Blog Archive

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Author Voice vs Critique Group: Author Interview with Connie Berry

What made you decide to write your first novel?
I've always read and loved great mysteries. And I've always loved writing, so the decision to write a mystery of my own came much earlier than the day I actually sat down at my computer and typed Chapter One.

The story had been brooding in my head for years. No one book or author prompted me to write, but the great mystery writers of the Golden Age drew me into a life-long love affair with British mysteries and wonderful writers like Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, P. D. James, Dorothy Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh.

How long did it take you to write your first book? How many rewrites did you do on it?
My first book took ten years to complete! I'd be embarrassed to admit that, except that many writers will tell you the same thing. That first book involves so much more than writing. The learning curve is long and steep. Numbering my rewrites is impossible because over that ten-year period I was constantly revising, polishing, cutting, adding, rethinking. My Outtakes Files is way longer than the finished manuscript.

Who helped you with the editing?
Along the way, I worked with two independent editors and learned something from each one.

Who encouraged you along the way?
My encouragement came from the mystery-writing community (SinC, Guppies, MWA) and especially from my wonderful critique partners. We met at Seascapes Writers' Workshop years ago and have been critiquing each other's' manuscripts ever since. Three of us are now published, with a fourth very close behind.

How did you go about finding an agent/publisher?
My journey to publication is different than most because, knowing my manuscript wasn't ready for prime time, I didn't risk sending it out there into the cold, cruel world. When I retired three years ago, I decided to make the massive changes I knew were needed. I finished that final revision in January of 2018.

In February I attended Sleuthfest in Florida and took advantage of the opportunity to have an agent or editor read the first chapter of my work. Luckily, I was assigned to Faith Black Ross of Crooked Lane Books. She loved my work and offered me a two-book contract. Yay! With contract in hand, I contacted Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, and she took me on as a client.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Writing from scratch. Staring at a blank page. Wondering where and how to begin. To counteract this, I always begin a writing session by revising the previous scene. That gets me into the grove, and I can push ahead. Having material to revise—no matter how appalling—is what I love to do!

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
The most common remark she makes is, "Are you sure you've got the timing right?" Usually, I don't. Because I'm thinking of the big picture, keeping track of those details is something I have to go back and fix every time.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
The best encouragement was meeting my editor for the first time at Sleuthfest and hearing her say, "I love your writing! I love your story!"

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
Three years earlier at Sleuthfest, I had another critique session with Neil Nyren, the former Editor-in-Chief at G. P. Putman's Sons. I sat down, hoping for encouragement. Instead, he looked at me with something like pity and said, "Well. This needs some work, doesn't it?" He told me the truth. I was in a bad mood for the rest of the conference—ask my roommate.

But when my head cleared and my heart healed, his comment led me to an important decision: I was going to find out what I needed to do to get published, no matter how long it took or how hard I had to work. That was the turning point. And I'm glad I didn't know then how much learning was needed.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
I am most surprised by all the time I must spend on publicity. What I want to be doing is writing the third book!

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I had paid more attention to story structure. Patience was never my strong suit. I just wanted to write. But the truth is I wasted a lot of time because I didn't stop and learn the basics of fiction writing.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
The best advice I've received is "Hang in there—don't quit!"

The best advice I could give is "Take time to learn your craft. Take classes, attend conferences, read widely, listen to successful authors and learn!"

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
A caution! Definitely learn from other writers but don't try to imitate them. Every writer must develop his or her own voice. This takes times. Critique groups can be wonderful, but you can't write a book by committee.

What is the next book coming out?

A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series, will be out on October 9, 2019.

Can you give me a short synopsis?

What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland.

Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. But when the body of another intern is found on the estate, romance must take a back seat.

Long Barston is on Tom Mallory’s patch, and the clues to the killer’s identity point backward more than four hundred years to a blood-red ruby ring and a legacy of murder.

Sounds intriguing! If you’d like to buy her first book now and learn about upcoming writing, here are some links to get you started.

Facebook: Connie Berry, Author
Barnes & Noble:


  1. So nice to "meet" you, Christine! Great website. I'm honored to have a conversation with you.

  2. A Legacy of Murder sounds wonderful, and the cover is charming.

  3. Dream of death was a great introduction to Kate. The characters and plot were wonderful and the history element hit is just right. On to A Legacy of Murder thanks to NetGalley.

  4. Thanks, Jeanie. I'm having fun this summer writing Book 3. And I appreciate the feedback.

  5. Thank you, Glorious! I love your name.