by Julie, summering early in Somerville
I love revisiting these interviews! Ten years ago Sherry Harris interviewed me when we launched the blog. We were friends then, we’re even better friends now. Back then I didn’t have an agent or a book contract. Now I have three names, and I’ve published ten novels. What a journey!
Let’s look at then and now! Now will be in italics after the original answer.
I think almost all of us started writing about the time we could grasp a pencil but was there some specific point where you thought I have to do this?
For me it was less of a “I have to” and more of a “I can? Really”. I always wanted to be a writer, but in college my writing classes were always very literary, and focused on writing the great American novel, or being a serious poet. I was taking a class about twenty years ago, and one of my fellow students asked why I wasn’t writing mysteries. The light bulb went off, and I started to take more classes, joined Sisters in Crime, and started down the path of considering myself a writer.
I love this answer, and stand by it. Being a published author, which was still a dream when we started the blog, is different than being a writer. Being a writer means taking it seriously, and writing.
Who influences your writing? And does your writing reflect their style?
I have so many influences. In the mystery world, I admire Dame Agatha and many of the other writers from the Golden Age. I love the “fair play” traditional mystery novel. I read many other mystery authors, and look for inspiration and models of how it is done well. I would love to create the wit of Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, the world of Sue Grafton, the characters of Linda Barnes. The list goes on.
I also work in theater, and find the dramatic structure of plays and of mysteries to be identical. Which is a great opportunity to observe how other writers do it in another medium.
I have so many other people to add to this list ten years on. Ten years in I’m reading more widely, and more diversely.
How has your career influenced your writing?
A great deal. First of all, a lot of my work takes place in the theater. I know the world well, and love it. Making a career in the arts has also allowed me to meet a lot of passionate, dedicated people who think differently. Is there a greater gift for a writer?
Secondly, the challenges of a theater maker are very similar to the challenges of a writer. Changing production models, challenges in making a living, the opportunities presented by social media. I don’t have any blinders on about the challenges, but am thrilled by the opportunities.
Ten years ago I never would have imagined I’d be running Sisters in Crime, the organization that has meant so much to me over the years. Mixing my arts administration career with my writing career has been an amazing opportunity.
What’s your favorite thing about New England?
I love that there is everything here—lakes, ocean, mountains. I love that it is compact (except for Maine, which is HUGE) and you can go to a very different place in a couple of hours. I love the vibrant arts community. I love the food. I love the Red Sox. But most of all? I love the sense of humor. It is dry, and smart, and really wonderful.
Still a New Englander through and through.
What deep, dark secrets do you have – that you are willing to share – that would surprise me?
I wish I could dance. I would love to tap dance, more than anything. I tried to learn when I turned 40, but never got the knack. I should try again, but I worry that my knees would let go. I would love to learn ballroom dancing. Fred Astaire was my first movie idol, and I aspire to be Cyd Charisse in Band Wagon.
Still wish I could dance like that. Add singing to the list.
What are you working on right now? And how the heck do you ever find time to write?
I am noodling with a new idea, which I really like. And finding time isn’t easy, but writing makes me happy, even when it is hard. So I try to find the time. I do need to get much better about finding balance. I took a great class about time management, and the premise was that there are only 168 hours a week, so you need to chose what you do carefully. Summer time is a great opportunity to rethink how I spend those 168 hours.
Remember, I didn’t have a contract back then. I was working on a cozy paranormal about a haunted theater that never found a home. I still dust if off. Nowadays finding time to write is even more of a challenge.
Why cozies? Are you writing anything else?
I love reading them, so it makes sense to write them. I love creating a world that people like to visit, characters they care about, and stories that keep them guessing. I wrote my master’s thesis on Agatha Christie, and spent a lot of time researching the genre. One of the reasons people like traditional mysteries is that there is justice. That resonates with me. We live in a tough time, I like creating places where good triumphs.
As for other things—I write a lot of blog posts for my various lives, and grant proposals. I also write short stories which are a little darker than cozies.
I still love the crime fiction genre, and especially cozies and traditional mysteries. I’m working on something now that could be considered women’s fiction, but it still has a mystery element. Not sure I’ll ever write dark.
If you were stranded on a desert island name 5-10 literary figures you would want there with you? What meal would you feed them – assuming you could feed them anything you wanted to?
Wow, is that a tough question. During the Golden Age of Fiction there was a group called the Detection Club. Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, they were all members. It would be fun to have a meeting on the island with all of them. I would serve them bar food—sliders, fries, dips. But make it all look like an English tea, American style.
I would love to have Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Mark Twain come over for dinner. And maybe add F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Sayers, and Arthur Conan Doyle, though they might be challenging guests. But stranded on an island? Yikes—is it wrong to just want to have my Kindle with me, and a way to charge it?
Stranded on a desert island these days the only literary folks I’d want with me are the Wickeds. These days I’d serve charcuterie boards and fun beverages. My dream writing invite list has changed as well. Agatha, Jane, Dorothy Parker. I’d add Elizabeth Peters to the list. And then I’d mix it up with some of the current writers I know and love.
What’s on your nightstand to read?
Hank Phillippi Ryan’s book The Other Woman and Sheila Connelly’s Buried in a Bog.
One sad note to this celebration is the reminder that the wonderful Sheila Connelly isn’t here to celebrate with us. My current TBR pile is huge, and includes Kelly Oliver’s Fiona Figg series, Kim Giarratano’s Dancing Queen, Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, and Sonali Dev’s Raje series. I’m also listening to Chris Graberstein’s John Ceepak series.
Readers, this celebration is reminding me that dreams really do come true. What a wonderful journey these ten years have been. Hard work, highs and lows, but such joy.
In celebration of my getting back into Sully Sullivan’s world, I’ll give two commenters copies of the Theater Cop books! Please comment below.