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Monday, March 26, 2007

Interview with author Sharon Dunn

Today were welcoming author Sharon Dunn. When you’ve finished reading this interview, be sure to check out her website at: www.sharondunnbooks.com.

Hello, Sharon. Were glad to have you with us as a guest author at Keep Me In Suspense.

Please tell us a little about your new book, Death of a Garage Sale Newbie.

I am really excited about my new series, the Bargain Hunters mysteries, coming out at the end of March. Death of a Garage Sale Newbie is the first book in this series. It is similar in tone to my first series, the Ruby Taylor mysteries, humorous whodunits. The Bargain Hunters series features four women who are bonded together by the need to clip coupons and be first in line at doorbuster sales. When one of the bargain hunters is found dead, it is up to the other three to figure out what happened to her and why. The main character is Ginger who is a recent empty nester and bargain hunting expert and then there is Suzanne, mother of three with one on the way, and Kindra, the college student with a taste for designer clothes without the budget.

Now, give us the truth. Are you a garage sale addict? How did you come up with this great idea?

I have always been a bargain hunter in one form or another. I used to garage sale all the time but had to cut back because I was coming home with junk that I didn’t use. It doesn’t matter if you only spent a nickel on something. It was still money poorly spent if it was something you weren’t actually going to use. I would buy stuff at garage sales and then end up putting it in my own garage sale. Now I am into off season clothing sales and punch cards. I have punch cards for the coffee place, for the Christian bookstore, for the burrito place and the bakery (buy twelve and get your 13th free). Those are the ones that come to mind. I probably have more if I go through my purse. I get really jazzed when I finally fill up my punch card. I’m like my main character Ginger in that clearance racks make my heart beat faster. So I guess the answer to your question is I got the idea from my own life.

Are you working on a sequel?

Book two is called Death of a Cute Teddy Bear. The ladies go down to a town in Nevada that is the outlet capitol of the west. The worlds largest garage sale is also happening there. Book Three will take place on the set of the shopping channel. All the books have the usual dead body and search for clues.

Your Ruby Taylor Mystery books are great fun, too. Your books give a sense of companionship and networking among women that lends almost a chick-lit feel. Does this reflect the tone of your life? Do you have your own private sisterhood that supports you?

Good observation. Both my books do have that women supporting each other thing going on. The older I get, the more I value my friendships with other women. I go to a long term women’s Bible study that is way more than just a Bible study. The support and encouragement I get from those women gets me through my week.

Some of sassy edge in your Ruby Taylor books comes from the first person point of view. Tell us about the challenges of writing mysteries in first person.

Believe it or not, first person is easier for me than multiple POV. I heard Ruby Taylors voice really clearly right from the beginning. The Bargain Hunters is multiple POV and part way through my first draft of Garage Sale Newbie, I was going into everybody’s head. I cut back in future drafts and was more aware of getting out of control with POV when I did Death of a Cute Teddy Bear. I think the reason why first person feels more comfortable to me is that it limits my choices. I can only go where my character can go. Even in life, I get overwhelmed by too many choices. If I go to Wal-Mart to choose one lipstick of the gazillion they have there, I get dizzy from the choices. So now when I do multiple POV, I place limits on whose head I can go into and try to stay with the main character for the bulk of the book.

Are your characters like real people? How much of what we read in these books is taken from life?

I haven’t solved any crimes or encountered any dead bodies lately, but the relationship issues and the spiritual growth of my characters often reflects lessons learned in my own life. For example, in Garage Sale Newbie, Ginger and her husband Earl rediscover each other and have an even more intimate marriage as a result of becoming empty nesters and working through a crisis. My husband and I are not empty nesters, but we weathered some health and financial trouble, and it was like I fell in love with him all over again. I was so impressed with my hubby and the way he handled things. Even though Ginger’s circumstances are a little different from mine, I wanted to chronicle that discovery process in a marriage.

Can you give some advice for writers wanting to break into this genre?

That cliché about writing what you love to read is true. I read all kinds of mysteries, but the ones I love the most are the amateur detective, so that’s what I write. Whatever you are writing, whether it is police procedural or cozy, you need to understand the conventions of each genre and the expectations of the readers who pick up those books. Even though forensics is interesting to me, my readers know that I wont have gory CSI type details in my books.

Also, write to please yourself, not others. I have two manuscripts that will never see the light of day (one mystery historical and one romance) because I was writing very imitatively and I was writing what I thought I could sell. Don’t write toward a trend.

What resources do you use most when researching and writing your novels?

One of my staples is James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Even though I am not one of those writers who plots stuff ahead of time, the book helps me when I am stuck or my story is just not working. I have some standard books that are specific to mystery writing, the NRA Guide to Firearms and the Writers Digest’s Howdunit books. I have also found that criminal justice textbooks are really helpful. I got the idea for the third Ruby Taylor Cow Crimes and the Mustang Menace from a chapter in the textbook Criminal Investigation which talked about agricultural crimes. I use that textbook all the time.

What system do you use to organize your story during the writing process?

Organize? I’m sorry that word does not compute with me. I know writers who have character profile sheets and elaborate outlines. I don’t work that way. For me, it feels like a time waster to do that stuff. I need to get started writing the rough draft as quickly as possible. I do use sticky notes plastered all over my desk and wall to remind of things I need to fix in the book or questions I am asking myself as I write or character description and qualities that I want to remember. As I deal with those things, I toss the sticky note. When all the sticky notes are gone, the book must be done. In an effort to be a little more organized I keep any article I pull off the net for research in a folder instead of scattered all around my desk. I was spending way too much time looking though stacks of paper when I wanted to refer back to a piece of research.

Is there something you fantasize about writing someday that you haven’t tried to write yet?

Les Miserables is my all time favorite story in book form and as a musical and even the non-musical movie version. I think that it is the ultimate Christian story that reaches all audiences without being preachy and without compromising any Christian truth. If I could do something that was the caliber and beauty of Les Miz, I would be one happy writer.

We all love mysteries! How does that fit into our spirituality?

Mysteries are the exploration of good and evil disguised as whodunit puzzles. Our Christian journey is one of examining our own good and evil and that of the larger culture.

Thanks, Sharon! We wish you success, and hope you’ll come visit us again.
Readers, leave a comment to enter the drawing for Sharon’s book, Death of a Garage Sale Newbie.
Happy reading and writing! Susan


Blogger Sheryl said...

What a wonderful interview with Sharon! I appreciate her sharing a behind the scenes look at her writing life with us.

As a bargain hunter from way back :-), I'd love to be entered in the contest to win Sharon's new book.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Carolynn W. said...

Great interview...don't we all love finding a good bargain? :)
Sounds like an interesting book...hope to read it soon!
carolynnwald (at) hotmail.com

2:33 PM  
Blogger Deborah said...

great interview! I loved the Ruby Taylor mysteries so i can't wait to read this one too.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Rhonda said...

Good Morning Sharon and Susan! I love this interview and can't wait to read Death Of A Garage Sale Newbie. Rhonda

9:21 AM  

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