Thursday, June 17, 2010

My mystery author guest: Elizabeth Spann Craig

As promised yesterday, mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig is is visiting my blog today to answer interview questions. Above is a cover photo of Delicious and Suspicious, the first book in her Memphis Barbeque mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, written as Riley Adams. Delicious and Suspicious will be released on July 6th. When a food scout from a cable cooking channel is murdered, it's only natural for restaurant owner Lulu Taylor to take it personally. After all, her barbeque restaurant served the scout's last meal. But danger lurks as Lulu investigates the crime. Will she clear the restaurant's name, or is she next to be skewered?

See what Elizabeth has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.

Interview with Elizabeth Spann Craig (aka Riley Adams):

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

Some people are just gifted with skills in many different areas. It makes it so hard to decide which one to pursue! I’m not one of those people. I knew in elementary school that writing was going to figure prominently in my future. I was encouraged to write by my book loving mother, my English teaching father, and my fellow-writer grandmother.

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

The characters I use are usually amalgams of different people that I know or have come across. The nice thing about having the basis of a fictional character in several real people is that you have something solid to work with.

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

I’m naturally a pantster when I write. I have a basic idea where I’m going with the story, but I don’t map it out. There’s something that I do like to do called a mini-outline. With these small outlines I can plan the next scene or even just the next page. It gives me a little speed when I write, but it doesn’t make me feel tied down. For me, it’s a great way to end one day’s writing session—I can leave myself a short note: This is what I want to start out with tomorrow. Tommy will be asking Jerry where he was when Bertha was killed…etc. Then the next day I just jump right into the writing.

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?

The plot is definitely important. But if a reader doesn’t like the characters, he’s not going to keep reading. So for me, characters have a slight edge on plot—but I try not to skimp on either one.

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

Time is definitely the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a writer. And it’s a daily challenge! As a mother of two children (one still in elementary school), I’m still playing a big role as a volunteer at their schools, Scout functions, etc. And there’s always eventually summer vacation to be reckoned with! I’ve learned to write on the go…in carpool lines, at swimming pools, and at skate rinks. I want to spend one-on-one time with my children when they get home from school, so I’m motivated to get my writing done by the early afternoon.

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

There is no typical workday for me! But there are always goals and tasks. During a typical writing day I need to do promo (my daily blog, the other blogs I’m part of, Twitter, some Facebook), respond to writing-related emails…and work on the current manuscript. Usually I’ll work at least 1 ½ hours on writing each day and easily that much on promotion.

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

Write what you enjoy reading and become part of the online writing community—it has so much great information, friendship, and support to offer.

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’m not much of a TV fan. I did watch Lost and now that it’s wrapped up, I’m not sure what I’m going to watch on TV anymore!

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

Right now I’m writing book three of the Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime. I’m also working on developing a new cozy series.

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

I’m really excited about my new July 6th release under my Riley Adams pen name, Delicious and Suspicious. Your blog readers can visit me at my blog, Mystery Writing is Murder or at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen where I hang out with other mystery loving cooks. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Beth!

Okay, readers, fire away! And if no one else asks, I want to know if Delicious and Suspicious includes any recipes, and if so, what the recipes are for. Don't we all love barbecuing in the summer? I'm always looking for new barbeque recipes.


Mason Canyon said...

Love DELICIOUS AND SUSPICIOUS (Beth, it does have recipes) and can't wait for the second book. I'm wondering about the new series you're working on. Will it have a protagonist anything like Lulu or Mrytle? Best of luck with your writing.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Beth - Thanks so much for hosting Elizabeth!

Elizabeth - What a great interview! I'm not that much of a T.V. watcher, either... : ). My question is this: have you ever thought of having one of your main characters from your Myrtle Clover series pop up in your Memphis Barbecue series? Or vice versa? Do you think about crossing series like that? I'm always in such awe of folks like you who do multiple series..

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Beth, thanks so much for hosting me today! And yes...the book does have recipes. :) You'll find recipes for red beans and rice, Southern-style potato salad, breakfast casserole, pulled pork BBQ and sauce, spicy corn muffins, Country-fried steaks, and gingerbread. :)

Mason--Thanks so much for your sweet words on the book (Mason is a great reviewer, y'all, and gave my book a generous review.) The series I'm currently working on has got a protagonist that isn't *quite* as cheerful as Lulu and not *quite* as grumpy as Myrtle. :) She falls right in between the two.

Margot--Thanks for stopping by!

I would actually love to do's such a fun device! I'd probably have to do it with the series I'm developing now since Myrtle and Lulu are from 2 different publishers. But doing it with 2 Berkley series would be wonderful!

Laura S. said...

Beth, thanks for hosting Elizabeth! I can't wait to read Delicious & Suspicious. That's cool it includes recipes! I love when authors do that. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent interview, Beth. I've been looking forward to Elizabeth's new series, (and I'm looking forward to yours as well).

Elizabeth, I'm interested in knowing why you chose to use a pseudonym for the second series.

Alan Orloff said...

Nice interview, ladies! Here's my question: did you taste-test all your recipes? Any recipes that didn't make the cut?

Cricket McRae said...

Great interview! I love the idea of the mini-outlines to keep on track from day to day. Looking forward to reading Delicious and Suspicious -- and trying out some of those recipes.
Hearth Cricket

T. Frohock said...

What a lovely interview! And I really liked the way you use mini-outlines to plan the next scene or chapter. I think I'm going to start doing that, especially when I have to quit late in the evening. It's a great way to remind myself where I was going in the next scene.

Thanks Beth and Elizabeth!

Sheila Deeth said...

Lovely interview, and now I don't feel so crazy for leaving myself little notes about what to write tomorrow. The book sounds fun - just my sort of thing.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Laura--The recipes are good...and aren't too difficult or time-consuming. Always a plus for us busy folks!

Patricia--Thanks so much!

Actually, Penguin asked me to take on a pseudonym for the series. I also write for another publisher, and I think that factors into it. But the names are both family names. :)

Alan--I did taste test these...because I have to suffer for my craft, you know. :) There were a couple of really old-fashioned Southern recipes that either involved half a can of Crisco or else half a day of cooking--due to modern time-constraints and modern health concerns, those didn't make it in. :)

Cricket--Thanks so much! I hope you'll enjoy it--and I'm looking forward to your July 1 release!

Teresa--It's a nice time-saving wasted time wondered where we left off.

Sheila--No we're not crazy...but boy, those notes we write sure look crazy if someone doesn't know we're writers! I try not to leave them around. :)

Beth Groundwater said...

Could you tell us what it's like juggling two series with two publishers. Have you had any scheduling issues? How do you make all that work?

Everyone else,
Thanks for your comments and questions. They've made for an interesting and lively discussion so far!

Carol Kilgore said...

Great interview from both of you.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Beth--So far, so good! But...yeah, there's no real scheduling between the two. I aim to meet whatever deadline I come across. :) It's not always convenient (I frequently seem to get proof requests at the same time as a manuscript deadline), but I feel fortunate, so no complaints!

Carol--Thanks so much!

Deborah Sharp said...

Hi to Beth: Great interview (but then you had a pretty good interviewee!)
I'm looking forward to guesting on Elizabeth's blogs as my third, MAMA GETS HITCHED, comes out next month. Hope I'm not too late to chime in with a question here: E: what's your favorite bbq dish? (My family loves ribs so much we actually ordered take-out one year for Christmas dinner!)