Tag Archives: amateur sleuth

Author Interview & An Excuse For Murder by Vanessa Westermann

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Vanessa Westermann…

Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now?

I’m half-Canadian, half-German and was born in Germany. I moved to Canada two years ago and currently live in Ontario.

Why did you choose this genre?

I’ve always loved reading crime fiction, starting with Nancy Drew mysteries to Agatha Christie and Tana French. It’s not the violence of the crime, but the emotion that motivated it that intrigues me – the why, rather than the how.

I wanted to write a traditional village mystery, with its puzzles and quirky characters, but include the suspense of a thriller. In order to accomplish this, An Excuse For Murder is told from two points of view: from the perspective of Gary Fenris, a haunted former bodyguard who commits murder and then has to live with the consequences, and from the perspective of Kate Rowan, a bookstore owner who discovers the body. The characters are linked by danger and uncertain romance.

Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?

Besides being a writer, I’m an English teacher and have also taught creative writing to young adults. I love teaching. Having the chance to inspire students and make a difference in their lives is wonderful.  There’s never a dull moment. And I get to spend my day talking about books.

What was your first job?

My first job was in Karstadt Oberpollinger, a department store in Munich, Germany. I worked in the store’s pop-up Christmas market. Besides having to listen to two recently released pop albums being played over and over again at the MAC cosmetics counter, it was a lot of fun.

What’s your favorite book of all time and why?

My favorite book of all time would have to be The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Literary detective, Thursday Next, is on the trail of a criminal mastermind who is kidnapping characters from classic works of fiction. In this alternative version of 1985 London, people are obsessed with books – there are museums devoted to famous authors and “HyperBookworms”, i.e. Thesaurean maggots. The Eyre Affair is surreal, witty and gripping.

I was lucky enough to interview Jasper Fforde about his latest standalone, Early Riser, on my blog: https://www.vanessa-westermann.info/Fforde-interview

What’s your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book is I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith and my favorite picture book is The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman.

What do you want readers to come away with after they read An Excuse For Murder?

After they read An Excuse For Murder, I would like readers to come away with a sense of hope: that Gary will lay his ghosts to rest and that he will solve another crime with Kate. I would be thrilled if my characters linger on in readers’ minds after the last page has been read, and that Kate, Gary and Marcus feel like old friends.

Would you rather have a bad review or no review?

I would have to quote Oscar Wilde on that one: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” I would rather have a bad review than no review.

What is your favorite quote?

“The trouble with real life is that you don’t know whether you’re the hero or just some nice chap who gets bumped off in chapter five to show what a rotter the villain is without anyone minding too much.” ― Sarah Caudwell, The Sirens Sang of Murder

If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

I would love to have tea with Kate in The Old Fire-hall Café and then help her stock books in her bookstore, while discussing the mysterious behavior of the late Mr. Wendell.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism given to me as an author was by an editor who described an early version of An Excuse For Murder as a “woman-in-danger novel”. I was horrified that I had given the impression that my female protagonist needed saving. I revised the novel, making sure that Kate showed strength and courage in every decision she made and every action she took. The best compliment I received was from Barbara Fradkin, in her praise quote for An Excuse For Murder: “Kate Rowan is the perfect heroine for our times; wit, charm, and spirit balanced by impressive skills in self-defense and lock-picking.“ Taking the tough criticism to heart, and making those changes, led to the best compliment.

How did you come up with the title?

The book was originally titled The House of Silent Words. In that earlier version of the manuscript, the focus was on Kate and the other tenants living in the fairy-tale house, owned by Kate’s great-aunt. Gary Fenris was just a shadowy figure on the sidelines. During revisions, Gary became a protagonist in his own right and the title had to reflect that change. An Excuse For Murder stems from Gary’s storyline and emphasizes the theme of revenge.

Blurb:

As a former bodyguard, it should be easy for Gary Fenris to kill, especially when the motive is revenge. But Gary has made two mistakes in his life. The first was letting the woman he loved die on his watch. The second was thinking vengeance could bring him peace.

Local bookstore owner and amateur lock pick Kate Rowan loves nothing more than a good mystery. Her curiosity soon leads her down a trail of blackmail, obsession and death. Despite the risk – or maybe because of it – Gary finds himself drawn to Kate. When danger strikes, Gary is forced to face the fact that he used love as an excuse for murder. And he’s got one last score to settle.

 Excerpt:

The ghost of her laughter teased across his skin, raising the hairs on his arms.

There she was, vibrant as though she was in the room with him. “Don’t tell me you don’t like it.” She gave her new dress a twirl, barefoot and beautiful, all ready for a night out but for the heels she would wait to put on to the last. Her toe-nails were painted red. The arch of her foot flexed strong and graceful with the movement. Her blonde hair shone in the light of memory. She stopped short, the soft blue fabric swinging against her legs, and grinned at him.

