Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Deborah Sharp
As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Deborah Sharp is visiting my blog today, with answers to my interview questions. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Deborah is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, Mama Gets Trashed, the cover art for which appears above. Deborah will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post.
In the book, after a tipsy Mama tosses out her wedding ring with the trash, she drags daughter Mace to the city dump to search. When they stumble upon the body of librarian Camilla Law, the straitlaced town is scandalized. Not only is a killer on the loose, but prudish Camilla is all done up in sexy black leather. Foul play and fetish wear in little Himmarshee? Mama's blushing fifty shades of pink!
Sounds like a very fun read to me! Below are Deborah's answers to my interview questions.
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I was a journalist for almost two decades, mainly with USA Today. I'd been writing non-fiction for what seemed like forever. By age fifty, though, I'd really burned out on a steady diet of sad news and tragedies (One of my last assignments was writing profiles of all the military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq). I left the paper in 2004, and I took a stab at making things up. It's a lot more fun to be able to say how the stories end. Even better, in my books I get to punish the bad and reward the good -- which isn't always how real life turns out. My own family served somewhat as inspiration for the series I ended up writing -- the Mace Bauer Mysteries, featuring Mace's wacky mama.
2. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I'm definitely a plotter, though sometimes my characters will make a u-turn, and I end up on a road I hadn't thought to travel. I typically do an outline of about 30 pages before I even start a book.
3. 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?
Plot seems most important in traditional mysteries, as readers are keen on solving the puzzle of whodunit. Character takes precedence in my own books, though, and in the mysteries I like most. Give me interesting personality and strong character motivation over an intricate plot any day. Maybe my interest in character-driven fiction is due to my background in psychology. I earned a master's degree, and was working on my doctorate, when I dropped out to become a journalist. Uh-oh, am I revealing here that quitting is a recurring theme in my life?
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My own mother has a bearing on both elements of this question, my inspiration and my challenge. I stole so many of her traits for my books' Mama character: multiple marriages, a taste for sherbet-colored pantsuits, an affinity for sweet pink wine and gambling with the Seminoles. She's never actually ''done time'' like Mama in the first book, and I've never had to rescue her from a gator, like Mace did with her mama. But Mom's only 98, so I guess it could still happen. Not to mention, a spry old guy has been giving her the eye at their assisted living facility, so she might just catch up yet to Mama's serial marriage lead.
Part of my joy in writing this series was seeing my mom react to the stories. Writing the first four books, I'd finish a chapter, then visit her house for coffee to read her what I'd written. About halfway through book four, I got this question, repeatedly: ''Now, who's Mace again?'' Her memory was really failing, and I knew she was in trouble. Within a year, she began to fall down and wander. I had to move her out of her home -- my childhood home -- and into assisted living.
She's still in fairly good physical shape, but she has dementia. Some days she's sharper than others, but she's not the same mom she was when the first book came out in 2008. The challenge is in finding motivation to still write about ''Mama'' without the gleeful participation of my muse and biggest fan.
5. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Aside from advising them to READ (you might be surprised how many people who say they've always wanted to write can't mention a single author they like to read), I have three tips for would-be authors:
A. Join a writers' group, for the experience of sharing your work and learning from critiques.
B. Try to attend seminars or conferences in your genre, whether it's mysteries, romance, or travel writing. Joining Mystery Writers of America and attending the Florida chapter's national conference got the fiction ball rolling for me, way back when.
C. This one seems obvious, but WRITE. Paul Theroux said, ''You can't want to be a writer. You have to be one.''
6. 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.
I have talked before about playing a zombie in George Romero's ''Day of the Dead,'' and then writing about it as a cub reporter in Fort Myers, Fla. What I've never revealed is that Romero left my scenes on the cutting room floor. It's kind of embarrassing. Apparently, I lacked the acting talent to lurch convincingly.
7. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
See answer above about my real-life mama being my inspiration AND my challenge. I'm taking a bit of a breather, waiting to see what the tea leaves reveal about future writing plans.
8. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
I'd like to say I'm grateful to Beth for her friendship, and for the chance to visit here today. Folks can find more information about me and my Mace Bauer Mysteries on my website. You can also find me on Facebook. Also on Facebook, Friends of Mama From the Mace Bauer Mysteries lets the Mama character blow off steam about how I'm treating her. Lastly, I love to hear from readers and chat with book groups, through my website and via Skype.
Thanks, Deborah! Now, who has a comment or question for Deborah Sharp? Good luck in the contest!