Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Author Interview with CAROLA DUNN

Carola Dunn has more than 50 novels to her credit, including the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series. (Book covers for Daisy's 17th and 18th adventures appear below.) She is a frequent visitor to the Author Exchange Blog and we love to hear about her exploits, including this summer's visit to the UK.
Tell us about your recent trip to London and all the wonderful writerly things that happened when you were there.

I didn't spend much time in London, but I did do one wonderful writerly thing there—I met my new UK editor and the production and marketing people of Constable & Robinson. Fifteen years after her first appearance in the US, Daisy Dalrymple is home in England at last. The first three books in the series, DEATH AT WENTWATER COURT, THE WINTER GARDEN MYSTERY, and REQUIEM FOR A MEZZO are already out in a UK/Commonwealth edition—with great new cover art—and BLACK SHIP will be out this month. They've also bought the rights to the 4th, 5th and 6th, and SHEER FOLLY, the latest, just out in the US. What's more, they've sold the UK large print rights to the first 4!

I did a lot of research elsewhere in England. In Cornwall, I spent time in Padstow, the setting of A COLOURFUL DEATH, my second Cornish mystery, and in Launceston and Bodmin, both settings for occasional scenes in both that and the first, MANNA FROM HADES. I also revisited Tintagel, possible setting of a future book, and Rocky Valley, a perfectly wonderful place to discover a body.

Elsewhere, I went to Saffron Walden, in Essex (where I spent my schooldays), and got lost in a maze, another great place for finding—and losing—bodies. My next Daisy book will be set there.

The rights to a number of your early books have been re-sold. Tell us how that’s going to work for you.

I'm all for it! It's not just the earlier books—as well as the UK rights, US large print rights to the later ones have been sold. In fact, all the US paperback rights were sold by St. Martin's to Kensington over the years. It's an ongoing process. It's just more rewarding financially when the older ones are resold as they earned out the advances long ago, partly because they've been around a long time, partly because the advances were lower.

This process goes back to my Regencies. Many of them were sold for foreign editions (French, Spanish, German, Czech, Italian, Portuguese, and even Hebrew!!!), and large print editions are still coming out—rights sold by me as I now have all my Regency rights back. MISS JACOBSON'S JOURNEY will be out from Thorndike in November, and as it's a joint publication with Chivers (aka BBC Audiobooks) in the UK, that's another market. All my Regencies are also now available as ebooks at

You do a lot of self-promotion on Facebook and TheLadyKillers blog, so I’m guessing it works for you. Why do you think that is?

Actually, I have no idea whether it works. I occasionally hear from someone who's read about my books on one or the other and gone on to buy them, but how important it is I don't know. Still, it's a whole lot cheaper and easier than doing book tours, and unless you're a really big name author, book signings are liable to be disappointing. The best are at independent mystery bookstores ( They usually have a whole stack of my books and whether any bodies (readers, not murder victims) turn up or not they have me sign them and then keep them to sell over time. Quite a lot of my mysteries have been IMBA Bestsellers, even if I never make the NY Times list. I get invitations from Indie stores all over the country but unfortunately can't afford the time or money to visit any but those on the West Coast: Seattle Mystery Bookstore, Murder by the Book in Portland, LA Mystery Bookstore, M for Mystery in San Mateo, Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, and occasionally a couple of others.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

The time when both the publishers I was writing for stopped publishing Regencies, the genre that was my bread-and-butter (and everything else), 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 (The Babe and the Baron) 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. Now Eleanor Trewynn, in my new Cornish series, has joined her.

Your 50th book, Manna from Hades, has been receiving excellent reviews. Tell us where we can find both the book and the reviews.

The book is available at all booksellers, both bricks & mortar—if they don't have a copy they can order it—and online. The reviews are all over the place. I'm afraid after 50 books I no longer keep a track of all of them, just copy the nice bits into a computer file.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I've just finished (9 weeks after deadline) A COLOURFUL DEATH. It's the second Cornish mystery. Unless I've completely thrown off the publisher's schedule, it should be out in Spring 2010. I'm about to start on the next Daisy book, the nineteenth. You can read about the difficulties of switching time periods on my guest blog post at

What are your thoughts about eBooks versus traditional print books – and where electronic publishing is headed?

I suspect paper books will be around for a long time. I'm quite sure more and more people will buy eBook readers, even if they use them only in certain situations, such as travelling, or reading beside a sleeping spouse. I think it's a real shame Amazon decided to go with an exclusive format for Kindle readers but there are new Sonys and, I believe, a Samsung, coming out soon that will be able to read a variety of different formats. My Regency eBook publisher is not only generous with royalties but makes the books available in several different formats, including one for Kindle.

The ease of publishing eBooks means that a lot of people who write well but can't find a print publisher will be able to get their work out there. It also means a lot of total junk will be available. Very much a Caveat Emptor situation.

As a lover of old books, I'm thinking of buying one of the new Sony readers just for out-of-copyright books from Project Gutenberg

Are you a member of a critique group? If not, have you ever been? Care to share your thoughts about how critique groups can help—or hinder—new writers?

I once belonged to a critique group for a short time. The members wrote all sorts of different things, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, historical, and as a result it was pretty useless. A smaller group focused on one particular kind of writing could be useful to a beginner. Even then, I see two possible problems—the first is getting a great deal of conflicting advice and trying to please everyone, which can also lead to rewriting over and over and never achieving a finished product that satisfies you, the writer, let alone everybody else; the second is hurt feelings and broken friendships.

For mystery writers, I've heard great things of the Sisters in Crime pre-published chapter, known for some good reason I can't recall as the Guppies. If you're not a member, it's kind of difficult at the moment to get information as a new website is under construction, but keep looking at

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
Sept. 24th Speaker, Portland (OR) Friends of Mystery
Sept. 25th noon, signing, Seattle Mystery Bookstore     
Sept. 26th 2 pm, signing, Tea Party Bookstore, Salem OR

Sometime in October, I will be signing at M for Mystery in San Mateo CA, LA Mystery Bookstore, and Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, possibly also at mystery bookstores in San Francisco and Thousand Oaks. Keep an eye on their websites for news.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

I'd write faster if I didn't have a bunch of bird feeders just outside my office window.

What are the addresses of your website(s), blog(s), Facebook and Twitter pages: (till geocities shuts down in October); (still under construction); (shared blog—my day is Tuesday);
Facebook: Just feed it my name; Twitter likewise.

I also guest blog here and there from time to time. Just Google my name and "blog" and see what comes up! (I just did this and find all sorts of people I don't know have blogged about me! Ah, fame...)

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