It went straight through him. He raised the bottle of Scotch to his lips, holding on to the vision. It wavered beneath the intensity of his gaze.

Then there was nothing on the floor but scuff marks and the shimmer of dust. His trainers, mud-caked from that morning’s eight kilometer run, took up the space where her heels should have been. He had almost forgotten the way she used to toe her shoes off, always sliding the left one off first for some inexplicable reason.

The wall was cold and hard against his back, the Scotch smooth and warm.

There was no other choice. He’d made his decision two years ago. It was time.

Tomorrow, he would commit murder.

 Buy links:

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo | Books-A-Million

 

Bio:

Vanessa Westermann is a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge, and has given a talk on the evolution of women’s crime writing, at the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Her book review column entitled “Vanessa’s Picks” was published in the monthly newsletter of a popular Toronto mystery-specialty bookstore, from 2012 to 2016. The column was developed into a blog, featuring literary reviews and author interviews.

While living in Munich, Germany, Vanessa attained an M.A. in English Literature and went on to teach creative writing.

Vanessa currently lives in Canada and is working on her next novel, while drinking copious amounts of tea.

Readers can find her blog at www.vanessa-westermann.info and follow her on Twitter @VanessasPicks.

Contact links:

Website & Blog | Twitter

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, New Release

Author Interview with Cindy Procter-King PLUS New Release: Picture Imperfect

 

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Cindy Procter-King. So happy to have you today, Cindy. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. 

  1. Where did you get the idea for Picture Imperfect?

The idea for PICTURE IMPERFECT kind of sprang itself on me and then took a long time to develop. The heroine, Ursula Scott, and her basic situation (she was photographing a series of men in her underwear and wasn’t happy about it) along with the opening line (If Ursula Scott had to look at one more naked man, she’d scream) popped into my mind while I was considering what sort of book I might write about a woman disgruntled with her boss? This was long ago, before ChickLit fell “out of favor,” because at first I thought Ursula’s story was a ChickLit one. But I was contracted to write something else at the time, so I put the idea germ away and would bring it out from time to time and work on it some more. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t a ChickLit story at all, but a romantic comedy/mystery with suspense elements. The title went through a few incarnations as I grew to know the characters, beginning as UNDRESSING URSULA, then moving to SEX, PIs & PACKING TAPE, and finally PICTURE IMPERFECT, which makes total sense considering Ursula is a photographer and that at the beginning of the story something indefinable in her life just isn’t right. 🙂

I call the story a “Sassy Suspense,” because the suspense and mystery elements are fully braided with the characterization, romance, the family and friends dynamics, and the secondary characters arcs, and the story includes some pretty gritty incidents in both back story and current story time but with a humorous tone. I realized that the original title, UNDRESSING URSULA, which was meant to convey the character’s self-realization as she moved through the story, getting to know what she really wanted in a sort of peeling away or “undressing,” actually applied to the unfolding mystery and suspense elements as well as to Ursula’s rapidly developing relationship with her hero, Gabe McKenzie. So the title evolved along with the story.

  1. Sounds intriguing. My stories often undergo title changes as well. Are there any tricks or habits you use when creating a story?

I am pretty much a linear writer. I am mainly a pantser, but I plot as I go. I can only “see” a little of the plot at a time, so I try to think of how I work my way through my books as carving a tunnel out of a mountain. I need to “see” around one curve before I realize where the next curve is. For me, each scene or chapter grows organically from the previous one, so I do tend to fast-draft one scene and then revise and edit it before moving on to the next. However, with PICTURE IMPERFECT I decided to try something else, so committed myself to writing whatever scenes I could “see,” no matter where they fell in the book, during NaNoWriMo one year. It was a lot of fun, but in the end I had a beginning, what I thought might be my ending, but not a whole lot in the middle. And it took me a looong time to develop the middle. A lot of revisions and one monstrous rewrite.

Part of this was because I don’t usually write scenes out of order, and my muse seemed to stage a revolt against the idea. It was very aggravating, LOL. Because I wrote out of order, I pretty much knew the ending and thought I knew the villain. But my muse wasn’t happy with knowing the ending already, I guess, because as I rewrote the book she kept trying to change the villain. And I went along with her, but in the end the villain was the person I had envisioned in the beginning.

