Thank you so much, Ms. Childs, for allowing me to interview you online. I truly appreciate it, and know that a lot of your fans will enjoy finding out a little something about you. I guess I’d like to start at the very beginning, before any of your three current Cozy Mystery (Tea Shop, Scrapbooking, and Cackleberry Club) Mystery Series were bestsellers.
— What did you do before you were an author?
I was a TV writer/producer for three multi-national ad agencies, then I launched my own advertising and marketing firm. We handled mainly consumer advertising until the tech boom hit. Then we re-launched as Mission Critical Marketing and became one of the first agencies in the country to focus strictly on tech products and business-to-business strategic marketing. Needless to say, it proved to be a very savvy decision!
— Why did you decide to write mysteries, rather than another type of book?
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool mystery lover – always have been. When I was a kid I was the one who told ghost stories around the campfire and snuck into the cemetery on a dare. I grew up watching The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and terrified my college roommates with my Ouija Board. How could I not be a mystery writer?
— Who are you favorite authors?
John Sandford, Mary Higgins Clark, and Stephen King. I learned plotting and internal architecture by tearing Sandford’s thrillers apart and analyzing them. Mary helped give me my start in the business. And Stephen King – his stories just never fail to wow me. They make your stomach drop while having such a gritty realness to them!
— Where do you find all that imagination/ingenuity (to say nothing of time!) to write three successful series with creativity?
My ideas basically come from my imagination – although sometimes a scene or first chapter might be based on a ripped-from-the-headlines event. As far as time goes – there’s never enough. I’m always behind even though I can often produce ten to fifteen pages a day.
— When you start a new mystery, do you plot it out in its entirety or do you let the plot advance as you write it?
I always begin with a doodled out plot on a big sheet of paper. Murder and action scenes are sketched in, so are major characters and suspects. I even color code my suspects so I know they’re hanging in there, rubbing shoulders with my protagonist. When the whole thing seems to gel, I transfer it to my computer and take my outline to about eighty pages. When that feels right, I go back to chapter one and write the book straight through.
— How do you come up with the characters’ names?
I keep a little notebook of interesting names. When I hear one – or see one in an obituary column – I note it for future use. But I never crib the whole name, just the first name or last name.
— How do you deal with the passage of time in a series?
The characters in my books don’t really keep time like you and I do. For example, STEEPED IN EVIL (Tea Shop Mystery #15 ) was released a year after SWEET TEA REVENGE (#14), but the action takes place just two months later. (What a great deal – if I could live my life like that I’d be twenty years younger!)
— Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, what do you do to shake it?
No, no, no, there’s no such thing as writer’s block. I come from an advertising and marketing background where you gut out multiple creative ideas, day after day, even if that mythical muse isn’t whispering in your ear. And there’s no need for feng shui, crystals, or burning sage either. It’s like the Nike philosophy – Just do it!
— Do you get input from friends and/or family when you are writing your mysteries?
Never. I’m always amazed at the number of acknowledgements that other authors have in their books. They thank researchers, police captains, attorneys, doctors, psychiatrists, friends, their dentist, college roommate, plumber, and their brother-in-law. I always figure – hey, I’m writing fiction here, so it’s my responsibility to make this baby sing all by myself. Of course, if I don’t know a fact or date I look it up.
— How long does it take you to write one of your mysteries?
It generally takes me about a month to write my kick-off chapter as well as develop an eighty page outline. Once that’s done and I feel confident with my story, plot, characters, turning points, etc, it takes me another two to three months to finish it.
— Once you turn a manuscript in to your publisher, what types of revision take place and how much time elapses before the novel is published?
Once my manuscript is sent to my editor, he reads it and passes it on to a line editor. The line editor goes over it for punctuation, grammar, and continuity. My manuscripts tend to be very clean, so I’ve really never been asked to make revisions. (Knock on wood.) Oh, and the cover conference usually takes place long before the book is finished. As far as timing goes, I generally work about a year in advance.
— How do you come up with the title of your mystery books? (I love them!)
I actually have huge lists of potential titles for my books. In fact, I have so many titles in reserve that I’ll probably never get around to writing all the books. Because my marketing firm did lots of new product naming, I find it easy (and fun) to come up with book titles!
— I am sure you love writing mysteries, but if you weren’t doing that, what do you think you would enjoy doing?
Well, I’ve already dabbled in a few other businesses. I was in advertising for twenty-five plus years, twenty of them heading my own firm. And along the way I’ve written screenplays, held a real estate license, served on the board of directors of several non-profit organizations, provided business guidance and start-up capital for a dog training firm and two other small businesses, and produced two reality TV shows. If I was going to tackle another project, it might be real estate development. Then again, I might just retire to Maui.
As much as we’d miss your books and sleuths, Maui sounds pretty appealing to me!
Thank you so very much for agreeing to do this online interview. I’m sure a lot of your Cozy Mystery fans will enjoy finding out a little more about you.
Thank you, Danna
Here is the link to the Laura Childs page on the Cozy Mystery site.