

ROCCO welcomes author Vickie Fee!

Meow! My guest this week is author Vickie Fee!



Vickie Fee blesses hearts and makes Jack Daniels whiskey balls that’ll scorch your tonsils. The third book in her Liv and Di in Dixie cozy mystery series from Kensington, One Fete in the Grave, comes out this month. Books 1 and 2, Death Crashes the Party and It’s Your Party, Die If You Want To, featuring intrepid party planner and amateur sleuth Liv McKay and best friend Di Souther, are available at bookstores and the usual online retailers. Vickie is hard at work on Til Death Do Us Party, which will release in March 2018.


• Welcome Vickie! Tell us a little about your background

Thanks ROCCO! At the moment, it’s a window with a view of Lake Superior, but I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I was an adult before I visited Graceland, so I wasn’t scarred too much by seeing the Jungle Room. I was weaned on Nancy Drew and sweet tea before discovering Agatha Christie and fantasizing that Miss Marple was my aunt, with whom I’d spend summers unraveling mysteries in quaint English villages. (Yes, I’m that big of a dork). I earned a degree in journalism from the University of Memphis and worked most of my adult life as a reporter at small town newspapers in western Tennessee. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my former newspaper career was actually research for my current career writing cozy mysteries set in the fictional town of Dixie, Tennessee.

• Tell us a bit about your Liv and Di in Dixie series. Where did that idea come from?

Dixie is fictional, but authentic to many of the small towns I covered as a reporter. So, those experiences informed the setting, complete with a charming town square and a supporting cast of colorful characters. As for the main characters, I wanted my protagonist to have a best friend. I thought that would make the murder-solving adventures more fun for her—and, hopefully, for the reader. I kind of see Liv and Di as a little bit Thelma and Louise and a little bit Lucy and Ethel.

• Tell us about your latest release… One Fete in the Grave, which comes out May 30, 2017

Party planner Liv McKay has outdone herself this time. She’s put together an unforgettable Fourth of July celebration for the town of Dixie, Tennessee—including breathtaking fireworks and an exciting Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant. Maybe a little too exciting.

As the party is winding down, Liv’s sense of triumph fizzles like a dud firework when the body of town councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds. And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv’s mother’s fiancĂ©, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba. To clear Earl’s name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished…

• How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

Since I write a series, I feel like I know my main characters pretty well by now. They definitely look over my shoulder as I’m writing, and if I have them say or do something that’s not true to their character they smack me upside the head. (Figuratively, of course, but it still hurts.) The same is true for the recurring characters in the supporting cast. Minor characters kind of show up as needed—sometimes fully formed, complete with a name, and other times as a rough sketch I flesh out as the story develops.

• How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I only have a rough idea of the story when I start. I always have a clear idea for the discovery of the body scene, along with who gets killed and why some people wanted to kill him or her. For the first three books, I had to turn in a synopsis before I started the manuscript for the next book. So, I would make up a plot, but it always changed substantially as I wrote. The only things that don’t/can’t change are what’s included in the back cover teaser. That’s the information the cover artist uses to design the cover, and the cover design goes into production well before I turn in the manuscript.

• Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

A mystery isn’t complete without a compelling plot. But my books are definitely character driven. I think people who follow the series do so because they enjoy spending time with Liv and Di.

• What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Like most writers, I guess, my biggest challenge was finding an agent and getting that first book deal. I had shopped around two previous completed manuscripts before I landed an agent with the Liv & Di manuscript that became Death Crashes the Party. Deadlines and contractual obligations keep me motivated! Actually, that’s not completely true. I was writing—and finishing—manuscripts long before I had a contract.

• What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I’m on deadline to finish Book 4 in the series, Til Death Do Us Party, which will be released March 27, 2018. Liv and Di and the gang go to Las Vegas!

• Plotter or Pantser?

Pantser

• What advice do you have to offer an aspiring author?

Take the time to polish your query letters, carefully research agents and only send queries to agents who represent what your write

• What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Probably the craziest thing any of us do is get married. But, I’m coming up on my 29th wedding anniversary, so I suppose he’s a keeper!

• What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

That I don’t like syrupy sweet iced tea, the Southern standard. I drink mine straight up, unsweet.

• If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?

Mystery shopper

• What would you love to have a never-ending supply of?

Fresh brewed coffee

• What’s the last TV show that made you laugh?

