Today I'm happy to share an interview with mystery author Peggy Edelheit with you. Peggy is the author of the Samantha Jamison Mysteries.
Here we go...
Jill: The description of The Puzzle is certainly attention getting (see below). There is a strong sense of voice here and a clear point of view. Did you know at the outset who Samantha Jamison would be inside and out? Did she come to you (fairly) fully formed?
Excerpt from Amazon: “I had to make a decision. Do I continue making excuses, or do I set in motion something that scares me? Do I go back to North Carolina and solve the puzzle of who killed my husband? Once there, I find that I am caught up in a web of intrigue and end up in my own novel. My laptop couldn’t type me out of this one, and would I live to write about it?
Peggy: I have to admit, that at first, The Puzzle was going to be a stand-alone book. Samantha’s persona was already rambling around inside me for a while before I finally put her down in book form. I felt the reader should feel and see in print her scattered, rambling thought process closely tied to her fear, insecurities and hopelessness in the loss of a husband, marriage, and the life she thought she had, hence the rambling of her words on the pages and incoherent thoughts. People don’t always follow any sense of mental order when total emotional chaos hits them.
As the book progressed, it enabled the reader to slowly see Sam evolve, gaining confidence as a writer and sleuth. By the end of the book, I knew I had to continue telling Samantha’s story. Plus, I loved the idea of an author telling a story within a story. The reader is at the same disadvantage as Sam as they see and hear only what she does to solve the mysteries.
Jill: Name two authors (living or dead) who have inspired or influenced you.
Peggy: I can honestly say that no one particular author has influenced me more than another. I have always loved a well-written story that grabbed me the minute I started to read it. Over the years I’ve read so many genres, but kept coming back to mysteries, my preference.
Jill: WOW! You’ve released five Samantha Jamison Mysteries between 2009 and now (busy gal!) Do you ever feel like taking a break, or is the momentum what keeps you going?
Peggy: To me writing is like breathing. I can’t live without it. My only small break is to mentally contemplate my next mystery, having already let the reader know at the end of the one before where it was going next. The characters are my driving force. I love their unpredictability. I might do a Volume 5 ½ though as a brief pause, so to speak. The subject? Ah, another mystery!
Jill: Writing is (or can be) tough at times, for any writer, in any genre, writer’s block and things like that can affect even the best. However, I believe there is a unique challenge for writing mysteries: Yes, in any genre and in nonfiction, one must be able to write, and develop characters and create snappy dialogue, or write vivid descriptions, one may have to do some research, and so on, but with mysteries, an author almost needs an additional skill set: Mystery authors must be able to pepper in clues without giving away the plot too soon; they must play fair with the readers, and yet be plausible. This is becoming the longest question I’ve ever asked, but what are your thoughts on this? Do you find it easy to pepper in enough clues, without going overboard? Do you find it hard to make the plot believable without being obvious?
Peggy: I’m intrigued with the power of the mystery. Constructing and deconstructing the pieces involved and making them all fit together at the end is not easy, but that is what fascinated me the most about them, making sure everything was attached at the end in a coherent manner. I leave subtle clues throughout, some even at the very beginning. But every time I would change one thing, I then had to go back and change all the strings attached to it. I call it the ripple effect. It’s not easy because you have to be careful not to let that one detail get away from you. When I do surprise the reader, it is just as much a surprise to Samantha, too, so the reader never feels left out. Sam wasn’t expecting it either and she let’s them know it. I don’t outline. It just doesn’t work for me. When I am done with the whole book, then I reread the chapters and the whole book over and over to make sure it reads smoothly and there are no loose ends. Then it goes to my editor. After that a fine-tuning by me.
Jill: If a Hot Shot Hollywood Director (he’s so important that his name is even italicized!) showed up at your house and said he or she was about to make a Samantha Jamison movie, who would you like to see cast as Sam?
Peggy: You know, you got me on that one. If I ever get to that point in my career, I’ll email you first thing with a follow up on this interview to let you know. From now on though, I think I may have to make sure Sam has star-like qualities in my next book just in case that happens so my fans won’t be disappointed when it come to the big screen. (chuckle)
Jill: I’ve heard many writers say that they force themselves to have a routine or to write a certain number of words per day. Other writers have a more casual approach, and write when the mood strikes them. What is your writing process?
Peggy: I try to write everyday, even when the words are not flowing. I’ll just keep plugging away. I don’t set hours or have a rigid schedule other than writing each day. Of course I may delete a lot of it, but feel it’s important to keep writing. I consider anything, even swapping dialogue to do a change up for an unexpected twist, providing the chemistry works.
Jill: If an aspiring author asked you for just ONE piece of writing advice, what would you say and why?
Peggy: Believe in yourself. Keep going. Never give up. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
If I’ve learned anything, it’s to keep your readers in the loop. I let them know exactly what Sam is thinking and seeing as the story unfolds. If you lose your reader, they may give up on you and not come back. I try to keep the reader engaged throughout. I try not to forget they are looking over my shoulder.
Jill: What comes more easily to you: dialogue or description?
Peggy: Both. I know this sound crazy, but sometimes I can’t type fast enough, because I hear and see the whole scene so clearly in my mind and am afraid to let it go. Sometimes it’s scary how it plays out before me. I feel like I am in the room with them or wherever they happen to be and I am trying to catch the banter going back and forth, often tempted to yell out, “Hold it! Can you repeat that?” “Hey, wait! Why did you run that way?” “Why did you say that?”
Jill: In your experience, what is the best way to connect with readers? With other writers?
Peggy: As far as readers go, I blog on my website, sometimes about myself so they get to know me. I may also leave excerpts or a sample first chapter for them to read. It gives me great feedback.
As far as writers are concerned, I have been lucky to connect with so many of them on Twitter. They are an amazing group of talented people who are so supportive. I try in some small way to give that support back every chance I get.
The only social media I do is my website: samanthajamison.com and Twitter: @samanthajamison
I find any more than that and I don’t have the time to do what I love best, write.
Jill: The last question is kind of a freebie: What is the one thing you wish I had asked you, but didn’t? Now go ahead and ask and answer that question.
Peggy: Here goes: If you had to do it all over, would you do anything differently?
Absolutely not! I love being an author, speed bumps and all. I just wish my parents were still alive to see what their little girl has achieved. I know they would be proud of me and tell me not to let it go to my head. I don’t think that’s possible. I am too humbled by all the talent around me.
Thanks for having me, Jill. I enjoyed the interview.
Check out Peggy's books on AMAZON click here.