What would you most like your readers to know about you?
That I LOVE them. I’m so amazed that people like my characters well enough to send me fan mail. I met a fan in a local restaurant this week, we just happened to be eating dinner there at the same and a mutual acquaintance called me over. She was excited, but so was I. I’ve taken a lot of grief for the dark side of Crazy Little Thing Called Dead and it was wonderful to hear from someone who enjoyed the story.
Tell us a bit about your latest book?
Crazy Little Thing Called Dead came out October 1, 2012. Bree finds a dead man in the local beauty salon. Turns out he’s an assassin. I can tell you finding an assassin in South Royalton is like finding a penguin in Death Valley. It just doesn’t happen.
Richard Hambecker shows up again and is getting in Bree’s way. Bree is driving him crazy –as usual. I don’t want to spoil the story, but something very dark happens that changes Bree, and she does something quite out of character. It’s all resolved in the end, but there is some unhappiness. I can’t tell you more, but I can tell you that some people are very, very angry with me. It’s one of the perils of being a writer.
Are you one of those writers born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest develop later?
I’ve always written. I was a poet to begin with – had some published and won a contest or two. Then in college I started writing short stories. In my mid-twenties I wrote a novella that was complete crap! I stopped writing for a long while after that.
Then in my early forties I was sitting with my friends discussing novels over tea. Janet Evanovich came up – we all are Stephanie Plum fans. I had the nerve to say that I could write a book like the Plum books. So my friends dared me to do it. I had to write or eat my words. I started writing and haven’t stopped. I have a lot to thank those friends for.
How deeply do you flesh out your characters before writing? How deep a back story do you create for your protagonists?
My protagonists often have quite a lot in common with me, so I don’t do much fleshing out before I start writing. It’s during the process of writing that I begin to learn more about my characters. Bree is pretty well fleshed out now, but every so often I learn something new about her. It’s like having a friend for a really long time. As the years go by you learn more and more about that person and you may never know everything.
For a character I haven’t worked with yet I usually start with one defining characteristic. Like in Glimmer Girls, which is one of the stories I’m working on now, I started knowing that Clara was born with scales. Then I realized her mother had spent her life dragging Clara from talk show to talk show. Those two facts strongly influenced Clara’s character – and her desires. It’s her desire for a normal life that sets the events of her story in motion.
When brainstorming a story idea, do you begin with character or plot?
Character first. Then I may or may not work on plot. Often I write the whole first draft without even thinking about plot. Then later I go in and revise the heck out of it. With the current book I’m trying to balance the two so there isn’t quite as much re-writing after the first draft.
Do you have a minor character you’ve written into one of our stories that you would like to turn into a protagonist for a future book?
I was going to say no, but then I remembered Morris and Dilly. They are characters from Glimmer Girls and I do think they may end up with their own story. They are such interesting people – quite out of the ordinary. I’m very interested in learning more about them, so it’s quite likely they’ll have their own book in the future.
Where do you get your ideas for what you write?
The first Bree MacGowan came to be because I was working in a swanky five star hotel/spa. It’s situated in a remote area of Vermont, and the guests are guaranteed to be safe from reporters and photographers. Part of the allure is the way the hotel is run. There are secret passages and rooms everywhere, so guests rarely see any of the maintenance/housekeeping crew. Those passages and rooms caught my attention and I started thinking about how easy it would be to commit a crime there. Before I knew it Moonlighting in Vermont was being published. (Of course I did write the book in the middle there.) Sometimes a movie or suggestion, or even a mention of what someone else is writing will spark something for me and a story idea will form.
Are you a one genre writer or do you feel you will cross over to others?
So far I’m a two genre writer. The Bree MacGowan stories are romantic suspense. At least that’s what they’ve developed into. Glimmer Girls is light paranormal romance, or perhaps woman’s fiction. I imagine I will write in other genres as well, I like to keep things interesting.
Is there a genre you’d like to attempt to write?
I love Sci Fi, but I’m not sure my current readers would follow me there. It’s a pretty big stretch from where I am now.
How about sharing an excerpt from your book?
Sure! This is the beginning of Crazy Little Thing Called Dead:
I haven’t had a lot of experience with diapers, but I do know that you don’t usually find them taped to dead men’s chests. I’m Bella Bree MacGowan, and while I’m happy to report strange happenings like this in the Royalton Star Weekly, I would have passed on the early morning haircut if I knew I was going to be present at the discovery of the diapered dead dude. But there he was on the floor of my favorite hair salon, Planet Hair.
