Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Liz Lipperman


As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Liz Lipperman is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Liz is running a contest for a free autographed copy of Murder for the Halibut and will choose the winner from among those who leave a comment!

The photo above is the cover for Liz's January 1st release, Murder for the Halibut, the third book in her Clueless Cook mystery series. In the book, a sports writing job would have been the perfect catch for Jordan McAllister, but in Ranchero, Texas, all she could reel in was the food column. Though she may not know her way around a kitchen, she has no trouble finding herself in a kettle of fish.

Tempted by the offer of a free Caribbean cruise, Jordan accepts a spot as a judge in a week-long big-time cooking competition aboard the Carnation Queen. She just better hope no one finds out that her famous palate is far from refined. But there are bigger fish to fry when arrogant chef Stefano Mancini falls face first into his signature halibut dish during the first event. While evidence suggests that the handsome Italian chef’s death was an accident, Jordan thinks otherwise. But she’ll have to keep her wits about her—and the sea sickness pills handy—if she’s going to solve this one.

Sounds like a fun mystery to me! Below are Liz's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

First of all, thanks, Beth, for having me on your blog today. Now to the questions. I always knew things came out better when I wrote them. I even used to write letters to my high school sweetheart (now hubby) when we’d fight. My career choice was nursing, however, and it wasn’t until I decided to go back to get a Professional Arts degree and took Creative Writing as an elective that I began to think seriously about writing. On the final exam my instructor wrote, “You ought to think about a career in fiction writing.” That did it for me.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I start with names and usually spend a whole day researching for the perfect ones. I love to pick ones that have cool nicknames. Then I write detailed character profiles on every character in the story, and I go from there. Sometimes, I even decide which actress/actor will play them in the movie version!!

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I am a card-carrying plotter. To those who don’t write, this means I have to have it all mapped out before I even write a word as supposed to some of my pantser friends who just sit down at the computer and write. I start with a catchy title and then do profiles on all my characters as well as plot points for the entire book before I ever write one word.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

We all know that mysteries involve action and plot. However, I don’t write police procedurals where the action has to be so detail-oriented. Plus, I thought I was a romance writer for a lot of years and learned how to write great characters (at least I hope I did!) So, to answer your question—mysteries that have both are what I write and love to read. I call them Romantic Mysteries, and I love it when a reader tells me she loves my characters. It just truly makes my day.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

As I mentioned, for a lot of years I chased the romance genre with a stack of rejections to prove it. The very first book I ever wrote was about a nurse who was kidnapped and smuggled into Colombia where she eventually takes up arms with her captors to fight off the Cali Cartel. Can you see why it was rejected by the romance editors?? When I finally found an agent who said she loved the story, I was elated. Of course, she couldn’t sell it, either. It wasn’t until that agent left the agency and I was passed down to my present agent (whom I absolutely adore) that I discovered I was a mystery writer. After reading the story, she looked me in the eye and said, “You know you’re not a romance writer, right?” You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. That’s when I penned my first mystery (a romantic suspense now available on Amazon.) And BTW, that first story about Colombia will go up as a romantic suspense in March.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing? 

I am retired from my day job, so I have no reason not to write every day. However, I find every excuse in the world not to. When I’m on deadline, I have absolutely no dust bunnies anywhere!! I have to be in the mood and sometimes, it just isn’t happening. Plus, I edit everything a million times before I send each chapter to my critique partner. Consequently, I am a pathetically slow writer, but the good news is that when I write “The End,” there are usually very few edits. To answer this question, when I am on deadline, I try to write 25 pages a week. I usually don’t and end up in panic mode before the deadline. I call myself a crisis junkie and like to think I do my best work then.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

You are only NOT a writer when you quit doing it. No matter how many roadblocks you’re running into, keep at it. When I finally sold to Berkley, I signed a three book deal on a proposal. That meant I had three NEW books to write with four already completed ones on my desk. Those are the ones selling now!!

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.
 

My mother had four boys and then said she prayed too hard for a girl and got five in a row. I am next to the baby and my younger sister and I have always been close both in age and size. My older brothers always sent similar Christmas presents to us, and being the devil that I was, I used to unwrap them and choose the one I wanted before wrapping them both up again. My children pay for the sins of their mother since I only put numbers on all the presents to this day because I was so naughty. One year I lost my cheat sheet. That was a fiasco!

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I am now writing the second book in my A Dead Sister Talking series for Midnight Ink. This one will release next year. Currently, I am getting my first Romantic Mystery, Mortal Deception, written as Lizbeth Lipperman, ready to come out in print. This month, Murder for the Halibut, the third cozy in the Clueless Cook series from Berkley came out, and as I mentioned, in March the Colombia story, Shattered Dreams, will release. Then in May, Heard It Through the Grapevine, the first of the series from Midnight Ink debuts, and in October, my fourth cozy titled Chicken Caccia-Killer releases. Sheesh! I’m tired already.

