When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Being a small-town girl born in the ’50s, I did the accepted thing and became a teacher. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandfather were all teachers; it came naturally. I enjoyed my career and really never thought about any other, but all my life, I wrote things for people: stories for my high school friends to read, poems for people’s retirement parties, programs for my students and my church. I thought of it as an interesting sideline. When I sent one of the plays I’d written to three publishers, two of them wanted it. Suddenly, after thirty years in the classroom, I wanted to be somewhere else, someone else. I retired, thinking I’d give this writing thing two years to get started, but it actually took six years before my first novel was published.
What’s your writing schedule?
I’m a morning person, so I write best from six a.m. to noon. Later in the day I’m likely to edit, which doesn’t require as much concentration.
What was the best writing advice someone gave you?
The best advice any writer can receive is “Persist!” You must persist in order to get published. You must persist in order to improve your writing. And you must persist in becoming known as a writer. It isn’t enough to simply write good books. Lots of good books get buried by not-so-good books with better marketing plans!
My persistence with The Dead Detective Agency has paid off. It’s a finalist for EPIC’s best mystery of 2012.
What was the worst? Did you know it at the time?
The worst advice I got was from a very snarky editor during a pitch session, who told me the Tudors were “over” and I had ruined my career by signing with a small press.
I knew she was wrong (and she was! My Tudor novels have done well both in sales and in critical acclaim). She was more interested in letting me know how important she was to the world than she was in helping me. What that taught me is that people in publishing (as anywhere else) have their own agendas, prejudices, and personalities. You shouldn’t take everything you’re told to heart, at least if it’s only coming from one person.
What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?
Probably because I was a teacher for so long, I tend to over-explain and repeat myself. I have several strategies to correct that, mostly focused on reading and rereading the manuscripts. I have the computer read it to me while I listen. I read it aloud myself. I make myself cut out scenes, lines, and even characters who don’t contribute to the story. Yes, they might be cute, but I think today’s mystery reader wants what Poe called “total effect,” everything focused on the plot.
Who is your greatest cheerleader?
I have two cheerleaders. My husband is the faraway one, who says encouraging things but wants nothing to do with the whole business (although he helps with plot specifics like gun calibers and sailboat terminology).
My sister is the close-up cheerleader who reads my work, listens to my whining, and offers suggestions.
Describe your book.
My newest book, Somebody Doesn’t Like Sarah Leigh, is a cozy mystery based in northern Lower Michigan. It’s the story of friendship gone bad: Caroline and Sarah have been friends forever, but Sarah turns away from their friendship and won’t explain why. When she disappears and it looks like she’s been murdered, Caroline is the main suspect. After that, things get worse.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
This book is different from either my historical series (The Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries) or the paranormal series (The Dead Detective Mysteries). It didn’t require much research, since it’s based in my home area, and I really liked exploring the relationships we form and re-form as small-town women. Does friendship come from a bond between individuals, or from mere proximity? And when friendship dies in a small town, where do you go to keep away from each other?
What was the hardest scene to write?
For me, the hardest scene to write is always the end. I’m not a big fan of chases, and I often leave the room or go back to my book once the killer is revealed in a TV show or movie because I don’t care how they catch him/her. Recognizing that readers expect an exciting climax, I try to write it well. One of my beta readers told me that she had to skim the chase in my second Dead Detective Mystery, (releasing in April, 2012) because it’s on the Mackinac Bridge and was realistic enough to kick her acrophobia into gear.
I work at fight scenes, and if you saw me hidden away in my office, blocking out moves and playing both parts, you’d have to laugh. I’ve never been in a physical altercation in my life, so I have to take it step by step. I’m guessing I look pretty weird in the process!
What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?
We have several places on our wish list, but I think Australia/New Zealand is at the top. Not only would we love to see the country, but I hear from quite a few fans from those two countries.
Peg Herring is a mystery writer from northern Lower Michigan. She is currently working on two series, The Simon and Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries with Five Star Publishing, and The Dead Detective Mysteries with LL-Publications. She has two stand-alone novels as well (MysterEbooks).
Peg is a former educator who enjoys travel, gardening, and directing musical groups. Other than writing, her claim to fame is being the only person to ever set the stage of her high school on fire. It was a small one, and when it was extinguished the cast followed the Yellow Brick Road anyway.
What do you do when your best friend turns against you? What if she betrays you in a way you could never have imagined? And what if she disappears, and it looks like you murdered her? Caroline Batzer deals with these questions in Somebody Doesn’t Like Sarah Leigh. And then things get worse!