“What in the world?” Claire, Planet Hair’s owner and stylist extraordinaire, froze midstride in the doorway. I gently pushed past her and realized I should have stayed outside. A middle-aged man in a mismatched suit was face up on the floor. I don’t suppose there are many places dead men look at home, but surrounded by marigold walls and purple trim, it was like finding a corpse on a merry-go-round.
I knelt down and put my fingers to his neck, searching for a pulse. I’d felt skin like this before, cold and kind of… well, dead… and this guy’s heart hadn’t been pumping for a while. His dress shirt wasn’t buttoned all the way up and as much as I didn’t want to look at this guy I couldn’t help but see there was something unusual on his chest. There was a line of grey silver duct tape and under that, a row of line-art duckies. I’d seen ducks like that before—on my cousin’s infant. It was a diaper. I got an instant case of the creeps running up my spine.
I looked up at Claire and shook my head.
“There’s a dead guy in my salon? Shit.” Claire is a tough chick, but finding a body can shake a person up.
“We need to get out of here.” I shooed her out the door and dragged my cell phone from my pocket.
I didn’t dial 911. My best friend’s husband, Tom Maverick, was the Commander of the Vermont State Police Barracks in Bethel, Vermont. I called him directly and let him sort it out. After Tom I called Randy, the photographer we used for the Royalton Star.
“Dead body at Planet Hair. Get over here now.”
God help me, a little shiver of excitement ran through me. If I had anything to do with it, the paper would come out tomorrow morning with a shot of the dead guy on the front page. A scoop for the paper would be excellent. On the other hand, my stomach was starting to clench. Dead bodies had a way of wrecking my life.
Claire and I waited out on the covered sidewalk in the humidity. My leg was jiggling with nervous energy as I willed Randy to get here before the police. I was sweating even though it was only eight-thirty and we were standing in the shade. Claire looked at her watch, glanced back into the salon and then gazed at me with her eyebrows raised.
“You’d better call your clients, this is going to take all day,” I said.
“My appointment book is in there with the dead guy.” Claire frowned.
It was fifteen minutes before two state police cruisers pulled up alongside the building. There were no lights or sirens. This was what I liked about Tom; he kept the fanfare at a minimum. Tom tended to be a low-key kind of guy, for a cop. He extracted himself from the first car and came over to me, while Officer Steve Leftsky and his partner hopped up onto the boardwalk and disappeared into the salon. Tom sat on the top step next to me.
“I should have known you’d be here. We’ve had two bodies in the past five years and you’ve found both of them.”
“Three. You forgot Lily Wallace in California.” Not that I wanted to remember the blood mingling with her hair in the river, but seeing a body fall from one of the tallest bridges in the United States isn’t something you forget in a hurry.
“That’s right. Body number three. You holding together?”
“I’m fine. At least there wasn’t any blood this time. Could have been a natural death for all I know.”
“Yeah. Not likely.”
What has been the hardest part of the writer’s process for you?
Balance and procrastination. Balancing the day job, the kids, the writing, and all the other little things that need to get done in life is difficult. I get very focused on one thing to the detriment of all the others. You’d think with my limited time I’d just jump right in and write at any chance – but I goof off just as much as I can.
Do you have a particular daily writing schedule or process you stick to?
I wish! I used to get up really early in the day to write, but I can’t seem to do that now the kids are older. The TV stays on later, there’s more activity in the house. So now I have to manufacture time to write. I take Monday and Friday as my days off my day job so I have some quite time to work. That works sometimes!
How do you deal with writer’s block?
If I can’t think of what comes next in a book I either did out a writing prompt and use that to start writing, or I just start writing what I think my protagonist would be doing at that moment. Those techniques usually loosen me up and the words start flowing again. At least so far that’s worked. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the future.
Do you have a favorite author?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. There are so many writers who I love to read. One of my current favorites is Jenny Crusie – she is the queen of snark! Also Lani Diane Rich. She writes strong female protagonists. Agatha Christie, PD James, Mary Stewart were all early influences, but there are so many more.
If you could meet one author (dead or alive) who would it be?
Jane Austen. I love her work.
I’ve got two: Don’t Postpone Joy and Life Rewards Action.
What was your biggest obstacle in getting from first draft to publication?
That first draft was so very awful! It took major rewrites!
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The ABC method of writing: Apply Butt to Chair! The only way you get better is by writing.
What’s your next project?
I’m finishing up a Paranormal Romance called Glimmer Girls – about mixed breed Human/Mermaids, and I’ve started on the fourth Bree MacGowan Mystery. I’m excited about both those projects, and my target date for the new Bree book is October first. So I guess I’d better get back to writing it!
Thank you Kate for sharing with us today at Scribbler’s.
Check out Kate at
Blog - www.kategeorge.com
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