Miami Interviews- Laurel Peterson

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Feliz Año Nuevo

I’m welcoming Cozy in Miami’s 2017 in with a revival of my Miami Interview series. Laurel Peterson is a frequent visitor to the Magic City. Beyond her love of Miami and mysteries, Laurel & I share something else in common. We are both poets. (Laurel, I also have a poem or two  published in The Distillery.)

This is what Laurel says about how she got into mystery writing. “One eighth grade afternoon, the bully on the bus was worse than usual. I came home and wrote a story of revenge in my journal. What satisfaction to leave her bleeding (on paper, of course!) on the playground. Thus was born my career as a mystery writer.” I agree with her. There is satisfaction in righting wrongs and getting some bloodless revenge. Writing is an amazing tool for overcoming grief, trauma, and hardship. If you have ever written away your woes, please leave us a comment about it.

Now onto the interview~~

Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.

As northerner whose summers are all too short, I love the heat and have been to Miami several times. We have family there, and my husband and I also use it as a gateway to the Keys. The last time I visited Miami was for a writing conference through The Writer’s Institute: The Center at MDC, which has so many terrific literary programs. I took a workshop with the amazing Mat Johnson on structuring the novel. All the conference organizers thought I was nuts because I walked from the hotel to the college, a total of about 15 blocks. In New York, that’s nothing, but they seemed to think it was endless. One day, enticed by the pretty waterfront park, its touristy shops, and its wonderful sculptures, I got lost. I finally found my way by asking directions, but I barely made it to my workshop on time—and, of course, I was all sweaty. Mat said to me later, “You had your maps app, right?” I had totally forgotten!!

What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

Barbara Parker’s Suspicion of…  series was great fun. Two lawyers—one white and one Cuban—tackled tricky cases together. But as a mystery lover, Carl Hiassen is not to be discounted. !!

Tell us about your writing and main characters.

My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was recently released by Barking Rain Press. My protagonist Clara Montague has intuitions and a bad relationship with her mother. At the beginning of the novel, she’s been traveling around the world for fifteen years because her mother Constance ignored her intuitions and, as a result, her father died. (The girl knows how to hold a grudge!) Now, she has a dream that her mother is in danger and feels obligated to return home. Shortly after she arrives, Constance is jailed for murder. Did she do it?

Of course Constance refuses to tell her anything, so Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies and wealthy socialites with political ambitions, to dig out Constance’s secrets. But what are the Winters’ motivations for helping her?  And why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?

In addition to writing mysteries, I also write poetry. One chapbook, Talking to the Mirror, was published by The Last Automat Press. The second, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, was published by Finishing Line Press. My full-length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in January 2017.

Laurel Peterson Shadow Notes Cover compressedWould your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

Clara is a world traveler; it’s something she loves more than almost anything else. While she wouldn’t blend in with the local culture, she would love to participate in it—attending the art openings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, tasting all the different versions of Latin cuisine, walking on the beach, and, because she is a landscape architect, visiting the Miami Beach Botanic Garden, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables.

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I hope you will follow Laurel on her blog and social media. And I hope you’ll come to Miami to see the sights and sample our Latin cuisine.

 

To Live & Write in FLA- Micki Browning

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I love the cover art for Micki Browning‘s new book. She revealed it to a group of fellow mystery writers and I was there that day. That was well over a year ago! I’ve been waiting to read what’s behind that gorgeous cover. Luckily, I won’t have to wait too much long. Her mystery, Adrift, will be released in January 2017. It won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished mystery and unpublished book of the year.

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Before becoming a full-time writer in paradise (The Florida Keys) Micki Browning worked in law enforcement for more than two decades. Coupled with her degree from the FBI National Academy she has an incredible depth of first-hand knowledge that any mystery writer would kill for! (FYI- No need to do that as she is a consultant and will share her expertise with you.) I love the opening to her website. “I have to confess. My current job is murder. I’m a writer of wrongs.”

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How long have you lived in Florida?

I’ve lived in South Florida since 2011. I had every intention of spending six months in the Keys and six months in Colorado, but other than a couple quick trips to visit family and friends in the Centennial State, that plan didn’t work out. It’s nice to live in a state where the people don’t know what a snowblower is, and I can wear flip flops year round.

 

Where do you write and when?

I love writing outside, especially if it’s near water—the saltier the better.  I find that writing freehand taps into a different part of my brain than when I’m at my computer. I’m more adventurous armed with a pencil. That said, I spend a lot of time in my home office.  Deadlines require focus. I’m fortunate that I can write at anytime during the day—as long as I’ve had at least one cup of tea.

