Mug Shot: Member Profile

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Mug Shot: Lucie Whitehouse

Lucie Whitehouse was born in Warwickshire, England, read Classics at Oxford University, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She writes full time and has contributed features to the Times, the Sunday Times, the Independent, Elle, and Red. She is author of The House at Midnight, The Bed I Made, and Before We Met.

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In your most recent finished work, what was the hardest scene to write?
Keep You Close, my most recent novel, was my fourth and the more experienced I get, the harder I think writing is. As you get better, the bar just keeps rising. Which is what keeps it exciting, of course. The hardest scenes in Keep You Close presented all the challenges: how to capture extreme emotion without melodrama; how to write (or imply) sexy sex; how to seed a big secret without tipping the canny reader off that there was one. The hardest scene technically was the reveal of the biggest twist. I was aiming for proper sleight of hand, the kind I love reading, where something happens in an unassuming line mid-paragraph and you have to go back and reread: what the hell?

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Without question the two hundred and something dollars I spent on an evening class on dialogue writing at NYU School of Professional Studies when I visited New York in 2009. Not only did I get the chance to hear the playwright Jeffrey Stanley — the most talented teacher I’ve ever come across — analyze Chinatown and Dirty Harry but as a direct result I met my husband, who’s American. I ended up moving from London to New York permanently and that has been priceless for my writing.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?
Nothing beats word of mouth. That said, I enjoy writing pieces for newspapers, magazines and websites, and that’s a good way to remind people you’re alive. I also love Twitter. It’s much nimbler than Facebook, for example. My publicist strong-armed me into joining and I was an addict within half an hour. Actively marketing on Twitter I don’t like at all — I try not to do it myself and I don’t like it when others do — but I have absolutely been drawn to read books by authors whose take on things and humor I've enjoyed there. It’s also a great way for readers to get in touch.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Growing up, I loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and anything by Penelope Lively but especially The Ghost of Thomas Kemp and The House at Norham Gardens. Interestingly, Norham Gardens is about three roads over from the street in Oxford, where Keep You Close is set. I loved the atmosphere of those books and the sense of place, two things which are very important to me when I’m writing. Daphne du Maurier was huge for me as a teenager who loved the darkness, as was The Secret History. I loved Arthurian legend and then, when I started studying Greek, the tragedies, especially Euripides, for his psychology – I saw Hippolytus when I was 16 and was blown away. My long-time favorites are Dickens, Graham Greene, and Conrad; they’re my gold standard because they combine great plots with great writing. Denise Mina is my favorite crime writer, she really is the girl with all the gifts: great plots, great characters, spot-on social commentary and — hugely important — humor.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Plotting doesn’t limit you, it sets you free.

Mug Shot: Kellye Garrett

Kellye Garrett spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released in August of this year. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month and described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.

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What are you working on currently?
I just turned in the second book of the Detective by Day series. It's called Hollywood Ending and it takes place during Awards season, which is a three-month stretch at the beginning of the year when you have the Oscars, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards. and what feels like every other major awards show known to man.

When and how do you find time to write?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I commute from New Jersey to Manhattan every day for work so I'll compose scenes while on the train and quickly jot down ideas and dialogue bits on the Notes app on my phone. When it comes to actually sitting down at my laptop, I tend to do that in the evening right before bed.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I'm still trying to figure this one out since this is my first book. I do blog with five other amazing authors who also write amateur detective novels at ChicksontheCase.com. I'm also very active on Twitter. In addition, I'm lucky to be part of two amazing and supportive writing communities: Pitch Wars, which is a contest that pairs established authors with unagented writers to help them revise their manuscript for an Agent Round, and ’17 Scribes, which is a group of more than 100 debut authors with adult and New Adults book out this year.

