Meow! My guest this weekend is Linda S. Reilly!
Raised in a sleepy town in the Berkshires, Linda Reilly spent the bulk of her career in the field of real estate closings and title examination. It wasn’t until 1995 that her first short mystery, Out of Luck, was accepted for publication by a national women’s magazine. Since then she’s had over forty short stories published, including a sprinkling of romances. Fillet of Murder is the first mystery in the Deep Fried series.
Welcome Linda! Tell us a little about your background – what got you interested in writing as a career?
I’ve loved writing since I was a little girl, but never thought I could actually get published. I remember having fantasies that I was asked to write a Nancy Drew book after the real author died. Fast forward to1995, when I decided to try to write a “mini-mystery” for Woman’s World. If I could just get one story published, I figured I could die happy. The first two stories were rejected, but then the third time was the charm. After that, I knew I would never give up writing, even if I never got another word published.
Tell us about your new series – the Deep Fried Mysteries – what inspired that?
Actually, my agent did -- it was her original concept. I wrote a synopsis and the first three chapters of book one, and was thrilled when I learned the project was accepted by Berkley.
Does the character of Talia resemble you at all? Are you a fan of fried foods?
Physically, Talia is younger, skinnier, and blonder than I am, and also a lot more courageous. I’d faint if I encountered a killer. I can’t even tell you what I’d do if I stumbled onto a body. I do love fried foods, but I found out that it’s not that easy to make them at home. That’s what restaurants are for!
You also write the Apple Mariani series. Tell us how that came about.
Mariani is actually a family name – the maiden name of my great-grandmother Filomena Mariani. Apple’s real name is Apollonia, after the character from The Godfather who married Michael Corleone. The series came about when I decided that my own job as a paralegal/title examiner might make a good profession for a cozy protagonist. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was enough of a “hook,” but I was thrilled when it was accepted for publication.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I lie in bed at night thinking about these people, and when I wake up I’m still thinking about them. I prepare character sketches, but most of it stays in my head. I love getting to know secondary characters as they pop into the story.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I definitely have to start with some form of synopsis so that I know where I’m headed. If I didn’t have that basic plot line, it would be like trying to drive my car to the mall with a dry gas tank. I do, however, revise it as I go along and find ways to make it better.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
They are both so critical, but in a cozy I think the characters rule. It’s those quirky, crazy, nutty characters that cozy readers love. But the main character has to solve a murder or two in each book, and to do that she needs a plot. So it’s a juggling act.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Trying to balance writing deadlines with my day job. I am pleased to report that by the eve of this year’s Thanksgiving, I will be officially retired from my day job and my life will be my own. I stay motivated by communicating with fellow writers and also with readers. I’ve learned that the cozy community is wonderfully supportive.
Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Actually, it was another Berkley writer, the fabulous Jen Stanley, who was kind enough to tell her agent that I was interested in writing a culinary cozy. A few months later, Jessica Faust contacted me. She had read a portion of my first cozy, and offered representation. I floated on puffs of air that day.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am working on finishing book three in the Deep Fried series. My future plans are not yet gelled, but I would love to continue the Deep Fried books after the third one (fingers crossed).
What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I’m a morning person, so I write mostly in the mornings. Weekday mornings give me limited time, but on weekends I’m a writing machine. I’m not really an outdoorsy type, so I’m happy staying inside and pounding away at the keyboard. It’s hard to estimate the hours, though. It varies too much.
If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
I’d take my favorite suspense novel, Rebecca, and re-read it. Also, the complete works of Poe and a thesaurus.
What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Don’t give up, and don’t stop learning. I’ve taken so many terrific on line writing classes, and I don’t think any of them cost more than $60. Most were far less. Even now, I still take classes. I truly enjoy them and I still keep learning. Also . . . read lots of the types of books you want to write.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
A few decades ago I bought an old car, a 1959 Oldsmobile about a hundred feet long. Totally gorgeous, but I had no idea how to take care of it. Ultimately the brakes failed and I sold it. But while it lasted, it was a fun blast from the past.
What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you? That I have, quite literally, only drunk one sip of beer in my entire life. When I was about twelve, my grandfather let me sip the foam from his beer. I thought it was the most awful thing I ever tasted, and I never touched it again. Even now, the smell is a turnoff.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Oh heck, how about a fluff question: what’s your favorite band? Answer: The Beatles.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
The best place would be my web site: www.lindasreilly.com. But be forewarned, my life story is a bit of a snooze fest.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Day. I’m definitely a morning person.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Love dogs. ADORE cats. I regret that I can’t have either because of health issues in my household.
Beach or Pool? Beach. I might see a bug in a pool.
Steak or salad? Steak. As long as it’s ground into a cheeseburger dripping with melted cheddar. (Salad? Are you kidding me?)
Favorite Drink? Coffee
Favorite Book? Rebecca
Favorite TV Series? Monk
Favorite Movie? The Godfather
Favorite Actor: Tony Shalhoub
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Both would give me a headache. How about a touch of chardonnay?
Hawaii or Alaska? I’ve never been to either, but I know Hawaii has gorgeous beaches. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to see the frozen tundra.
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’d have a pen and a lined pad at the ready, and I’d ask him a thousand questions about the mysteries of the cosmos.
If I had just one wish, it would be: A cessation of violence in the world; for people to be kinder to each other and to animals, and accept others as they are.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: No one. I believe we are all put on this planet for a reason, and we have to fulfill our own destinies.
Linda will giveaway a signed copy of Fillet of Murder, and a Deep Fried Mysteries embroidered tote bag (see photo). 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)
* 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 31!