Debbi Mack has graciously answered my questions today. She's the author of Identity Crisis.
1. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing, in one form or another, most of my life. When I was about 10 or so, I tried to write a mystery. I’d just started reading the Nancy Drew series. So I wrote a chapter, in which a similar female protagonist gets involved in sleuthing. The only problem was I hadn’t thought it out at all, in terms of who did what and why. I got so overwhelmed thinking about it, I never got past the first chapter. Like a lot of girls, I kept journals while I grew up. I wrote my first short story in high school for a class. I got an A- on it, which really amazed me. Even then, I didn’t pursue fiction writing seriously for years. It wasn’t until 1995, when I realized that if I didn’t get going and write that novel I kept talking about, I might never do it. So that was when I began to write in earnest.
2. How did you pick the genre you write in?
I’ve always loved mysteries. As a child, I read the Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames series, as well as Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner. I also watched a lot of TV shows about detectives and crime—Mannix, Honey West, The Rockford Files and The Avengers were among my favorites. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for hardboiled mystery and crime fiction. Some of my favorite movies are film noir and detective/crime stories.
3. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I’m an outliner. I like to have at least a rough idea of where I’m going, so I plot things out a bit before I start writing. My stories tend to follow a basic three-act structure. My outlines aren’t terribly detailed to begin with. I just try to get the plot points between and within each act down and fill in the rest, as I go. I’m in awe of people who simply do this by the seat of their pants.
4. What drew you to the subject of IDENTITY CRISIS?
The idea of doing a murder mystery involving false and/or mistaken identity had been rattling about in my head for some time. The decision to bring identity theft into the story was a bit fortuitous. The subject was being mentioned in the news a lot when I started writing it and it seemed like a good hook.
5. What was the worst writing advice someone gave you? Did you know it at the time?
The worst advice I’ve gotten is not to self-publish my work. At the time, it seemed quite reasonable, given the disadvantages of self-publishing and the stigma that tends to be attached to it. However, since I got this advice, the publishing world has changed quite a bit. Not only is it cheaper to self-publish now than in the past, but self-published authors have a much better shot at promoting and marketing their work through social media. In addition, e-publishing has changed the game completely, making it still cheaper and easier to promote, distribute and sell one’s work.
6. Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?
Few people know that I lived in a housing project in Queens, NY, until I was twelve. My family was one of the few non-Hispanic white families in the project.
7. What’s your favorite quote?
I have a lot of favorite quotes, but if I had to pick one, it would be from Helen Keller: “Life is either daring adventure or nothing.”
8. What authors do you admire?
I truly admire several authors for different reasons. For instance, I admire Raymond Chandler because he was instrumental in defining the hardboiled genre and wrote amazing prose. I also admire Walter Mosley for writing in that genre from a unique perspective that explores racial issues without getting preachy, as well as his writing style and his prolific output in a diversity of other genres. I admire Sue Grafton for creating the character Kinsey Millhone and keeping her “Alphabet Series” fresh and entertaining—which has to be really hard after 21 books. I admire Margaret Millar and her husband, Ross McDonald, two amazing writers who delved into human psychology in their stories, while making them compelling reading. I admire Christa Faust and Jenny Siler (who also writes as Alex Carr) for creating such strong, unconventional and believable female protagonists and putting them through their paces, in fast-moving, hard-hitting stories that also happen to be extremely well-written. I’m also a great admirer of Donna Moore, the late Douglas Adams and Carl Hiaasen, because their work is humorous and humor is so hard to write well.
9. What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to read books (of all kinds, though I favor crime fiction, suspense and thrillers, of course), watch movies, listen to music (and my tastes in music tend to be eclectic) and travel (I went to Italy this year—my first trip to Europe—and it was one of the best trips of my life). I actually like to exercise (I’m weird that way), and I enjoy walking, hiking and bicycling.
10. Who is your greatest cheerleader?
Without a doubt, my husband is my biggest cheerleader. He’s always believed in me, and without him, establishing and maintaining a writing career would be so much harder. My father (who was a playwright) deserves some credit, too. When he was alive, he always encouraged me to write. My dad told me to be persistent and not let adversity and rejection stop me from writing. I should probably thank him for deciding to be a writer.
Debbi Mack has published one novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, a hardboiled mystery featuring female lawyer Sam McRae in a complex case of murder and identity theft. Her short stories appear in the CHESAPEAKE CRIMES mystery anthology, The Back Alley [Chris: link to BackAlleyWebzine.com] and CHESAPEAKE CRIMES: THEY HAD IT COMIN’, to be published by Wildside Press in March 2010. A former attorney, Debbi has been a volunteer advocate and fundraiser for dystonia, a rare movement disorder. A native of Queens, New York, Debbi and her husband share a home in Columbia, Maryland with their three cats. Her Web site is http://www.debbimack.com.
IDENTITY CRISIS introduces attorney Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. A simple domestic abuse case turns deadly when the alleged abuser is killed and Sam’s client disappears. When a friend asks Sam to find Melanie Hayes, the Maryland attorney is drawn into a complex case of murder and identity theft that has her running from the Mob, breaking into a strip club and forming a shaky alliance with an offbeat private investigator to discover the truth about Melanie and her ex-boyfriend.With her career and life on the line, Sam learns that false identities can hide dark secrets that can destroy lives.