Saturday, June 26, 2010

Travels with A Mind to Murder

K D: I just returned from a week in France. I can't talk too much about it or I will give away my Other Identity (not that anyone cares) but I was traveling with a group, and it was mostly business.

Kaye: Too bad the business is a secret--I'd like to find one that gave me a week in France. I even have to pay my way to Paris, Texas. But we're glad you're back safely!

K D: My trip made me think about murder mysteries. Of course, everything makes me think about mysteries. Seeing the Eiffel Tower makes me think about the movie Lavender Hill Mob. That's just the kind of person I am.

Kate: So, were you thinking of writing murder mysteries, or of watching movies?

K D: Good question. I didn't spend my whole time thinking about old movies. I mostly thought about groups.

I was a member of a group business trip. There were six of us, and I had met only one of the people before I joined the trip. There's a certain kind of social anxiety in that sort of situation. These people, I don't know them, but I am going to hang out with them nearly 24/7 for a few days. Will they like me? Will they be okay with me? Will I offend someone? Will someone murder someone?

Kaye: Group dynamics are so interesting for a writer to study, aside from the individuals, if you had any interesting ones with you.

K D: Okay, the last question was farfetched. No murderers on this trip. But I wonder about the anxiety that underlies the statement. The anxiety of meeting a group of new people, and feeling you are "in their hands" to some extent. Can you think of a book that brings that feeling forward?

Kaye: I think most of the mysteries I read, even the hard-boiled, and thrillers (a few of those) serve me as entertainment. And, of course, studying my craft. It's non-fiction that gives me anxiety. Especially Ann Rule's true crime books. In fiction, everyone is made up and you can dismiss the really bad things that happen--that's only fiction. But in non-fiction, bad stuff really happens!

OK, back to touring and mysteries. When I was in Greece a few years ago and saw the size of the wooden cask in the place where the monks made wine, I couldn't help but picture a body stuffed inside. Did you come away with any ideas you might someday use?

K D: Not really. If anything, I thought about how small and well-maintained everything in Europe tends to be. We're super-sized in America (cars, hotel rooms, etc) so there are more places to stash a body. However, I did find out that they used to mine iron in Normandy: with mines that had shafts on land and then adits running out under the sea. They had the same kind of technology in Cornwall to mine copper. All this is in Victorian days, more or less.

There are still left-over structures from those days, and that might be something to use in a story.

Kaye: I'm always thinking of a way to write off the expenses. If I could just take a fabulous trip, then get published quickly enough.

K D: It's an interesting question: why do we think this way. Not about expenses, about murder. A group of people...will one be a murderer? Odd structures...a place to stuff a body? I don't think this is the natural way to think.

Kaye: Should we donate our brains to science so they can study them? It might be interesting for someone to see what writerly brains have in common. They can't have mine for a good long time, yet, though. I have to get my mysteries published first!

K D: Amen to that, Kaye! Here's to publication!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writing Friendships

Marilyn: As you know, Kaye, the writing life isn't for the thin-skinned or faint-hearted. We write our hearts out, send our stories to editors and agents, and reap our share of rejections. I think I would have stopped writing years ago if not for the support and care of fellow writers like you and Peg.

Kaye: Yes, I have to admit I had always heard how supportive writers, and especially mystery writers, are of each other, but I was skeptical. Oh sure. Like another writer will help someone who will end up stealing readers from her. Or him.

Marilyn: Except now you know otherwise. [grin] We're in a small group of writers, and we're very supportive on one another. Even when we're vying for the same agent's attention.

Kaye: Since getting to know many other writers (including you and Peg and KD!), I have been so pleasantly surprised at how much support there is for new writers and writers who are trying to break in. Mystery writers are the most generous people you can imagine. The theory is, I think, that there are enough readers to go around. Just because someone buys Writer A's book does not mean they won't buy Writer B's. The more mysteries the better!

I received support very early on from a multi-published writer, Valerie Wolzien, who had no idea who I was, except that I knew her nephew--and that I was a mystery writer.

