Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Interview with Donna Huston Murray
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new release is For Better or Worse, “a cozy mystery with a difference.” It’s the 8th Ginger Barnes Main Line Mystery, and men have suddenly become an issue for Gin—men who mistreat their wives, men suspected of murder, and men who ask her out. The “difference” is some potentially helpful information for women with bad-tempered, controlling partners.
I also have two books featuring young, ex-cop and cancer survivor Lauren Beck, and I’m happy to report that her debut, What Doesn't Kill You, received an Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest. There is also an earlier traditional mystery called Dying for a Vacation.
How did you become interested in writing?
I started reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series when I was ten and decided writing mysteries must be fun. Turns out it actually is.
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?
I write throughout the day, interrupted by everyday things like laundry and walking the dog. When I get back to the computer, whatever is on the screen looks fresh, so I’m able to tune it up a little more easily. Recently I’ve taken the advice of independent publishing experts and concentrated on giving my new release good exposure, largely because I feel very strongly about one of the topics the plot allowed me to explore. What I learned about spousal abuse and was able to slip into For Better or Worse may actually help someone.
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
When I attempted my first novel, I got to page 50 and couldn’t remember what I’d done with the gun. That told me I should probably plot in advance. Also, mysteries have to be absolutely logical, so planning ahead helps with that. My method, not necessarily unique, is to put whatever I know has to happen on 3 x 5 cards. When there are enough of those, I arrange—and rearrange—them on the living room floor, fill in where necessary, and make sure the tension goes up and down in a wave. Too much tension without a break makes a reader shut the book and not come back—even thrillers give you a breather now and then. Next comes paragraphs on the computer, which I divide into chapters. I don’t have to worry about facing a blank page, because I already know where the story is going. Of course, “pantsers” who don’t plot in advance like to surprise themselves and their readers. It’s whatever works for each author.
Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Whenever I meet somebody new, I love to ask what his or her interests are. Learning what a person is passionate about is my shortcut to discovering their individuality. It’s also my way of collecting characters. That said, I never describe anybody I know in my books. Except for Ginger Barnes, who is very much like me, my characters are inventions of my imagination who just happen to have characteristics that serve the plot.
Who is your favorite author?
Rex Stout and Gregory McDonald were early influencers. In other words, I aspired to combine my own humor with a solid mystery the way I saw them do it. For pleasure, I read Lee Child and Harlan Coben because I don’t write anything like them and I’m not tempted to edit them in my head.
How do you promote your books?
Online almost entirely. I’ve run promotions to build my email list, and I also offer a free book to new subscribers. I have a website, an author’s page on Facebook and Goodreads, a twitter following that I supplement with askDavid tweets, a LinkedIn profile, and because I love taking pictures, Instagram. I’m working on getting BookBub and Amazon followers. I’ve also entered contests and feel that receiving an Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest helped get my work noticed. Good reviews help with that, too. I put For Better or Worse on NetGalley and LibraryThing, and did a professional press release that I’ement. You try everything because you don’t know what will work from book to book. It’s the m told was quite widely viewed because it related to the current women’s movnature of the business these days, I’m afraid. Luckily, business is also an interest of mine, a distant second to writing, but it’s essential in today’s publishing climate.
For a review of For Better or Worse, click here.