That sounds more like a struggle than a trick or habit. 😉 But every book I write feels like a struggle when I’m getting down the “first write,” which some authors might call a first draft, but because I revise as I go I call it a “first write.” I have had to really teach myself to accept my process, to literally tell myself to “have faith” and trust my muse. It’s like the story is buried in my head, and I can at times “feel” that my mind is working on it—but I don’t know the resulting scene yet. Sometimes I tell myself to “just sit down and see what I can do,” trying to alleviate the pressure of producing (because of course it seems like every other writer “knows” their scenes before they write them!). I tend more to hear and feel my characters than see them, so writing for me is a little like acting. I try to “channel” the characters until I can hear what they’re saying and feel their emotions. Then I “become” them. This is how I can write a complete asshat of a character and enjoy myself immensely. He thinks he’s the hero of the story, so why wouldn’t he be fun to write?

  1. Yes, we all have different processes that work for us. We just have to do what we do and trust the process. 🙂 What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?

Lemons. When I was in Girl Guides in grade 5, I lost a game and had to suck a lemon. I was terrified because I had heard all my life how everyone hates lemons, the phrase “sour like a lemon,” etc. But, you know, it wasn’t bad! I have loved lemons ever since. I don’t eat them like fruit (except when I was pregnant with my second son, when I craved them), but I drench fish with lemon and then eat the rest (except for the skin).

  1. I love lemon too, especially in water. It just makes a huge difference. And Martini Drops are my current favorite Martinis. 🙂 What’s the main thing that you could get rid of in your life that would give you more writing time?

Well, right now I can’t afford it, but if I could…to hire a housecleaner and a meal planner. Someone who would not only plan all the meals but also shop for and prepare them to the point where I could just add a dab here and then and it would taste super fresh. I don’t mind housework; it’s just a matter of lack of time. But I strongly dislike cooking. I would rather someone else cook and I clean up. Sadly, neither my husband and I are cooks. I’m not a bad cook. I’m actually a pretty decent cook. I just don’t enjoy it. And I forget when I’m cooking to check on stuff. So now when I have something on my stove and get bored, I bring my iPad into the kitchen with me and sit down right in front of the stove so I won’t forget I’m cooking. Otherwise, I burn stuff. We had a cartoon on the fridge for years that said, “If there’s smoke, dinner’s ready.”

It would also be nice to be able to afford an assistant to handle promotional and bookkeeping chores. But that’s on the “someday maybe” list. I do like having a finger in every pie, keeping on top of things myself. But it cuts into my writing time, and I hate bookkeeping with a passion. It’s a constant struggle between being a control freak/what I can’t afford to farm out/the damn cooking!

  1. Oh gosh, wouldn’t that be fantastic! Some day… What do you want readers to come away with after they read PICTURE IMPERFECT?

First and foremost, I want to entertain my readers. I want them to smile and perhaps chuckle as they read my stories, because I smile and chuckle as I write them. But I also want my readers to feel what my characters are going through, to feel the love story developing, to know that these two people, my characters, are meant to be together. I want readers to think about the characters after they finish the story, to wish there was a sequel, to want to know more about the world or the relationships. I want them satisfied with the story, but wanting more from me as an author, whether I’m writing sassy suspense, romantic comedy, or my heartwarming hometown romances.

  1. What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?

So many genres, so little time! So far, under two names, I have written contemporary romance, romantic comedy and now sassy suspense as Cindy and then erotic romance and romantic erotica under a pen name. As Cindy, now that I actually know I can write mystery/suspense (which I discovered while writing PICTURE IMPERFECT), I would like to write more in that arena. The big challenge is that I’m a slow writer and if I keep writing long books (PI is over 130,000 words) I could maybe write one book a year. I don’t know if that slow pace can work in Indie publishing. For now I’m waiting it out and working on multiple series that I’ve already started.

I have a bad habit (which I am currently attempting to address) of writing one or two books in a series and then moving on even though I know the current publishing climate favors series. So I would LIKE to and I AM now working on established series until I have at least three books or stories in a series before I allow myself to get pulled somewhere else. Like…I have an idea for a cozy mystery series with a quirky heroine and her sidekick, but it would be really, really bad of me to start that cozy mystery series without continuing on with my “established” series first. Very bad.

So very bad.

(Help.)

  1. Ha, I do the same thing. I have three or more books that desperately need sequels! Your most prized material possession? Why?

My oak roll-top desk. My husband gave it to me for our first anniversary. Instead of buying me something “paper,” he got me something to “put paper on.” I love my roll-top desk! We’ve been married 31 years, so the desk is now 30 years old—and so is the chair. The chair has barely worked for years, but I won’t give it up. It wobbles as I sit on it. I have two desks in my office, a computer desk with my desktop computer and then the roll-top desk. I draft and do business stuff at the computer. The roll-top desk is for revising on paper (I can’t really get to know my characters on the computer; the magic happens on paper with a pen or pencil in hand), planning my days, and organizing my life (I am the family financier/household manager). I love all the little compartments. It’s like a reflection of my brain, both cluttered and organized at once. It reflects my writing process—messy yet organized. And it reflects my husband’s love for me and continued support of my writing endeavors, which I cherish.

