Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Next Big Thing

Today I'm participating in a blog tour called The Next Big Thing. The Internet is full of blog tours but this one looked like fun when I learned I could "tag" some of my friends and give them some well-deserved publicity--all three are terrific writers, and I've learned lots from all of them.  I've given their links below.

My thanks for inviting me to participate go to June Shaw, whose work you can find at Many people who read mysteries already know her blog, and for those who don't you'll be glad of the introduction.

The purpose behind this tour is to give writers a chance to talk about our  "Next Big Thing." And to keep us all on track, we have a list of questions to answer. (Some things in life really are easy and fun.)

What is your working title of your book?

My current book is the sixth book in the Chief Joe Silva/Mellingham series. I chose the title Last Call for Justice because Joe's father, now a very old man, he wants to settle a crime from almost forty years ago. Joe's father has little time left and is determined to see this through.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Some years ago at a conference a reader asked me about Joe's family. She was quite concerned that I never introduced his family in any of the Mellingham books. I hadn't thought about it because I wanted Joe to be the quintessential outsider in a small town, someone who could concentrate on the crime and the citizens; I didn't want the story to be about him. The reader said, "So what's the story about Joe's family." She was so certain there was a story that I started thinking about all the little things I'd said about Joe's family scattered throughout the books. The story grew gradually until the day came when I knew I had to write it.

What genre does your book fall under?

This is a traditional mystery. It's not really a cozy, though not far from it, because it's not as light as most cozies are.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That kind of question stumps me. Joe is tall and handsome--Portuguese with dark hair and dark eyes. Gwen is Irish American and looks it. She's not beautiful, but she's good looking and her character and personality shape people's reaction to her. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Joe's father brings together all his children in order to settle the question of an old crime only to find that a family reunion is fertile ground for a new crime.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I offered this book to Five Star just when I was starting the Anita Ray series, and the editor wanted me to focus on one series or the other. I held back the Mellingham book and focused on Anita's adventures. But the story about Joe's family kept coming back to me, so I decided to publish it myself--this is my first self-publishing effort.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A first draft usually takes me three to six months. I write about 1500 words a day but I then do a lot of editing before I feel I have anything that is strong enough to consider a "first draft." And then the real editing begins. I usually do at least 6 or 7 drafts after that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My books are like some of the traditional British mysteries and perhaps some of Margaret Maron's work.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In addition to the reader who was insistent on knowing about Joe's family, Joe himself pushed me to write this book. I wanted to know more about him and his family, about how he grew up and what his siblings were like. I kept notes on some of the comments I'd made about him and his family throughout the five other books, and there were enough loose ends there to suggest I had ideas I could easily develop. The inspiration, I think, really came from writing about Joe for so many years. (When I first wrote this last sentence, I wrote, "came from working with Joe." I guess that's how I feel about it. He's my co-writer in all of this.)

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

When ethnic groups come to the United States they are safe to be who they are, to preserve the parts of their culture that matter most to them. In some cases the traditional culture is better preserved in the United States than in the home countries. But when people within an ethnic group begin to move outside, their choices tend to be consistent across their own culture. That was something I wanted to explore. I also wanted to look at how different relatives handle the same loss over time.

One of the comments I made about Joe at a talk drew a very strong response from the audience, and if I'd had a thousand copies of the book I could have sold every one of them in a nanosecond. I described Joe as a chief of police and a very decent guy. When I began writing I didn't feel I had to make him the typical protagonist who is forever struggling with alcohol, depression, a conveniently flexible interpretation of the law, and the rest of the flaws writers have given their characters. I felt he could be a good cop and a good protagonist and a good man. Part of this was because I was bored with the predictable cops and detectives I came across in crime fiction, and I wanted something different. I wanted a sense of realism in my stories. And I do think Joe is realistic. In my other life working in a social service agency I have encountered several police chiefs and police officers who are like Joe--decent people doing a difficult job with kindness and firmness and without all the literary flaws.

The best part of doing something like this blog tour is the unexpected turns in the process. Until I came across the last question I'd forgotten about the way people responded to my casual remark that I wanted to write about a policeman who was a decent guy and not an alcoholic or anything else. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed writing about Joe even when I was struggling to get something in the story to work.

And the other best part is finding out how my fellow writers will answer the same questions. Next week you can follow Skye Alexander, Rae Francoeur, and Kathleen Valentine.

Skye Alexander is the author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books.

Rae Padilla Francoeur's memoir Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair was published by Seal Press in 2010. She's working on a new memoir, "Partial Recall," while operating her arts and nonprofit creative marketing business New Arts Collaborative and publishing weekly book reviews.

Kathleen Valentine is the author of over ten books including fiction, knitting, and a cookbook/memoir about growing up Pennsylvania Dutch. Her fiction has been number 1 in Amazon's Horror category.

Kathleen is also the designer of my cover for Last Call for Justice.


  1. Hi, Susan,

    It sounds like a good blog tour. By the way, I'm a fan of Margaret Maron's novels too.

  2. Hi, Jacquie,

    I thought the questions were fairly standard until I started to answer them. I can always think of favorite authors, and right now Margaret's books are at the top of my pile.

    Thanks for commenting,

  3. Thanks for tagging me Susan. I'm looking forward to my post next week!