Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Catherine Dilts
As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Catherine Dilts 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, Catherine is running a contest for a free autographed ARC (advanced review copy) of her upcoming January release, Stone Cold Dead, the cover art for which appears above. Catherine 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, business at the Rock of Ages is as dead as the fossils cluttering the shop’s dusty shelves. When her brother abandons the family rock shop, recently widowed Morgan Iverson reluctantly becomes the manager. Her first day in charge, two pet donkeys escape. While rounding them up, Morgan discovers the body of a Goth teen. When a newspaper article hits the streets hinting that Morgan witnessed the murder, she becomes the victim of escalating threats that make it clear the killer thinks she holds a clue to the teen’s murder. Morgan knows her life won’t be worth a pile of fossilized dinosaur dung unless she can dig up the murderer.
Sounds like a fun and fascinating read to me! Below are Catherine's answers to my interview questions.
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
Boredom was my original inspiration. When I was a child, my family spent a portion of our summers visiting relatives in South Dakota. This was back in the dark ages, before cable TV, personal computers, and the Internet. On rainy days, when we couldn’t play in the lake or explore corn fields, my siblings and I would write plays and perform them for our indulgent aunts and uncles during their daily “happy hour.” We believed it was our talent that sent them into gales of laughter, but I suspect the alcohol didn’t hurt.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
Typically, I have an initial flash of inspiration as I see a character in a situation, possibly uttering a line that defines his or her world view. In Stone Cold Dead, Del Addison says “You hear about it every winter… Some flatlander heads out unprepared. They don’t get found until a hiker sees their frozen body in a snowbank come springtime.” After they introduce themselves to me, they develop as the story progresses. Some characters are born in my imagination whole, while others fight to let me know, “I wouldn’t do that!”
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I am definitely a Plotter. However, my carefully constructed outlines and timelines always change, sometimes dramatically. I have to have a road map, but I’m not opposed to veering off-road if it takes me where I need to go.
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?
Character, definitely. Jeffery Deaver spends months devising his convoluted plots, but what engages the reader, in my opinion, is his character Lincoln Rhyme. I believe I’ve had some unique experiences in my life, and met some genuine characters. I like to introduce readers to people they may not have met in real life. Oh, plot is essential in a mystery, but without engaging characters, who will care about who done it?
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Letting go of my fears. Fear of offending someone. Fear of exposing myself emotionally. Killing that self-censoring editor inside my head that destroys every creative impulse. My inspiration is my family, who supported and encouraged my dream of being an author even when it seemed impossible.
6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Defending the planet by day, plotting murder by night. That’s my life in an organically grown nutshell. I have a day job as an environmental scientist, which sounds exciting, but actually involves mostly regulatory paperwork. I squeeze in fiction writing by getting up early and writing for 15, 30, or maybe 60 minutes before heading to work. When I get home, I might get another 2 or 3 hours in on a good day. I average 30 to 40 hours of straight fiction writing a month. It’s not enough, but it’s what I can manage for now.
7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Don’t. Not unless you have to. It’s an ego-busting business with little financial reward. Take up bowling instead. How do you know if you have to write? Quit for a week. You’ll know. If you are truly a writer, you’ll sacrifice leisure time, social events, sleep, and maybe a little sanity, to get words down, to tell a story just right. And you’ll love every frustrating, challenging, triumphant step of the journey.
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.
I have a morbid fear of forklifts.
9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am writing book two in my Rock Shop Mystery series, and polishing a short story involving a forklift.
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Beth! My novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery makes its debut in January, 2014. It is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but if you like supporting independent bookstores, you can find it at the historic Denver Tattered Cover Book Store. I also have short stories appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine from time to time, which now offers subscriptions for electronic readers like Nook and Kindle. And please visit me at my website!
Thanks, Catherine! Now, who has a comment or question for Catherine Dilts? Good luck in the contest!