Thursday, November 12, 2009
1.Hi, Donna, thanks for stopping by. I know your new book which was just released is book number 3 in your mystery series. What can you tell us about the series?
Thanks for letting me visit, Elaine. The "Fiddling With Murder" series is set in the Missouri Ozarks. Constancy Grace Stafford, who was abandoned by her young mother and brought up by her great-grandmother, is an old-fashioned girl. By profession, she's a kindergarten teacher. She's always had a problem with being a bit clumsy, but falling over a body begins the worst trip she ever took.
2.Obviously you like mysteries. Which other genres appeal to you?
I enjoy some fantasy, specifically touches of fantasy interacting with the real world. I have two stand-alone books in print, which are a product of that interest. On the Wings site, one is labeled paranormal romance, the other fantasy romance. The romance is family-rated, and both could also be classified as mysteries. I call them my "fairy-tale mysteries".
3.Were you inspired by other authors? If so, who?
I'm not sure I would say I've been inspired by other authors--except in general ways. I've always loved to read, always loved mysteries and fairy tales. I don't consciously try to imitate any particular author or style, but each book I read teaches me something else about writing.
4.When writing a new book how do you decide on the theme, genre or topic?
I write in the genres I most enjoy reading. Topics can come from anywhere. In Fiddler's Lament, the Missouri caves, the village where I was born (which is now nearly a ghost town), and a long-deserted resort along an abandoned rail line all came together to provide setting. Out of that the story grew. I seem to have one main theme running through all my books, but I didn't realize it until I had written several. It wasn't a conscious decision. My books tend to grow like pearls. Some little seed gets planted in my brain and things begin to grow around it. It's not an easy or comfortable process, but hopefully it produces something worthwhile in the end.
5.What do you think is the hardest part of writing?
Getting a complete first draft written. I've never been able to outline in advance, no matter how many times or how many different methods I've tried. I wish I could. Getting from the beginning to the end is like walking into a difficult maze--lots of dead ends and backtracking before I get out the other side. Then there's the marketing, but that's another story.
6.What’s the easiest part of writing?
Rewriting, revising, polishing. I love the moment when I first get to the end of a story. Then I can go back and tidy and polish. I can make sure everything is coherent and work on little details that hopefully will make the characters and settings come alive to readers.
7.Do your fans’ comments influence you? How?
I think all of us love to hear from anybody who reads our books. I'm a very shy person. Before I was published, I was too timid to contact authors to tell them I enjoyed their books. Now I see how much it can mean to writers to get that feedback. Hearing from my readers keeps the writing spark strong. I started a Facebook group for the series. Readers don't have to be my "friend" to join. They gave us some great input when Pat Evans and I were working on a cover for Lament. I won't write my books by taking opinion polls, but I do like to hear from readers, whether or not they like the books.
8.Could you tell us a little about your pathway to publication?
I have been a writer all my life, well, since I was six. They didn't have public kindergartens in our part of the Ozarks back in the 1950s. Just before I was ready to start first grade, my mother put a pencil into my hand and showed me how to write my name. From then on, I was fascinated by the idea that I could make marks on paper and other people could look at them and know what I meant. I didn't seriously begin to write long fiction until we moved to a place that gave me severe culture shock. I worked through it by writing, finished a couple of manuscripts and eventually decided maybe I should try to get them published. Those first two still haven't been published. They were learning exercises. My first publishable manuscript became a book in 2003. In 2005, I found Wings e-Press. They have been fantastic to work with, and I now have five books with them.
9.Could you share your links with us so we can find you on the web? Be sure to give a buy link for the new book.
I have a website and a blog. Information about the series and other books are at both places. Books are available at the Wings bookstore.
10.Okay, now for the good part. Would you share an excerpt with us, please?
[Constancy sees a photo in the local newspaper that reminds her of an old classmate.]
I hadn’t heard anything from or about Eeper for years. Not that I’d tried, but in a town the size of Fraserton any news about former residents spreads nearly as fast as news about current residents. Even if you don’t seek out gossip, you hear it sooner or later. I certainly hadn’t heard that Eeper was playing fiddle with Hillbilly Hoedown.
The man in the polka dot shirt and overalls sure looked like him. His hair partially hid his ears and a beard hid his chin. Even so, those features were distinctive. I’d always thought he looked like a young Abe Lincoln, although I never had dared say it to his face. He probably would have taken it as an insult. I wiped my damp eyes and squinted at the paper again, trying to make the slightly blurred picture more clear. It didn’t help a bit.
