Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Edith Maxwell

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Edith Maxwell is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Edith is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, A Tine to Live, A Tine To Die, the cover art for which appears above. Edith will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow.

In the book, it's the start of the farming season in Westbury, Massachusetts, and geek-turned-novice farmer Cameron Flaherty hopes to make a killing selling organic produce. A colorful Locavore Club belongs to Cam's farm-share program. But when a killer strikes on her property, her first foray into the world of organic farming yields a bumper crop of locally sourced murder. To clear her name, Cam has to unearth secrets buried deep beneath the soil of Produce Plus Plus Farm. And when the police don't make progress in the case, she has to catch a murderer whose motto seems to be, “Eat Local. Kill Local.”

Sounds to me like Cameron will have to dig up some dirt! ;-) Below are Edith's answers to my interview questions.

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

I wrote lots of little stories and dozens of book reports as a child. When I was about ten, my mother said, “Edie, you're a good writer.” And I believed her! I read everything I could get my hands on, which at home included Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Poe, and Jules Verne, and from the library Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames Student Nurse, and more, so I had a real attraction to mysteries early on. As an adult I started writing my first mystery, an earlier version of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, twenty years ago when I was an organic farmer and my younger son had just gone off to kindergarten.

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

With my first book, I interviewed my protagonist. I kept asking her questions: Who is in your family? What's your favorite food?  How do you relieve stress in your life? And I typed out her answers. I probably should do that for every main character in every book but haven't gotten around to it! I also keep a log of each character I use and salient information about them as I add it. I want to be sure Cam doesn't have green eyes in Chapter Two that mysteriously become blue in Chapter Fifteen.

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

I prefer to call it Writing Into the Headlights. Or, as I heard someone refer to it at Malice Domestic, Organic Writing. I pretty much follow the characters around and write down what they do. That means I have to go back and fix stuff later, but I'd rather do that. I'm afraid if I knew what was going to happen, I'd get bored with my own story.

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 don't know! I just write the best story I can with characters developed as well as I can in a plot that keeps moving, that has surprises, and that gets all tidied up by the end.

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

Well, I have very recently solved my biggest challenge. I resigned my nearly two-decade career as a full-time technical writer. It was very stressful to fit fiction writing in around the edges of a nine-hour day in the office and an hour's drive each way getting there and back. As of May 18 I am a full-time fiction writer, with part-time technical writing around the edges from home. And I am much happier!

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

I'm always up early, usually by six AM. I take up to an hour to check email and blogs and social media and have my coffee. Then I'm at my desk writing or revising until midday. I might go for a fast walk at eleven, then have lunch. I'm not as productive in the afternoons, which often include a nap, but I might use that time to write a blog post or do other promotional work.

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

Just write! Keep the butt in the chair and the fingers on the keyboard. Get a draft done. Print it out and self edit. Find a good critique group, either in person or online, and hone your craft. Take classes, workshops, go to writing conferences. But most of all, keep writing. You'll get better and better.

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet.

Although I have lived north of Boston for more than three decades, I grew up in southern California, so my favorite food is a slice of a perfectly ripe avocado with a little salt.

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

Right now I'm polishing the second Local Foods mystery, 'Til Dirt Do Us Part, which is due at the end of the month. Then I'll be working on the synopsis for the third book, which takes place on Cam Flaherty's farm in the winter months. I also want to finish the second Speaking of Mystery book, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau solving the mystery of a body she finds in small-town Ashford during the summer months. And if you hear news of a new historical mystery series I want to write, don't be surprised!

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

Sure. I'd love to hear from you! I'm online everywhere. I love to go to book clubs and farms and garden clubs to talk about my books. I can Skype in if we're too far apart. Contact me and let's talk.

Besides my web page (and personal blog), you can find me on Facebook, on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Wattpad, at Wicked Cozy Authors, or at Barnes and Nobles.

Thanks, Edith! Now, who has a comment or question for Edith Maxwell? Good luck in the contest!    


Anonymous said...

What a great interview. I love reading how an author works.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Nancy! And I love being an author.

Barbara T. said...

I love avocados, too, and they are good for us! I look forward to reading your book.

Terry Shames said...

I loved this interview. Sometimes answers seem canned, and Edith's answers were quirky and thoughtful. Congratulations, Edith, on reversing your two jobs. Much nicer being a full-time writer with tech writing around the edges.

Looking forward to reading your book.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Barbara! Aren't they just the best?

Terry, I'm much happier this way! Glad you liked the interview.

Lynn Mann said...

I've read so many times about interviewing your characters - maybe now I'll actually do it :)

Nice interview, and so happy for your success.

Edith G.

cic said...

Loved this interview. Really got to feel I was getting to know you, Edith.
Well done Beth.
Think ill need to check out some of your books girls.

Linda R said...

Great interview, Beth. Edith, I'm an old Massachusetts gal, and I can't wait to read your cozy!! Hope you sell zillions of copies ~

Edith Maxwell said...

Edith G (aka Lynn Mann) - thanks! It all feels great.

Christine, I hope you do check out our books. I love Beth's whitewater series and need to check out her other series, myself.

Linda R - I hope I sell zillions, too! Thanks.

Mo said...

Congrats on becoming a full time writer. My goal is to retire and become a full time reader. I will now be adding your books to my towering to be read pile, they sound wonderful. I just finished reading Beth’s “Fatal Descent” today and enjoyed it immensely.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Keep them coming through all day tomorrow. Edith will draw the name of a winner in her contest tomorrow evening and announce it here in a comment.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Mo. Sounds like a great goal!

And Beth, I appreciate so much your asking me to visit.

Norma Huss said...

Hello Edith and Beth,

Love the interview. Love Beth's books, Would love to win your book, Beth!

cmgren said...

Great interview. Would love to win your book.

Unknown said...

Thanks for taking time out to do the interview.Your books are wonderful to read.Going to cross fingers , that be able to win your book.


Liz Straw said...

love your answers Edith.
I also love avocados, though never been to CA.

Kuzlin said...

Beautiful cover and great interview. I have to admit that I have never tried an avocado. Maybe someday I will get adventurous!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks so much to everybody for your interest. The random number generator picked Nancy! Nancy, please send your home mailing address to edithmax at gmail dot com.