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

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 I had two unpublished books in my closet by then.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 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!   


Unknown said...

Thanks, Beth, for the opportunity to meet your readers! I'm enjoying my on-line blog tour and the opportunity to talk to mystery fans.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Dot!
Didn't know you had a cat.

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

As I read your post, I realized that we have a lot in common. It was seventeen years (after I first came up with the idea) before my first mystery novel, "Mixed Messages," was published. The books in my Malone mystery series, like yours, are character driven and I'm a morning writer too.
Your new book sounds intriguing. I wish you the best of luck and lots of sales!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Sha-Li!!!

NoraA said...

I have a niece whose Bachelor's is in Journalism... then she did Teach America for a few years. She then got her JD. at Indiana and thought about becoming a lawyer. Not her thing.. so she accepted a full scholarship to Harvard where she got a Masters in a sub field of education.

Now she spends her days "investigating" and planning ways to help Charter Schools do the jobs they were actually created to do. TEACH KIDS.

I do love a good mystery. Especially if it's a Journalistic investigative type mystery.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Patricia for the good wishes! How in the world do you follow all those blogs? I too follow some of the same ones. You must have a system.

I'll have to check out Mixed Messages!

Anita Page said...

Dot, I think needing to write is the mark of a true writer. At a conference some years ago, James Lee Burke talked about a student who asked him if he should keep writing. Burke's response (paraphrased): That was the wrong question.If you're a writer, you keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to hear of another cozy author whom I didn't know about, so finding this out today just made my day. I would love to enter your contest for the free book today. Can't wait to read your series.

Cynthia in MA

Unknown said...

NoraA, good luck to your niece. The last few years I did some substitute teaching and would only go to charter schools. The difference in supplies and discipline was tremendous, I am sad to say. I worked at inner city schools when I was younger and worked full time. Teaching is a fulfilling career and I don't think I ever laughed so hard, the kids are just funny.
Hooray for you niece!

Unknown said...

Anita, I was surprised to find that I had to write, of course, I had been writing for years at the time I discovered that it was something I had to do. It seems like you must need a reader if you're a writer, but not so, you just need to write! Of course, as I said, I got smarter about the publishing business.

Unknown said...

Thanks, for the comment, Cynthia. I love getting all the positive comments, and on my birthday!

ANNETTE said...

First - Happy Birthday to You.

I was on a P & Z and murder is quite feasible. Those developers and people with a vested interest are very intense. And money always comes into it. I look forward to reading the book.

Anonymous said...

I love Mysteries, and I love finding new authors to read. I would love to win a copy and read your book. Happy Birthday, My son Wesley was 12 on Sunday. Tammie contact me at if i win.

Unknown said...

Annette, it was almost too easy so I complicated the plot to make it more fun for the reader.

Barbara T. said...

Always thrilled to discover a new-to-me author. I look forward to reading your mysteries.

Beth Groundwater said...

Wow, what a lively discussion we've got going! Keep those comments coming, folks, then check back tomorrow evening to see who won Dorothy's book.

Beth Groundwater said...

From Pamela on Facebook (Mystery Most Cozy group):

"Just got it! Can't wait to read it!!"

Beth Groundwater said...

Shanna said in an email:

"Hi Beth!
Fun blog and looks like a great book from Dorothy!
Thanks for sharing the link!

Karen Emanuelson said...

I'm a "pantser" too. No outlines for me. I also call this "writing into the void." Wish I could write 4 or 6 hours a day! I'm lucky to get 4 or 6 a week with my job, pets, horses and music. I love mysteries of all sorts and quite frankly, think character driven ones are the best.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

An interesting interview! Look like I'm not the only writer who starts working early in the morning.

Dorothy, wishing you much success.

Sarah said...

Great interview! I still ache for my characters to "take" over. I'm ok with not being in control ;)

I'm adding your work to my to be read list.

Unknown said...

Barbara and Pamela I can't wait to hear what you think of the book. Pamela, expect the unexpected--I like to surprise readers! Just when you think you've figured it all out, some unexpected event or information shows up and you're off into a whole different direction! Soon you find you're not reading to get to the end of the book and see who did it, you're reading to find out what happens next!

Cyndi Riccio said...

interesting... I have now put it on my to be read list in goodreads! Thanks, Beth for hosting this.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Sharon and Karen for the comments. Karen, I wish I had animals to take me away from the writing sometimes. I'm a devout vegan and animals are dear to me but my husband has severe allergies so that's that. i gravitate to the dogs in the neighborhood who are kind and give me a kiss and allow me to pet them.

Unknown said...

jacqueline, I sometimes have another spurt of energy after dinner, but I'm afraid to write because I think I'll be worn out the next morning and it will throw me off my routine. Being creative is great but you need controls. If you go off schedule and work fifteen hours, or two sessions of day it can throw you for a loop and you can become creatively exhausted and all the rest that requires your attention gets neglected.
Does it seem like I've been there?

Unknown said...

Sarah, I love it when the characters take charge. I step into their shoes and place them in a situation and the handle according to their character traits. Sometimes I think I've got it nailed and then sleep on it. The next morning I'm up and saying, "No, he wouldn't do that!" Or, "He wouldn't say that!"
And the rewriting begins.
It's fun to live the emotional lives of your characters the good ones and the villains.

Unknown said...

Rosalee, glad to hear it's on your Goodreads list! I just started my author's page there and have been posting my online book tour.

Unknown said...

Love your interview, also "Murder at the P & Z" sound great, what I read so far I am hook. I am so glad that it is in epud format, so now I be able to get it at the first of the month. Thanks Beth, for doing the interview, please keep writing your great books. I love them.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Theresa for your comments.

Unknown said...

Beth, the winner is Annette selected from

Annette, you can send your address to me at: and I will mail you a copy of Murder at the P&Z!!!


And, thank you to everyone who participated. I had a great time on my birthday chatting with such lovely people.

Beth, thank you once again for this wonderful blog.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and for making Dorothy feel so welcome.