OH wow, what a perfect answer to the final question. LOVE this! And, speaking of perfect, er, well, imperfect, tell us about your latest release…

cindyprocter-king_pictureimperfect_800px

Blurb:

Just when she thought she had her life on autofocus…

Photographer Ursula Scott is six short months from buying her boss’s studio and helping her family knock down a massive debt. She can put up with his hairball antics for that long, right?

Right?

 But, oh, he makes life difficult. She can barely restrain herself when he hogs credit for her assignments, and now half-naked weirdos are responding to his ad for her first magazine photo spread. On top of that, someone is sabotaging the studio. Worse, she discovers her sexy apprentice is a former cop practicing his newbie PI skills on the case—and she’s a suspect!

Suddenly, Ursula’s dreams and hard work seem about to go up in smoke. In more ways than one.

Well, not on her watch.

When Gabe McKenzie moves home following the shooting that kyboshed his career, he doesn’t expect to get sucked into finding the culprit wreaking havoc at his uncle’s photography studio. He certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Ursula Scott, a long-legged brunette with a definite motive and a desire to play Nancy Drew. Even as he clears her, the sabotage escalates into a bizarre stalking, placing Ursula…and Gabe’s hopes for their future…in danger.

If only he can convince her to stop snooping around and let him do his job as a PI, before an unknown menace threatens not only her dreams—but her life.

 

Excerpt: 

Ursula placed an order with the food vendor. As the man set down two steaming cups of apple cider with cinnamon sticks for stirring, she caught sight of Gabe wandering toward the cart, tucking his phone into his coat.

He picked up the cups. “Smells good. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I hope you like hot cider. It’s locally made.”

“Any warm beverage on a fall day is ideal.”

Nodding, Ursula gazed at the gray clouds obliterating the earlier patches of blue sky. “Looks like rain’s coming.”

Gabe pointed to the hood hanging down the back of his jacket. “I have an instant umbrella this time.”

“I noticed. See, you can learn.”

“You’re a good role model.”

Another compliment. A girl could grow accustomed to his gallantry.

She collected the bag of warm, soft pretzels and, side by side, they strolled in companionable silence to the slatted bench. Gabe’s limp had improved since he’d walloped Lance, thank goodness.

They sat, Gabe on her right, his hurt leg extended in front of him, heel balanced on the grass. Preschoolers played on a jungle gym while moms and nannies chatted and supervised. A couple of seagulls squawked at the base of a trashcan.

“Here you go.” Gabe passed her a hot cup of cider.

She set down the drink with a quick thanks before opening the vendor bag. She’d ordered two varieties of homemade pretzels, and the contrasting scents of cinnamon-sugared dough and spicy mustard glaze drifted from the sack. Her mouth watered.

“What did your physical therapist say?” she asked Gabe.

“Like I figured, I’m to ice the muscle tonight and take ibuprofen. I just saw her yesterday. Because I was so touched by your concern, she’s also fitting me in late this afternoon.”

He was only teasing, but butterflies scattered inside her tummy. “That’s a relief. I’m glad you checked.”

His shoulder bumped hers. “Anything for you, boss.”

Tingles shot everywhere. He was so sexy. So incredibly tempting.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Picture-Imperfect-Suspense-Cindy-Procter-King-ebook/dp/B01LWS7E0S/

iBooks – https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/picture-imperfect/id1161811331?at=11l9SH

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/picture-imperfect-7

NOOK – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/picture-imperfect-cindy-procter-king/1124924747?ean=2940153530611

cindypk_300px

Bio:

Cindy Procter-King writes sassy suspense, rollicking romantic comedy, and heart-tugging small-town romance. To sum it up, feel-good fiction! A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart finalist, Cindy’s mission in life is to see her surname spelled properly—with an E. That’s P-r-o-c-t-E-r. Never, under any circumstances, should you spell it with two O’s (shudder).

Cindy’s novels and short fiction are available as eBooks from retailers all over the world, as well as in trade paperback, library hardcover and large print, some foreign editions, and audiobooks.

Cindy lives in beautiful British Columbia with her family, a cat obsessed with dripping tap water, and Allie McBeagle.

Contact Links:

 

Website: http://www.cindyprocter-king.com

Newsletter signup/email: http://www.cindyprocter-king.com/contact.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cindyprocterkingauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cindypk

 

 

 

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