The Andy Griffith Show. It was a re-run; I don’t mean to imply I haven’t laughed at a TV show since the 1960s!

• What store could you browse in for hours?

Any bookstore

Just for fun:

Night or Day? Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) I like both

Beach or Pool? Beach

Steak or Salad? Steak salad with bleu cheese

Favorite Drink? Coffee

Favorite Book? I guess Mystery on the Nine-mile Marsh by Mary C. Jane. I checked it out so many times that my elementary school librarian told me I couldn’t check it out again.

Favorite TV Series? The X-Files. I’m totally geeked out about the upcoming new episodes!

Favorite Movie? That’s hard. Either The Thin Man or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’ve watched them both umpteen times.

Favorite Actor: Cary Grant

Favorite Actress: Katherine Hepburn

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii, although I live in Michigan’s upper peninsula, which is more like Alaska

Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Agatha Christie. I know that’s clichĂ©, but I have questions for her!

If I had just one wish, it would be to finish my current manuscript by deadline!

If I could trade places with anyone in the world it would be no one. My life’s pretty sweet, and you never know what burdens other people are carrying.

• Where we can learn more about you and your books


Vickie will be giving away a signed copy of her latest novel, ONE FETE IN THE GRAVE, to one lucky reader!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, May 27!









Sunday, May 14, 2017

ROCCO chats with EJ Copperman!



E.J. Copperman is not like other people. Well, some other people. A few other people. Let’s face it: E.J. Copperman is exactly like other people, except for writing mystery novels. A New Jersey native, E.J. has written for such publications as The New York TimesEntertainment WeeklyAmerican Baby and USA WeekendNight of the Living Deed is the first E.J. Copperman novel. It was followed by An Uninvited GhostOld HauntsA Wild Ghost ChaseChance of a GhostAn Open SpookThe Thrill of the HauntInspector SpecterGhost in the Wind and Spouse on Haunted Hill.
E.J., having worked as a newspaper reporter, teacher, magazine editor, and screenwriter, writes stories that combine humor and mystery with just the right amount of spooky supernatural happenings and a large does of Jersey attitude.
The fact is, E.J. Copperman is the pseudonym of a crime fiction writer who likes to specialize in making people laugh while delivering the suspects, clues, red herrings and plot twists that keep the pages turning.


  • Welcome, EJ! Tell us a bit about your latest book in your Mysterious Detective series.
Thanks ROCCO!  In EDITED OUT, Rachel Goldman is still trying to reconcile the idea that her fictional sleuth Duffy Madison appears to have come to life, working for a New Jersey county prosecutor near where she lives. So she sets out to prove that “living Duffy” is mistaken by tracking down a man who might have been his previous incarnation—and vanished from Poughkeepsie, New York five years ago. But somebody doesn’t want Duffy and Rachel to find out what happened to Damien Mosely…
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
It’s not even close. Character IS plot. If you have a great plot “twist” and it’s not specific to your character, or the reader doesn’t care about your character, you don’t have that great a story. Character is what everything in a story flows from. Character, character, character.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Um… selling stuff? That’s the challenge. Luckily I have a really good agent who knows how to do that, because I don’t. What inspires me? I get up every morning knowing I’m going to write 1000 words. Then they pay me. That’s motivation. I don’t know how to be a pipe fitter.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Not really.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Now writing the third Rachel/Duffy book. It’ll be halfway done tomorrow. Then have another Asperger’s mystery to write and a Haunted Guesthouse after that. Hoping to have more to tell you about later.
  • Plotter or Pantser?
I pants. Figuring everything out ahead of time would kill the possibility of discovering story along the way, and what fun would that be? But whatever works for you—do that.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Every three weeks I go to a place where they pump toxic chemicals into me for eight hours. That’s pretty nuts. But it does seem to be working.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I’m actually a classically-trained baritone who sings at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Actually, I’d be fairly shocked to find that out too, because it’s a complete lie.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What’s more important: A surprise ending or being funny in the book? Answer: NOTHING is more important than writing a funny book. Except your health.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
At www.ejcopperman.com as well as jeffcohenbooks.com and at the blog HEY THERE’S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM, where I post every Monday.
  • What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
Life.
  • Whats the last tv show that made you laugh?
John Oliver and Samantha Bee make me laugh every week, but I still miss Jon Stewart. Other than that, most television comedy is pretty lame. Speechless is pretty good, but I don’t laugh out loud at it.

