Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?
My (now ex-) husband. When I met him, he still had some classes to complete for his degree—things like World History, Public Speaking, Spanish--that as an engineer he had put off as long as possible. I wrote his history essays and got 'A's on all of them. For some reason,n that convinced him that I ought to write a book. Nine years passed before I did anything about it. While his job kept us moving around the country and my son was small, I had a variety of jobs, part time and temporary, in childcare, market research, construction, building design, and writing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology. When we bought a house and settled down, he decided the moment had come when I ought to get a "proper" job. I decided the moment had come when I ought to try writing a book. He couldn't very well argue after all the times he'd told me I should, so I sat down at the kitchen table, with a pile of lined paper and a ballpoint, and wrote my first book.
How long have you been writing? In what genres do you write?
I wrote my first book in 1979, sold it in 1980, and it came out in 1981. It was a Regency (set in the early 19th century); I went on to write 32 full-length Regencies and about a dozen novellas. Among them are several that can be classified as fantasy/SF, including a ghost book, a time travel, and three fairy tales retold in a Regency setting. In the early 1990s, I was writing for two publishers, both of whom stopped publishing Regencies within 6 months of each other. It was the incentive I needed to try something different, and that was when my Daisy Dalrymple mysteries came into being. They are set in the 1920s. I've now started a second series, Cornish mysteries set in the 1960s.
Who is your favorite author and why do you like his/her work?
I don't have any one favourite author. Two I return to every few years are Jane Austen and J. R. Tolkien. In general, the authors I like take me to a different world, with characters I would like to know. After reading the daily newspaper, what I'm looking for in fiction is to escape the bad news and the troubles of the real world.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
The time, described above, when two publishers stopped publishing the genre that was my bread-and-butter and I had to reinvent my career. I was in the middle of a three-book contract with one of them, a contract that had given me a sense of security (ha-ha!) when I signed it. One book was published, one was finished and sent off, and the third was 2/3 written. Fortunately I didn't have to return any of the advances I'd already received. The third book had a pregnant heroine who was 8 months pregnant when I stopped writing. The poor woman stayed 8 months pregnant for a couple of years before I sold and finished writing her story for another publisher. In the meantime, the Daisy Dalrymple series had got going. I went on writing Regencies for the new publisher for a few years, then Daisy took over my life.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
My new book, MANNA FROM HADES, is the first of a new series of Cornish mysteries, set in the 1960s. (It's also my 50th book.) My chief protagonist is Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her 60s. After a life spent travelling the world, working for an international charity, she retires to a small fishing port in Cornwall. She buys a cottage and turns the ground floor into a charity shop, while she lives in the flat above with her West Highland terrier, Teazle. As Eleanor is not at all businesslike, the shop is run by the vicar's wife, while Eleanor drives around the countryside collecting donations of goods to sell in the shop. In Manna from Hades, she finds a body in the storeroom. Fortunately, her niece, Megan Pencarrow, is a detective with the local police force, though this doesn't prevent Eleanor clashing with Megan's boss, DI Scumble.
MANNA FROM HADES, published by St Martin's Minotaur, is available from any bookstore or on-line bookseller.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
The next Daisy Dalrymple mystery, “Sheer Folly,” is in production and will be out in September. I'm in the middle of the second Cornish mystery—working title “A Colourful Death”—which should appear Spring 2010, assuming I get it finished in time.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
Three qualities are necessary to be a successful writer: Luck, Talent, and Persistence. You can get away with just two of these, but the only one you control is Persistence.
What writers organizations claim you as a member?
Sisters in Crime
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
Los Angeles, The Mystery Bookstore, March 21st, 1 pm.
Thousand Oaks, Mysteries to Die For, March 21st, 3:30 pm.
Anaheim Library Foundation Mystery Authors Luncheon, March 22nd, 11 am (book in advance).
San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy, March 24th, 7 pm.
Seattle Mystery Books, April 11th, noon.
Portland OR, Murder by the Book, April 12th, 3 pm.
Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.
I'm glad my life took this turn 30 years ago. After 50 books, it's still a thrill to hold the new one in my hands, and I love hearing from readers who enjoy them, especially those who tell me my books have helped them, distracting them from their troubles.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
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