Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s).
I earned degrees in music, and worked as a musician, and educator, and an administrator while raising three (now grown) children. I always wrote, and have taken a course here and there, but considered myself more of a dabbler until 2014. That’s when I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, and all my plans came crashing down. I vowed to myself that if and when I got past it, I was going to spend the rest of my days doing what I love best. I wasn’t ever going to let a day slip away that wasn’t filled with music, writing, reading, talking and being with people I love, and maybe a little knitting or puzzling. I wanted every day to be a golden day (instead of just my birthday!). I set to writing my first mystery and rewrote it dozens of times until my editor gave me the go-ahead to submit it. I received bunches of agent rejections until a chance competition in one of the on-line magazines invited me to submit my whole manuscript. I won, and the prize was a publishing contract! Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (release date Feb 16) will be my second novel published by D.X. Varos Ltd.
I enjoy writing lyrics, poetry, short stories, essays, and literary fiction, but my secret passion is mystery, and as of Feb 16, 2021, I’ll have two published ‘culinary mysteries’. Authors have long been describing the enticing food consumed by their characters, but it is a relatively new phenomenon to include recipes for that food. And recipes included in mysteries have usually tended to include familiar amounts of butter, eggs, sugar, meat, and other ingredients that I shy away from. My recipes, which require numerous attempts and quite a lot of failure before they turn out just right, are for the most part healthful, mostly vegan, and often for those who are on a non-gluten diet.
What are some of the biggest challenges hen lit authors face today?
Some of us ‘hens’ have conquered the world of social media and online marketing, but for me it has been a struggle. My kids came out of college with more contacts than I’d probably made in a lifetime, and I had to work hard to reach over 1000 followers. Many sister hens (like my sister) do not follow any social media – and especially during a pandemic – it’s harder to reach readers. On the other hand, perhaps many of us hens have gotten past the idea of needing to be great successes, and are content to be doing something we love, which is writing. Having my writing published is just an extra bonus!
Given the ongoing popularity of chick lit, where do you see hen lit ten years from now?
Gotta say this is a socially acceptable way – I love reading about older characters, and about women who do NOT need a man in their lives in order to be happy. Of course, I want everyone to find someone who loves them best of all – if they desire it – and to have children – if they desire it. I’m just finding it refreshing to read about older women who fill their lives with wonderful friends, pets, activities, rich experiences, and fabulous communities. I see hen-lit focused more on those women!
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t know that was what I wanted to BE – I just wanted to DO IT. I loved telling stories and writing. I loved composing songs and writing long winding novels that required enormous amounts of editing. Only after my first novel was published, I kind of liked saying that I was an author. Before that it had been more of a dream.
What are some things that inspire you to write?
I admit that when I’m irritated by the thoughtless behavior of rude people who don’t know how to behave…..I start thinking up murder scenarios. When I’m served an chewy chocolate chip cookie….I imagine the pastry chef in my culinary mystery series making a gluten-free, vegan version of it, and I start baking. And when I meet a lovely human being who embodies goodness and kindness, maybe at the hospital where I used to volunteer before the pandemic, then I think about a character who is all those things, but maybe makes a bad decision.
What is your typical writing routine like?
Wake up and exercise. Eat breakfast and clean the apartment (because we live in a city near a busy road). Sit down at my computer and write.
What kind of message do your book (s) convey to readers?
Perhaps that people can be complex or simple, kind or cruel, happy or disgruntled, grateful or not, and it’s all part of the human condition. I wanted to portray a busy café that is the kind of place where you want to go every morning for a healthful pastry and a soothing cup of something.
Does your book (s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life (and / or that of others)?
Sort of – I set the Whipped and Sipped Café in the neighborhood where I live – we have plenty of cafés, but none of them are as exceptional as my imaginary one. And now, since we’re not allowed to go inside restaurants, I long for those days of sitting with a book, the sun shining through the front window, a piece of blueberry pie and a cup of tea in front of me. Maybe I’m there were a few girlfriends, and we’re laughing, planning a theater night, or I’m with my husband, sharing something yummy and wondering when our kids are finally going to make us grandparents. Now I’m working on book 3 in the Whipped and Sipped series and have to get vicarious pleasure from writing about sitting in a café.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Such a hard question – but I’m going to focus on mystery authors who all write beautifully and who pop up in my mind at this very moment: Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Anne Louise Bannon, Catherine Louisa Pirkis, Elizabeth Peters, Elsa Hart, Frank Tallis, Georgette Heyer, Jaqueline Winspear, Jennifer Ashley, Judith Flanders, Julia Chapman, Mariah Fredericks, Martin Walker, Rex Stout, and Tasha Alexander.
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers at this stage in life?
Those of us who are privileged enough to reach this stage of life should make sure to do what we love doing every single day. If that is writing, then sit down and do it – tell yourself a long winding story and then find someone to help you edit it. Find a good teacher and listen to her/his advice (don’t get too attached to your darling words – many of them will have to go). Don’t be discouraged by good editing – it’ll all make your story better! And don’t get discouraged by agent rejections. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing as long as your work is well-edited. That’s really the key.