Malice Domestic 24, the national mystery conference, begins Friday, April 27 in Bethesda, MD. I'll be moderating one panel on Saturday, April 28, "Have Gun Will Travel: Mysteries Set Out West" from 10:40-11:30 a.m. Then, on Sunday, April 29, I will be a panelist on "Well-Schooled in Murder: Academic Mysteries" from 11:10 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. Afterward at 12:05 p.m., I will have a signing for Every Last Secret. I'm all excited to head out to Malice Domestic again, so periodically I'll post profiles of those sitting on the panel I will moderate and guest blogs from the other panelists and moderator Judy Hogan on the panel on Sunday. I think you'll enjoy learning about these writers who are often very different from each other and from me.
We've already had a guest blog from Camille Minichino, who sits with me on the academic mystery panel. Today, I have a profile of Casey Daniels to share with you. Casey is one of the panelists on the western mystery panel I'll moderate on Saturday by virtue of her current Pepper Martin novel, Wild, Wild Death, much of which takes place in New Mexico, but most of the Pepper Martin books take place in Cincinnatti and in this one, Pepper is definitely not happy with her forced trip to the Southwest!
Casey Daniels Bio
I learned to love mysteries early thanks to my dad, a Cleveland Police detective who enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories and spent his days off searching for stolen cars. Often on those trips, I was in the back seat and to this day, I have Dad to thank for my knowledge of some less-than-savory parts of the city. Later, I read my way through every mystery story I could get my hands on. Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle are still among my favorites.
I have a degree in English, experience as a journalist and writing teacher, and lots of ideas for more Pepper Martin mysteries. When I’m not writing, I’m usually with my family and our two dogs, Ernie, an adorable Airedale pup, and Oscar, a rescued Jack Russell who spends far too much time watching TV. I enjoy knitting, gardening and of course, stomping through cemeteries in search of history, stories and inspiration.
For those new to your series, can you describe your mysteries? What was your inspiration for your series? How would you describe it to someone who has not read any of your previous novels?
I actually currently write two mystery series (with two more coming). As Casey Daniels, I write the Pepper Martin mysteries, and as Kylie Logan, I write the Button Box mysteries. Since our focus at Malice is Western-themed mysteries and since Pepper Martin mystery #8, "Wild, Wild Death," is set mostly in New Mexico, I'll stick to that series!
Can I describe the Pepper Martin mysteries? Well, I've heard it described as Sex and the City meets Six Feet Under. What that means is that they're about a 20-something cemetery tour guide in Cleveland who solves mysteries for the ghosts in her cemetery. My inspiration? I love cemeteries! And I actually once applied for a job as a tour guide in a historic cemetery. I didn't get the job, but I got the idea for the series. A pretty good trade-off in my opinion!
I would describe the series as light and sassy with just enough of the paranormal to keep things interesting. Still a mystery, start to finish, but with a little dose of bump-in-the-night.
What's your writing process? What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you keep to a set schedule? What are your writing habits?
Writing is my fulltime job and yes, I do try to keep to a schedule. At least until life gets in the way! I write all day, five days a week. I'll write on weekends, too, if I have a deadline breathing down my neck. I'm one of those writers who follow the 45-minute rule: I set a clock for 45 minutes and in that time, all I'm allowed to do is write (no email, no Spider Solitaire). At the end of the 45 minutes, I get 15 minutes to do whatever I want. This works well for me and I write more pages per day than I used to before I started this routine.
What projects, literary or otherwise, are occupying you at the moment?
Ah, there's always a literary project and for this, I am grateful! Book #9 in the Pepper Martin series ("Supernatural Born Killers") will be out in September, and I've just finished book #3 in the Button Box series (#2, Hot Button, will be out in June). Right now, I'm starting into a new series that will premier from Berkley Prime Crime next year.
As for non-literary projects, I am proud to say I just got my tapestry loom up and running. I inherited it about two years ago and pretty much had nothing to go on as far as assembly and use except some very poor instructions and some worse photos. Days of simply staring at it helped and ever so slowly, I've figured it out. Actually wove a small sample piece over the weekend.
I'm also knee deep into family history. Love looking into the lives of ancestors and that makes sense, of course, since it's like piecing together a mystery.
Who were your literary influences growing up? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?
My dad was a Cleveland police detective, and he loved Sherlock Holmes stories, so they were my first introduction to mystery. Have always loved the classics, like Christie, and I'm a big Elizabeth Peters fan. Love her combination of humor and intelligence.
What inspired you to write your first novel? Had you always wanted to be a writer?
I actually started my career writing historical romance, and I was inspired to do it just to find out if it was possible. Had always thought of writing fiction, didn't think I could do it. Finally woke up and told myself if I didn't try, I'd never know. To date, I've published 40 novels.
Do you belong to a critique group of other authors. Do you find it helpful? In what ways?
No, I don't belong to a critique group. Not that I have anything against them (if it's the right group with the right people and the right attitude), I simply don't have time.
What is your advice to aspiring writers? How important is it for a young writer to be a reader? What would you recommend they read?
Read everything, in your genre and outside it. Read classic books. Read bad books. Read what's being published now because that will give you an idea of what editors are currently looking for. After that, my advice is to write, and to always, always remember that writing is mostly re-writing. I run into so many people who want to write but who think if their work isn't perfect the first time, something must be wrong and they're simply not meant to be writers. Wrong!!! Write and re-write and re-work and re-shape. Remind yourself that nothing is written in stone and that just like no one sits down at the piano for the first time and starts playing Chopin (except maybe for Chopin), no one sits down for the first time to write fiction and does everything perfectly. It's a learning process, and the only way to learn is to do.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your writing career? What has been the hardest part about being a writer?
Wow, I've learned so many surprising things. The most valuable thing: writing is a business. At least if you're writing to get published. So you can, say, write the most fabulous and the cleverest book in the world, and that book might not get published if it isn't what editors are looking for. If publication is your goal, know your market and keep up with trends.
The hardest part of being a writer? Sitting down and writing! There is that tapestry loom, after all, and a million other distractions. It's hard to keep on task. It's hard to keep motivated. That's why they call it work.