A few times each month – maybe every other Tuesday afternoon, I intend to bring readers an interview with someone from the writing world. These interviews will cross genres, and include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, journalism and web-based writers. Some will be unpublished writers, published writers, self-published writers, e-book writers, editors, publishers, writing teachers, which is to say anyone who might have something interesting to share about the writing world. If you know someone I should interview (online), have them contact me.
Today I bring you the first, an interview with a cozy mystery writer, Marie Davies. She agreed to respond to a series of questions about her writing life so that I could share this with readers.
Marie Davies is a former minister and Director of Chaplains for the Maryland State Police. She taught sociology and stress management at the Maryland State Police Academy and is a licensed real estate agent. Her real passion is writing. Currently, she is working on what will be her third novel though she admits the first two manuscripts are sitting in a file. When she isn’t in one of the local coffee shops working on her book, you’ll find her in her Catonsville home with Jay, her husband of twenty-six years, or paddling her pink kayak on the Patapsco River. Marie and Jay share their home with a very spoiled Jack Russell Terrier named Boomer, who adopted them 5 years ago. You can find Marie on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarieDaviesAuthor or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan: Marie, you write a fictional form called a cozy mystery and you’ve told me your particular slant is a paranormal cozy mystery, could you tell our readers about this particular type of fiction? What is a cozy mystery?
Marie: A cozy mystery features an amateur sleuth who solves crimes. The main character is usually female and she may or may not be willing involved in the situation. Think “Miss Marple” vs. “CSI.” My current novel does have a paranormal slant which means my protagonist won’t be using typical detective work to solve her mystery.
Jan: Who is the intended audience for what you’re writing? And do you have a working title and publisher lined up yet?
Marie: This book will be for anyone who likes to curl up with a cup of tea on a rainy day to read about solving crime but I think my readers will be largely women. A lot of the novel has to do with the power and importance of friendship between women. The working title is Murder in the Cards. As far as publishing I am seriously considering self-publishing for number of reasons but, mainly, because e-books have made it so much easier.
Jan: Could you tell readers about how the idea for your current book project evolved?
Marie: When I was kid my mom used to love going to a restaurant in Baltimore called the Palmer House. The restaurant was known for psychics who read palms and tarot for the customers. I started with the idea of a woman of certain age whose grandparents owned such a restaurant. And started asking myself “what if” questions. What if this woman could really see the future when using the tarot? What if she saw someone die?
Jan: Could you describe your writing process? Writers always want to know how other writers work. Do you set daily or weekly word count or writing goals? When do you write? How do you write – pen or computer or both?
Marie: I like to write in the morning with a cup of coffee next to my laptop. I am one of those coffee shop writers. I write minimum of 2 hours most days. In terms of development, I don’t do a lot of outlining. I have rough sketch on a dry erase board and character names. I keep a hand written journal for ideas and character development. Then I stand back and let my characters drive the plot.
Jan: I understand you’re near the end of a feedback and revision process loop on this, your third book. Who are your readers and how does this process work for you?
Marie: I’m not sure I’m near the end. I’d like to be near the end. I work with an on-line critique called The Writing Well. Our members are published authors or authors in the process of working on their books. As far as genres, we run the gambit from creative non-fiction to science fiction. Our members come from all over the world so we have great mix of idea and knowledge.
I send in a chapter at a time. The other writers will go through my work line by line making suggestions, comments, and corrections. In return I will do the same for them. We’ve a wonderfully talented group. I am very fortunate to have connected with them.
Jan: What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you? In particular what part of the work on this newest book left you in despair? And what did you find exhilarating?
Marie: Editing is the hardest part. I love the creating end – just getting the words on the screen, letting the ideas flow and the characters take shape. The fine tuning is the tough part – making sure the writing is tight, and the grammar is correct.
Jan: Tell us a little about your main characters. What do you admire about them and why?
