How many books have you published?
I currently have six published novels, all in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series, beginning with . My most recent release is Lowcountry Bonfire, and the next book in the series, LOWCOUNTRY BOLO, will be released April 10.
How did you become interested in writing?
I’ve loved books my whole life, and I’ve always had what most would call an overactive imagination. I’ve always wanted to write--English was one of my first college majors. (I took the samplers’ approach to education.) But it just wasn’t a feasible career path. Few people get a degree in English, then graduate and immediately earn a living wage publishing novels. Publishing doesn’t typically work that way. Some folks major in journalism, but I wasn’t interested in reporting. I wanted to make things up. So of course I studied computer business systems. I worked my way through various information technology jobs, eventually landing in a related position planning assortments for a chain of ladies apparel stores. By the time the company I worked for closed their doors in 2004, I was in a better position to pursue my dream. I fully committed myself to writing and haven’t looked back.
What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc?
When I’m writing the first draft, I usually write eight or more hours a day, five days a week. Of course I get up occasionally and throw a load of laundry in or grab lunch. Weekends I try to take off for family time. After the first draft is down, I allow myself to incorporate more social media and aspects of the business end of writing into my day.
Under deadline pressure, I write best in a Hampton Inn (no other hotel will work) with absolutely no view of anything remotely interesting and a desk facing a neutral toned wall. I get up in the morning, go down for breakfast (and ask that they make up the room during that time) then go to work. I take a break periodically and pace the hall of whatever floor I’m on to get my steps in and work out plot problems. Sometimes I talk to myself during these strolls. Housekeeping staff, if they’re around, give me concerned looks. For lunch I eat something odd from the hotel shop. I snack on Lindor truffles and nuts. Dinner is whatever someone will deliver, often some variety of Asian food or Pizza. I basically isolate myself in my alternate reality until I’ve birthed a book.
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
The first stage is daydreaming, coming up with a crime. Then I write it out in detail—who did what to who, from the villain’s point of view. Next I outline how my detective will solve the case. The first draft comes next, but every day I read and edit what I wrote the day before, so by the time I’m finished, I’ve already edited it once. Typically I let it rest—step away for a few days, then dive back in with another round of edits. Then I print it out and edit again. Things always look different on paper. Once I’m reasonably happy with it, if time permits, I’ll send it to a beta reader. I comb through her notes for things I missed and make any changes that resonate with me. Then it goes to my editor.
Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Most of the places are real. I chose the Charleston, SC area as my literary landscape because I love it so and visit as often as I can. We lived in Mt. Pleasant for a while, and I rode my bike to Sullivan’s Island most mornings. While the island of Stella Maris, where my protagonist, Liz Talbot lives, is a figment of my imagination, whenever my characters step off the island, the locations and businesses they visit are real. If Liz Talbot eats in a restaurant in Charleston, I have eaten in that restaurant, ordered what she orders, and I liked it very much. There are one or two exceptions to this, cases where I had to make up a business in Charleston, but I try to keep it real so my readers feel like they’re vacationing in the lowcountry.
There are some places I will model stories after, such as a home I used in Lowcountry Bordello. When I first started writing Lowcountry Bordello, I wanted to use a historic home South of Broad in Charleston. I know, because readers write and tell me, that they sometimes drive by places I mention in my books. My cousin lived in a beautiful Charleston single house not far from White Point Gardens. I asked her if her home could “star” as the bordello, and she thought this sounded like great fun. Unfortunately, after the book was written, but before it was published, my cousin sold her home. I had to put an author’s note in the book advising readers not to drive by looking for the floozies. To the best of my knowledge, this particular house has never been a bordello.
While I sometimes use turns of phrase, mannerisms, et cetera, that I pick up from real people, the characters in my novels are completely fictional, with an occasional public figure used fictitiously. Also occasionally, the names of real people are used as a result of them winning a character auction for charity.
Who is your favorite author?
I am such an eclectic reader, and I have many favorite authors. A random few of many are Sue Grafton, Charlaine Harris, Joshilyn Jackson, Lisa Gardner, Carl Hiaasen, Darynda Jones, Dean Koontz, Harlan Coben, and Mary Alice Monroe.
How do you promote your books?
I am very fortunate to have the support of my publisher, Henery Press, and the wisdom and creativity of a local marketing agency in my hometown. We use a combination of contests, digital campaigns, social media, and in-person events. I especially enjoy social media because it allows me to connect with my readers and learn more about them. We are always running fun contests so I encourage anyone who enjoys my books or this genre to follow me on social media and watch for our giveaways and events.