Interview with Carolyn Haines
How many books have you published?
I haven't counted in a while, but more than 70 in a number of genres from general fiction, nonfiction, short fiction, mysteries, horror, romantic mysteries to crime novels.
Under what names do you publish?
When I first started publishing, it was in romantic mysteries. I used Caroline Burnes as my name. As those titles are returned to me, I will re-release them under my name. I'm working to move all of my books under one name. When I started publishing general fiction and mysteries, I used my legal name, Carolyn Haines. And when I published some darker, supernatural books, I used R.B. Chesterton. My thoughts were that the different names would signal to the readers that it was a different kind of story. I just don't think that's necessary now. So in the future, you'll see Carolyn Haines.
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?
Each day is different for me because I also run an animal refuge, Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 non-profit. I have about 20 animals--cats, dogs, and horses. So their needs come first. Veterinarian appointments, walks, whatever. And a lot of that depends on the season. When it's cold, I love writing in the mornings (after I feed) and wait for the day to warm. In the summer I write in the middle of the day when we all want to be inside with the air conditioner. I write 3 different series each year, so I have set a word limit to make sure I meet my deadlines. I'm very goal oriented so that works well for me. When I meet my goal, I can relax and play. Otherwise I think I would work all the time--and my health would suffer.
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I have finally yielded to the need to plot. Mysteries require a complex plot. To lay the clues and red herrings successfully requires an understanding of exactly where the book is going and who the villain is. But a synopsis is always subject to change if a character reveals something I didn't expect. I look at a synopsis or outline as the architectural plans for a house. You need that. But if the topography offers a different option, then you can change those plans so the house fits the land. But to just build a room and then start adding on is not the way to build a house--for me. Writers have to find the way that works best for them.
How do you promote your books?
I try to make myself as accessible to my readers as I can. I've made some excellent friends on FB, Twitter, etc., through my characters. I also belong to a promotional group called Writer Space, which has a long reach to readers. My assistant, Priya, runs contests and giveaways and keeps my website fresh and up-to-day (because I am a noodle head about technology). I speak at conferences and book clubs and libraries and gatherings when I can. But I honestly think that writing my stories is the best way to promote my books. If people feel I give them quality reading for the money they spend, they will return and buy the next book. I try to offer consistency, though Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries have a comedic element and the Pluto's Snitch mysteries are historical with a paranormal element. And soon, Trouble, the black cat detective, will be available--a whimsical mystery with a bit of romance. What I aim for is consistency of character development and a good plot.
Who is your favorite author?
I have a lot of favorite authors. A ton of them. I think James Lee Burke is one of the finest writers working today. His use of language is exquisite. But there are writers I admire for their plotting, their character development, their use of setting. So I can't really name one favorite.
Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I'm left handed so I only use a computer. I can't read my own writing after an hour. And it also hurts to write long-hand for any amount of time. I started writing on a Smith Corona portable electric typewriter, then an IBM Selectric. When I got my first Radio Shack Tandy computer, I was in heaven. I love word processing systems. Now the rest of the technology is beyond my ken, as my grandmother would say. But I love that computer for writing.
You can find a review of Hallowed Bones here