Monday, August 10, 2015

An Interview with Connie Shelton

By Pamela James

MM2: Connie, let's start with why and how you became an author?

Firstly, I was a reader from a very young age. Devoured everything I could (thanks to my mother taking me to the library every week). Favorite classes in school always revolved around literature and writing assignments. From there, it was probably inevitable that I would eventually want to give writing a try. Once I'd made up my mind to write a book, I truly didn't have a clue how to get started so I began loading up on writing how-to books and taking workshops until I started to read like a writer. I have to admit it took a long time for me to reach the point where I could really see what techniques it took to make an exciting story. After I had nine or ten published books, I was contacted by Long Ridge Writer's Group and went to work for them teaching writing classes, and from there I developed a novel writing course of my own to help writers with the stuff that had given me fits in the beginning.

MM2: Let's talk about your series?

I'm now writing two series'. The first one features Charlotte "Charlie" Parker, a 30-something partner in an Albuquerque private investigation firm with her brother. She's supposed to be the firm's accountant while he's the PI, but she keeps managing to get herself pulled into cases because she's such a sucker for the underdog. 
   My second series came to me when one of my writing students commented that he broke into houses for a living (legally, of course). I immediately saw how much trouble a fictional character could get into with that career, so I came up with Samantha Sweet, a woman in her fifties who had struggled to raise her daughter alone and since her talent for baking wonderful pastries wasn't quite paying the bills, she needed extra money. How and why she does this...well, you'll have to start reading the series. It gets complicated by a handsome deputy sheriff and a magical artifact.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

I love to curl up in a comfy chair when I'm plotting or editing. Otherwise, I'm always at my desk.

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

My day starts with a half hour or so of pure quiet just for myself, having a cup of tea and watching the sunrise, followed by a walk with dogs and hubby. Then after breakfast I'm at my computer. My fairly-strict goal is ten pages a day when I'm writing a first draft. On great days, I might reach that by noon. Other days it can be late afternoon. On truly fabulous days I might get on such a roll that I'll reach 20 pages or more and still have a little energy to spare.

MM2: What comes first the plot, setting or characters?

When starting a new series, the characters and their personal situation comes first. Setting follows closely behind, and then I work out what plot I will entangle them in. With my two existing series' I already know the main characters so well, that I'm just on the lookout for a plot that will get them into trouble.

MM2: If you can sit down with any author, living or one that has passed on who would it be? What would you like to know?

The business side of me would love to chat with James Patterson. The man is a veritable idea-machine and I'd love to know how he does it, not to mention his organizational skills. The creative side of me wishes to know Charles Dickens. I once stayed in the hotel (see photo attached) where he wrote The Pickwick Papers and I got to see the room where he wrote. It was a cozy space and I could really see myself writing there. I'd love to know his thoughts as he worked in that little room.

MM2: What is the best writing advice given to you?

Park yourself in the chair and just write! Whenever I don't feel my daily ten pages happening, I remind myself that they'll never get done if I make excuses. Someone once said, you can fix a bad page but you can't fix a blank page. You've got to get that first draft done. No matter how shaky it is, at least you've got something to work with.

MM2: When you think of strong fictional women characters. What characters come to mind?

My first female hero was Nancy Drew. Look how ahead of her time she was and what an inspiration to girls of my generation.

MM2: Let's talk about your latest book and future writing plans?

My newest book is the tenth in my Samantha Sweet series and it's coming out in August. Readers who have been with Sam from the start know that she sometimes breaks into houses, sometimes bakes fabulous cakes and pastries, and occasionally calls upon the powers from a mysterious wooden box that came into her possession in the first book in the series. In this new one, called Sweets Forgotten, a woman wanders into Sam's pastry shop claiming she can't remember who she is or how she got there.
   As far as future plans, I have many! I've already done plot outlines for a series of five books involving a group of women who operate a little outside the law--a sort of caper mystery/chick lit/suspense concept. I'm hoping to find the time to get them underway in the coming year. I'm also currently working with an illustrator on a set of children's books for early readers, ages 3-7. I truly believe that kids who love to read from a young age have so many advantages throughout life. I would love to see every child develop the same craving for books that I had. If I can help even a few of them by writing my stories, I will be super grateful.