Otherwise, I try to find creative way to promote my book so people don't get tired of me. Though I'm sure some still do! I recently started an online annotated guide to my book where I share background info and tidbits about the scenes, characters, etc.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
Hmmm. Maybe Detective Lou Norton from Rachel Howzell Hall’s series because she’s such a strong, smart and sometimes sarcastic black woman. Although I see that type of person a lot in my family and friends, I don’t see that nearly enough in mystery novels. On the flip side, it also might be fun to be Spenser for a day, just so I could spend the day kicking ass and cooking. Though I'd probably not choose a day where he has one of his brutal workout session with Hawk.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is rewriting.

Mug Shot: Amy M. Reade

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade.

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What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on three projects: first, a contemporary gothic mystery set in London. It features characters my readers have come to know in the first three books of my Malice series, plus a few new faces. Second, I'm working on a new project which doesn't even have a working title yet. All I can tell you right now is that it's a mystery set in Washington, D.C., in the present day and that I plan to make it the first in a new series. Third, I'm working on a cozy mystery with a Christmas theme.

When and how do you find time to write?
I write every day, usually in the afternoons. I'm up at the crack of dawn, but I’m usually not able to get much writing done in the first half of the day. I use the mornings to work on marketing, promotions, answer emails, and check up on the blogs I follow.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I do marketing on social media several times daily (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are my favorites), but I also blog every Tuesday (my blog is called Reade and Write, and I interview lots of authors and readers, recommend books, and write posts about topics I find interesting). I spend a good deal of time reading other writers' blogs, and I comment frequently. I've found that's a great way to meet people and I've also been invited to do lots of guest blogs just because I'm an engaged commenter. I also do readings, library talks, school talks, book signings, conferences, book festivals, and book clubs. I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to engage with readers than in person. I only wish I had enough time and money to travel more to meet readers.

These efforts seem to work for me, but like every other author, I'm still searching for that holy grail that will see my marketing results skyrocket. I think the best approach to marketing is one that involves a combination of lots of different activities.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
I don't even need to think about it — Nancy Drew. She's got good friends, a well-placed father, a housekeeper who loves her, an awesome car, a great wardrobe, and she’s smart. She always finds a way to get out of danger while still keeping her cool and she always gets the bad guy.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Work hard; don't give up.

Mug Shot: Rich Zahradnik

Rich Zahradnik is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor Mysteries. The latest installment, Lights Out Summer, comes out in October. Publishers Weekly said, “Zahradnik nails the period, with its pack journalism, racism overt and subtle, and the excesses of the wealthy at places like Studio 54, as he shows how one dogged reporter can make a difference.” He worked for almost 30 years in journalism and now teaches kids in the New York area how to write news stories and publish newspapers.

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In your most recent finished work, what was the hardest scene to write?
Lights Out Summer is set in 1977. An important set piece is the New York City black out of July 13-14. I was working from newspaper coverage of the looting and destruction. I wanted to turn the facts into a true feel for the chaos of being out on the streets as mass crime happened--the skip-jumpy fear of trying to get through it.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The day after I received an offer of representation, I found out I was admitted to the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by the Center for Fiction. I workshopped my novel during my semester in CFA before my agent took it out to publishers. That effort helped the manuscript a great deal, and it became my first published novel.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?
This is a tough one. I’ve tried Facebook post boosts and ads, Google, Goodreads contests and ads, various deal emails and blog tours and still have not found the outlet that delivers a return on investment. I sold a bunch of books when a novel was priced at 99 cents, and I used the deal newsletters (others than BookBub; I couldn’t get on that one). But after costs, the royalties weren’t much because I’m traditionally published. In the end, I’d say having a PR person work on the book for three months before launch is the thing I would always do because I’ve got someone who knows the crime fiction blog scene and can secure good placements.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Michael Connelly, for the way he uses seemingly straightforward, everyday language — though it’s really not — to draw you in. Before you know it, he’s grabbed you with his story. The energy builds and the fireworks go off.

Derek Raymond, for the dark, harsh yet emotional writing of this author of 1980s British noir. I don’t write this way, but I borrow bits of his technique.

Tony Hillerman, for making his landscape and setting a character in all his books. What he did with the southwestern desert, I attempt to do with 1970s New York.

Georges Simenon, for telling great, complex mysteries in 150 pages.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Start writing sooner.

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