 

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

I didn’t sell my first (or second) book, which at the time felt like a horrible failure. It taught me humility. I retired as a police commander, a step away from chief of police, but living life as a police officer was far different than writing about it. I was a neophyte writer who needed to learn her craft.

 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Plot from the point of view of your antagonist, and write from the point of view of your protagonist. Obvious, right? How can your protagonist go about solving the nefarious deed at the heart of the story if the author doesn’t know how the antagonist executed the (almost) perfect crime?

 

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

James Thurber. He was primarily a cartoonist, but his short stories were incredibly funny and his wit was driven by intelligence and insight. His brand of storytelling has always resonated with me. He taught me that some of life’s most poignant moments benefit from a dash of humor.

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

The first cocktail I had in the Keys was at Sharkey’s Pub in Key Largo and it was a tropical mash-up of light rum, pineapple juice, mango fruit rum, orange juice, passion fruit rum, grenadine, and a splash more rum. I think it was good. I’m not sure, it’s all a bit hazy….

 

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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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To Live & Write in FLA– Joanna Campbell Slan

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I have known Joanna Campbell Slan for almost ten years. We met at SleuthFest in 2006. She was folding origami while we waited in the audience for the panel to begin. Whenever I think of her, the picture of a woman always making something pops into my mind. Creative is not a strong enough adjective to describe Joanna’s skills and talents. Not only is she a well-known scrapbook aficionado and miniaturist, but she weaves amazing plots. I love the Kiki Lowenstien series, now at book twelve. Kiki is a complex woman of strength, a lot like the author. Joanna has a series on its third book, Cara Mia Delgatto,  which is set in Florida. She has intertwined the two characters in her latest release  the Kiki and Cara Mia Christmas Collection.  And then there are the anthologies she edits and her historical series and … As you can see this lady is a  tidal wave of talent. So, on to the interview–

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How long have you lived in FLA?

Actually, I was born in Jacksonville, but my parents moved us to Indiana when I was a baby. I’ve been back as a full-time resident of Jupiter Island since 2010.

Where do you write and when?

Anywhere, everywhere, all the time.  Seriously, I do.  I use a notebook computer for its portability. Because I’m on the computer all day, I like being able to move from room to room, or even to go outside.  I write every day unless I have an event or a project. Right now I’m working on my entry for the 2016 Creatin’ Contest, a miniature contest, so I’m not putting in my usual hours at work. That said, this year I’m releasing four original books and four anthologies with other authors, for a total of eight titles.

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Joanna won Honorable Mention in 2015

for her “Big Wave Dave’s Surf Shop”.

 

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

You don’t have room or time for me to list all my big failures. I fail nearly as much as I succeed. But I can’t remember one specific failure that outranks all the rest, and here’s the reason for that—it doesn’t matter. What matters is getting up, starting over, and moving forward. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over. You’re only “out” if you stay down.

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

Wendy Corsi Staub once told me to keep writing that next book. Each new book sells the old ones. She was right! Plus, you get better and better as you rack up more experience. The more I write, the better I get.

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

I’d love to have lunch or dinner with Terry Gross or Diane Rehm because they’ve interviewed the most important people of our generation.

Oh, please invite me to that dinner party. Both those ladies are great.

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

My favorite is Campari and orange, and I prefer drinking it while on a yacht, because I first had one on a yacht at the Cote d’Azur.  It was such a thrill that I still order this cocktail as a way to bring back a fun, once-in-a-lifetime event.

I love Campari with grapefruit juice but I’ve never had one on a yacht!

You’ll find all of Joanna’s social media links on her website along with links to her books. She often has contest, giveaways, and freebie short stories. So, stay connected with her via her newsletter.

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To Live & Write in FLA- Allison Horton

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I’ve known Allison Horton for about two years. We run into each other at literary events like the Miami Book Fair and we’ve been meaning to have a non-work lunch. (Allison, I promise will go to a place with mojitos!) I am very interested in learning more about her and her life before South Florida. She is a journalist by training and contributes to area publications like the Miami Herald and Ft. Lauderdale magazine. She’s also created a bi-weekly newsletter to inform people of color about business and technology opportunities in South Florida.  Allison is currently working her first mystery novel. (And I can’t wait to be a beta reader for it.)

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How long have you lived in FLA?

I’ve lived in Florida for nearly three years.

Where do you write and when?

I usually write in my favorite easy chair recliner during the afternoon.

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

Not being accepted as a writing fellowship for a Chicago newspaper.  I learned that I needed more training so I went back to school and obtained my master’s degree in journalism.  A few years later, I wrote several articles for the publication.

