Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Tracy Weber

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Tracy Weber 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, Tracy is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her first mystery release, Murder Strikes a Pose, the cover art for which appears above. Tracy 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, Seattle yoga instructor Kate Davidson tries to live up to yoga's Zen-like expectations, but it's not easy while struggling to keep her small business afloat or dodging her best friend's matchmaking efforts. When George, a homeless alcoholic, and his loud, horse-sized German shepherd, Bella, start hawking newspapers outside her studio, Kate attempts to convince them to leave. Instead, the three strike up an unlikely friendship. Then Kate finds George's body. The police dismiss it as a drug-related street crime, but Kate knows he was no drug dealer. Now she must solve George's murder and find someone willing to adopt his intimidating companion before Bella is sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer on her trail, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Sounds like a fun and fascinating read to me! Below are Tracys answers to my interview questions.

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

I blame it all on a bad workout and Susan Conant. I’m a pretty faithful exerciser, but riding a stationary bike is terminally boring, so I distract myself by reading. I love anything related to dogs, so when I discovered Susan Conant’s series a few years ago, I devoured them.

 One day, after a particularly brutal workout and a passage from Black Ribbon that make me laugh out loud, I decided to learn more about her. Less than two hours later, I stumbled across a website dedicated to cozy mysteries, and thought, Huh? Wonder if I should write a cozy about yoga? I filed the idea in the too-crazy-to-be-pursued file for two years, then started writing. The rest is, as they say, history.

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

My characters stalk me. Meaning, they live inside my head and harass me until I write them. Kate (my protagonist) is particularly insistent, though her friend Rene likes to butt in as well. They can be really quite annoying. I get to know them by typing their stories.

Sometimes they give me an idea about themselves that isn’t fully formed, but comes to me as an image or word. Then I do Google Image searches until they visually reveal parts of themselves that way.

Hopefully all of the above means I’m creative, not psychotic.

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

I do both. The first draft is by the seat of my pants. Who has time to outline when you’ve got characters like Kate and Rene harassing you to hurry up and write them? While I write the second draft, I outline what I’ve already written, identify plot holes and inconsistencies. I try to fix those in the third draft. After that, it’s only 27 more drafts until the finished product!

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, character, character. But then again, according to the yoga teachings, our character is defined by the actions we take and our reactions to the world around us, and isn’t that plot? This question makes my head spin.  ;-)

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

Oddly enough, my dog is the biggest inspiration in most of my life. My work is Kate’s story, but Kate adores Bella (her German shepherd) and Bella makes Kate a better person, just like Tasha does me.

My biggest challenge? Probably finding the time to write, teach yoga, run my business, and market myself as a new author. I hope human cloning is viable soon.

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

I’m lucky. I own my own business, so I’m able to work any eighteen hours a day I want. Seriously, sometimes it feels that way. But my writing ebbs and flows based on the other competing priorities of my life. Sometimes several weeks will go by without my having time to write a word. Other times I do it nonstop. I’m most creative late at night, which drives my husband crazy. Most weeks I probably dedicate 30 hours or more to fiction writing. Blogs and other writing are on top of that.

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

Don’t give up! Writing is a TOUGH business. No one gets published without facing rejection. When I was trying to land an agent, I allowed myself 24 hours to feel bad about every rejection, then I forced myself to do something proactive. Send out another letter, connect with another author, write another page.

You can’t please everyone, and yet when you write, you so desperately want to. (At least I do.) Just keep writing what you love and know that your work isn’t defined by what any one person thinks of it.

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.

Dogs are my love and a dog is the center of my books, but I started out as a cat person. I’ve owned cats most of my adult life, but I didn’t get my first dog (as an adult) until the age of 40. She was worth the wait. My cats disagree, but that’s another story…

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

I’m currently writing the second installment of the Downward Dog Mysteries, tentatively titled A Killer Retreat, as well my yoga blog. I definitely plan to keep going with Kate and Bella’s stories, but another series is forming in my mind. I’m pretty sure those characters will start harassing me soon, so I’ll probably have to start working on that one as well.

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

Check out my author website  and my weekly yoga blog.

And, of course, Murder Strikes a Pose is available at AmazonMidnight Ink,  and other major booksellers.  Autographed copies can be purchased from Whole Life Yoga.

I’d love to hear what you think of the book and/or to talk at book clubs or other venues. Keep reading, and go after your dreams!

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


Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, Beth for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. I'm delighted to be here! Visitors, please feel free to ask me questions about yoga, dogs, writing, or the meaning of life. I have no idea about the last one, but I can take a stab at the first three!

pennyt said...

Love the combination of dogs and yoga - both are a part of my life, although I prefer being an "armchair detective"! The book sounds great - best of luck.

E. B. Davis said...

I haven't read the book yet, Tracy, but I will shortly. Okay--I'm revealing my age here, BUT, back in the dark ages, I took hatha yoga and loved it. I've never been as strong or as flexible. Now, I've signed up for class and it's not really yoga, it's a blend of yoga and Pilates. I hate it. I loved the slow, balance of hatha yoga. On top of my regular workouts, the old style worked well to condition and stretch what my weight lifting built up. Do you know why there was such a switch? It does a disservice to many seniors who would benefit, but have to work "too" hard at the new style yoga. Okay--off my soapbox. I hope your main character keeps the dog!

Beth Groundwater said...

