Merow! Today my guest is author Victoria Thompson!
Edgar® Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century
and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her last book, MURDER IN CHELEA, was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her latest, MURDER ON AMSTERDAM AVENUE, is a May 2015 release from Berkley Prime Crime. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook MANY GENRES/ONE CRAFT. A popular speaker, Victoria teaches in the New York City master's program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Seton Hill University Central PA with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.
- Welcome Victoria! Tell us a little about your background
I always wanted to write, and back in the early 1980s I got an idea for a story I thought was a Western. I wrote it and sent it out to all the wrong publishers before I figured out it was actually an Historical Romance set in the Old West. When I finally sent it to the right publisher, it got published in 1985. I published a total of 20 historical romances before getting dropped by my publisher in 1998 when the historical romance market slumped.
- Tell us about your Gaslight Mystery series.. How did that come about?
I spent a year sending my agent proposals that didn’t sell, and one day she called and asked if I’d be interested in writing a mystery series set in turn-of-the-century New York City where the heroine was a midwife. This was a series idea Berkley Prime Crime had and they were looking for a writer. That sounded like great fun, so I wrote a proposal and that was the start of the Gaslight Mysteries.
- The stories for Gaslight are set in New York. Are you a former resident of the Big Apple?
I’ve never lived in New York, but my daughter had just started as a student at NYU when I was offered the opportunity to write the Gaslight Mysteries. She continued to live there for about five years after she graduated, so we visited there a lot. Some parts of NYC are remarkably the same as they were in the 1890s, but many parts have changed drastically, so I find that visiting the city doesn’t really help that much. I rely on my library of research books for the real Old New York.
- Tell us about your latest Gaslight mystery.
The latest Gaslight, Murder on Amsterdam Avenue, has been a long time coming. This is the book in which Frank and Sarah finally get married! I’m not giving anything away, since they’ve been engaged for two books, and my fans are getting anxious, I know! But before they can actually get married, they have a murder to solve. Sarah’s mother gets them involved with this one when she asks Sarah to accompany her on a condolence visit for a family friend who has died mysteriously. In solving the murder, they uncover some dangerous family secrets.
- You also write historical romances. Which do you prefer, romance or mystery and why?
I haven’t written any historical romances since 1998, but all my back titles are now available as eBooks. I enjoyed writing romances, but I don’t miss writing love scenes. Making each one unique and special is extremely difficult. I’d much rather just kill people.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
After seventeen novels in this series, the regular characters are like family to me. Sometimes I think I spend more time with them than with my real family! Each book has a new set of victims and suspects, though, and I enjoy meeting them. I usually start with a list of the suspects, their motives and their secrets. The first interview with each of them is just as much a surprise to me as it is to Frank and Sarah and to my readers. Sometimes I have an idea of what they’re like, but that often proves to be mistaken. I never know what they’re going to say, and they often tell me things I never would have dreamed. So I guess you can say I get to know them as I spend more and more time with them.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
When I wrote Romance, I would plot out the entire book in detail before I ever sat down to write. Now that I’ve got more experience writing mysteries, I don’t plot much before I start to write. I decide who the victim is and who the suspects are. I give them each a motive, an opportunity to have committed the crime, and a secret that will make them look guilty even if they’re innocent. I usually don’t decide who the killer is until at least halfway through the book, which is also around the time I choose the second victim. Sometimes I even change my mind at the very end, if I’ve made it too obvious who the killer is. So I’m a minimal outliner, I guess.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I’m a plot person, because mystery is so dependent on the plot, but it’s almost impossible to separate the two. When someone asks me, “What’s more important, plot or character?” I usually say, “Yes.”
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge I have faced as a writer was getting dumped by my publisher back when I was writing historical romances. I’d published 20 novels, and suddenly no one would even talk to me. I spent a year writing proposals for thrillers and women in jeopardy novels that no one bought. My agent was wonderful during this time. Many agents would have dropped me as a client, but she kept encouraging me and sending out my work. She was finally the one who learned about the opportunity at Berkley Prime Crime that became the Gaslight Series.
I usually say my dwindling bank account motivates me to keep writing, but that isn’t really true. I was writing for a long time when I had no hope of getting anything published. What keeps me writing, really, is the stories that keep bubbling up in my brain. If I don’t write them down, my head will probably explode, so it’s just self-preservation.
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
My current agent was originally my editor for two of my romance novels. I had just hired a new agent when she announced she was leaving Avon to become an agent. Two years later, after a very unhappy experience with my last “new” agent, I finally hired my current agent. And we have lived happily ever after for about 20 years.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m working on the next Gaslight Mystery, Murder in Morningside Heights, which will be published in 2016. I have a second book coming out this year, too, a Christmas book entitled Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue (11/2015). While Frank and Sarah are on their honeymoon, Gino and Maeve solve a murder with help from Sarah’s parents. It’s a hoot! I hope to soon be working on the launch book for a second series as well. This one is set in 1917 New York. The heroine is a con artist and the hero is a lawyer.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I usually sit down at the computer around 9AM and manage to procrastinate for a couple hours by reading Facebook and the news online. Around 11AM, I read over the pages I wrote the previous day. Then I eat lunch and spend the afternoon writing new pages. I quit for the day when I’ve written 10 pages or if it gets to be 8PM and I’m brain dead. I write Monday through Friday and on weekends if I need to.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Deciding to write a novel back in 1982. I had no idea it would ever be published, and I wrote it between 9:00 and 11:00 at night, after my kids went to bed. I wrote it by hand in spiral notebooks, then typed it on a manual, portable typewriter on which the E key was loose. I had to keep pushing it back on. It seems sensible now, after 30 years of being published, but believe me, it was a totally crazy thing to do, and if I’d known how hard it is to get published, I probably never would have tried it.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Probably that I had a full-time day job the entire time I was writing the Gaslight series up until last summer when I finally gave it up. I was a professional fundraiser for a not-for-profit agency. I got a job as a fundraiser back when I lost my historical romance writing gig, and I discovered that I enjoyed it and was good at it, so I kept it. I miss it sometimes, but I do like being able to spend more time writing now.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
The question: Why do you enjoy writing historicals? All the books I’ve published have been historical. I’ve tried writing contemporary novels, but none of them ever clicked. I think I just have a historical voice and sensibility. I’m also fascinated by history. Learning what happened is only part of it. What I adore is finding out why it happened. The most fascinating part, however, is discovering over and over that people never change. People today are still concerned about the same issues people were concerned about 100 years ago. I think I’ve shown that over and over in my Gaslight books.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
You can find out all about me on my website, www.victoriathompson.com, or on my Facebook page, Victoria Thompson, Author. I’m also on Twitter, @gaslightvt.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? . Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Dog. I also love cats, but I’m allergic.
Beach or Pool? Beach. The sound of the waves is like crack to me.
Steak or salad? Steak.
Favorite Drink? Reisling
Favorite Book? Don’t get me started! There are thousands.
Favorite TV Series? Currently, Game of Thrones, although I have several. I love a good drama.
Favorite Movie? Too many to choose
Favorite Actor: You can’t pin me down to one
Favorite Actress: Ditto
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Abraham Lincoln. I’d love to learn how he put his personal pride aside and got people who hated each other to cooperate.
If I had just one wish, it would be: that Americans could learn the joys of reconciliation and learn to work together, regardless of our differences.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Nobody. I love my life the way it is.
Victoria will give away a copy of MURDER ON AMSTERDAM AVENUE to one lucky commenter!
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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 18.