Marilyn: And I had the good fortune to take a writing course with Roberta Gellis many years ago. We became close friends. I still run the plot of my story by her whenever I start a new novel.

Kaye: Now that we've found Sisters in Crime and the Guppies, we have a friendly, comfy support net. But, still, writers that I meet at conferences and through other people, writers who have been published for ages, are always generous and supportive. Just the fact that they go to conferences and share their knowledge and wisdom on panels is a sign of their generosity.

One thing we must remember to do, Marilyn, when we're multi-published in mystery, is to be as kind and nurturing as everyone has been to us.

Marilyn: Absolutely! As a result of meeting so many Sisters at Malice, I've decided to start a Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. I only hope it takes off.

Kaye: I think you're already doing your part to nurture new writers, Marilyn. I wish your new chapter all the best!

Note: Photo is of Kaye and Marilyn, taken at Malice Domestic in May

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Interview With Author Gayle Trent aka Amanda Lee

Today we are pleased to bring you an interview with best-selling writer Gayle Trent. She is the author of the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Series published by Bell Bridge Books and the soon to be released “Quick and the Thread” written as Amanda Lee.

Tell us about your new book coming out. Is it part of a series?

It is the first book in a new series. The Quick and The Thread is coming out on August 3, 2010; and the second book in the series, Stitch Me Deadly, is scheduled to be released in January of 2011.

The new book takes place in Oregon, but you live in Virginia. What
prompted you to use Oregon for your setting?

The editor actually requested that the book be set on the Oregon Coast. Even though I've never been to Oregon, I jumped at the chance to write the series. It took quite a bit of research, but I had a lot of fun learning about Oregon.

The trailers on your site ( are great fun. Did you help make them?

Thank you! I did make the trailers for The Quick and The Thread and Dead Pan. The incomparable Deborah Smith made the trailer for Murder Takes the Cake.

I notice you’re using the pen name Amanda Lee for the new series. Why choose a pen name instead of your own?

Once again, that was at the editor's request. It has its pros and cons. While I'd prefer to have the one identity (Gayle Trent), it's also kind of liberating to have an "alter ego" to hide behind. :)

I understand your earlier series was published by a small publisher, Bell Bridge Books. Can you tell us about that experience?

That was a wonderful experience. Both Debra Dixon and Deborah Smith are fantastic to work with. Both are writers themselves (Deborah Smith refers to herself as a recovering NY Times Bestselling Author!), so they have a special empathy for their authors.

How did you feel when you got the call from Robert Gottlieb wanting to be your agent?

At first, I thought it was a scam. In fact, I called his office to alert them that somebody was sending out e-mails using Robert's name! LOL! When I spoke with the secretary, I said, "I'm thinking this probably isn't legitimate, but I received an e-mail from Mr. Gottlieb telling me he is interested in representing me." But when I told her my name, the title of my book and that it had been having some success on Kindle, she confirmed that he did indeed want to talk with me. It was thrilling. A little scary, but in a good way!

Has publishing with a bigger press been a different sort of experience?

Yes, it has been. At times, the entire process can be a little overwhelming. With small presses, you write the book, you work on edits and then you wait for the final product. With larger publishers, you're thinking about book three even while marketing book one and writing book two. You have periods of silence followed by a flurry of activity. I'm becoming adept at time management. :)

Will you continue to publish your first series with Bell Bridge?

Simon and Schuster has bought the rights to the upcoming book Killer Sweet Tooth and to Murder Takes the Cake. Bell Bridge will still be selling Dead Pan and the e-book version of Murder Takes the Cake.

Would you advise new writers to consider small presses?

Definitely, especially if you can write for a terrific company like Bell Bridge. I think small presses give authors the opportunity to grow and learn. Then if the larger publishers come calling, they'll be better prepared. If the larger publishers don't come calling, they'll still have a wonderful venue for their work. It's a win-win.

Anything you want to add?

I'd just like to mention that I'm having a contest during the month of June in which anyone who pre-orders The Quick and the Thread will be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Details are available at

Thank you so much for inviting me to meet your readers!