How long did it take you to write each of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries?
Consigned to Death took me about eight months. The second Josie Prescott mystery, Deadly Appraisal, took me ten months. This is not a good thing—at that point, I crossed my fingers that each new book didn’t take two months longer than the previous one! Antiques to Die For did—sort of. I got off on too many wrong tangents. Then, at my editor’s suggestion, I wrote a synopsis. What a great idea! It was incredibly difficult, but once it was approved, all the plotting—or at least, most of it—was done! All told, Antiques to Die For took more than a year to write. Both Killer Keepsakes and Silent Auction took about eight months, all told.
Eight or ten months seems very quick—even a year seems incredible. You hear about writers who take many years to write a novel… how did you do it so quickly?
Remember that for every writer you hear about who takes years to complete a book, you also hear about an author who writes a novel in a few months—or even less. When I wrote Consigned to Death, I had no idea how long it would take—all I knew was that I was in a hurry. And guess what? I’m still in a hurry, but I’m also trying to become more efficient and better.
Why did Antiques to Die For take longer to write than Deadly Appraisal? And why did Deadly Appraisal take longer than Consigned to Death?
The third book, Antiques to Die For, was harder to write than the second—and that’s not supposed to happen! You hear sometimes that the second books takes longer to write than the first… but not that third takes longer. Sigh, sigh. Thankfully, after a major misstep in direction, my editor suggested that I write a synopsis. I did, and once it was approved, more or less, the book wrote itself. It was great to learn that synopses help me write better books! I don’t know why this one was harder… ideas seemed to come to my mind less quickly for some reason. Now that I know I’m a synopses girl, well, I’m on a roll! The good news is that, while it might have taken me longer, the reviews have been great. But I want to reiterate, writing synopses is hard. It’s a very different skill set than writing the novel itself.
You said that you were in a hurry…. what was the hurry?
I’m always in a hurry—that’s my personality. Once I decided to write a novel, I wanted to get it done.
I want to write a mystery. What advice can you give me?
Well, I wouldn’t presume to offer advice—there are scores of effective approaches to writing. That said, I can tell you what has worked for me—perhaps you can adapt some of my strategies to suit your needs and writing style.
- I think before I write. I never begin to write until I know a lot about what I want to write about. Before I start a mystery, for instance, I know who dies, who killed the victim, how they did it, why they did it, several clues I’ll be planting along the way, and how the protagonist will solve the mystery.
- I track all my thinking. Whenever an idea occurs to me, I jot it down. I end up with dozens of notes on little pieces of paper and cocktail napkins, which, periodically, I reread.
- I write all the time. Once I start, I keep at it. I’m disciplined and diligent. If I’m not doing something else, I write. When I’m on a project, I take very little time off.
- Once the draft is completed, I have it proofread. I never submit material that hasn’t been spit-polished. Correctness and neatness matter.
Now that you’re writing a series, is there a lot of pressure to produce?
There are deadlines, for sure, but I work well with structure—and I’m lucky—I love my protagonist, Josie Prescott, so I’m always glad to spend time with her.