To Live & Write in FLA- Deborah Sharp

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Mama Gets Trashed

Deborah Sharp is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Her Mama series is rich with laugh-out-loud moments and insights into the other Florida. (Not glitzy Miami or mouse house Orlando) She is a former reporter for USA Today and she’s married to a reporter , NBC TV’s Kerry Sanders. They met covering a story  ‘ in a frozen farm field in romantic Immokalee, Fla.’ For those non-Floridians, Immokalee is hardly romantic and Florida rarely freezes so no one has proper cold weather gear. 

 

How long have you lived in FLA?

I’m an authentic native, born and raised, which sometimes makes me feel as rare as the endangered Florida panther.
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Where do you write and when?

I don’t have children or a “day job,” so I’m able to write when the mood strikes. Because I write my first drafts in long-hand, in an old-school composition book, I’m able to write anywhere: at home in my office, on my backyard deck overlooking the New River, in a coffee shop, at the library. I just stick the booklet in my backpack and go.

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What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

I’m not sure this is a failure, but the biggest mistake I made way back when was thinking I was ready and able to write my first novel, while holding down a demanding, full-time job as a reporter. I did produce a book — badly written, riddled with rookie mistakes, and in no way ready to be pitched to an agent. Which, of course, was what I did, almost as soon as I finished it. Brimming with misplaced self-confidence, I told him, “I think it’s pretty good. After all, I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years.” Long pause. “Well,” he said, “that doesn’t mean you can write.” He was correct.
That manuscript still lives on a closet shelf, dusty and forgotten, thankfully. I learned confidence doesn’t equal skill. I spent the next year or two in critique groups and at conferences learning to write fiction. Finally, I came up with a book I could be rightfully proud to pitch. It became “Mama Does Time,” the first in my series, published by Midnight Ink.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?  Or do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

Strangely, the best writing advice I ever received was also the worst advice. Early in my newspaper career, an editor growled at me, on deadline: “Lose the flowery language and get to the point. Nobody cares what you think.”
It was great advice for a reporter, who (back then, at least) was not supposed to write from a point of view. Let the people in news stories speak for themselves, we were told, without a lot of writerly input or interpretation.
I had to learn to do exactly the opposite in fiction. It wasn’t easy at first.  Against everything I’d known as a journalist, I had to allow the people in my books interior thoughts, give them motives, make up the outcomes of their actions.
It turned out fiction fans DO want to know what I think — or at least what the characters I create think.

 

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?  (Literary or otherwise)

My dream dinner date would have to be with the late Anne George, an Alabama poet and author who created the Southern Sisters mysteries. My taste in mysteries was changing back then from much darker writing — thrillers — to something lighter when I first found her books. She was such an influence because her funny, kind-hearted mysteries gave me permission to do a similar kind of book — Southern-flavored, full of love of family (even when family drives you crazy), and a little bit wacky.  Were she still alive, I’d ask her if she appreciated my series as an homage, or if she thought I’d completely missed the mark. (I hope she wouldn’t answer the latter. It would make our dessert of Red Velvet cake rather awkward.)

Favorite cocktail or N/A drink and at what Florida bar?

My favorite “cocktail” is actually a beer. Don’t judge! What can I say? I drive a 2003 pickup with a bumper sticker on the back that says Hillbilly.Com, so cocktails are a little high-class for me. My first favorite spot to enjoy a cold one is on my deck over the river. A close second is the Quarterdeck restaurant, perched above the ocean on the Dania Beach Pier.
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When she can set down her cold brew long enough to press click, Deborah posts pictures of the gorgeous sunsets from her back deck. I advise you to follow Deborah on her social media and to get to know Mama & Mace if you haven’t already. Deborah knows Florida and she knows how to make you laugh! 

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To Live & Write in FLA- Ali Brandon

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I know Ali Brandon as Diane A.S. Stuckart. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. And yes, cats have a lot to do with how we met. See—- Diane was wearing a pair of cat ears. I was in line waiting for the doors to open at one of SleuthFest’s big events and I looked behind me to see a lady with cat ears. It was my delight to learn she was the author of the Black Cat Bookshop series.

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I’d already read one of the books in the series and loved her cat character Hamlet. Since, then I’ve begun following Hamlet on twitter and facebook. He is a very talented cat. Diane is, too! You should check out her da Vinci series. It has a canine in it, a lovely Italian greyhound named Pio. So, dog lover or cat lover Diane has a mystery for you. Enjoy the interview.

How long have you lived in FLA?

I said goodbye to my beloved home state of Texas and moved to the West Palm Beach area in 2006 – unfortunately, right before the real estate bubble burst. I guess I’m stuck here now, but that’s OK as I’ve become quite fond of the Sunshine State.

Where do you write and when?

Since I work full-time in addition to my writing, I write nights and weekends in my home office (when I can shove the cats off my desk); or, when the weather is nice, out on my screened back porch. When I’m on deadline, I also write at lunch time in the backseat of my car with my laptop propped on my knees.

What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

I don’t think I’ve had failures as much as missed opportunities – sometimes brought on by Fate and sometimes because I just didn’t hustle enough. But I’ve learned not to worry about following the trends…or worry that what I’m writing is to similar to something already out there. If it’s good, it’s going to sell.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?  Or do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

The best advice wasn’t specifically given to me, but advice I take to heart — namely, never envy another writer’s achievements. There’s plenty of room at the top for all of us, even though it doesn’t always feel that way Rather than wasting time wishing I had someone’s success, I should be busy emulating their work ethic that gained them that success in the first place. Though, of course, being in the right place at the right time never hurts!

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?  (Literary or otherwise)

After having read all his notebooks while doing research for my Leonardo da Vinci mystery series, I’d have to say Leonardo. He was a quirky, brilliant, arrogant, and complicated man who managed despite penning thousands of pages of writings and drawings to reveal very little personal information about himself. I’d love to fill in some of those blanks.

 Favorite cocktail or N/A drink and at what Florida bar?

I’m not big at hanging out in bars—can’t handle the cigarette smoke–so I’m afraid I don’t have a favorite watering hole. Besides which, you’re more likely to see me clutching a Diet Coke than a cocktail. But my adult drink of choice at home is currently Moscato when it’s hot, and Bailey’s and coffee when it’s cold. When out, I opt for a Margarita on the rocks with plenty of salt.

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Find out more about Diane, Hamlet, and Pio on her website.

 

 

 

 

 

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