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!


Anonymous said...

Love this series. It is so fun.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to leave my email.

Anonymous said...

I really love this series. Can't wait to read this latest. I know what you are going through Deborah, my mother is also physically healthy but suffering from dementia. It isn't easy.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Deborah,
I love your reveal about your zombie performance. That's just the sort of thing that would happen to me!
I lost a sister to Alzheimers/dementia last year. I never knew there were so many different kinds of this disease. My sister forgot how to move, but she served as the brain trust for our family. If one of us couldn't remember something, we always asked Carol. Now she's gone on to direct those in the next life and to save us a good seat...
I've enjoyed your Mace series. I'm switching gears myself with a new series next year. I was ready for something different, and I expect you are too.

Maegan Beaumont said...

Thanks for sharing, Deborah! It was nice to "get to know you" a bit. :)


Barbara T. said...

Mama and her daughters are so much fun.

Annette Naish said...

This is a new to me series - and it sounds lovely. I hope that you can work out a wonderful solution for your real life Mama. The best of luck to both of you.

Linda said...

I love the mama series and can't wait to reas the latest one., thanks for the interview, sharing, and giveaway chance!


Linda said...

Love the mama series and can't wait to read the latest! Thanks for the interview, sharing and giveaway chance!


Unknown said...

Mama series sounds so intriguing to read; will be adding to my reading list. I can see myself going to the landfill, to look for my ring.
My mother is in the middle-later stages of Alzheimer's.I take care of her at home, we great days and not so great. But, making wonderful memories.
Beth, a big thanks go out to you;for introducing great cozy authors for us to read their books.

Kaye Killgore said...

This sounds like a great series, I'm going to add it to my ever increasing TBR list.

Kaye Killgore said...

This sounds like a great series, I'm going to add it to my ever increasing TBR list.

Mark Baker said...

I just finished the second in the series yesterday. Look for my review tomorrow.

Meantime, I do need to get the rest of the series, so I'd love to win one.

Deborah Sharp said...

Thanks for all the great comments, y'all ... I checked this AM, before I left the house and not a peep, so I was feeling forgotten! Nice to see you here, and nice of Beth to have me! Nancy (my sister's name!), Kate Eileen, Barbara T and Linda: Thanks for the kind words about the series. Hope you like the new one!
Kate Eileen, Maggie and Teresa: The few times I've talked about this, I've been amazed at how many friends and colleagues are also dealing with loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia. Lots of us. Thanks for the support.
Maegan, Annette, and Kaye: Thanks for stopping by to comment. Y'all rock!

Deborah Sharp said...

Oops, I was responding as Mark was writing, I bet. Thanks for reading the first two. Mama Rides Shotgun (No. 2) has a special place in my heart because of what I went through to research it: saddled up for a weeklong trail ride across Fla, just like the gals in the book did. What the heck was I thinking??

dwharton1 said...

I haven't read your series yet, but can't wait, as I read the synopsis and it looked great!


Suzanne Rorhus said...

This is such an interesting series! Nice interview.

Deborah Sharp said...

Thanks Tigersmom and Suzanne. Good luck to all in the contest!

Beth Groundwater said...

Comments from Facebook:

Anne Hillerman: "Thanks, Beth. I hadn't seen Deborah's books before."

Margi Desmond: "Ah! Love the title. I'll have to check it out!"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a hoot. I love librarians and hate to see them die, but oh well. I have a feeling I'll be smiling throughout this book. Judy Dee

Terry Shames said...

What a wonderful blog post! I enjoyed every word of it. Loved the part about being a failed zombie, and especially loved what you said about your zany mother. Sounds like she had a great run.

I want to second your advice for aspiring writers. It's especially a good idea to take part in a writers' group, even if for a little while. It will thicken your skin, for one thing. I've been reading about people being upset about negative reviews and I wondered why my few negative reviews have rolled right off my back. I realized it probably has to do with being used to fielding remarks in groups where my work was being critiqued. You learn to take the critiques and use them to make your writing better. So the same is true of reviews. When you get less-than-wonderful comments about your work, you know to either use it or ignore it.

By the way, I have not read your books before Deborah, and I'm going to start now!

Deborah Sharp said...

Wonderful comments, y'all ...
Anonymous said: '' librarians and hate to see them die, but oh well ... '' for some reason, that struck me funny. You MUST be one of those dry wit librarian, no?
Terry Shames said, ''You learn to take the critiques and use them to make your writing better..'' So true. Writers who can't take criticism need to get out of the kitchen ... or something ;-) Thanks, too, for the kind words about my mom. She DID indeed have a great run.
Hi, too, to Anne and Marji. Thanks for joining in via Facebook.

Deborah Sharp said...

oops, make that Marji with a J. That's what I get for reading at night in low light ...

Deborah Sharp said...

OK, it's 11 pm on the East Coast ... the witching hour for Deborah, and the moment to choose our lucky winner. Drumrolllll, please. It's Annette Naish. Congrats, and thanks to everyone else for entering, and to Beth for hosting me at her blog.
Cheers, y'all ...

Sally Deneen said...

I love it that your mom has been your muse and biggest fan! Very cool.

I very much understand why you'd want to take a breather after "Trashed," though it's sad for us fans. What other book series should we read, if you don't mind offering suggestions?