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Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview with Sharon Dunn!

Welcome back, Sharon Dunn!

Susan: Your Bargain Hunters Mysteries series is a whole lot of fun! Tell us about you new book, Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear.

Sharon: Book Two in the Bargain Hunters mysteries comes out January 15. The head bargain hunter, Ginger, hauls her coupon clipping friends and her hubby Earl to the Wind-Up Hotel in Calamity, Nevada to help Earl market his invention at an inventors’ convention, hit the cheap buffets, and do a little outlet shopping. Also, the World’s Largest Garage Sale is taking place. The hotel has been designed around a classic toy theme; the doors look like Bazooka bubble gum and the lobby floor is a checkerboard. When the hotel’s owner, a Donald Trump wannabe, is found dead wearing a teddy bear costume (it was a publicity stunt), suspicion falls on ex-wives, an angry son and Ginger and Earl.

Susan: Didn’t you change the title on this one? I seem to recall a working title of “Death of a Cute Teddy Bear.” Why did you change the title, and whose idea was that?

Sharon: Yes, there was a name change and it was the publisher’s suggestion. The reasoning was that there is nothing unusual about a “cute” Teddy bear, but that a six foot Teddy bear has an element of intrigue attached to it and the new title often produces a laugh when I tell it to people. If you can get a giggle from the title, I figure that is a pretty good start on setting the tone of the book.

Susan: I have to agree—this one is catchier. I like it! So, do you usually struggle with titles, or do most of them self-generate?

Sharon: Titles are so important not only to get reader interest once the book is written, but also as a writer, a good title propels the story forward. Coming up with a title is different with each book. Sometimes it is the first thing that pops into my head and then I am able to figure out what the book is about based on the title. Sometimes I know a title isn’t helping the creative process, so I give a manuscript a working title, knowing that as I write the book a phrase or image will emerge that gives me the real title.

Susan: Who is your favorite character among the bargain hunters? Is she like you—be honest, now.

Sharon: Ginger and Kindra are high on the list. I love that Ginger and Earl grow in their marriage and make discoveries. The way that Ginger struggles with being kind of a tightwad was a lesson I had to learn (okay still am learning). And I love Ginger’s heart. Even with all her struggles, she wants to help other people. Kindra, the college student and junior bargain hunter is nothing like me, but I love her bouncy exuberance. The seeming contradiction in her character makes her interesting. She is a super brainy physics, major but she has her blonde moments. She’s fun.

My absolute favorite character is Phoebe, Ginger’s monster cat. Since Ginger is an empty nester, Phoebe has become a sort of substitute child. Phoebe had a small role in Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, but she becomes really important in Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear. I am a cat person, so cats tend to pop up in my books quite a bit.

Susan: What have your characters taught you through writing this series?

Sharon: That relationships are the most important thing in the world beyond being thrifty or finding fame and success. When I get to the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I stood by and supported my friends and family above all else. I love the way the ladies of the Bargain Hunters network care for each other.

Susan: In writing a multi-book series, do you plan several plots at the outset, or does one grow out of another?

Sharon: When I sold the series, I had a paragraph description for each book that indicated setting and central conflict that outlined the crime. I knew the Bargain Hunters weren’t going to stay in Montana. In Teddy Bear they go to Nevada, and in the third book, which has a working title of Death at Discount Prices, they are on the set of a shopping channel. For this series, the character growth issues were a surprise. The growth issues and discoveries tend to grow out of the action of mystery. In Teddy Bear, Kindra, the junior bargain hunter, even has a little romance. That was a delightful surprise.

Susan: What’s your system for keeping details consistent in subsequent books?

Sharon: Post-It notes are the unorganized person’s best friend. My desk is covered with them. Some of them are just notes about things I need to remember like what color someone’s eyes are and some of them are things I know need to be fixed in the next draft. As I fix the problems, I pull the notes off my desk. When the Post-It notes are gone, my book is ready to send to the editor. The Post-It notes that will help with all three books stay on the desk until the series is completed.

Susan: Hmm, I wonder if I could find enough surface on my desk to stick a few Post-Its...

What are your future writing plans? Will we see more in this series?

Sharon: Book three, Death at Discount Prices will wrap up the series. I am working on some other proposals for series ideas and stand alones. All of them will be in the same vein of what I have done so far, humorous who-dun-its that focus on character relationships and a follow-the-clues mystery.

Susan: Do you have any anecdotes related to writing this book—wacky things you learned in research?

Sharon: I found the coolest book on the dollar table at Barnes and Noble It’s called Think You are the Only One. It lists and describes obscure clubs. For example, there is the Gnome Lovers Club and the Rock Paper Scissors society. Anyway, one of the clubs was the Squirrel Lovers club. I thought it would be really cool if the Squirrel Lovers got together and had a convention. So that is going on at the Wind Up hotel at the same time as the Inventors Expo in my book.

Susan: Where I live, we don’t have garage sales in winter. What do you do for entertainment until spring?

Sharon: There’s always clearance racks, punch cards, and coupons so I can keep my bargain hunting skills sharp for garage sale season.

Susan: Do you have an idea file for future plot ideas?

Sharon: I have journaling pages (both on the computer and handwritten) where I explore ideas and dozens of first chapters or outlines or vague sketches for story ideas and another dozen ideas gestating in my head. I never lack for story ideas, the question always is which one is worth pursuing and turning into a book.

Susan: Great! How can our readers contact you and learn more about your books?

Sharon: You can find my Website. Also, I am holding a contest to give away a copy of Book 2 and a teddy bear (sorry this one isn’t six feet tall). Go to my Website and click on “bargain hunters” at the top of the home page, leave a bargain hunting tip and your email address so I can notify you if you win. Drawing will be Feb. 1, and you can enter as many times as you like.

Susan: Thanks so much for a fun interview, Sharon! Readers, don’t forget to go to our Contest Blog, leave a comment there, and sign up for the drawing for a copy of Sharon’s book!


Blogger Tiffany Stuart said...

Having a writers giveaway at The Writing Road blog. Hope you will stop in during the month of January. Post a comment to be included.

3:42 PM  

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