Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Getting Cozy with Mysteries: Author Interview with Annette Dashofy

My interview today is with USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy, who has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.She spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents, which gave her great background details for her murder mysteries.

Your first published works were in anthologies by the Mary Roberts Rinehart Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime. How long have you been active with that group? 
I joined in 2004 as soon as I grew serious about trying to get published. I had joined Pennwriters, a multi-genre group, a few months earlier. One of the friends I made in that organization told me I needed to join Sisters in Crime, too. She was right!

Why did you choose to write in the mystery genre? 
I’d toyed with other genres in the past, but mystery and crime fiction always appealed to me as a reader. So I started writing what I wanted to read.

What was the process of going from short stories to novels? 
I didn’t really go from short fiction to long fiction. I’ve always written novel-length stories, but wasn’t having any luck getting them published. I started writing short stories as a way to experiment with different styles and voices. And once I got a few published, it added some “street cred” to my bio as well as help me build a readership.

How did you find your publisher? What was the process? 
Wow. There is a very long story here, but I’ll cut to the chase. My fellow author and very good friend, Donnell Ann Bell, introduced me to Kendel Flaum, of Henery Press, who requested my manuscript. After ten years of beating my head against walls, I had a three-book deal offered to me ten days after the request.

Do you have an agent? 
Not currently. I’ve had two over the years. We parted company amicably in both cases.


When you first started writing your first book, did you intend to make it into a series? Or did you find you had more you wanted to write about the same characters? 
I intended this to be a series before I even started the first book. I had a good idea of what the second book would be, and I knew I’d set up a world where there were lots of possibilities for stories.

How many more books do you think there will be in the series? 
Good question! I know there will be at least six because I’m contracted through that many. Whether the series continues beyond that will largely be determined by sales and by my readers. If they want more Zoe and Pete, I’m happy to oblige.

How did Zoe Chambers come about? 
Zoe and Pete first appeared in one of those short stories we talked about earlier. I wrote A Signature in Blood almost ten years ago, and Chief of Police Pete Adams was the main character. It was one of those experiments in style and voice I mentioned—writing from a male cop’s point of view. In the short story, Zoe was Pete’s sidekick and sort-of romantic interest. It ended up being a 2007 Derringer Award finalist. I have plans to pull it out, update it, and re-release it as a treat for my readers.

What makes for a successful mystery? 
That’s a tough one. I think it’s a combination of elements. Characters that the reader cares about. Tension on every page. Enough action and conflict to keep the reader turning the page. And a satisfying ending. Of course, those things apply to most genres, not just mystery.

How much time daily do you have for writing? 
Not nearly enough!

What is your writing routine?
I don’t have nearly enough time for writing, and since I have a contractual deadline to produce a completed manuscript every nine months, I have to write EVERY day. I get up at 5:00 in the morning, see my hubby off to work, have some breakfast and some coffee. I check email and Facebook while I’m eating. Then I sit down at my computer at 7:00 and write (most days) until 9:00 or 9:30. After that my day goes in a lot of different directions. Some days I go to visit my mom. Some days I edit. Some days I work on the business end of things. But I must get in those morning pages. Every. Day.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? 
I do a lot of different things. I’m on Facebook a lot and on Twitter. I have a big blog tour set for the release of With a Vengeance. But I’m also getting out and doing bookstore events as well as a few conferences and meet-and-greets at other venues. This fall I have a local library tour in the works. And my publisher does their share of online promotion as well. It’s a team effort.

What has worked best? 
I wish I knew! I can tell you my best sales weeks have happened when my publisher marked down an earlier book in the series when a new one was being released. Those sales hit BookBub and launched me onto the USA Today bestseller list. But I’m still trying to figure out what works best the rest of the time.

What is the best advice you’ve been given or learned on writing? 
Marry someone with good health insurance! Just kidding. Sort of. Seriously though, I think the best advice I’ve been given and continue to share is to write the best book you can and then revise until it’s even better. And don’t submit it until it’s the absolute best you can make it.

What works do you have in the process? 
I’m currently finishing the first draft of the fifth Zoe Chambers mystery, working title: No Way Home. It’s due to my editor on June 1, so I’m slightly crazed right now.

Anything else you’d like to share about writing? 
I think it’s vitally important to join a writing group or two. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and we need guidance and support along the way. Being in the company of like-minded souls who “get it” is invaluable. Be forewarned—you get beat down a lot all along the way, from harsh critiques to rejections to negative reviews. That just means you’re a working, submitting writer putting yourself out there. Don’t let it get to you. Keep writing, keep submitting. And never ever give up.

That's it for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Annette's books and those in the works, here's the way to start.

My website: www.annettedashofy.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annette.dashofy/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Annette_Dashofy