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

The best advice I received was to stick to the message or goal of the story you are writing.  If it doesn’t, cut it out and get back on topic.scissors

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

Agatha Christie.  She is one of my favorite authors.  She takes you on a journey and slowly exposes the motivations of her characters and you don’t see it coming.

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

Mojito.  Anywhere!

 

If you are a South Floridian in the tech industry please check out Allison’s Biztech411 newsletter.

To Live & Write in FLA- JD Daniels

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JD Daniels writes a mystery series set in Florida. I had the pleasure of interviewing her, Joyce, soon after the series’ debut,Through Pelican Eyes. Find that one here – Miami Interviews #6. The third in the series Mayhem in Matlacha will be available in December, 2016. Joyce is also a poet with various publications under her belt.

 

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How long have you lived in FLA?

I’ve lived off and on in Florida since the late 60s.  My first child was born in Key West.  My ex-husband studied for a graduate degree at the University of Miami at a later time. About thirteen years ago, I became a winter resident of the west coast.  Florida’s fascinating, diverse people, warm winter weather, the sand and the sea have always been a magnet.

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Matlacha “The Key West of North Florida”

Where do you write and when?

The majority of my time I write at my desk in the mornings. Other times during the day, when in Florida, I take a notebook and pen to The Perfect Cup or to Bert’s Bar & Grill in Matlacha where I view and smell the sea. Occasionally, journal on board, I take out my kayak, pick up my pen, drape my legs over the sides and float near mangrove.

If I’m in Iowa, I have a similar watering hole fave spot that resembles Bert’s without the surrounding water—Georges.Georges is a bar with a family room atmosphere that welcomes writers-at-work and other creative souls.  More often than not you can find me there once a week or so, sitting in a booth, writing away.  It’s also where my northern writing group meets.

When do I write?  Well, in the past that has caused, well, let’s just say, caused me to get really weird. I have a tendency to be obsessive, so I actually have to make sure I have other activities planned during the day so I don’t write all day.  I know.  I know.  But that’s me. Solitude is a wonderful thing, but you can get too much of it.  I used to teach in the classroom at the college level, but ten years ago or so I started teaching online.  That eliminated human contact.  Not a good idea.  At least not for me.  I now play tennis, bridge and mahjong to keep me from getting too, well, odd. Not that being odd is bad.  It’s just, well, one has to be careful.  I’m sure most obsessive people out there understand what I’m saying without quite saying. Smile.

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

Interesting question.  Several years ago I had a New York agent very excited to represent a literary novel I had written.  Lots of emails, revisions transpired.  Energy was high.  Then suddenly without an explanation he dropped the project.  Just like that.  I was stunned and knew I had failed, but why? His assistant did not explain.   I vowed to solve the mystery.  I contacted an editor and told him what happened.  He asked me to send him the synopsis.  He saw the problem instantly.  My book was written from a different point of view of a literary character in a well-known novel, but it followed the same plot.  After rereading the novel, I had been compelled to tell the female side of the story.  I labeled my version “Inspired by”, which I thought was legit. What the editor informed me is that a writer cannot do this unless the book was published one-hundred years ago.  Copyright issues.  Eww.  I didn’t know that.  Drat. What did I learn from this failure? Don’t live in a publication bubble.  Know the copyright laws surrounding publication.  What a waste of time and effort went into writing that book.  What a waste of the agent’s time. Apparently he was livid when it was discovered.  Thus the cold shoulder and the loss of him as an agent.  What happened with the book?  I rewrote it, changing the setting, the plot, but keeping the same main character, point of view and conflict.  However, it remains unpublished.  Not sure why.

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

Write from the heart.  Be persistent.  Don’t let rejection stop you from writing and learning about your craft.  Yes, writers want readers, but the act of writing and the joy of learning about your passion is far more important than publication. To write is to create, to explore, to grow.  If these are goals for you and help you follow your heart’s desire, go for it.  Put publication second on the list of priorities.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

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

Hm, first author who comes to mind is Agatha Christie.  I’d love to take her out to lunch and listen to her talk about her craft and her life.  Ask her the same questions you ask in this interview and more.  Just to sit at the same table with such an accomplished woman author would be a thrill.

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

I usually curl my fingers around a glass of red wine or a gin and tonic.

As I said before, my favorite bar is Bert’s Bar & Grill in Matlacha.  Since discovering it, I’ve spent many hours writing and meeting with a writing group at a picnic table on the back deck.  Six years ago when I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a small cottage close by, the writing group changed our meeting place.  Unfortunately, maintaining two places in Florida got to be too much.  I sold the Matlacha cottage last season. Definitely a sad, but necessary occasion.  But my heart still resides in that village and always will.