Thanks for a great interview, EJ!  and say hello to your good friend Jeff Cohen for me!



We'll be giving away a copy of the most recent Haunted Guesthouse mystery, SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL,  to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!  Contest closes midnight, May 20!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

ROCCO WELCOMES ELENA HARTWELL

Meow, my guest today is author Elena Hartwell.




Elena Hartwell spent years in the theater before turning her dramatic skills to fiction. She writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. One Dead, Two to Go, Two Heads Are Deader Than One, and Three Strikes, You’re Dead (launching April 15, 2018). According to Peter Clines, Eddie Shoes is “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct.” Elena lives in Twin Peaks, called North Bend, Washington in the real world. The perfect place for a writer, especially one who kills people for a living.

R:  Welcome Elena! Tell us a little about your background:
E: Thanks ROCCO! I grew up in San Diego, but moved to the Seattle area in 1996. Other than three years out in Athens, Georgia, for graduate school, I’ve called the Pacific Northwest home ever since. Now I live in the little town of North Bend, the location where Twin Peaks was filmed. Before becoming a novelist, I worked in the theater world as a playwright, director, educator, designer, and technician. I still teach Playwriting at Bellevue College, so I have a foot in that arena as well. 

R: Tell us a bit about the Eddie Shoes mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
E: My husband and I were on a long drive and he came up with the name Eddie Shoes. I can’t remember what the conversation was about, or why he made up the name, but I remember thinking, that’s a great name for a Private Investigator! So I began wondering who was this Eddie Shoes? and what kind of trouble could she get into?

R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
E:  I spend a lot of time just thinking about characters. A friend of mine and I made up the expression “honor the mull” – by which we mean, you have to allow for time to let ideas percolate. Sitting down at a computer screen to “write a book” will almost always fail unless you have some idea of what or who you’re writing about. Now that I’m writing a series, I’ve got the basic details of my main characters already in mind, so I get to think about how they change and grow, which is a lot of fun. And also include new characters, which I find come from part people I meet, part people I know, and part me, mixed together with a healthy dose of imagination.

R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
E: I typically know the beginning and the ending of my stories before I start, then I write to figure out the middle.

R: Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
E: Neither. They are inextricably linked. I find it easier to write character, so I have to work harder at plot, but you can’t have one without the other. One may take center stage, but stories are never solely one or the other and I think manuscripts that fail, fail because either the plot is weak or the characters are flat. No matter how brilliantly you’ve executed the other, you have to have both.

R: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
E: This is very difficult to answer, because I can’t rank what’s hard about being a writer. There are a lot of things that one has to deal with, which are hard in different ways, learning craft, finishing a draft, then rewriting until it’s as good as you can get it, dealing with rejection, finding a publisher, promoting your books while writing the next one. I guess for me I would say social media is what’s hardest. I’m very much a face-to-face person, I love to do workshops and panels and talk one-on-one with readers. Engaging with people on the Internet is tricky and I have to work very consciously at it. What inspires me is when people I’ve never met contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed my book, or I hear a story about someone who loved it so much they bought ten copies to give away. Learning a reader enjoyed meeting me or hearing me speak or reading my book makes getting out and interacting, whether live or via social media, worthwhile.

R: Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
E:  I’ll share a caution instead, when you have an agent interested in working with you, check them out. They need good writers just as much as you need a good agent. Don’t just jump into bed with anyone, make sure it’s a good fit. Trust your instincts. You’re better off with a great agent, but you’re better off without an agent than having a bad one.

R: What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
E:  I’m currently working on book three in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. “Three Strikes, You’re Out” launches April 15, 2018. I anticipate other books in the series, so I’m also thinking about four and five and what I might hint at in three that will be resolved down the line.

R: Plotter or Pantser?
E: I prefer “organic” J

R: What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
E: Learn your craft. Lots of people write well, that’s not the same as writing a good manuscript. Story structure, genre expectations, presenting yourself as a professional, these things all matter. You may blow up traditional story structure, or write cross-genre, or meet your agent at a casual cocktail party, but you need to understand the underpinnings of this industry before you can make it your own.

R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
E: That I’m willing to have my parents read about? Hmmm…. Again, a tough question – let’s just say it involved dressing up and pretending to be a performer for a singing telegram company to try to meet a rock star. Epic fail, but makes for a good story.