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

Readers can go to my website and read excerpts from all my books as well as to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There’s also a link to email me, and I would encourage people to do that. I love talking about my books.

And I have a question for you readers. What do you like best—the character driven books or the ones with a lot of action? One lucky commenter will received an autographed copy of Murder for the Halibut.

Thanks, Liz! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Good luck in the contest!

46 comments:

MelinaMason said...

Beth that was a great interview. I think it is amusing that Liz only puts numbers on her Christmas gifts, that would be a different approach. Would love to win a copy of this book!

Paula Petty said...

I am not sure that I favor all character-driven or all action-driven. I do like lots of insights into the characters but not so much as to make me want to skip and look for action. However, I don't want to read so much action that I don't know what drives a character to react in a certain way.

Susie R said...

I agree that a combination of Characters and action is best but if I had to choose I would go with character development. At the end of the day I like a series where the characters seem like a group of friends I want to visit on a regular basis.

Margery Scott said...

Great interview, ladies. Liz, I love that you're a card-carrying plotter like me. So many writers are pantsers I often feel odd. Or maybe it has nothing to do with plotting :)

Angela Holland said...

For me I like the character driven mysteries the best. Thank you for the chance to win.

griperang at embarqmail dot com

cchant said...

I think I like a combination of both. I like to have a character I can identify and root for and that's probably the first thing that hooks me when I start reading (that "voice" of the character). But I do prefer books that have action, where something is happening. I tend to read a lot of mystery and suspense for the fast pace and plot twists. :-)

Wendy Newcomb said...

I think I like character driven books as long as there's a good plot to keep me interested.

Thank you for hosting this giveaway.

wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

Alicia said...

Enjoyed the interview and looking forward to reading the book. Hoping I win!

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Melina. We have to quit meeting like this!! You're being smart--checking out all the blogs I'm on today. Fingers crossed.

And my kids don't think it's funny at Christmas!!!
This year I decided to do it the normal way, and my grandsons built forts with all the packages with their name on it. Of course, they were shaken!! So, it's back to numbers next year.

Liz Lipperman said...

Paula, I couldn't agree with you more. I want to know the characters, but I want them doing something--like killing someone or chasing down a killer. Thanks for commenting.

Liz Lipperman said...

You present a strong case for character driven stories, Susie. But don't you like those characters you love to do something to make you smite or to scare you?

Liz Lipperman said...

Margery, I couldn't do it any other way. Another thing I do is write long hand and then dictate it onto the computer with voice recognition software. I do that for two reasons--one, my typing sucks and two, I stare at a blank page on the computer if I don't.


As for the plotting, although I have to have it all laid out in front of me before I start, it NEVER follows the outline exactly. What about yours?

Pauline Frisone said...

You were a stinker as a child. Numbers is a great way to avoid the cheating before Christmas. Thankfully only one child here...Santa doesn't even wrap the presents. Lazy Santa. She is 19 with intellectual disabilities..my daughter, not lazy Santa, and she totally believes in Santa. It is so awesome. She cleans her room without being told just prior to his visit and that of the Easter bunny. Gosh I wish there were holidays every month. I might find all the cups in the house more often. Glad I don't have to do the number system , even though it sounds frustratingly wonderful for the kids. Great interview! Enjoyed your insights!

Liz Lipperman said...

So that's two votes for character driven. I have to ask if you are a mystery only reader. I ask because I always thought mystery readers didn't want all that backstory stuff. Romance readers, OTOH, like all that introspection.

I'm beginning to think a good balance is the perfect way to do it.

Liz Lipperman said...

CC, you've just answered the question from my last comment. Mystery readers do love their fast-paced action.

That said, my personal taste runs with a combination, also.

Liz Lipperman said...

Wendy, thanks for giving us your opinion. Fingers crossed for that free book.

Liz Lipperman said...

Thank, Alicia. I'll cross my fingers for you. I use random.org, so it is truly a random thing. Good luck.

Liz Lipperman said...

Pauline, I'll bet your daughter loves Christmas. And you know what they say about Santa. When you stop believing in him, you get underwear under the tree!! Isn't that so true?

Thanks for sharing bout your daughter.

Beth Groundwater said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments, folks, and keep them coming!

MB said...

I read in a huge variety of genres (as Beth can attest), and I like a balance between the characters and the action. That being said, I do like the occasional novel where the action is so fast I can't catch my breath, or where the characters are so interesting I don't care WHAT they do. :) But I think the balanced book is usually the better read, and better written. Since I was a restaurant reviewer in a former life, I'll have to look for your books now!

Pauline Frisone said...

Hmm that's why her dad gets underwear!

Pauline Frisone said...

I like background on character, it makes story more interesting. Like Wallander, if you didn't know back story he would just be another cop solving a mystery. No ties to his character.

Jeanne said...

I like a combination of character development and action. It helps to understand why they do what they do if you have some backstory.

keizerfire said...