MM2: What was the most fun you have had doing research?

Ah--travel! I got to go to Alaska twice for the setting I used in Legends Can Be Murder, which is my most recent Charlie
Parker mystery. Competition Can Be Murder took me (and Charlie) to Scotland, and Phantoms Can Be Murder gave me two trips to Bury St. Edmunds in England (home of the above-mentioned hotel where Charles Dickens stayed). Charlie and her husband are helicopter pilots, so they can take jobs nearly anywhere in the world. Samantha doesn't travel nearly as much--most of her stories take place closer to her home in Taos, New Mexico--but I did send Sam to Ireland when she learned of an inheritance from an uncle. Of course, the actual trip for me is the tip of the research iceberg. I do a lot of reading, videos and online fact-checking once I get home.

MM2: Now for some fun questions: What is your favorite movie/s? What television series do you like to keep up with? What is your favorite song, meal, dessert and place to vacation?

Movies--Harry Potter (of course, the books came first!), and I love all the old Hitchcock films, especially those with Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight--ooh!!).  TV--I'm a Downton Abbey junkie--could watch it over and over. Song--Maria Elena, played by my husband Dan on guitar. Meal/Dessert--Can't beat a good steak with a nice red wine and anything dark chocolate after.  Place to vacation--England, Scotland, Germany, Alaska.... everywhere I go seems to turn into a book.

MM2: Do you have a favorite day? Time of day and what is the best way to relax after a long writing day?

I love quiet Sundays, which is usually the only day of the week I take off work. Sunrise and sunset are favorite times of day--we have fabulous ones here in the Southwest. Relaxing? What's that?? When I'm not writing, I am usually editing, updating my website, answering fan letters, corresponding with other writers, or getting my next newsletter ready to go out. For fun, I love to paint, play with the dogs, tinker at the piano (although I'm not very good), and get together with friends.

MM2: They say it take a village to write and publish a book. Who is in your village?

Dan and our dogs are my immediate village--with me all the time. Extended family, my parents are both very supportive of my writing, as are my grown children. Of course when it comes to the practicalities of publishing, I have three editors who work closely with me to fine tune and hone each book.

MM2: Is there an up and coming author you would like to give kudos to and make sure we read their book?

I don't know about up-and-coming...she actually has several published books...but I really recommend the Dan Mahoney mystery series by Susan Slater. They are fresh and engrossing. She has a real talent for finding a little known fact about something and building a complete mystery around it.

MM2: Lastly, what would you like to say to your readers?

Mainly, to everyone who follows my work, I want to say a huge and heartfelt Thank You!! You keep me enthused and energetic. I love my readers!!
   I already mentioned my newest Samantha Sweet book, Sweets Forgotten, coming out in August. I've also been invited to include a book in a bundled set of pet-themed mysteries with bestselling authors Carole Nelson Douglas, Joanne Pence, Denise Dietz, Carolyn Haines, Leighann Dobbs, Pamela Dumond and Harper Lin. Charlie and her helpful pooch, Rusty, are on the case together in Killer Tails: 8 Pawsome Cozy Cat and Dog Mysteries. It was lots of fun to get together with this group and work out the details for the set, publication date is August 18.

   Anyone who wants to keep up with what's new in my series and my writing life is welcome to come to my website at I have a newsletter, free books, contests for Kindle giveaways, recipes and all sorts of stuff you might want to check out. Again, thank you so much!

NEW! Watch the video trailer for my newest book, The Woodcarver's Secret, available now!
For all Samantha Sweet fans, it answers the question--where did that
magic box come from?

Amazon #1 and Kobo Top 10 international bestselling mystery author. Get my free
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