R: What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
E: I worked as an auto mechanic, primarily heavy line in a truck shop (engines/transmissions on 18-wheelers).

R: What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
E: What’s something readers can do to help out their favorite authors? Word of mouth is huge for authors. If you love a book, tell your friends, or even better, buy them a copy. Write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes and Noble and other social media outlets, if you have a blog – blog about us. Follow us on social media and share our information. We work hard at writing, but we often have to work equally hard at promoting our work, and many of us aren’t very good at that!

R:  If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
E: I’d run an animal rescue.

R: What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
E: Oh, so many things. Chocolate, the really good dark kind that’s not overly sweet. Horses and dogs. One should never be without them. Frequent Flyer Miles.

R: What’s the last tv show that made you laugh?
E:  Goliath. Billy Bob Thornton is fantastic. He does dry humor so well. It’s not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the dialogue makes me laugh out loud.

R: What store could you browse in for hours?
E: Any bookstore, especially if it also sells a good cappuccino!

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  . Dusk J
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Dog – though my dog comes with cats of his own, so that’s kind of fun.
Beach or Pool?   Pool on the beach. (See how good I am at not having to choose.)
Steak or salad?  Steak (Notice I didn’t have to think about that one too much!)
Favorite Drink?  Vodka/soda – I’m going through all the fruit infused vodkas to find my favorite. Pear is pretty great.
Favorite Book? The Hobbit
Favorite TV Series?  Currently – Goliath/Murdoch Mysteries
Favorite Movie?  Casablanca
Favorite Actor:  Sam Elliott comes to mind.
Favorite Actress: So many … Today I’ll go with Dame Judi Dench
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? No fair, I can’t figure out how to get both in my answer. I think I have to go with Hawaii because it’s very different from where I live. But there’s so much of Alaska I haven’t seen yet, it’s a close second.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Ray Hunt. http://www.rayhunt.com/
If I had just one wish, it would be for zero population growth, worldwide.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be temporary, I’m actually really happy being me.

Thanks Elena!
You can find her at:
@Elena_Hartwell
https://www.instagram.com/hartwellelena/



GIVEAWAY TIME!!
Elena will give away  1 paperback copy of One Dead, Two to Go, and 1 paperback copy of Two Heads are Deader Than One to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Giveaway ends midnight, May 12!





Monday, May 1, 2017

Revisiting our interview with BB Heywood!

BB Heywood has released TOWN IN A MAPLE MADNESS, the 8th in t he Candy Holliday mystery series by Penguin.  In honor of that, we are re-running the interview from 2016!

Tell us about your background:


Rob has always loved to write. He is managing editor of a magazine and has also written young adult science fiction/fantasy books. Beth has also always loved to write. She also bakes and has created the recipes for the  books.

We decided to write a cozy mystery after reading the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. We put together Cape Willington from the small New England towns we have lived in and visited.  Candy Holliday is a blueberry farmer in Down East , Maine. She runs the farm with her father ‘Doc’ Henry Holliday.  Cape Willington is filled with quirky residents and of course way too many murders. Candy has become the town sleuth and is usually solving mysteries with her sidekick and best friend, Maggie Wolfsburger.

Tell us about the Candy Holliday series. How do you get to know your characters?

In Town in a Cinnamon Toast, Maggie Tremont is days away from being wed to the town baker  Georg Wolfsburger. The best man doesn’t show up for the rehearsal dinner, and Candy goes off to find him. She finds him, but he is dead, struck over the head with a champagne bottle. The bottle happens to be the same brand that was ordered by Georg himself for the dinner.  That means everyone is suspect , and Candy has to solve the mystery so her best friend Maggie can live happily ever after.

The characters come to us in different ways. Some characters are based loosely on real people we’ve known, or a collection of people, or various character traits we’ve seen in people we know. Other characters come completely out of the blue and define themselves. Candy Holliday is like that, as are Maggie Tremont and Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday. They essentially write themselves, sine they’re fully formed as characters in our minds, and they help dictate the journeys they take through each book.

We usually start with a general theme, time of year, fictional event in town, and title, and work from there. We’re required by our publisher to provide an outline, which is usually three to five pages and hits the highlights of the story, although one outline we did was very detailed and ran 30 pages. WE have the opening section of each book fairly firmly in mind when we begin writing , and from there work into the middle and third sections of the book.  All our books basically have three acts, and if you pay attention when reading, you can actually tell when, for instance, the first act ends and the second act begins. Each act usually occupies about 8—120 pages.