Believe it or not, when the writing group met at Bert’s the waitress graciously brought us a pitcher of water and four glasses. We were never made to feel that we were taking up a table too long. Considering it’s a popular tourist stopping place, that was, and still is, more than cool.

Find out more about jd daniels / Joyce on:

Her website 

GoodReads

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To Live & Write in FLA- Debbie Reed Fischer

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I love meeting YA & MG authors. They are usually always ebullient and their writing often has activism in it. Be it the “we need diversity” call or the “we need more female main characters” call or “stand up to bullies” call— YA & MG reads have a message with a mission. Debbie Reed Fischer‘s This is NOT The Abby Show is no different. It is about a GIRL! navigating the perils of middle school with ADHD.

deb-fischer-coverI met Debbie at a romance writers event. We share a connection to downtown Miami and so we hit it off immediately. I’ve recently learned Debbie has lived in England, Greece, and Israel. With her roots and now her feet firmly planted in South Florida sand, she teaches writing workshops and visits schools with her books.

deb-fischerHow long have you lived in FLA?

Since 1986, when I attended the University of Miami.

Where do you write and when?

I write in the library or at home, and almost always early in the morning, unless I’m on deadline. Sometimes I wake up at 5:30 to write. I can’t write at night.

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

I believed a professor who told me I had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting published. Big mistake. I didn’t write for 17 years. Now I have three novels published with major houses (Random House, Dutton). The lesson from this failure happened when I met Paula Danziger (young adult and middle grade author, The Cat Age my Gym Suit) at an SCBWI writing conference, and she said, “Be careful who you listen to.” I realized my mistake then and there, and started to write again. So my failure was waiting so long to write. The lesson is: Be careful who you listen to, and do NOT believe those who feed your doubts and fears.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

My mentor, author Joyce Sweeney, told me that the biggest reason people don’t get published is because they quit. Victory goes to the last one standing. I agree with that.

Do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

Yes. Don’t ONLY write what you know. Write what you want to find out. The best books come from a question to which you truly don’t know the answer. One of my first books was about high school bullying, and my question was, Why do teens bully? Answering that question was the force that drove me while writing it. You can have more than one question. With my most recent book, This is not the Abby Show, my questions were, What does it feel like inside to be constantly misunderstood? What does it feel like to be the kid that always gets in trouble because of a medical condition they can’t control (ADHD)? What does it feel like to go past the stage of a school crush to realizing you’re in love, even though you’re still a kid?

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

JD Salinger. I’d probably have to hang out at his house and order in, because he was such a recluse, which is one of the things I would ask him about. Mostly, I would would pick his brain about Catcher in the Rye and the young adult point of view in writing, and in love.

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

It’s not a cocktail, but I love to have a Cabernet wine at the outdoor bar at Books and Books in Coral Gables.

I love a hometown girl giving props to our independent (power-house) bookstore! Learn more about Debbie via her website and connect with her on facebook , twitter , and instagram.

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To Live & Write in FLA- Lesley Diehl

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Lesley Diehl is one of my favorite Florida authors and I’m not just saying that because she blurbed my book. Beyond the belly laughs her humorous mysteries gift us, she pays it forward as a source of encouragement and solid advice to novice writers.

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The Eve Appel series about a sassy & snoopy country girl, is set in rural Florida. The third book , A Sporting Murder was awarded a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Award. The fourth ,Mud Bog Murder, will be released September 1st.  I recommend you read the whole series!

 How long have you lived in FLA?

I’ve had a long term love affair with Florida beginning in the 1980s when I spent Christmas breaks and Spring breaks in Key Largo. I had friends who introduced me to the Keys and when I retired, my husband and I began spending the entire winter season in Key Largo. We liked the funky, fun bars, loved dancing to Island music and have a variety of friends there, some from the US and others from Canada, Germany. Haiti and Cuba. Our German friends had tea every afternoon, so we took up the habit also and continue it each day now. It was a fun time, but soon the big developers came in and took away the charm there.

We now spend six months each year in rural Florida, old Florida, with cowboys, horses cattle, lots of alligators and swamps. It has its own rugged charm. It’s quiet, a good place for writing and a really fine location for a murder mystery

Where do you write and when?

I write year long. In Florida, my desk overlooks our little canal where I can watch the bird life and alligators and listen to little frogs croak at night. Back in Upstate New York, the setting is just as ideal. I look out a window into a lilac bush and watch the squirrels run across the shed roof and then jump onto the house roof looking for a way into our attic, the little buggers.