Welcome, everyone! Keep those comment coming through Thursday evening, then check back then to see who the winner is in Tracy's contest.

Kelly said...

Hi Tracy! Thank you for interviewing with Beth today. I have always wanted to try yoga, I just haven't gotten there yet. I live in a small town and we don't have classes like this here. Do you have any other recommendations on the best way to start. I could use the relaxation and stress reduction. I cannot wait to read your latest book, it sounds like a hoot. I love that it includes a dog. I am an animal lover myself. I have had a dog (for 15 years), but still an avid cat lover. I have 4 and would love to add more. I am looking forward to see what you have coming up next. Many blessings, Kelly

Tracy Weber said...

I don't see a way to reply to comments specifically, so I'll do one at a time in separate comments. Penny--Dogs and yoga both make life better. And I hope you read the book and love it!

Tracy Weber said...

E. B. Thanks for reading my book! There are many, many styles of yoga. So if the class you're taking now doesn't work, try another. Hatha is an umbrella term that basically refers to the physical practice of yoga. Look for a class in your area that is "Viniyoga", "Kripalu," or "Iyengar" and you might well find a class you can love. As to why there has been an increase in blended, more athletic styles--It's likely been the Americanization and popularity of yoga that's done it in this country. Americans love to innovate--so you see people trying to "improve" on the centuries old practice.

But keep trying different teachers and styles. I'm sure you'll find one you love!

Tracy Weber said...

Kelly, at one time I had 4 cats, too, but I'm down to 1 now. I was always a cat person until I adopted my German shepherd. She transformed me! If you can't find a yoga class near you, try a video. My teacher, Gary Kraftsow has 4 out, and a friend of mine, Bija Bennet nas several out under the "Yoga Away" line. They both series should be on amazon and are a terrific way to start!

Good luck, and I hope you read the book and love it!

keizerfire said...

I haven't read the book yet, but I love books with dogs as central characters! Will look for your book. I have tried yoga, but I'm not sure it likes me, lol.

Tracy Weber said...

keizerfire, keep trying. There are probably hundreds of styles of yoga out there, and yoga teachers are practically too numerous to count. You'll find one you love as much as it loves you.

I do hope you read and love the book. Bella (the dog) is a huge part of it.

Unknown said...

Oh - I love cozy mysteries and this one sounds so fun. I recently read another cozy with a yoga plot, and it got me so interested in yoga I had to purchase a couple dvds. I probably don't get the full experience, though, while I don't have a dog to distract me, I have a 5 year old who likes to 'yoga' with me. we have a fun time though.
Glad I found this post, I'm adding your book to my GR shelf!

Tracy Weber said...

Deanna, there are lots of great yoga for kids books out there. Yoga as a family is a great way to have fun and teach your child positive self-care habits at the same time. Thanks so much for adding my book to your TBR list. I do hope you read it, and that it entices you to do even more yoga!

cyn209 said...

sounds like a book I would so enjoy!!

thank you for the giveaway!!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Mindy said...

I'm pretty sure that this book will be right up my alley--dogs, yoga and mysteries are my 3 greatest loves! (And Matt Damon, but I suppose you can't include everything). The cover art is adorable.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Aha--so that's how and why you write your mystery series, Tracy. Great interview!

Tracy Weber said...

Cyn209--I hope you do read and love it!

Mindy--I can't disagree with any of your loves, including Matt Damon. But dogs totally top my list. ;-) Sounds like we are cozy soul mates. ;-)

Linda--Now you know all of my deep, dark, secrets. ;-)

Pixie (Goodreads) said...

I should probably take this friend request in GR as the Universe telling me to stop procrastinating and just book a new yoga course already! I did yoga for many years, but sadly lost my mojo through some major life changes recently, and have been tentatively stretching out my fingers to find a new course locally. Owing to my recent lack of practice even that stretching hurt ;) Good luck with your book!

Catherine Dilts said...

Tracy, I had to chuckle at your "after only 27 more drafts" comment. Your novel sounds fun. Good luck!

Beth Groundwater said...

I'm learning a lot about yoga from this comment stream, which is very cool! Keep those comments coming today. Tracy will announce a winner in her contest tonight.

Daniele K said...

This is on my "to read" list, and I would love for it to be in my "to read" pile. So looking foward to, yoga, cozy...perfect. best of luck and success, Tracy!
Dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

Stephanie Jones said...

I had noticed your book earlier. With such great cover art, who wouldn't? Just had not gotten around to ordering and reading the book itself. After reading all the comments today, I'll be heading to Amazon to purchase. Thanks for a great blog, and the honest answers. I had to smile at the mention of Susan Conant, I like to read while on the stationary bike. So, I can identify.

Tracy Weber said...

Pixie--give yoga another shot. The right class shouldn't hurt--you should leave feeling better than when you walked in the door!

Catherine--and 27 drafts was probably underestimating it!

Daniele-- good luck with the drawing, which I will do in a minute. I do hope you read the book.

Stephanie--THANKS for buying and reading the book. It makes all the difference. If it weren't for reading, I'd never be able to stand the stationary bike. My next post will announce the winner!

Tracy Weber said...

Cyn209, you are the winner! I will e-mail you directly to get your address. Thanks so much for all of the comments and interest, everyone. Try yoga, love dogs, and read the book! ;-)

I'll check back again soon, so if you have more questions please comment here, or e-mail me directly at!