1. How did you come up with the idea for your new mystery series, and did you have any issues writing it?
I've been thinking about this series for several years, and I've jotted down notes every time a new idea popped into my mind. I never did anything with those ideas. One evening, a friend pressed me to go ahead and start writing, and the next morning I sat down and wrote the prologue and the first chapter. I had a strong sense of the main character already, and the murder kind of wrote itself! The hard part was solving that murder and bringing the environment and the characters to life while doing so. There was a lot going on politically and socially in this part of the United States that provided some good fodder--I guess it was perfect timing.
When I started writing, my worry was I wouldn't be able to find enough words, but the opposite turned out to be true. In the space of about six weeks, I had over 700 pages, and suddenly I had two books to wrangle instead of one. After a lot of editing and re-writing, Done Rubbed Out and Hard Job were born, and the next few books of the series were outlined.
2. Your two protagonists seem like an interesting and unlikely pair. Would you tell us more about them?
Both of the protagonists are pretty complex. Toby Bailey is a young gay man who has opened his dream business--a high-end spa. He was raised in a small southern town, and in many ways, he's pretty naïve. When he finds his business partner (and former lover) naked and dead on a massage table, his whole world is turned upside down. Not only does he have to deal with a very personal loss, but that loss happens in a horrific way. On top of that, he's a prime suspect and isn't sure what to do.
Melba Reightman is the lead homicide detective on the case, and the senior detective in the city police department. She came up the ranks the hard way and learned to deal with the good 'ol boy network in a southern city and everything that represents. She's tough, smart, and capable. Her last few years have been rough; she divorced her cheating husband, her daughter has left home, and frankly, her job isn't providing much personal satisfaction. She doesn't have many friends. She's also grumpy, short-tempered, and experiencing the onset of menopause. She's seen it all, and her view of life is cynical and more than a little sarcastic. She also had a fixation on her large, overstuffed purse... it's a security blanket of sorts.
The differences between the two provide a lot of good tension, and when combined with the rest of the vivid characters, gives the series a lot of depth.
3. What are some of the unique challenges of writing in the mystery genre?
I think the most obvious challenge is that of leaving a trail of clues that lead the reader the direction you want them to go, without being too obvious or pointing toward the murderer too quickly. I would write about 60-70 pages and then go back to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I reworked that aspect a lot. The clues had to be laid out in a realistic manner. I didn't want there to be any "ah ha!" moments until the very end. In this series, the crimes serve a dual purpose. They move the story along, but also provide the framework for character growth and evolution. I guess the best way to think about it is to realize this isn't just a simple set of mysteries, but is an ongoing picture of how people and events we encounter throughout life change us in unexpected ways.
4. Why did you decide to self-publish your books?
That's a great question! I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people that have made and are making a career for themselves writing fiction. I learned the publishing world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and is expected to change more rapidly in the next 10. Even in the traditional publishing world, the expectations are very different now. I was under the assumption your agent and publisher took care of everything once the book was written and acquired. I learned that's just not the case anymore. Unless they're fortunate enough to be picked up by one of the big three or four publishers, a new, unknown author has to write a good book, have it edited, and have at least a concept if not a full design for the cover, and is expected to do a lot of the PR and marketing. But all of these things have to be done against a slow timeline that the author doesn't have much influence over.
As an indie author, I do all of the same things, but I'm in control (for good or for bad) of most of the process. The biggest challenge is learning as you go, and I have made some spectacular mistakes. Thankfully, there are so many great tools out there now, and terrific forums and groups that are willing to share the things they have learned. These folks--along with new ways of buying books--have totally sparked a new revolution, and it's fun and exciting to be a part of the indie movement. Seeing how things have changed, and experiencing and dedication of the people following the same path, is what ultimately decided me.
5. How do you find the time to write and keep up with your day job of running an art gallery/shop?
I'm one of the co-owners of the gallery, and focus on specific parts of the business. I don't have to be there every day, except for certain times of the year when every hand is needed. I'm fortunate that I'm able to divide my focus and can plan my time. The more difficult thing to do is to find time to write a new book while trying to promote the finished books. I have to really be ruthless with my time and set certain days and hours aside to complete each task. It helps to have deadlines! I book my editor in advance and know I have to have a finished manuscript into her hands by the date agreed or life will be unpleasant! At the end of the day, I really try to focus on telling the best story I can, with messages and themes that are important to me and that--hopefully--resonate with others. Getting that story into the hands of a reader is the best feeling ever.