Well, I had my own personal music expert right here, and he had actually played with these people. “Danny?”
“The apple butter is every bit as good as the blackberry jelly,” he said, and put another piece of bread in the toaster.
“Danny, listen. When did Eeper start playing with Hillbilly Hoedown?”
He turned and looked at me. “Eeper?”
“His whole name is Edsel Elwood Elmer Powers.”
“Edsel-- Taken individually, they’re all fine names, but what kind of parent would hang the whole lot of them together on their darlin’ baby boy? And how do the names translate into Eeper?”
In my opinion, Danny, whose complete name was Brendan Conor Aengus Egan, didn’t have much room to complain, but that was beside the point. “I don’t know why his family named him that, but he was a physics whiz in high school so he signed his name as a capital E with a superscript three after it. It looked like E cubed, but he pronounced it ‘E to the third Power’, as in Powers, get it?”
Danny rolled his eyes. “Nobody could be bothered to say ‘E to the third power’ every time they yelled at him, so they shortened it to ‘Eeper’. Of course, his folks called him Ed, but he wasn’t going to take that from any of his schoolmates.”
“Edsel Elwood Elmer Powers,” Danny repeated, shaking his head. Then he gave me one of his best police interrogator looks. “Is this Eeper an old flame?”
“Nothing for you to worry about. I’ll admit I had a crush on him for about two days in second grade. That was only because he was new. After that he might have struck a few sparks, but they weren’t sparks of infatuation. He was in and out of school here. His family lived in Fraserton when we were in second and third grade, then they moved and were away for a long time. They were back here for our sophomore through senior years, but left again right after Eeper graduated. His dad was our preacher both times. I was halfway scared of Eeper, to tell you the truth. The kid was more than a little beyond weird both times.”
“In what way?”
“In high school, we couldn’t decide if it was because he was a scientific genius, or because he was a first-class musician, or because he was in total rebellion against his family and all their most precious beliefs. He had loads of talent and intelligence, but it seemed like he enjoyed getting into trouble more than anything else in the world. One of our favorite games in high school was trying to guess what he would eventually make of himself. Some kids and a few teachers thought he would go on to win a Nobel Prize in physics or play at Carnegie Hall. Others were convinced that he wouldn’t get any farther than the county jail.”
“Interesting character.” Danny looked again at the paper, focused on the picture. “So where does your wild and weird Eeper fit into Hillbilly Hoedown?”
“Surely you met him when you played with them.”
“I met nobody by any of those names and the whole group seems to be in the photo,” Danny said. “Which one are you calling Eeper?”
“There. The fiddler.”
Danny looked downright shocked. “Woody Powell? A scientific genius? A rebel? Surely you can’t be serious.”
“Woody Powell, huh? Well, I’m not surprised he changed his name. I can’t vouch for his intelligence as Woody, but when I knew him as Eeper he was the smartest kid in high school. Back then he could have taught some of the science classes, especially physics. The teachers either loved him or hated him.”
“But, darlin’, Woody can’t even speak straight English.”
“Believe me, he can if he wants to. Or Eeper could. Back when I knew him, he could speak every kind of English from good standard American to British aristocrat snob, and three or four foreign languages to boot. What’s he doing now? Speaking Ozarks Hillbilly all the time?”
“That’s the whole of what I’ve heard out of him--when he opens his mouth at all.”
“He had a couple of Ozarks dialects down pat. One minute he would be speaking perfect grammar book English. The next minute you could mistake him for the mossiest old geezer from the deepest, darkest, most forgotten holler in the hills.”
“When Woody speaks, which isn’t often, mind, you’d think he had never in his life been more than six yards from his plumbing-challenged cabin in the woods. You’re telling me now that he could speak several different languages in high school?”
“He could. I don’t remember which ones, but he seemed equally fluent in all of them. I know he could talk to the French and Spanish teacher in either language. The Powers family did missionary work overseas during the years they were away. I suppose Eeper learned the languages then. He probably made it a point to learn all the nastiest words from every one of them just so he could embarrass his family.”
Danny kept staring at me as if he didn’t quite believe my story. “I’ve never heard Woody curse or mention anything the least bit off color, which is not something I can say of all the folk I know. Are you sure our Woody is your Eeper?”
Great excerpt, Donna. Readers remember to leave a comment for Donna so that your name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of my Wings release The Welcome Inn.
Oh, if you were wondering why Donna had her picture made in front of a hearse, this is the vehicle that carried her mother-in-law to her final resting place.