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Publisher's Weekly calls Murder & Sullivan, "(a) truly suspenseful and chilling finale"; Barbara Burnett Smith, author of the Purple Sage mysteries says, "wonderful characters, clever plotting" and The Amateur Sleuth Journal states, "One of her best and not to be missed".
COZY: When did you first begin writing?
SF: It depends on whether you count the horse story I wrote at age eleven, which I'm never going to show to another living soul. My first paid writing job was as a part-time writer (and eventually senior editor) for AIT, an education agency here in Bloomington, Indiana. No, before that I wrote a newsletter for an exchange student organization.
COZY: Why the mystery genre? Why not sci-fi or Fantasy?
SF: I read mysteries and find them satisfying. And there was this oboe player I felt like murdering. . . .
COZY: Who were (are) your favorite literary role models?
SF: "Favorite" questions scare me. Sure as anything, I'll leave out someone I really admire. Dorothy L. Sayers turned me on to reading mysteries back when I was in my late twenties, though I'm no Sayers. Long before that, I loved the children's books of Kate Seredy. Only after marrying a Hungarian did I learn to pronounce the name of the boy, Jancsi, in her stories. I read so widely and so much while growing up that my dad told me once, "Someday you'll be walking down the aisle, and when the minister asks `Wilt thou have this man?' you'll look up from your book and say `Huh?'"
As for role models, I think I have to write like myself.
COZY: How long before you made your first sale?
SF:I sold my first book, MURDER IN C MAJOR. Dumb luck helped. About the third or fourth time out, my agent sent it to an editor who had played clarinet in chamber ensembles, and she loved it. That book was followed by BURIED IN QUILTS, which also has music in it, as well as quilts, and MURDER & SULLIVAN, named for Gilbert & Sullivan.
COZY: When did you decide to make writing a full time career?
SF: Is it? Good thing it's not my only source of income. (You know MWA'S(Mystery Writers of America) motto: Crime Does Not Pay . . . Enough.)
COZY: What other kinds of writing have you dabbled in?
SF: I've sold a fantasy short story, which will be published sometime this year in the Dimensions of Madness anthology. I also wrote sixteen very short, very easy-to-read books for adults (not children) learning how to read. The last of them have just been remaindered by New Readers Press, and I now have boxes of little books on the floor of my study, available to anyone who wants to buy them cheap. I have eight titles left, four of which are mysteries. I hesitate to mention these books in answer to a question about dabbling, because they may be the most important writing I've ever done, even though they're entertaining stories. There's so little out there at that easy level that doesn't insult the life experience of an adult reader.
COZY: What are you working on now?
SF: My fourth Joan Spencer mystery, which involves the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis--known as the Olympics of the violin. Still don't have a title for it. Fred Lundquist, my police detective, used to play sax. You think I could call it SAX AND VIOLINS?
COZY: If Hollywood made a movie out of one of your mysteries who would you pick to play Joan Spencer?
SF: I don't know. Maybe a young, Midwestern Katherine Hepburn?
COZY: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
SF: Be willing to revise much more than you think is necessary. And develop a thick skin. Just because someone criticizes your work doesn't mean it, or you, are worthless. In fact, if you submit something and get back any kind of comments, it's a sign that the editor thought you had enough promise to bother coaching. Mostly they don't.
COZY: Did you ever feel like giving up on your writing?
SF: Most mornings, especially when I'm in the middle of a book and can't see my way through the fog between me and the terrific ending I had all planned out when I started.
COZY: Have you ever turned one of your stories into a play or screenplay?
SF: No. But I think in scenes, as a playwright must.
COZY: How many short stories have you written?
SF: Not many. Sold even fewer.
COZY: If Hollywood made a movie out of your life who would you pick to play you?
SF: Someone younger and skinnier.
COZY: If you watch TV, what is your favorite mystery show?
SF: NYPD Blue, for one. And the Cadfael mysteries.
COZY: Where do your characters come from?
SF: Superficially, I snitch faces and names and such from all over the place. But how they feel and why they do what they do (including the villains) are things that mostly come from inside me. (Remember the urge to kill the oboe player?)
MURDER & SULLIVAN (St. Martin's Press) is still in print in hardcover, and will be out in paperback from Worldwide in September.
If you want more information about the New Readers Press books you can E-Mail Sara Hoskinson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
686 Jakes Ct. McMinnville, Oregon 97128-2546 FAX:(503) 472-4896
WRITERS GUIDELINES: WHAT WE WANT . . .
Stories that are heavy on character and mystery content. Stories can be serious or comical. No stories over 6,000 words. Hard-boiled private-eye okay, if used with a fresh approach. We want mood, setting, a beginning, a middle and an end. We want to smell, hear and feel the story. And we want to be surprised. Unpublished writers are always welcome.
Computer disk submissions preferred, but regular manuscript format accepted. All disk submissions should be in ASCII or Text format or they are no good to us.
Please include SASE with the correct postage. We respond in about six weeks. We also need cartoons, poems and reviews. Please query when writing about true crime. At this time we only pay in copies. (Two copies per story. Additional copies at a writer's discount of $1.50)
WHAT WE DON'T WANT . . .
Stories without a mystery connection. No over-explicit language, cardboard characters. No plot. Sex stories: keep it clean because we have a wide audience. Handwritten stories or hard to read manuscripts are turned down immediately. Keep the violence down to a minimum. Unnecessary violence is prohibited: remember, your Mom might read this.
WE WILL WORK WITH NEW WRITERS. IF WE DON'T LIKE THE STORY, BUT WE LIKE YOUR STYLE, WE WILL ASK FOR A DIFFERENT SUBMISSION. TRUE WRITERS NEVER GIVE UP!
SAMPLE COPIES AVAILABLE AT $2.95 +1.50 S&H
We are accepting novelettes, 65,000 words or less for publication during 1998. Any genre accepted. Copies and royalties will be paid for accepted ms, for a onetime printing. Interested writer's should send ms and/or diskettes w/SASE.
PaperCapers Printing/Meager, Ink Publications;The Cozy Detective(tm) Mystery Magazine/Amateur Sleuth Journal
686 Jakes Ct.
E-Mail: Detectivemag@onlinemac.com - Fax: (503) 472-4896