A recent interview
When did you realize you wanted to write?
People probably think a writer pops out of the womb with a big “W” imprinted on her forehead, and the smell of ink on her baby-breath. Not always true. The first sixty years of my life were spent avoiding reading and writing, probably because I hated school so much, which was probably because I was an introverted dyslectic child. The only exception to the “no-read-no-write” rule was the Nancy Drew series and letters to Mom.
Decades later, thanks to modern technology and spell-check, I am able to appreciate the joys and frustrations of writing. I happened onto writing when my long-time mural painting career suddenly and unexpectedly ended. I had painted my whole life. I thought, dreamed and lived to paint. I felt lost without a brush in my hand and needed a way to express myself. It just happened that my dusty computer was feeling alone and under-used. I settled into my roll-around chair and never looked back. I had discovered a universal truth. Writing is just like painting but without the mess.
Did you originally want to write cozy mysteries or did you try other types of writing as well?
My first timid crack at writing was a series of children’s stories written for my grandchildren. Twenty-seven stories later, I longed to write a real book. Nancy Drew came to mind. She had made a permanent mark on my impressionable little twelve-year-old brain. I took a few college courses in creative writing, and somewhere along the way I had an epiphany. If I wrote a page a day I would have a 350-page book in a year’s time. Secure the Ranch was born nine months later with 410 pages. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had written my first “cozy” mystery because I hate ugly language and blood. I create a clean murder and emphasize the shenanigans, adventure and character interaction that go with every mystery.
What inspires you to write? Are there places or jobs have made an impact on your writing?
My previous life of painting murals inspires my new life of writing about a gal who paints murals and solves mysteries on the side. I gave Josephine my red truck and my best brushes. She can handle the work because she’s younger, stronger and smarter than I. I didn’t want my protagonist to be exactly like me, so I left out husband, children, grandchildren, gardening and gophers. I write in first person which allows me to control Josephine’s brain and her craving for donuts.
What is your writing process like?
My writing style is “by the seat of my pajama pants” style. I’m retired so I write when I can find the time—between 10 grandchildren, husband, dog, friends, garden and gophers. I try to write for an hour or two everyday. I average six days a week. That’s why it takes the better part of a year to write a book, but that’s OK because the ideas come slowly.
How do you get over writer’s block?
Sometimes new ideas refuse to come at all. I tell myself to relax, clear my brain, kind of like meditation. Unfortunately, the best ideas come to mind while I’m in the shower or driving in heavy traffic. Sometimes they come from just sitting at the computer, waiting and waiting. One good idea can lead to many pages of adventure. Writing is the greatest adventure of all because through all the excitement the writer is safe at her desk.
How have your characters developed and grown throughout your series?
Josephine is still making mistakes, pre-judging people and chasing bad guys in the wrong direction, but she has a few things in her favor; her boy friend, her best girlfriend, her very smart dog and luck. I wish I could say that she has evolved, grown, matured. Actually she is a really good person with a few flaws. Without flaws and bad judgment there could be no story. Josephine would figure out the murder mystery on the first page.
Fortunately, her best friend has all her ores in the water. Alicia is bright and uses common sense. Jo’s boyfriend, David is a solid, steady influence. Even the dog is grounded. It’s Josephine and the new people she meets who keep us entertained.
What does it feel like to finish a novel?
When I finally finish a book, which I have done seven times at this point, I feel like I just kicked the ball over the goal post in front of 50,000 people. But the feeling only lasts a week or two and then I’m driven to start writing all over again. It’s like a box of chocolate—can’t stop at just one.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?
Once you decide to be a writer, but your heart and time into it. Write between classes, on your lunch hour, soaking in the tub. Think about your story and characters in the shower and driving in traffic. You won’t even remember the drive. It’s one thing to talk about being a writer, it’s another thing to jump into the muddy trenches and work your computer into a frenzy.
Do you have any plans/ideas for your next novel?
I am between books this week. #7 is finished and #8 has not revealed itself.
How do you try to connect with your readers?
I am taking a break from writing because it’s the book selling season. I have several book signings lined up—lots of people to meet, lots to talk about.
What would you say is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing is?
Writing has a tendency to put the writer into the spotlight. I had avoided such things my whole life, now I embrace the opportunity to meet people. There is no sweeter sound than a fan saying, “I loved your last book.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your novel(s) or anything else you’d like readers to know?
I want to give a big thank you to my publisher, Cozy Cat Press.
All seven books in my Josephine Stuart Mystery Series are available at Amazon and Kindle.