Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Dorothy H. Hayes
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Dorothy H. Hayes is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Dorothy is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release Murder at the P&Z, the cover art for which appears above. Dorothy will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow.
In the book, a local reporter, Carol Rossi, turns amateur sleuth when the secretary to the town planner is murdered. The police suspect that it is a random crime. Rossi, however, suspects that the murder is connected to a real estate project that was approved by the Wilton Planning and Zoning Department. She launches her own investigation and is soon in over her head. She's being stalked and her life is threatened, but she doesn't know why.
"Dorothy Hayes has seduced her readers with a splendidly fast-paced and immensely readable thriller containing a cast of well-drawn characters, particularly her protagonist, Ms. Rossi." —Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com
Sounds like a suspenseful read! Below are Dorothy's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Dorothy, ask it!
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I’ve been writing all my life. When I was a kid, if something important happened, such as our cat had kittens, I had to write it down. But since I didn’t write stories, I didn’t think I was a writer. I professionally started writing as a newspaper reporter. I wanted to learn my craft. I had two unpublished books in my closet by then. I was 47.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
Characters are inspired by real people. My protagonist, however, is usually courageous, smart, sometimes foolhardy, and strong willed. Others are bits and pieces of different personalities. I place them in situations and then I play out their emotional life. I spend my whole book learning about them, what they’ll do or won’t do. I am often as surprised as the reader.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
“By the seat of the pants.” I have a vision and work from there. In this case, it was a giant black spruce tree in my backyard, which I thought someone could hide a body under. A dead woman’s body is found under a black spruce in the second chapter.
The plot is organic. In Murder at the P&Z, I never expected the plot to go in the direction that it did. When the book is finished, I do an outline that encompasses every scene, so I can actually get the whole picture of my own book.
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?
I like the character-driven mystery. Viewing the book through the eyes of the protagonist weaves a web that insulates the reader and the story. The reader is interested in the protagonist’s backstory and his or her inner dialogue. An intriguing plot to be unraveled by the protagonist is the best of all possible worlds.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I spent 12 years on my first book, Animal Instinct, in living the story and then writing it, but couldn’t get a publisher. So I self-published. It was an incredibly satisfying experience. It was so well received. But I had a crisis of faith. I questioned whether I should write another book if I couldn’t get a publisher.
I then realized that I needed to write. Whether anyone was going to read it or not didn’t matter. This time, however, I wrote a mystery because of the genre’s popularity. I thought the chances of getting published would be higher.
6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
When I’m writing a novel, I write as soon as I wake up. It’s the most creative time of the day. I’ll write from four to six hours a day. I realize that it’s best not to wear yourself out because the next day you’ll be exhausted. I fill the rest of the day with reading or writing, the other business of producing a novel, and I always workout. I don’t write on the weekend for balance, and I find I’m inspired come Monday morning. But, there are exceptions, deadlines and desire.
7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Join a group like Sisters In Crime nationally and on a local level. You’ll learn your way around the whole writing and book publishing biz. It will make all the difference. Also join a local writers’ group. Have people read your work. Find a good editor.
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.
We, my husband and I, are fans of PBS. Sunday nights and Tuesday nights are spent watching shows such as Downton Abbey or a mystery series, like Inspector Lewis or Morse.
9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m very attached to the characters in Murder at the P&Z; newspaper reporter Carol Rossi, turned amateur sleuth, and her sweetheart, Det. Jerry Stevenson. I’ve begun another book where a Wilton teen goes missing. They are determined to find her.
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
It’s been a pleasure, Beth. I’d love to hear from your fans. I can be reached at email@example.com. They can find out more about me at my website. For those in the area, I will be speaking at the Wilton Library, in Wilton, CT, in the evening, from 6 to 7, on April 29. I certainly am available for book clubs. More speaking dates will be published on my website.
Thanks, Dorothy! Now, who has a comment or question for Dorothy H. Hayes? Good luck in the contest!