Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It Adds Up to Murder, DA Featherling

It seems oxymoronic to characterize a crime novel as "fun."  But, getting past that, I've got a fun crime novel for you.  But first, the background.

I had the joy of chatting with Dorothy Featherling at a writers' event last month.  Then I had the added joy of buying and reading one of her books, It Adds Up to Murder, first in the "It's Murder at the Office" series.  Simply recapped, I wish I could write a tale like this.  Envy aside, however, here's the story.

Recently laid off from her university job, middle-aged Abigail Newhouse now contracts out through the Evanston Agency as a temp.  Anything to make ends meet.  The story opens with her first day on the job as a bookkeeper at Holt, Inc., a high-powered accounting and property management firm.  Abby's surprised--and little intimidated--to find herself assigned to the senior accountant, a shallow one step below the chief financial officer.  Okay, no problem; she can do this.

In fact, she could probably do it very well, but for the mild distraction of people being murdered around her.

Enter distraction number two.  Lt. Nick Vaughn, the investigating homicide detective, is an equally mature--and coincidentally equally available--Irishman with the looks to go with it:  blue eyes, dark hair, trim physique, subtle Irish brogue that peaks with his dry humor.  You know the kind.  Abby, put off at first by the Lt's brusque manner, and Nick, equally standoffish by the more-than-level chance that this Ms. Newhouse may somehow be involved in the murders, raises barriers to any chance of a connection.  As the investigation progresses, though, impressions and suspicions mellow, and chemistry takes over.  Abby enlists herself in the effort to find the murderer as much for her own desire for justice as for her desire to keep as close to the good Lt, and as frequently, as possible.

Sometimes that self-enlistment works out; sometimes it doesn't.  What it does do consistently, though, is provide a very entertaining story written in a very entertaining way.  Ms Featherling's delightful writing voice had me chuckling aloud on more than one occasion, but not at the expense of her story's underlying tension.  I see where Nick gets his dry wit.

If you want a good mystery tale that glides along on a well-lubricated path of accomplished storytelling, you really need to try this one.  You really do.

Now having had my say, let me introduce you to the author of this most entertaining story:  DA Featherling.

Dorothy, this was thoroughly enjoyable.  Thanks for writing it, but especially, thanks for being willing to field a few questions about it.

Thanks for having me, Bruce. I love to talk about books and am always happy to answer questions. You’ll understand, of course, if I feel a need to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Hopefully, the pleading the Fifth won't be a issue--but maybe you better read the fine print in the questions really closely before answer.  :-)

First, what inspired you to write a crime novel? Is this a favorite genre?  And with that, you've introduced such a unique main character:  a temporary office worker feeling a little out of her element.  Is Ms Newhouse a vestige of something in Dorothy Featherling's background, or was Abby contrived on a whim?

Actually, mysteries and suspense are my two favorite genres to read. I didn’t really start out to write mysteries…my first book was a romance (well, everybody else was writing one and what did I know?). I write in multiple genres – mystery, romantic comedy, futuristic suspense, and romance – so I decided one day to see if I could write a mystery. Found out I could and there’s been no stopping me since.

There are so many mysteries on the market that I realized I needed to have something unique to offer readers. Having come from a ‘secure state job’ background, I thought…what if a woman who’d held that kind of job suddenly lost it and couldn’t find a similar replacement position? If she became a temporary…what possibilities did that open for her to get involved in a new crime every time she changes jobs?

The other unique aspect to the series is the fact that either an office machine or office procedure will be the means or reason for the crime in each book in the series.

Hopefully, this will give readers something new to enjoy that hasn’t been done to death (no pun intended).

Okay, well that tidbit about office machines cleared up a curiosity.  :-)  I've already alluded to your great writing voice.  Although I didn't mention it in my review, you handled the first-person point of view really well.  Why did you decide on this style and how did you develop it?  Do you have a writing role model or two who influence you?

I’ve got seven (almost eight) books under my belt. Three of those are third person. But when I wrote my first 1st person novel, I felt like I’d come home. The new mystery series I’m working on (book 1 of “Staged for Murder” series’ first draft is complete) was a toss-up as to whether it would be first or third person. I actually wrote a couple of chapters both ways and queried some of my critique partners as to their preference. They were equally split. So I went with my own choice and went back to first person. It feels most comfortable for me.

There are so many great writers out there (you being one…seriously!) that I’m sure their writing has had an influence on me. As much as I’ve read over the years I suspect I may have picked up things from them without realizing it, but I can’t say I really have a writing role model.

It wouldn't surprise me if you *were* one, though, even unbeknown to you.  You mentioned to me once that you read a book a day.  (Wow!)  How does this leave you time to write your own books?  Do you have a set schedule, or write when you can?  And do you have a consistent setting in which you write, or do you vary it; e.g., a quiet nook, a bustling Starbucks--sometimes both?

For one thing, I read very fast. Secondly, the books I read are fiction…for enjoyment…not weighty tomes I have to think about. They are an escape for me to relax for a bit and let my conscious mind rest.

I’ve actually had to recently develop a very set schedule…or timetable for my writing. Some of my health issues keep me from being able to stay on the computer for long stretches without intense pain (which I’d prefer not to have happen)…so I spend some time each day (and it varies a bit) writing a new book, other time editing one to be published, I’m also editing for another writer so that gets a segment, and then I need time to read a bit and relax. Mix that with time on social media and marketing stuff and it’s a pretty full day.

I have an extra bedroom that I use as an office, and I write there and only there. Sometimes if I get an idea while I’m elsewhere I may scribble a note or something, but basically, I sit down at the computer, pray, and get going. I write without music or other distractions…I don’t find silence at all intimidating.