I like learning about the character, but I love the action! Sometimes I find a book just goes on way too much about the character details so that it takes me out of the story, and I find myself skimming. Loved the interview, devious mom!

Jayne... said...

Liz, you and I are kindred writing spirits, as I can find a ZILLION things to do other than write, especially when I "have" to.

Great interview, and the blurb for Murder for the Halibut sounds like a great read. Please enter me in the drawing to win it!

Liz Lipperman said...

MB, I think you hit it on the head. The balanced book definitely gets my vote. And in LIVER LET DIE, my culinary "expert" starts her career with a restaurant critique and ends up shoving foie gras into a purse because she can't make herself taste it. She is the anti-expert, for sure.

Linda R said...

Beth, thanks for a great interview! Liz, I love the character-driven mysteries. Plot is important, of course, but it’s those quirky characters that make solving the mystery so much fun! I was hooked on the Clueless Cook mysteries from the very first one.

Liz Lipperman said...

Pauline, character development is what makes the readers want to know more. The action is what keeps them turning the pages. And tell hubby he'd better start believing or the tighty whities will keep showing up under the tree.

Liz Lipperman said...

Jeanne, you are so right. Thanks for commenting. And good luck with the drawing.

Liz Lipperman said...

keizerfire, I couldn't have said it better. I don't put a lot of descriptions in my books because like you, I skim them when I'm reading.
Sometimes, I go too far and don't have enough, though, and some savvy reviewer will call me out on it. I hate those stories that describe the furniture in every room. who cares?? Shoot someone!!

laura thomas said...

Thanks for having Liz on your blog Beth. Now I've discovered two new authors! My Tbr is going to grow when I add all of these books!Thanks for your invite from Goodreads. I love that place.
I'm a character driven reader. Whether in books or movies. Of course, I like some action along with it, but I'm mainly about the characters and their thoughts.
Lovely cover art and catchy title. I would love to win this book. Thanks so much for the giveaway.

Liz Lipperman said...

Jayne, we are kindred spirits. On an earlier blog, I started a 12 step group. Hello, I'm Liz, and I'm a procrastinator." Wanna join?

Liz Lipperman said...

Ah, Linda, you made me smile!! I love the characters, too. I think I have the most fun writing Victor since he has no filter!!

Thanks for commenting. If you win and already have Halibut, I will give you a choice of any of my books.

Liz Lipperman said...

Laura, yay!! Beth and I both thanks you for giving us a try. We love voracious readers. And I love Goodreads, too, but I have a funny quirk. When I am writing, especially on deadline, I can't read. I get so caught up in someone else's characters that I have a hard time getting back into mine. As an admitted procrastinator, I already struggle with deadlines. So, my TBR pile is stacked high with all the books I can't wait to read.

Pauline Frisone said...

You crack me up! Started reading Halibut! Jordan doesn't take to the water either. Good to know.

mike said...

"I love it when a reader tells me she loves my characters." Don't men read your books or don't we compliment you? I like books with lots of action and great character development. We all know men write the best mysteries: CJ Box, Kent Krueger, Craig Johnson, Beth Groundwater - OK, I admit it: men don't always write the best. ;) ...and I was a good kid!

cmgren said...

Great interview ladies. I enjoyed finding out about your writing process Liz. Do not count me in for the contest as I have a copy of the book. Liz - I am enjoying it very much!!! Glad there will be a fourth in the series.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mike, you have me in stitches. And we women complain all the time about men being sexist!!! I see men reading police procedurals!!! Flog me!!

And I want you to know I have a really good friend who writes romance and uses a woman's pseudonym for this very reason!!

Thanks for the scolding!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Cheryl, glad you are enjoying it. One nice reviewer on Amazon said she thought it was the bet of the three I've written.

Christian Community said...

Character-driven books interest me, but they have to have a reason for their story. A fine mixture of character and action is the perfect solution. Same with television shows. If they are nothing but catching the bad guy, car chases and no insight into the characters, those very same that people the plot, if they are ignored, then I'm bored. Thanks for the interview. Insightful and interesting.

Liz Lipperman said...

And random dot org has spoken. The winner of the copy of MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT is Melina Mason. Melina, if you;re reading this, please send your snail mail address to Liz@Liz Lipperman.com

Thanks, Beth, for having me. I loved spending time with your readers.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for visiting, Liz! Obviously my blog readers loved reading your interview. You can come back anytime. :)

Norma Huss said...

I like books with action--hate it when there's too much filling space, but I really do read for the charactization! I love to follow a character arc, especially through a series of books.

Melissa Sugar said...

Hi, I enjoyed the interview. I am also happy to discover two new authors. You both write the genres, I love to read.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The title of Liz's book is reason enough to read it. Thanks for featuring Liz on your blog, Beth. C4 bmiconsi

Judy Dee said...

I like the combo too, but I have to like the character who's driving or at least relate to him/her.