Marie: My main character is Svetlana Borkowski Parker. Lana, as she is called, owns a coffee shop/used bookstore in the building where her grandmother once had her restaurant. Lana is very smart, a savvy business person with a wicked sense of humor. The thing I admire most about Lana is that she is a great friend. Her partner in the business is her BFF Rosemary and they’ve seen each other through the best and worst of their lives. Everyone should have one friend like Lana who’ll do anything for you and stick by you, no matter what.
Jan: If you had to give an elevator pitch to a publisher, what would you say to convince her to read and publish your book?
Marie: Gosh that is tough. I would start with a brief synopsis – the kind of thing you see on a book jacket: “Lana Parker grew up reading the Tarot cards in her grandmother’s restaurant. Few people knew why her readings were so deadly accurate. Lana has a special gift and she sees more than just the cards. When a vision takes murderous turn she must race against time to save her friends and herself. This isn’t the first time she’s seen death in the Tarot and she must face the harsh reality that her fear of what she might see in the cards may have already cost her life of the person she loved most.”
Then I would just cut to the chase and ask if they would like to mail the first three chapters or if they preferred email.
Jan: Are there any particular writers in this genre that you admire and could suggest to our readers who would like to read a cozy mystery?
Marie: I like Sarah Graves; Home Repair Can Be Homicide series and Diane Mott Davidson: Goldy Bear Catering Mystery Series. Any of the books in those series will give you a good idea of the genre.
Jan: What do you know about writing now that you didn’t fully realize five years ago? What advice has helped you the most? What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?
Marie: The lesson I’ve learned is – if you are going write and write well – you have let go of your ego. What writer doesn’t want to produce the great American novel on the first draft? When you don’t, it is a bit of a shock. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t have any expectations or maybe even don’t have the desire to write THAT book. But I do want my novel to be the best that I can make it, then maybe – if I am lucky, someone will pick up my book and get a few hours of enjoyment from what I’ve written.
“The best advice I received is the same advice I give aspiring writers. Just write. Write daily. Even if you can only write fifteen minutes a day in a year you’ll have a book. You can have the most wonderful and creative plots all mapped out in your head, but you’re not a writer until you put words on paper or a computer screen.” Marie Davies – March 2012
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at:
Website – www.janbowmanwriter.com
Blogsite – http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com
Wonderful conversation! I agree that coffee shops and writing seem to be a lovely combination for many. Jan and Marie…two talented ladies. Awesomeness!! (Is that an actual word, or did I jsut make it up?) I will be a customer of you both. Just let your fans know when your work is in print and for sale.
Hi Marie and Jan,
This is interesting. I’ve never read a “cozy” but I think I will now. Thank you for introducing a new kind of fiction to me. Nice. Linda O.
I agree, Marie. Writing daily is the best advice to give other writers. So few are diligent enough to do it, but it pays royally.
C. Hope Clark
A wonderful first interview in this series, Jan. I agree with Marie that writing daily is the best path taken, but don’t kid yourself, it’s hard. Life intrudes. Family and friends tend to see our writing as a hobby and easily put on the back burner when they need our time. Perseverance is key. LOL. And a good writing group. Looks like Marie has both.
Cozy mysteries sound like more fun than an uncomfortable mystery. When Ms. Davies’ book comes out, I want to read it.
Nice interview. Great to meet another Maryland author!
Nice to meet you, too. Like your website. Marie
Hello All- Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
Keep writing and believing in the possibilities of your craft.
These are the kinds of novels I often read. Even better: I’ve been to the Palmer House! My reading was all about how I was going to write a book. I was convinced that my friend had tipped off the reader that I was a writer. (I’m still not sure!) Anyway, thanks for the great interview.
Hi Pam –
I wondered if the Palmer House in Baltimore still exists and if others remember having dinner there and how the place looked. Guess I’ll have to read Marie’s book to find out. She’s looking for a publisher – or maybe to self publish.
If you have any insights let us know. I recently reread a book of your poetry. Good stuff! Jan
I, too, am anxious to get my hands on Marie’s first published novel. I love cozy mysteries and have ready many of the Goldy Bear series. Love the hot tea, rainy day and a comfortable book idea! It is my favorite day. Or perhaps a snowy day since I’m in Colorado.
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