Neither do I; I can't have distractions, either, when I'm trying to write. Okay, this question is more for me, probably, than most readers, but I'm curious (and, since it's my blog, I get to ask the questions), are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you outline your stories?

LOL. Actually a bit of both. I’m a little weird (well, more than a little, probably). I begin with a premise…’what if….whatever’. Then…I HAVE to have a title. I cannot start a book without a title. Don’t know why. It’s just the way I’m wired. Once I have those two things, I’m ready to write.

The story may go along for several chapters, but at some point (and also depending on the complexity of the story – like my futuristic suspense) I have to come up with plot points for a few scenes or chapters ahead. Once I’ve used those, then it’s probably back to SOTP. So it’s kind of back and forth throughout.

We're on the same page (so to speak).  I write SOTP too, but eventually I've got to scope out at least a timeline or I easily write myself into a corner.  Let's switch gears now more to readers.  Do you have a niche readership you specifically write to--or whom think of while you're designing a story?  Or do you aim your appeal to a wide audience?  What do you want your readers to walk away with after finishing one of your books?

I’d like to think anyone could read my books and enjoy them. So I guess that’s a wide appeal audience. I try to keep them contemporary for the younger set, but the mature reader will find things to like about them, too, I hope. I’d like to hope both men and women would read them.

When a reader finishes one of my books, closes the cover…if they’re smiling…then I’ve done a very good thing and that’s what motivates me to keep writing.

Well, It Adds Up to Murder certainly appealed to me--and I was definitely smiling at the end. So, let me pose the final two questions, and I'll let you get back to your writing.  (1)  What's next?  Will we see more of Abby Newhouse in sequels, or do you have other plans for your writing?  Will crime novels dominate the landscape, or are there other treats in store?

Oh, yes. You will see Abby in sequels. Second one is just barely started and I hope to begin working on it more when I get some of the editing on my other books done. I’m publishing four or five of the romantic comedies…haven’t yet decided whether to continue on with them or not, and the futuristic suspense novel (hopefully out the first of the year) was written as the first book in a series of four.

I had someone recently ask me after a talk I did if I planned to write any Westerns. I’m not planning it…but I love the genre…so who knows? Anything is possible. Plus I have couple of ideas for some fantasies….

Anything is indeed possible.  :-)  (2)  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?  Words of wisdom or of wit--or both?

There is so much good fiction out there today. Plus a lot of poor fiction, as well. I hope both other writers and readers will produce and find the good stuff because reading is a key ingredient to learning and to enjoying life.

Amen!  Thanks so much for your time, Dorothy.  I've enjoyed prying...er, delving into your writing mind.  I hope it's been fun for you too.

Thanks, Bruce. It’s been great!

Dorothy Featherling's work, and further thoughts on writing and life, appear here on her website.  Drop by and visit, when you get a chance.

And thanks to everyone for dropping by here!  If you leave a comment with a question for Dorothy--her writing, personality, anything (within reason, of course  :-) )--you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of It Adds Up to Murder (Sorry, US- and Canada-based readers, please.  Overseas postage is nasty.  Thanks)

Cheers! Bruce


ceblain said...

That was a great interview and I love it when I learn so many new things about the authors. Love your books, Dorothy, and looking forward to reading more of them.

cmgren said...

I hope this is the start to a great new mystery series. How do you name characters?

Betty Reid said...

When and how did you first start writing? What's you favorite book that you didn't write?

ceblain said...

Dear Dorothy: I really enjoyed your blog interview this morning. I really like to find out something new about the authors that I follow and this article was great. I read 90% mysteries so I am extremely interested in the possibility of winning your great sounding book. Please enter me into the drawing for your book; it would be such a nice treat to win. I am not too lucky but I don't give up hoping. Keep up the great writing.

NoraA said...

I'm a sucker for a good mystery, especially if there's a side of flirting and romance included. I'd love to be the lucky winner and be able to add this book to my home library. My married kids come home to troll the shelves for reading material. LOL


Geraldine Evans said...

Great interview. I must look out for this book.

I'm not eligible to win anything, alas, as I'm in the UK. :-(

Bruce Judisch said...

To all who commented:

I am both incredibly embarrassed and apologetic. I was waiting for word of comments on this post, forgetful of the provision that comments were to be moderated. I did not see any of these until today.

I'll notify Dorothy immediately and she will be happy to respond to your questions, and we'll get on with the business of selecting a winner.

Again, a very red-faced Bruce Judisch sends, praying for forgiveness...

D. A. Featherling said...

My thanks to all of you for your comments and questions. I'll try to answer all of them now. (I'm forgiving Bruce...I'm sure you will, too. ).
How do I name characters? Will it sound silly to say I go with what feels right? Sometimes I have to be careful not to use names that start with the same letter, esp. in the same book. And sometimes I have to change a character's name based on feedback from my beta readers. For instance, in this mystery, I at first had Nick named Barney (I was looking for Irish...I knew what he looked like and he was Irish)...and Barney seemed right. UNTIL, one of my beta readers suggested that it might make readers think of Barney Fyfe on the old Andy Griffith Show. So...I did some research on other Irish names and came up with Nick Vaughn (both Irish). Sometimes my character's names are a bit unusual...and I use them. It's usually a name I heard years ago and for some reason it 'stuck.'

I started writing about 10-12 years ago. I wrote 7 novels (a romance, several romantic comedies, a futuristic suspense, and then, this mystery. I really love writing the mysteries...they're my favorite read, and I've now written the first book in a new series "Staged for Murder" which should be out around the 1st of November. I'll be writing Book 1 in the It's Murder at the Office series over the next few months.

So sorry you can't enter, Geraldine...but at least, you have your first name in the book!

Many thanks to Bruce for this opportunity. I hope to be back with interviews on some of my other books as well.