What do you consider more important, plot or character?

One can’t work without the other. Character drives plot, but plot reveals character. Our goal is to start each book strong, and then by the end of the first act, we’ll “thicken” the plot with a twist of some sort. If there’s a second death in a book ( some books have one death, some have two). It usually takes place toward the end of Act Two, and is designed to keep readers reading until the end. We love big, splashy endings in our books, with lots of action and drama.


What is the biggest challenge you face as writers?  What keeps you motivated?

Time is the biggest problem. We estimate that it takes us about 600-800 hours to write a 300- page book. If we’re working full time, finding time to write is tricky. During the writing process, it can take several months to write the first half of each book, with some chapters taking several weeks to write, but we speed up in the second half, when often we can write one or two chapters in a day or two.


What is a typical workday for you?

It depends on our schedules. We usually write at night and on weekends, but if we’re fortunate to have some time off, then we write all day. There are numerous life-based distractions, but you just have to push on through them and keep writing. It’s a discipline that all successful writers have.

 What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Write a book every year going on eight years?!

What would your readers be surprised to find out about you?

That  B.B. Haywood is two people and we are both Pisces.

 What question do you wish interviewers would ask? And what’s the answer?

Is there going to be a book number 8 in the series? The answer is Yes!  The title is Town in a Maple Madness.

 Where can readers find out more about you?
You can learn more about our books at hollidaysblueberryacres.com.  We also have a facebook page at facebook.com/hollidaysblueberryacres,  and an instagram at instagram.com/capewillington. The links for all of those are on the website as well.  We also have our email hollidaysblueberryacres@gmail.com.

Just for Fun

Day or Night? Beth: Day- Rob: Night

Cat or Dog:Dog, sorry ROCCO!

Pool or Beach:Beach, it’s nice to walk on.

Steak or Salad? Salad

Coffee or Tea?Tea and hot chocolate

Favorite Book: Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton

Favorite TV Show: X-Files , and currently Doc Martin

Favorite Movie: Too many to love. The Lord of the Rings is a family favorite.

Favorite Actor:Tom Hanks, Ralph Fiennes

Favorite Actress: Helena Bonham Carter

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii—it’s warmer than Maine

If I could meet anyone past or present it would be…Winslow Homer.  To watch him paint and see the best view of the sea from his studio on Prout’s Neck.

If I had one wish it would be for…More time with family



If I could trade places with anyone it would be…Someone with a blueberry farm. It would be fun to experience that life for a while.


Penguin has donated a copy of TOWN IN A MAPLE MADNESS for one lucky commenter!  To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! contest ends midnight, May 5.  US entries only please

Saturday, April 29, 2017

ROCCO's weekend guest...Shannon Baker!

This weekend we welcome author Shannon Baker!

Shannon Baker is the author of Stripped Bare, the first in the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com

ROCCO –Shannon  Baker
Hi, Rocco, and Toni, too, of course. Thanks for inviting me over to spend some time with you. I’d love it if you want to curl up on my lap. I miss having cats in the house.  

R:  Thank you Shannon!  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
I’m not one of those folks who always knew I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always been a reader, of course. But after college, I married a rancher and moved to cattle country in Nebraska, where cows outnumber people by 50:1. To keep my sanity, I started writing stories.

From Nebraska I moved to Boulder, Colorado, my favorite place. Then did a stint in Flagstaff, AZ, back up to Boulder for a bit, and over to southwest Nebraska for a short but painful interlude, and finally, two years ago, down to Tucson, where I hope to plant myself for a long time.

I know you’ll try to be tolerant, Rocco, when I tell you I live with my favorite human, and our lively and ever comical Weimaraner, Jezebel. I love cats, I really do, but I love my husband more. And he believes, mistakenly, that cats belong outside. (R: Well, I guess I’ll forgive him, merow!)

R: Tell us about your latest release, STRIPPED BARE.
Kate Fox thinks she’s got her life all figured out. She gets to live on and run a ranch she loves and settle into married bliss. But a phone call shatters her world. Her husband, the sheriff, has been shot, a local rancher killed, and her ward has jumped the fence and bolted. It gets worse when she discovers her husband’s affair. Despite wanting him to rot in jail, when he’s accused of the murder, she’s got compelling reasons for proving he isn’t the killer.

