Monday, October 10, 2011
This week we have the author of the popular Pepper Martin series joining us for an interview. I have reviewed the two most recent books in the series, Tomb with a View (click here) and A Hard Day's Fright (click here). A Hard Day's Fright will be up for give away at the end of the month during the Blog Hop Giveaway.
Casey Daniels learned to love mysteries early thanks to her dad, a Cleveland Police detective who enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories. Later, she read her way through every mystery story she could get her hands on. Now on to the interview!
- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
For me, every book starts in a different place. For "A Hard Day's Fright," it started because I was wondering how those left behind deal and feel when someone close to them goes missing. For book #8 in Pepper Martin mystery series, "Wild, Wild Death" (it will be out on January 3), the story came about because I was visiting New Mexico. I never know where a story idea will come from. That's one of the reasons it's great to be a writer, it's fun to look for story ideas lurking all about!
- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
Yes, I am an outliner and I sometimes take weeks to do it. I start with basic ideas (i.e., this needs to happen, then this, then this), then I go back over it, fill in more info, then over it again and again, adding anything I can think of. Eventually, I start breaking down that list into chapters. By the end of the process, I know what's going to happen in a chapter, but not always how it's going to happen. So that still leaves room for a lot of creativity. The outlining process itself, of course, is all about brainstorming and flights of fancy. It's one of my favorite parts of writing.
- What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
I don't use pictures or a worksheet, but I do spend plenty of time thinking about a character. Of course with something like a mystery series, I've got lots and lots of words to play with, so plenty of time to develop a character. The book that's coming out in January ("Wild, Wild Death") is the 8th in the Pepper Martin series. Times roughly 80,000 words a book, that means I've had about 640,000 words to play with and develop character. That's one advantage a series writer has over an author who is writing a single-title, free standing book. Lots of room to work with, and lots of possibilities!
- Were you always interested in ghosts? If not what drew you to a ghost communicator for an amateur sleuth? What sort of research do you do?
I think the whole world of ghosts and the paranormal is incredibly interesting and I suppose that's what initially drew me to the idea of a cemetery worker who can communicate with the dead. Do I believe in ghosts? Absolutely. I think there's too much evidence to ignore. As for research, I've done lots, including participating in paranormal investigations. One was at a cemetery the night after Halloween. Got some great photos of mists that were there in one picture, gone in the next. Also heard some knocking from a plexiglass box that held a statue--the knocking was coming from inside the box!
In addition to all that, having Pepper communicate with the dead is just plain fun, and great for plotting. It opens up all sorts of possibilities. So from a purely writing standpoint, it's a real plus.
- Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
No music while I write, I find it too distracting. I do have a home office and I do all my writing in here.
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
Theoretically, I write all day, 5 days a week. Of course, there are many times life gets in the way and I can't keep to that schedule. But for me, writing is a full time job. I have this little trick: I set a clock for 45 minutes and in that time, all I'm allowed to do is write (no checking email, no playing Spider Solitaire!). At the end of the 45 minutes, I get 15 minutes to do whatever I want. Since I've started keeping this schedule, I write many more pages than I used to.
As for how long it takes me to write a book, about 3-4 months. Depends on how many deadlines I have breathing down my neck!
- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels and particularly paranormal mysteries?
Well, I majored in English in college and before I wrote mysteries, I wrote romance, both historical and contemporary. I wrote those under the names Constance Laux and Connie Lane. I've also written YA horror and even a children's book. All writing prepares you for what you'll write later, so I think all that was great experience. Also, my dad was a Cleveland Police detective. When I was a kid, he'd put me in the car and on his days off, we'd go look for stolen cars. So that was my first experience with solving mysteries! As for the paranormal elements, my interesting in paranormal fuels that. And of course, as with all writing, reading, reading, reading. I love the old classic mysteries. I love the intricacy of mysteries, the plotting and the twisting and the turning and being clever so that readers are always surprised.
- Who is your favorite mystery character? Who is your favorite paranormal character?
In my mysteries? Or others? In others, absolutely my favorite mystery character is Sherlock Holmes, bar none. In paranormal characters, I can't say I have a favorite. Of my own characters, I love Pepper. She's got attitude!
- Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
So many of my writing friends inspire me every day with their talent and their determination. The classic writers, too, Conan Doyle, Christie, and I love the mysteries of Elizabeth Peters. She was the first who showed me that mysteries could be intricate, interesting, and fun, too!
- How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
My first sale was a historical romance called "Twilight Secrets" and it came after I queried an agent. She represented the book for that first sale. That was back in '92 and since then, I've published 40 books.
- What are you currently reading?
Truth be told, nothing! I generally don't read fiction while I'm in the middle of writing it, though I will sometimes read nonfiction. I save my fiction reading for the time between books.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Sorry to say, I don't think I have one. Writing to me is a business and I handle it in a very straightforward fashion. It's not like I have to use a pink pen, or that I can only write on Wednesdays after three! My background is in journalism and if there's one thing you learn there, it's that you need to learn to write on demand. That's still how I approach my work.
- If your Pepper Martin Mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your character's roles?
It's a fabulous thought. Unfortunately, I'm not all that familiar with the crop of new actors out there, so I have no idea who might be cast. It sure would be fun, though. If anyone out there knows any producers, send them my way!
<<< May I suggest Rose McGowan as a possibility?>>>
- Do you have anything you would like to share about your next book in the series?
I'm currently working on book #9 in the Pepper Martin mystery series. After a trip to New Mexico, Pepper's back in Cleveland where she meets a ghost who needs her help in order to keep someone else from dying. Trouble is, the ghost was bound and gagged before he was drowned--so he can't talk to tell her who she needs to protect. No official pub date on that book yet, but I think it's going to be fall of 2012.
In addition, I have a new mystery series out that I've written as Kylie Logan. The first book is "Button Holed," part of the Button Box mystery series. No paranormal elements, just a woman named Josie who is one of the country's leading experts in antique and historical buttons. Great fun to write. Talk about research!
Thanks for having me visit, Ariel. I enjoyed chatting with your readers.
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Thank You Casey! Great interview and how interesting your quality time with your dad was ;-) Wow, taking part in paranormal investigations must have been fascinating. I enjoyed thinking of actresses to play Pepper. Readers, do you have any thoughts of who could portray Pepper if it ever got to the big or small screen?