Tuesday, July 20, 2010
An Interview with Dorothy Howell
Dorothy, tell us about your latest book in the Haley Randolph Mystery Series.
SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS is the third book in the series. It follows last year’s PURSES AND POISON, and HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE which launched the series.
The main character is Haley Randolph who’s 24 years old and in the middle of a big-time quarter-life crisis. She’s a college student who hates college, and a part-time sales clerk who doesn’t want to wait on customers.
Haley definitely has her own take on things, and can’t seem to find her place in life. What she does find are dead bodies in the department store where she works.
How long have you been writing mysteries?
I started out writing historical romance. I’ve sold 24, most under the pen name Judith Stacy, and have a novella coming out next year from Harlequin Historicals.
After writing so many romances I decided I’d like to try something different. Mystery seemed like it would be fun to write because it was a genre I always enjoyed reading.
HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE, my first mystery, was released in hardcover from Kensington in 2008. A new book in the series comes out every July, with a paperback follow up. I’m totally thrilled to have signed another 3-book deal to extend the series to six books.
Tell us about your writing schedule?
When I quit my “real” job and started writing full time, I wrote, wrote, wrote like a crazy lady. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity! But I soon learned that what I’d thought was being focused and goal oriented was actually being compulsive and obsessive. So for my own sanity – and the safety of my loved ones – I had to adopt a limited writing schedule.
Now I write about four or five hours per day, five days a week, weekends and holidays off.
If you were going to mentor another writer who wants to write mysteries what would you tell them are the three most important rules?
I’d advise a new mystery writer to pick a theme for the series that you love – because you’re going to write about it for a very long time. Handbags are the theme for my series and I absolutely love them. I just finished writing book #4 and I’m no where near tired of purses.
Next I’d recommend that a new writer not nail down every aspect of the main character’s life in the first book. Give yourself some wiggle room for future books. A long running series can go in many different directions. Leave your options open to develop a story about a family member, a former lover, an old job.
Don’t forget – it’s all about character. Regardless of what genre you’re writing, it takes a jump-off-the-page character to hook readers. This is especially true when writing a mystery series. Readers will enjoy a complex and engaging whodunit, but they’ll keep coming back to find out what’s up with your characters.
How do you plot your books and keep track of your series characters from book to book?
When I’m developing a new idea for a Haley Randolph book, I try to think of something that will make Haley’s life harder. For example, in SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, Haley finds a dead body in the trunk of a car. But it isn’t just any car – it’s a Mercedes and she’s borrowed it from her boyfriend’s grandmother.
I keep a list of all the characters I use in the series, their physical description, which book they appeared in, and anything unusual or quirky about them. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten deeper into the series and my character list has grown, it’s important to write everything down. Wish I could remember everything, but I just can’t.
Dorothy, tell us a little about yourself...your favorite meal, dessert, place to vacation, books and movies?
The beach is my all time favorite spot to vacation. I can relax there. Seeing the power of the ocean makes my problems seem small.
Anyone who’s read my mysteries surely knows Haley gets her love of chocolate from me.
I like romantic comedy and action adventure movies. If I’m flipping channels and Romancing the Stone, Terminator or Soapdish are on, I’ll always sit and watch them – again.
I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, due to my writing schedule. Some of my favorite suspense/thriller authors are Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, and Harlan Coben. I love a good cozy mystery too, and enjoy books by Hannah Dennison, Diana Killian, R.T. Jordan and Laura Levine among others.
Do you collect handbags and do you have some favorite ones that you wouldn't ever part with?
I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs – handbags are my passion, although smoking, drinking or doing drugs would probably be cheaper!
I fell in love with designer handbags several years ago when my daughter talked me into buying my first Coach bag. Gorgeous! I was hooked.
I buy as many purses as my conscience will allow, usually a new one for spring and for fall. If I see something in between that I absolutely cannot live without, I’ll get it. It’s hard to hold back!
For you what is the best and worst part of writing your book?
For me, there’s no “worst” part about writing. I’ve been blessed with great readers, wonderful agents and editors, publishing houses that give my books fabulous titles and covers. It’s a dream come true – which, I guess, makes that the “best” part of writing.
Is there something you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you for giving my books a try, for recommending them to family and friends, for posting reviews, entering my contests, e-mailing me, joining my Facebook fan page, turning out for signings, and for sharing your thoughts, lives, difficulties, hardships and joys with me.
As always, you’re cordially invited to visit my Dorothy Howell Novels fan page on Facebook, and my Web site at www.DorothyHowellNovels.com.
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