Monday, March 21, 2016

Welcome Cathy PIckens to the blog!

Hello, my guest today is author Cathy Pickens!

Cathy Pickens has been, under different names, a lawyer, a business professor, a university provost, a clog-dancing coach, a church organist / choir director, and a typist.
The most profound influences on her life have been her family, her faith, Nancy Drew, and Perry Mason. She grew up in a small town and, forced to move to "big cities" to support herself, first as a lawyer and then as a professor, she found the only way to return to the comfortable familiarity of her childhood was by moving Avery Andrews back home and chronicling her exploits.
  • Welcome Cathy! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO.  I’m a lawyer by training, from South Carolina hill country, spent a long time teaching graduate business students (which I loved).  I recently decided it was time for new adventures – I’ve been teaching business to jail inmates, starting a new business, and (of course) writing.
  • Tell us a bit about your Avery mysteries. Where did the idea come from?
I’ve always loved traditional puzzle mysteries.  I left small-town life for a terrific job in a large city, so I decided it would be fun to write a novel where I could “go home.”  The South is a funny, quirky place; the books are my love letter to a place I adore.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters?
That’s an interesting question.  My editor, Ruth Cavin, said it should be like walking along with someone, having a conversation.  And that’s how it’s always felt to write.  You spend a lot of time with these people, so it seems only right to ask them, “How would you handle this?  How does this make you feel?”
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Ah, the question all writers want the answer to, since I’m sure we secretly suspect that other writers have figured out a way to do it without all the sweat and angst we individually face.  For life in general, I like to plan things, so in setting out to write a book, I talk to myself about what should happen and when.  But that doesn’t mean the result looks anything like an outline.  Instead, it looks like an exuberant mess: a large sheet of art paper full of sticky notes and arrows and jots, accompanied by notebooks full of scribbles about “what if” and “then …”  And, of course, as I write, all that can change.  
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
For me, both are indispensible.  As I get older, my reading tastes seem to be focusing more on character-driven story.  But something’s GOT to happen.  I want to care about them – and it’s hard to care until that first dead body shows up, isn’t it?
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Time … and all the other ways to spend it.  We all are given the same amount of time every day.  The key is how we use it.  Time spent writing means time spent not doing something else.  I can gladly give up time mindlessly socializing or watching TV, but I won’t give up time with my family or close friends.  It’s all a question of balance … or imbalance.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
After Can’t Never Tell (book #5), I decided to send Avery on an extended vacation in order to work on a nonfiction project dear to my heart: a book on how to develop the creative process.  It’s embarrassing to say how long I’ve worked on it, but it’s been important to me to get this right.  I’ve also taken my time and (finally) finished a new crime novel.  We’ll see if my agent or anyone else is pleased with it.  (Send good wishes, please!)  I’ve enjoyed the luxury of taking my time and working on those projects until I was satisfied with them.  I’m in the home stretch with both of them.  (Again, send good wishes!)
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Writing every day is a must.  Life of course intrudes, but any creative endeavor is akin to a physical workout – once you get away from it, it’s that much harder to get cranked back up again.  Ideally, I like to write in the morning.  The afternoon is then spent on other projects or on all the stuff that needs to be done to support the writing (research, correspondence, preparing for speaking engagements, travel arrangements … and trips to the grocery and those ordinary activities that get in the way …).
  • If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Such a tough question! I take an inordinate amount of time picking my books for a week-long trip – and that’s done before I think about packing clothes.  Hmm, the books would have to be long.  The Bible (full of good stories and loads of conflict).  Can I take all of Shakespeare?  I still have some catching up to do there.  And War and Peace.  I’ve been re-reading it lately.  Wow, what a book!
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read.  Everything.  Write.  Every day.  Study the market, which is changing in crazy fast ways.  Enjoy the process. 
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Besides wanting to be a mystery writer … ?
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I was a competitive ballroom dancer.  And that I just got a new Mustang GT.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?) 
I wish they’d ask me over for dinner … I’m having trouble finding time to cook.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Early morning, late night.  I can’t figure out afternoons.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cats and the large dogs who love them.  (R: good answer!)
Beach or Pool?   Mountain stream.
Steak or salad? Steak, always.
Favorite Drink?  Strong, hot black tea.
Favorite Book?  The one I’m looking forward to reading next.
Favorite TV Series?  Perry Mason … and The Big Bang Theory.
Favorite Movie?  Wizard of Oz
Favorite Actor: Alan Rickman (major crush on him)
Favorite Actress: I’m too sad about Alan Rickman’s death to think about this …
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Ice tea
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska—or anywhere else cold and lumpy

Cathy will give away a signed copy of SOUTHERN FRIED 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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

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


  1. Marvelous 'new to me' book! Thanks!
    * Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
    * Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point)
    * Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
    * Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point)
    * Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)

  2. I do wish you all the best,Cathy and maybe I don't get as much writing done because I cook A LOT.Wish you could come for dinner any time!
    So many lawyers turn writers!And one of my lawyer-writer friends is also devastated over Alan Rickman's death.
    I am a FB friend
    I shared
    I follow on Twitter
    I tweeted
    I follow the blog

    1. Tonette, I'm sure family and friends appreciate your cooking -- you'll get the writing in there too! I had to re-watch the last Harry Potter movie this past weekend ... just for those Professor Snape scenes :>)

  3. Yet another informative interview, Rocco.
    We are FB friends and I've linked this to my page.
    I visit regularly
    I don't tweet or have a blog

  4. Great interview! Fascinating about the ballroom dancing, that always looks so impressive.
    +1 GFC follower

    1. I'm almost sorry "Dancing with the Stars" has started another season -- such a commitment! Now, if only my husband found ballroom dancing fascinating ...

  5. I really enjoy this series. Is Avery going to return from her vacation?

    Gollow and facebook

    gibsonbk at hiwaay dot net

    1. I just got news from my agent this week that she likes the new mystery (the one I've been working on longer than I'd like to admit). It's not Avery -- more like if Avery grew up and moved away from her small town. Sounds kinda sad, when I put it that way, but things turn out well for this new character.

  6. Thanks for including this book on your blog. The series is one of my favorite. I do follow your blog, am a friend on facebook but don't tweet. Thanks for a chance to enter your giveaway.

  7. Great interview! I just realized that I read your series years ago! I knew Southern Fried sounded familiar. Finish that NF book. I'd love to see Avery back from her extended vacation. I would rather not be entered for the book and allow someone who hasn't read the series win it.

    1. Forgot to say I'm a Mustang gal! Love the Early ones especially the Shelby GT! My niece is named for it! My brother loved mustangs too. My D restored them as his hobby! So I've driving just very year & model in various condition. Enjoy that pony car!!

  8. Great interview, very informative. Can't wait to read "Southern Fried".
    Following blog, facebook and twitter.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

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