Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Interview with Dorothy Howell

An Interview with Dorothy Howell

by Pamela James

MM2: Dorothy, how and when did you become an author? Give us a little back story on your writing career and life?

My first novel was published in 1988.  Yikes!  Where does the time go?  It was an historical romance released by Kensington.  I was thrilled.  It was the first book I’d written and, honestly, I didn’t know a thing about the craft of writing.  After that, all of my manuscripts were turned down by everybody—absolutely everybody.  Finally I thought, “Maybe it’s not them.  Maybe it’s me.” 

I started going to writers’ conferences and workshops, and learned how to write.  Seven long years passed and—finally!—my second book was accepted, another historical romance that was published by Berkeley.  I guess I’d figured things out pretty well because my career took off from there.  I started writing for Harlequin Historicals, under my pen name Judith Stacy, and went on to sell 25 historicals. 

A few years ago I decided to try writing a mystery and the Haley Randolph series was born, courtesy of Kensington.  I’ve done seven full length novels—book number 8 will be released in September—and have indie-pubbed three novellas in the series.  I’ve loved every one of this designer-handbag-crazed amateur sleuth’s adventures. 

            I also indie-publish the Dana Mackenzi

e mystery series, about another amateur sleuth.  Dana encounters her high school crush, now a homicide detective, while trying to solve a murder.  Sparks fly, but a dark secret from their past keeps getting in the way.  The series launched with Fatal Debt and continued with Fatal Luck.  I just concluded the trilogy with the release of Fatal Choice. 

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

            I have an office in my home that’s dedicated solely to my writing—and, wow, does it take up a lot of room!  I have reference books, notes with my oh-so brilliant ideas, manuscripts, journals, calendars, and motivational quotes everywhere.  To me, it’s very organized but I doubt anyone else would agree.

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

            I prefer to write in the morning.  It’s my biggest priority so I like to tackle it first, then move on to whatever else needs my attention.  Usually I put in four or five hours before my brain gives out.  If I’m feeling the urge, I’ll write for a while in the early evening.

MM2: You write other books under a pen name. Tell us about those books?
I write historical romance novels under the name Judith Stacy.  Most of them were published by Harlequin.  They’re set in the American West during the late 1800’s, and during the Industrial Age of the 1900’s.  I absolutely love writing romance.  Give me a manly hero and a spunky heroine any day!

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

            It usually depends on what I’m writing.  When I started the Haley Randolph mystery series I was inspired to set the books in a mid-range department store after my then college-student daughter told me about her job there.  It was so awful I thought, “Hey, this would make a great book!”

            As for the Dana Mackenzie mysteries, I used to work a job similar to the one I gave her in the series.  I also fictionalized the city I worked in.  Unlike Dana, I never found any dead bodies—thank goodness!

            For the romances, I always come up with the characters first.  I usually start with the heroine, then create the perfect hero for her (if only it was that easy in real like!).  Once I came up with what I thought was an awesome title, Married By Midnight, and wrote a book to go with it.  Luckily, my editor at Harlequin liked the title and the plot!

MM2: What was the best writing advice you received?

            Throughout my career I’ve been truly blessed to have the opportunity to learn from many highly successful authors.  They offered so much good advice!  I think the take-away from it all was to simply keep going.  During that seven year stretch between my first and second published novels I certainly could have quit.  I kept learning and kept trying—I’m so glad I stuck it out! 

MM2: Tell us about your latest book?

            My latest book is Fatal Choice, a novella in the Dana Mackenzie series.  It’s the final installment in the trilogy. 

            Honestly, I’d never intended to give this character a series.  I wrote Fatal Debt and intended it to be a stand-alone.  But I kept hearing from readers wanting to know what happens next between Dana and Nick, her high school crush who is now a homicide detective.  I realized I had to do more.  So I wrote Fatal Luck, the second in the series.  Their story concludes in Fatal Choice.

MM2: do you re-read your favorite books?

            Lots of people re-read favorite books.  I’ve never done it.  I think I’m just a bit weird in that I don’t like to do the same thing twice.  This is why I love writing a book—I only have to write it once—and why I hate housework—jeez, how many times can you wipe down the same countertop. 

MM2: What advice do you have for writing a series?

            The advice I usually share is to not lock down every aspect of the main character’s life in the very first book.  Your series will go on for many books and many years, and you’ll need room to add people, events, or whatever, to the stories. 

MM2: Do you belong to a writing or readers group?

            I’ve belonged to many critique groups over the years.  I found them very valuable.  I wish I had time for a readers’ group!  I love to discuss books.

MM2: Okay for some fun questions: What is your favorite meal, place to vacation, dessert, movie/s, song, television show?

            Okay, I’ll reveal something only close friends know about me—my TV guilty pleasures are Project Runway and Ancient Aliens.  I love those shows!

            My favorite vacation spot is the beach.  I love romantic comedy and action adventure movies, and I’ll rock out to songs from the 60’s through today. 

MM2: Do you have a humorous story to share about a book signing, something your character said, or that a friend or family member said about your books?

            At one of my first book signings I was at the mall with another author.  The bookseller had positioned us just outside the store’s entrance and had purchased a spectacular floral arrangement for our table.  It was so beautiful, we spent more time directing customers to the florist’s shop than we did talking about our books!

MM2: As an author what comes next for you?

            Next up for me is another Haley Randolph mystery.  It will be released in hardcover and ebook formats from Kensington in September.  The title is Swag Bags and Swindlers, and it’s set in a retirement home for Hollywood entertainers.  Right now, I’m writing next year’s release.

MM2: In closing is there someone you would like to thank for helping you along the way? Also leave us with your favorite quote?

            There are so many people to thank! 
Some of them are:

My husband and my daughters, who always believed in me, encouraged me, listened to my crazy plot ideas, my complaints, my whining and moaning, and shared my joys.  I’m truly blessed to have them in my life.

My agent Evan Marshall and John Scognamiglio, my editor at Kensington.  Friends and fellow writers who’ve read my manuscripts, made critical suggestions, and helped me through the tough times.

And a HUGE thanks, of course, to the readers.  My readers are the best!  They’ve given my books a try, recommended them to friends and family, taken the time to post reviews and send me emails.  I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

My favorite quote:
“If you don’t change direction you’re liable to end up where you’re headed.”


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