September Sisters in Crime SinC-Up

Hi there …

The cool folks over at Sisters in Crime ( have organized a blog hop for mystery writers. You don’t have to be a sister (or even female for that matter). A great writing friend of mine Noelle Granger (at is trying to drag this old hermit, kicking and screaming, out into the world of people and tagging me is one way she’s doing it. Her book about Rhe Brewster (‘Death in a Red Canvas Chair’) is just great and I heartily recommend you check it out. She has another one in the works that I hope will be out soon.

The blog-hop idea is that you answer a set of questions and then forward the questions to another blogger, preferably someone you like and whose work you would like to promote. Hippity hop, hippity hop.

Here are the questions:

  • Which authors have inspired you?
    • J. D. Salinger, Mark Twain and a remarkable woman writer named Beryl Markham. She was also an aviatrix during the classic years of flight and was the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean the hard way, against the prevailing winds. That sissy Lindbergh flew it the easy way, with the wind pushing him along. Before she did that she was a bush pilot. She wrote of her experience in ‘West With The Night’ and it is a great book.
  • Which male authors write great women characters?
    • My vote for this is Craig Johnson, who writes strong women characters in his Walt Longmire series. My view could come partially from the fact I grew up with strong women of character so that’s what I respond to.
  • Which female authors write great male characters?
    • My vote for that would be Charles Todd. I know, but stay with me here, because Charles Todd is the pen name for a mother and son writing team that writes the Inspector Ian Rutledge series of murder mysteries.
  • If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?
    • I would say if that’s the case, then that’s a remarkable coincidence. Good crime writing, in my considered opinion, depends on both plot structure and characterization. Neither sex has a corner on the market with regard to creation of either. I would also recommend not paying attention to whether the author is male or female, just look at the quality of writing and go from there.
  • What’s the best part of the writing process for you?
    • Oh, without doubt the initial rough draft. My process is to let the movie play in my head and scribble down everything as it happens.
  • What’s the most challenging?
    • Immediately following the chaotic process outlined above, the greatest continuing challenge is to prune, deciding which details best reflect what’s happening in the scene. My most challenging work to date is the present book I’m working on. It’s a light-hearted romantic mystery entitled ‘Suzy and Dodge.’ The main character is Max, a journalist home from WWII who is trying to live a quiet life, apparently without much success. Suzy is his love interest and Dodge is Suzy’s dog, who has quite a few tricks of his own. I find the main challenge in writing a mystery is that I have to write the story twice. First I write what’s behind the curtain, what all the bad guys are doing, then I write what is on-stage that the reader sees and have the scenes connect to the hidden plot as the main character investigates what is going on. It’s a lot of fun putting the puzzle together and I hope it will be entertaining when it comes out.
  • Do you listen to music while writing?
    • Yes, I do. Music is a great help to set my mood to match the scene I’m writing, and that helps my characters respond consistently to conflict challenges (within the bounds of character arc, that is).
  • What’s on your playlist?
    • Oh, scads of stuff. In The Fur, Fish, Flea and Beagle Club I listened to a lot of music from The Great War (‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile’; ‘there’s a long long road a-winding until my dreams all come true’), Eugene’s Ragtop performed by Snuffy Walden, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring-Rodeo:Four Dance Episodes – Corral Nocturne, Richard Bennett’s ‘Flatpicking06’ from his A Long Lonesome Time album and Walt Koken’s ‘Banjo Ma’am’ from his Hei-wa album.
  • What books are on your nightstand right now?
    • My nightstand bends under the weight of unread books, largely because when I’m actively writing I have to be careful what I read. If I read writing that is too good or too distinctive I find myself imitating, not a good thing. I want to write in my own voice. But to answer the question, I have the second volume of Twain’s autobiography, a bio of Camille Claudel, several WWII histories (research for the book I’m working on now), and the first book in the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.
  • If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?
    • The only piece of advice I would give is not to be afraid of making mistakes because as James Michener said, books are not so much written as re-written. That’s the only way to learn. Your audience will be unique to you and it might take a while for your readers to find you. If you keep working, keep at it, by the time they find you you should have a body of work that will keep them entertained. Good luck!

Now I pass the baton to another great writing friend, Elizabeth Hein over at she, like Noelle, is a properly dedicated crime writer. Her book ‘Overlook’ is a real winner and be sure to check out her new book ‘How To Climb The Eiffel Tower’ which is coming out Oct 1st. Her blog is a lot of fun too. So tag, Elizabeth. You’re it.