ROBERTA: Following up on our Monday theme of best advice ever, we're delighted to have two veteran mystery writers visiting us today. They both have new books launching but they also have a lot of wisdom about this crazy business! Welcome Leann Sweeney and Kate Collins! Kate is the author of the flower shop mysteries, including her upcoming April 5 release, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DANDLELION. And Leann has written the yellow rose mysteries and the cats in trouble mysteries, including THE CAT, THE LADY, AND THE LIAR, also coming out on April 5. Let's begin at the beginning--how do you start a new book? What do you need to know or do before you begin writing?
KATE: Before I begin to outline a plot, I need to know who gets killed and why, and a reason that my sleuth must get involved. Then I figure out which four people in the life of the murder victim would have a reason to want the victim dead. I give them backstories, means, motive and opportunity. The only other thing I need is the dramatic ending. With all that figured out, the outline is much easier to write.
LEANN: I am an outliner. Once I start my narrative synopsis the story begins to flow and I know so much about the characters before I even begin the creative part. I also need a title. Strange, perhaps, but the title is very important to me. It keeps me focused on what this particular story is really about.
ROBERTA: Kate, since you have a long-running, popular series, with more books in the pipeline, I'm wondering how you keep from getting stale in this series? And tell the truth, are you ever sick to death of your own characters?
KATE: What keeps the series alive for me is the relationship that has been developing between my little florist/sleuth, Abby Knight, and the hot hunk who owns the bar down the street, Marco Salvare. Readers have loved seeing them go from that first spark-filled meeting to a growing attraction to a deep love. We're still moving forward with Abby and Marco, with lots of fun to come. So far, I haven't grown sick of my characters. I like watching them grow. What I do get tired of is having such tight deadlines, but I'm working on that issue. I want to love the process, and that can get tough on close deadlines.
ROBERTA: For Leann, I'm wondering what it was like to switch from the yellow rose series to the cats in trouble. And also I'm curious about whether you use your background in psychiatry in your writing, and if so, how?
LEANN: I thought the switch from Yellow Rose Mysteries to Cats in Trouble would be easy. So NOT easy. I had been writing the Yellow Rose Characters for more than a decade, long before I was published, so I knew them so well. Plus, those books are set in real life city that I am very familiar with. Everything in the Cats in Trouble Series had to come from my imagination. And making my two heroines very different was important. It was a whole new writing learning curve! As for the second part of your question, my psychology background is invaluable. I have met so many "characters" and have the college course work behind me that explains much about why people behave the way they do. Yup. Invaluable.
ROBERTA: Now for both of you, where do you think is the best bang for your promotional buck--and for your energy?
KATE: In general, the Internet affords the chance to reach the widest audience. I love to meet with readers at booksignings and at mystery conferences, as well, but since my time is limited, I can “talk” to many more readers through Facebook, Goodreads, and other similar sites.
LEANN: Since I have several chronic illnesses, I rely on things I can do from home. Facebook is my friend as far as connecting to readers, but I also network with other writers. And I have some very amazing writer friends who have gone the extra mile to help me get the word out about my books. I can never thank them enough. Bookmarks, buttons, cute business cards and now stickers with my cat character names are all part of the promotion.
ROBERTA: Thank you both for visiting--we know how busy this time is! Good luck with both of the books. You can read more about Kate and Leann at their websites.
And tomorrow (drum roll please!) we accept entries for our first crime fiction concept contest...see you in the comments...