This prolific writer has three series of mysteries and I love them all. But, my favorite is the Cork County (Ireland) mysteries. Her Orchard ‘who done it’ series is also a fav. So I am always happy to snag an author that I buy and read and enjoy! This is an exceptional interview, funny and fascinating so read on; you won’t be disappointed!
Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.
A. I moved into a Victorian house over ten years ago, when my husband and I fell in love with it. When I first toured it (what I could see of it—the people we bought it from were serious antiques hoarders!), I saw an open landing at the top of the stairs, with a window overlooking the street, and I said, “that’s where I’ll write.” I can watch for delivery men at the front door, and I can hear anything that happens in the house (usually involving the cats).
I write at a vintage knee-hole desk that my mother bought for my father, which works surprisingly well with a laptop. There’s a very messy 3’x5’ cork-board that hangs in front of it, where I collect inspirational pictures and things I can’t lose, like appointment reminders. And there’s a calendar at eye level—it’s too easy to forget what day it is!
My dream space? An entire room devoted to books—mine are already stacked three deep on my wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)
A. (Wait until I stop laughing at the “neat” part.) Coffee, definitely. I do almost everything on the laptop, but I do like to write notes to myself and plot on regular lined paper, in pencil. I collect pencils from everywhere I travel—they’re easy to fit in a suitcase. Now I have pencils to go with each series, as well as those that I’m fond of because they bring back memories. The problem is, I hate to use them up!
Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
A. I worked in a department store in London the summer after college, and sold Ingrid Bergman a very ugly silk shirt.
Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?
A. I’m at my computer every morning, including weekends. My brain works best in the morning, so that’s when I get the most creative stuff done. The rest of the day…there are always emails, and Facebook, and I write for three blogs, and, oh, now and then I let myself actually read a book for pleasure. And then there’s all the research.
Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
A. If you find you’re putting off applying your butt to the chair, it usually means something’s not right with your story—plot, characters, setting, point of view, almost anything. Forcing it won’t help because you’ll just get frustrated and bored. Either set it aside and do something else that’s completely unrelated (no, you don’t have to clean the bathroom), or let your mind drift until you figure out what the problem is. Writing should be a happy process for you, not a painful one.
Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing and for how long?
A. For reasons I don’t begin to understand, I usually write a chapter a day, and each chapter averages
about 2,500 words. It’s not as though I set a goal, or say, I must get this many words done—that’s just where they all seem to come out. But having said that, if the muse is yelling in my ear, I just keep going. It’s kind of unpredictable. (But I do thrive on deadlines.)
Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment ?
A. Ireland. While my father’s parents both came from Ireland, I never had a chance to know them. I didn’t even visit the country until 1998. But when I did, it just felt right. After my third trip, I came home and wrote a short sweet romance with an American protagonist and a nice Irish bar owner, but it never sold. I couldn’t let it go, though, so I salvaged the setting and swapped some characters, and threw in a couple of murders, and the County Cork Mysteries were born. It’s still the quiet place I go to in my head when things get crazy in the real world. And I visit whenever I can.
Q. When did you begin to write seriously?
A. I started dabbling when I was between jobs around 2001 (it may sound trite, but 9/11 pushed me into it—if there was something I really wanted to do, what was I waiting for?). Then I stopped for a while when I got what I thought was the ideal job in Boston—which lasted all of six months. But by then I had a great house-sit in a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood out in the suburbs, so I said, what the heck—let’s get serious about this writing thing. I turned out a not so great book, which landed me an equally not so great agent, but at least I was on my way. And I had so much fun with the first one that I couldn’t stop. I think I wrote or began five books in six months while I was there—and some of them ultimately did get published.
Q. How long after that were you published?
A. After dumping that first agent, I started over and landed a much, much better one in 2006, with a three-book for-hire series with Berkley Prime Crime. But I sold them a second series under my own name, the Orchard Mysteries, before the first book in that first series was released.
Q. What makes a writer great?
Don’t miss Part 2 tomorrow, Saturday!
I just reviewed her latest, “An Early Wake“. Check it out.
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