Welcome to week 7 of MYSTERY WE WRITE BLOG SWAP. It’s been wonderful to hear from so many different authors and learn about their work and their style of writing. This week I’m featuring Jennifer DiCamillo, who is an award winning poet, playwright, and novelist. She is also available as a motivational speaker.
Jennifer lives in a haunted hollow in the Missouri Ozarks, near Branson and is an avid animal lover. Her pets include a paint horse stallion (Wild Card aka W.C.), two little four pound yorkies (Mojo Jojo and Pixie Styx), a cat that was dropped off pregnant in her yard—that answers to CAT. And now she has a couple of lovely kittens that appear to be staying, M-2 and Squirrelly. M-2 looks like the reincarnation of a cat she had years ago, named Midnight.
JACKIE: Welcome to my blog, Jennifer. I’m just back from vacation and feeling happy and relaxed and ready to talk about writing.
JENNIFER: Thanks for having me. Would you mind if I just rambled on? Rambling is something I do best. Being a writer, I tend to be wordy. So, feel free to cut me off any time.
JACKIE: I wouldn’t dream of cutting you off, this is your day to chat with readers. Why don’t you give us a description of your work area, and then segue into your writing process.
JENNIFER: Sure. I guess I can admit to this--my desk is a mess. There are piles of paperwork everywhere. Reams of paper are stacked up on the computer tower. My printer is atop the full file cabinet on my left. BUT the piles are a little organized. When I need to find a specific piece of paper, it doesn’t take long to fish it out of the pond.
My writing is just about the same. I start with an idea, or a couple of characters, and I let them go pell mell through the story, and my brain, piling up conflicts and sweet encounters (I love to write romance). So, I fully believe in character driven stories. After all, if you don’t care about the hero and heroine, what’s the point in reading the book?
I believe this is true in every genre, including mystery. No-- especially mystery. Of course, in mystery, the author is expected to lay out a plot that’s thick with red herrings. I prefer putting in very subtle clues.
Sometimes, when I’m writing mystery, I have to go back in later and add clues.
JACKIE: Do you write every day?
JENNIFER: I have OCD. I’m either all or nothing. I prefer to get up and go straight to the computer. Sometimes I’ll sit there for 20 hrs, with only bathroom and water breaks.
JACKIE: Twenty hours? My eyes would be crossing. We’re all different, aren’t we? When you aren’t working on your book, what do you do with your time?
JENNIFER: Well, I have five kids, four girls and a son—and a husband. And just this year, I got my first grand baby, Anna Elizabeth. She takes up a lot of my time. I’ve been babysitting her during the week.
JACKIE: Congratulations, grandchildren are wonderful, and I’ve learned a lot from mine.
JENNIFER: Thanks. One thing Anna has taught me is to enjoy every minute. And I do. I delight in her every smile, her every cuddle.
JACKIE: That’s a good plan, they grow up quickly. My grandbabies are all teens, now. Do you find that everything in your personal life becomes grist for your writing-mill?
JENNIFER: I certainly do. My mysteries spider out from (some) character’s conception to the death of other characters. Which brings me to a topic often debated by mystery writers, and I’m going to ask myself that question: Does there need to be a dead body to make a good mystery?
I have a collection of short mystery stories, many are award winners, but not all have a dead body in them. The anthology is called MENTALLY UNSTABLE. It’ll be released by Under the Moon Press. Some of those stories were written strictly to entertain me.
Then, I have a collection of short stories written with C.J. Winters titled Deadknots, by Hard Shell Word Factory. It’s been out for awhile. I’m sure your mystery fans would like it.
I also have a book that just released in ebook by Mojocastle Press. It’s titled FOUR DEAD. It’s about a couple of detectives that have the hots for each other and a serial killer on the loose. Four bodies were found in dumpsters over the last four months. The story begins a week before the fifth body is expected to turn up.
Since it is a romantic suspense, there is quite a bit of sexual tension. The kickers in the story are simply fun. Beth (the heroine) is obviously in love with Mike (the hero). But she gets him to set up dates with his brothers.
While Beth is on those dates, Mike is turned upside down and sideways with jealousy. But he keeps on tailing her…because he’s figured out that she fits the profile of the victims. WHY she is chosen by the serial killer is a mystery your readers will have to figure out on their own. It’s a fun story, and not your typical cozy mystery.
JACKIE: Sounds exciting. I write cozy mysteries, which are much more sedate. Have you ever tried this genre?
JENNIFER: Actually, there are a few cozy stories in that collection I mentioned earlier (MENTALLY UNSTABLE). It has a little bit of every type of mystery, some humorous, some political, some hard boiled. You name a type of mystery, and there’s probably an example of it in the collection.
JACKIE: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
JENNIFER: I sure do. Believe. Believe you can get published, that you can learn what you need to in order to be a successful writer. And then get busy learning. Go to conferences. Realize that the business is very social, networking and edifying those who are published, or are editors, love to be “sucked up to.” Buy them a drink. Chat about gardens. Hold real conversations about everyday life. If you do, you’ll stand out in the crowd. So many people swamp editors and agents, etc., begging them to look at their book. If you act as if it doesn’t matter, you get asked to send your manuscript.
And there’s a little thing I call my ADD rule. Look at your manuscript(s) honestly. You should be able to flip to any page and see a balanced story. Sure, sometimes a page is a little heavy with one thing or the other. But in that case, you can look and see if it needs a little more ACTION, DIALOGUE, or DESCRIPTION. Using that little rule, you can fix pacing problems, too.
I hope this helps someone.
JACKIE: I’m sure it will. Thanks for joining us today to chat about writing.
JENNIFER: Thanks for having me.
Dear Readers, A million thanks to each of you for stopping by. Here are a couple of places where you can learn more about Jennifer:
Cyberhugs to all,