Filled with Kate’s boisterous and interfering family, quirky rural characters, and set in the cattle country of Nebraska, STRIPPED BARE has been called Longmire meets Fargo.

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?
Agents searches—ugh. I’ve been writing a really long time. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many agent queries I’ve sent out over the years. I was lucky enough to meet an editor at the Colorado Gold conference in Denver. (One of the best writers cons in the country!) After getting to know each other, I sent her my manuscript and she bought it! That was the Nora Abbott series, and I published three books with Midnight Ink (Tainted Mountain 2013, Broken Trust 2014, Tattered Legacy 2015). But when I wrote the first Kate Fox book, I girded my loins and once again, entered the agent fray.

I created a spreadsheet from the deals listings in the Sisters in Crime newsletter, going back for two years. This list only included the mystery genre and only those deals reported in Publisher’s Weekly, but it gave me a good place to start. I noted how often the agent sold and to whom. From that, I compiled a priority list and started sending out queries in batches of fives. One agent recommended me to someone else. That agent read it, was interested, but eventually passed. After ten queries, I noted a trend in responses and did some tweaking to my manuscript.

Then, that recommended agent called me. She said she couldn’t get the story out of her mind and if I made a few changes, she’d like another look. I’d already made those changes, she liked it, and within a month, STRIPPED BARE was sold at auction, with 3 of the Big 5 making offers.

That’s more than you wanted to know, I’m sure. But my point is: It might take a lot of time and effort, but if you keep going forward and working on craft and knowledge of the business, the stars might align and things can work out.

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
My laptop, I guess. And even then, if that’s not available, a notebook and pen. I can write anywhere. It’s a matter of making myself sit down and do it. I’m pretty disciplined and quite a plodder, so, for me, working a word count every day is effective.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I’m pretty happy with now. I’m such a realist that I think of all the modern conveniences I enjoy--dishwashers, daily showers, toothpaste, washers and driers—that I don’t think I want to go back, even as far as my parents’ and grandparents’ eras. Grandma had to have a “girl” help her out several hours a day, just so she could get all the cleaning, laundry, cooking, and caretaking done. When would I write and read if I had to spend all my time doing that?

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?
I’d definitely want STRIPPED BARE. Not sure who to play Kate but maybe Kate Mara. I think she’s so cute and can be tough but vulnerable.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I don’t know how surprising it is, but I’m training for my first ½ marathon. I’ll be nearly 57 when I run it and I’m scared and excited at the same time. Oh, I guess something that surprised my daughters, is the tattoo I got on my ankle. It’s a tome with a dagger plunged into it, with blood dripping down. I love it!

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 
Okay, let’s just pick the most recent. My husband and I hiked down the Grand Canyon on Christmas Eve, camped at the bottom, and hiked out Christmas Day. I love the Grand Canyon and this trip was as amazing as other times we’ve gone. But this time, it snowed at the top, rained at the bottom, and we ended up having to climb into our tent at supper time and stay there until morning.

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I want to take readers on a ride. Pull them from their easy chairs, or propped on their pillows, and take them to a different place. Make them see new things, get their hearts pumping, wonder what’s going to happen next, experience the place and feel like they’ve met some interesting and fun people. I want to entertain.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m an all-out plotter. I used to plot on an Excel spreadsheet. Now I use Scrivener. And note cards on a corkboard. I don’t plot in as much detail as I used to, because I know I’ll have better ideas as I go along. But I generally have plot points set out and write to those and away from them.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website, Shannon-Baker.com  If you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free short story. Signing up is pretty painless. I only send out newsletters three or four times a year. Jezebel writes them and she always includes a cocktail recipe.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

My best advice, after Write Every Day or as often as you can, is to understand that writing is a long game. I only know of one writer who sold her first book. I believe that old adage that it takes one million words written before a writer learns how to write. An addendum to that is to not work on one book too long. (I don’t know how long that is.) At some point, let it go, quit revising, and move on to something new.



Just for Fun:
Night or Day?   Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  *cringe* Jezebel
Beach or Pool?   Beach
Steak or salad?  Steak
Favorite Drink?  Old Fashioned (today, tomorrow might be a great IPA)
Favorite Book?  (2016) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Favorite TV Series?  Deadwood
Favorite Movie? Gone With The Wind
Favorite Actor: Clark Gable
Favorite Actress: Merle Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Bourbon
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii