With a new book out this year, I thought I had better update my author photo. In the last one, my hair hadn’t turned gray yet and I was wearing heels and a skirt. That was Detroit Cindy, this is St Pete me. We’re enjoying our new home while it snows in Michigan. We still live there too, but it is currently being guarded by several motorcycle gang members, dear friends of ours.
Other than making delightful new friends, we are enjoying Al’s retirement, which I am writing about in the “Retirement Diaries” category on the blog. The short version: all is bliss. I sent in my latest manuscript the same week Al retired so we could take beach walks and watch sunsets for two or three months before edits begin. I wanted to see how our rhythm went and if I’d be able to write the new series that’s spinning itself in my head. Good news! Golf, NASCAR and the gym keep Al amused while I write.
My editor assures me I will have her critique in late March. If things go as usual, that means a fall release date! I’m super excited as I had no new book out in 2019. Crime novels require more time due to the murders, police procedures and FBI agent protocol. I got to interview a former agent for this book, so that’s exciting!
Jane in St. Pete follows the misadventures of former art lecturer and recent widow Jane as she quits her job, moves from Detroit to Florida, and meets an artist she admires. When he is murdered, her new neighbor, a charming reformed criminal, also from Detroit, becomes a suspect. Jane vows to prove his innocence.
So that’s the book, and the story of my life right now. Below I share my interview about all sorts of things with my pal Nicci, who also writes for The Wild Rose Press.
What is your favorite project that you have completed? Why?
That has to be the three books in three months project I did in 2015. I had a new book coming out (Love and Death in Blue Lake), a print version finally of my first novel, only an e-book for so long (Sister Issues), and Amazon Encore re-issued the first in my Blue Lake series (Blue Heaven). I called in Woodward Press to help me get organized and having a team put together a publicity strategy was the most fun ever of my writing life.
If you had to pick one book to read while you were stranded for a long time on a desert island, what would it be?
I’d choose something fictional, contemporary, long and complicated with a woman protagonist and a genius female author that I haven’t yet read.
What do you do when you get stuck with a story or article to get unstuck about the story or article and going all the way to the end?
I’m a pretty organic writer, I just put pen to paper and the story flows. If it doesn’t, I read over what I’ve got so far, and deliberately plan out what needs to happen next, paying attention to character arc and conflict. I brainstorm scene ideas to get me where I need to go. With crime novels, I make sure to write the shadow book early on, the book of the criminal and what is happening before, during, and after the crime is committed. The reader will never see this shadow story, not in full, but I need to know it before I can get too far. Everything fits together much better after the shadow story is in place. Also, I can plant false clues and things.
Do you ever write with pen and paper? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you like more about writing on the computer or about writing longhand?
I write morning pages in a spiral notebook every morning. It’s not necessarily about the work in progress, but just venting about everything going on with me, like a diary. I love my time with my tea and notebook curled up in a cozy chair.
Who is your favorite character in literature?
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice). I am totally looking forward to Curtis Sittenfeld’s update (Eligible). *Later: Eligible was divine!
Do you believe in “muses” or inspiration? If so, how do you cultivate the inspiration?
My inspiration is my life. It’s been crazy, like a lot of other people’s lives. But, I am not a memoirist, so I twist the truth of my life into new fictional shapes. Early inspirations were other writers, from Jane Austen to Jennifer Crusie.
What made you want to write?
I started with diaries as a young girl; it just sort of happened. I always loved to read though, which I think was a big influence. But really, back to the muses, I do think the goddess put her hand upon me (to paraphrase Barbara Samuel) when I was born and said “you will be a writer.” I’ve just always done it and can’t imagine ever stopping.
Do you prefer reading or writing fiction or nonfiction? Why?
I read a fair amount of non-fiction. I’m a fan of memoir and popular psychology of the self-help sort. But for sure prefer writing fiction. There’s a reason for this. I have had a troubled life–probably up to about age 30 things were not very smooth for me. There were some bright notes–my kids! Meeting my husband, Al! Until Al, life was not an easy go. I have often wanted to write about the things that have happened to me but I always come back to the people I love. I can’t hurt them by telling those stories. Most of my loved ones (except for my husband) have no idea of what I’ve gone through, and I don’t want them to know. I’ve written about some of my early trauma here on the blog, but mostly I’ve fictionalized my life. I like the challenge of starting with the seed of something real and developing it into something that is so far from my life but that still has that essential idea of a woman struggling against forces that would take her down.
What book, author (including blogger and journalist) has most influenced or inspired you?
So many. I’ve mentioned Jane Austen and Jennifer Cruise and Barbara Samuel, but also Geneen Roth and Sara Lewis, Alice Hoffman and Erica Jong. I adore Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and Anne Tyler. Marianne Williamson. Lorrie Moore. My favorite blogger is the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. She writes memoirs, too.
What would be your favorite place to write if you could write anywhere in the world?
I like writing at home, so I’d have to have a home with a comfy chair and lovely desk and shelves of books in an office that looks out to the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico in a spot on the map where snow doesn’t go. I may get there yet.