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

Wow! Now that’s one question no one has asked me in an interview before.

I began writing when I retired and that was a mistake because I began my writing career much too late. I now understand that breaking into the business is a long term proposition, and I have less time than I’d like. Given the number of ideas for stories and books that whirl around in my head, I should have begun in my twenties, but back then I felt it was a foolish idea to entertain writing and publishing a book. Now I’m sorry I didn’t act on that impulse. However, I’m learning patience in my dotage, so if I live long enough, I might get fifty percent of those ideas in my head onto a computer and then into books.

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

Related to the question above, here’s my writing advice to those who are thinking of writing a book. Do it now, but do it wisely. Do not wait until you “have the time.” Make time, and be certain you join writing organizations such as Sisters In Crime and Mystery Writers of America because simply writing is not enough. You need to learn your craft, so get advice from other writers, but writers who know the business. I so admire those people who hold down a full time job and yet find the time to write. I know some of them do in when the kids are in bed or they get up early in the morning and write before they go to work. Kudos to all of you. You’re on your way.

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

I would have loved to have gone to dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt, not as a date date, but as a person I admire for her work for the poor, for women, for minorities and for people struggling through the Great Depression. She was an inspiration to those who knew her, and she influenced her husband, moving him to develop social programs to help move the nation through the dark years of economic upheaval. She helped redefine the role of first lady. I know some thought she was too pushy, too interfering, but I admire her courage in standing at the side of a man who although a great leader was probably not a very good husband and mate.

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

I love mojitos, and I wish someone would recommend a bar that makes a good one. I can do a bang up job at home, and I know a bar that makes a super mojito in Upstate New York, but I’m afraid I’d have to come to Miami for one. I don’t even know a bar that does them well in the Florida Keys. Everyone seems to think you can make a decent one with a mix. Blah! Recommendations anyone?

mojitoCome on Floridians, let’s direct this lady to a good bar with great mojitos! Find Lesley via her website or on goodreads.

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To Live & Write in FLA- Elaine Viets

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It is a joy to welcome back best selling author, Elaine Viets to Cozy in Miami. She has written 30 mysteries in four series. I interviewed her in March of 2015 for my Miami series. If you want to read about her love of Cuban coffee and fried plantains then read Miami Interview #9.

DSC_1532_(4)A lot has happen in Elaine’s life since that 2015 interview.  Most notably her return to the darker side of mysteries. With Brain Storm, her first Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, she returned to her hardboiled roots. Angela Richman is a death investigator fighting her way back from a traumatic brain injury. The author had a similar experience in 2007.  I could go on and on about Elaine’s perseverance, positive attitude, and talent , but I’ll get to the interview and let you discover Elaine for yourselves.

How long have you lived in FLA?

Since 1997. My husband Don and I first lived on the beach in Hollywood, then moved to Fort Lauderdale. We’ve been lucky enough to live by the water. I love watching the sunsets and clouds.  Florida puts on a light show every sunset.

 

Where do you write and when?

In my office, which overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. I usually start writing about 10 in the morning, break for a late lunch about two p.m. and then write until seven o’clock.

 

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

When my first series, the Francesca Vierling mysteries, was dropped after four books. I had a contract to write another book, but I was still dropped. I was heartbroken. I saw myself writing at least 26 books in that series, like Sue Grafton. But Random House bought out my paperback publisher, Bantam Dell, and wiped out the division. I learned the publishing business is capricious, and I had to keep reinventing myself if I wanted to stay in business.

 

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

The best advice came from Edgar Award winner John Lutz. He said, “You have to keep reinventing yourself.” So true in these troubled publishing times. If you want to keep writing, don’t get your identity too bound up with one character. Writers are creative and we can always dream up more characters. I’m currently reinventing myself by going back to darker mysteries. Brain Storm, the first novel in my new Angela Richman, Death Investigator series is just out, and getting good reviews.  If you like forensics, you’ll enjoy it.

brainstorm

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

Mark Twain. Like Samuel Clemens, I’m Missouri born and bred and a former reporter. I admire his writing, his sense of humor, and his fight for racial justice. He may be dead, but his writing is immortal.

 

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

Fresh squeezed Florida orange juice. In New York, I drank something masquerading under that name – and they charged me eight bucks. The only thing fresh-squeezed was me. Favorite bar: Tap 42 in Fort Lauderdale. It’s helped revitalize Andrews Avenue.

If you want to learn more about Elaine visit her website.

At the time of this posting (July 15 2015), Brain Storm is  on sale for $9.99 as a trade paperback, and free for Kindle Unlimited.