Monday, June 14, 2010
It depends on the book we are talking about because there is more of me in some characters I’ve created compared to others. However, I must admit the main character in Maid of Murder, India Hayes, and I have a lot in common. She’s a college librarian; I’m a college librarian. In respect to her profession, somethings that happen to her in the book have happened to me, although I’ve never been mixed up in a murder investigation.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and have many stories to tell as a result. One of the quirkiest occurred when I camped out with hundreds of Eastern Europeans in Slovakia’s High Tatras Mountains to attend a Christian rock festival. Let it be known, I love the outdoors, but I do not like to camp. Sleeping on the ground and cooking over a fire are not my ideas of a good time. However, I never pass up a chance to see a new part of the world and knew this was only the opportunity I’d have to see that part of Slovakia. I slept in a tent with five other people and nearly froze to death despite wearing every stitch of clothing I’d brought to Europe. I’d spent the week before backpacking through Greece in 110 degree heat, and the seventy degree temperature difference was a shock to my system. As for the Christian rock music, it was sung in Slovak, Czech, and German, none of which I understood. In hopes of warming up, my friend Mariellyn, who was a missionary serving in Slovakia at the time, and I decided to explore the mountains. As we walked along the mountain road, we came upon a rollercoaster called the Tatrabob. There was no rhyme or reason for it to be there all by itself on the side of the mountain, and we weren’t going to pass it up. As I rode the rickety contraption through the woods down the side of the mountain all the while holding on for dear life, I realized it was for moments like that I get myself into quirky situations, and I didn’t feel so cold anymore.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
It was early on in sixth grade. My English teacher gave our class the obligatory writing assignment “What I did over summer vacation.” I wrote a story about my trip to a local theme park with my brother and friend and our adventure about being stuck on the top of the broken Ferris wheel. Instead of making it a scary story, which it had the potential to be, I put a funny spin on it.
When I read the humorous story, the class cracked up. At the moment, I thought, “This is what I want to do, write stories that make people laugh.” I can safely say every educational and career decision I made after that was in pursuit of this goal. It might be strange for a eleven-year-old to set a career path for herself, but I was determined . . . others might say stubborn. Sadly, I don’t know what happened to the story and wish I still had it. Even without it, I remember what it was like when the class laughed. I hope Maid of Murder garners the same reaction.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Admittedly, I do read mysteries more than anything else because it’s the genre I write and the one I like the most. Within the genre of mystery, cozies are my favorite. Some of my favorite authors are Susan Wittig Albert, Gillian Roberts, Rhys Bowen, Heather Webber, and Patricia Rushford just to name a few.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I have written the sequel to Maid of Murder, and I have also written a middle grade children’s mystery called The Mystery of the First Andora. It’s the first in a series as well. I’m currently looking for a literary agent to represent that project.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I’m still trying figure this one out and will gratefully accept tips. I consider myself a fulltime librarian and fulltime author, and it can be difficult to juggle two careers at the same time along with family, church, etc.
In Maid of Murder, my main character is named India Hayes. I chose the name “India” because I’m fascinated with the country. “Hayes” I found in the phonebook. If I hear a name I like, I write it down in my ever-present notebook. I also consult baby name books to look for names with a particular meaning I want.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of selling Maid of Murder to Five Star. I was between literary agents at the time and made the sale on my own. Don’t get me wrong, literary agents are great, and if you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend you get a good one. However for me, I just happened to make the sale that way. I owe a lot to acquisitions editor Roz Greenberg. I truly could never thank her enough for giving me a chance.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A squirrel. Like a squirrel, I’m constantly on the move, trying to accomplish something. I get the job done and amuse people while doing it or so I hope.
What is your favorite food?
This is an easy one. Ice cream, hands down. I could eat ice every day. I don’t, but I could.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest roadblock is finding the time to write a new novel while promoting the one that is already published. I’m sure it’s a roadblock for many writers as well. I finally came to the realization I can’t do everything, and I had to prioritize my life to make the time.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
It’s almost cliché for a published writer to say this, but I would say “persevere.” Don’t give up on your book, poem, story, whatever it might be that you want published. Maid of Murder was rejected at least forty times (there was a point that I stopped keeping score because it was too depressing) before it was acquired by Five Star. Sometimes I can’t believe it actually happened.
Another piece of advice is if agents or editors make comments about your rejected piece, pay attention to them. They don’t have to do this, and the fact they care enough about the work to say something means a lot. Take their comments and see how you can use them to make your work better before you submit it to someone new.
Tell us about the featured book?
In Maid of Murder, India Hayes is a lot of things . . . starving artist who pays the rent as a college librarian, daughter of liberal activists, sister of an emotional mathematician, tenant of a landlady who has kissed the Blarney Stone one too many times, and a bridesmaid six times over. But she’s about to step into the most challenging role of her life: amateur sleuth.
Childhood friend and now knockout beauty, Olivia Blocken is back in town to wed her bodybuilder fiancé with India a reluctant attendant . . . not just because the bridesmaid’s dress is a hideous mess, but because she’s betraying her brother. Mark still carries a torch for the bride who once broke his heart and sent his life into a tailspin.
When Olivia turns up dead in the Martin College fountain and the evidence points to Mark, India must unmask the real culprit while juggling a furious and grieving Mother of the Bride, an annoyingly beautiful Maid of Honor, a set of hippie-generation parents, the police detective who once dated her sister and is showing a marked liking for her, and a provost itching to fire someone, anyone—maybe even a smart-mouthed librarian.
India’s investigation leads her on a journey through childhood memories that she’d much rather have left in the schoolyard, but to avoid becoming the next victim, it is a path she must follow.
Thank you, Amanda, for spending this time with us.
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