Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview With Novelist Deborah Merrell

Interview With Novelist Deborah McReynolds, Writing As Deborah Merrell

What type of books do you write? I enjoy writing mystery thrillers since that’s what I also like to read.  I started with romances with a sexy twist, and from there I progressed to mysteries.  Perhaps I’ll write a “novel” about relationships or something else, but for right now, I enjoy plotting new story lines with a murder or two.

What is your latest or upcoming book about? I started my “Death by the Decade” mysteries with “Death of a Flapper,” which takes place in 1920s New York City.   Here’s my synopsis for my press release: The Roaring Twenties -- a decade of wealth, abundance and decadence. When Lucille Prado doesn't hear from her daughter, Alice -- a NYC career girl -- she enlists the help of Tin Pan Alley ace private eye, Carney Brogan.  The last time Lucille has heard from Alice has been two weeks earlier.  With a dollar retainer,  Carney quickly identifies Alice Prado as Arabella Germaine, the ultimate flapper girl, a beautiful platinum blond who loves a good time and ingratiates herself into all the right circles -- and who has just died under mysterious circumstances.  As Carney digs further, he finds a whole slew of suspects, including Arabella's roommate, the actress, Sally Blair; the flapper's mentor, Victor Cathcourt; and the wealthy Landon siblings, Robert and Regan.  From the Landon's Long Island estate to the dark streets of the Bowery to a run-in with mobsters, Carney follows the clues until he finally solves the question of:  who really wanted the gorgeous party girl dead?

My next book is set during the Depression era of the 1930s and involves two Vaudeville girls who witness a murder aboard a train (Fatal Follies).  From there, I go to Washington D.C. with a 1940s thriller that involved Nazi sympathizers and murder during WWII (Dangerous Victory).

I’ll keep writing the “Death by the Decade” series as long as I have an audience and I run out of decades!

What inspired you to write it? I wanted to do something different from the standard formula mysteries, and I noticed that the successful authors in the mystery genre have a certain theme or character that identifies them.  For instance, Janet Evanovitch has bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, and Sue Grafton writes a mystery by the alphabet, “A is for Alibi,” “B is for Burglar”…etc.  So, I came up with the “Death by the Decade” series through Oak Tree Press.

What did you do before you became an author? I was a public relations director for a non-profit group and I also worked in the community relations department of a university.  I received my degree in journalism: advertising/public relations back in 1981 and I started my master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies/history & English lit a few years back, which I have yet to finish.  That’s one of my goals for the future.  What I’ll do with it, I have no idea since I’m essentially retired.

How does it feel to be a published author? Wonderful!  I’ve always loved to write, and as a working mom for many years, I postponed my writing career.  Now, I’m writing almost daily.  I do it not necessarily for the fame and fortune (ha-ha!), but because it’s a great feeling of accomplishment, especially when I receive positive feedback from my readers.  And as long as I can come up with plots and invent characters and situations, I’ll continue to write!

Any advice for struggling writers? Just hang in there!  I know that sounds trite, but you have to keep a positive attitude especially when the rejection notices come in.  I gathered about fifty or so rejection letters before I was lucky enough to have a story published.  It’s very frustrating when you’re up against the Catch 22 of publishing.  Publishers won’t even read your work if you haven’t been published before, but how do you go about getting published?  I started with  It’s a website that offers all kinds of publications that accept manuscripts, and membership if free.  I’d say start there with short stories or articles and work towards a novel-length story.  It’s a great way to get your feet wet, and also add published work to your writing resume!  Also join LinkedIn, the professional website, where you can interface with other authors.  The more published authors you have as professional colleagues, the better.

Where do you see book publishing heading? I see more indie publishers in the future, and much more specialized publishers offering books that fit a certain niche (steam punk, alien romances, gay & lesbian vampires etc.).  I think those big publishing houses that publish everything are going to be the presses of the past.  The only negative thing about indie publishers is that that don’t offer marketing services, and so the writer has to self-promote on a continuing basis.  It becomes a learn-as-you-go process.  Of course, with websites and blogs and Twitter, marketing your writing becomes a little easier.

For more information about her work, check out:

8 Grammatical Insights

Below is a small sample excerpted from The Writer's Little Helper (c)2012 by James V. Smith Jr., Writer's Digest Books.

1.     Loan is a noun, dang it, a noun; lend is the verb - always. You lend money.  That money is a loan.

2.     Use fewer things you can count, less than with quantities.  He has fewer than 10 fingers and less than enough sense.

3.     Imply means to suggest.  Infer means to deduce.

4.     Don't modify unique with very, more rather or so - unique is unique, one of a kind.

5.     Watch out for activity.  It's often a sneak attack of redundancy.  It's not a sports activity; it's a sport.  Thunderstorm activity is one or more storms.

6.     You center on, not center around.

7.     Prohibited altogether isn't any more prohibited than prohibited.  Just twice as long.

8.     End result? No, result.  The result of using end result? You don’t sound as smart as you’re trying to sound. Mentally, your readers correct you.

Interview With Children’s Author Linda L. Strauss

What type of books do you write? I write books and stories for children, but unlike many children’s book authors who specialize in one form or one age group, I’ve written and published both fiction and non-fiction for all age groups – preschool through teen:  picture books, a chapter book, two middle grade novels, a non-fiction book for middle-schoolers (and up)  on how to write,  and a non-fiction book for high-schoolers on coping with a parent who has cancer.  A list and description of my books are available on my website, .

What is your latest book about? My most recent book is a Passover picture book called THE ELIJAH DOOR, published by Holiday House.  It’s an original folktale about the children of two feuding families in a small shtetl village “that was sometimes Russia and sometimes Poland.”   The children want to celebrate Passover together as they were accustomed to doing in the past, so with the help of their rabbi, they devise a scheme to accomplish that.  The two families and all the villagers ultimately wind up at a huge Seder that spills out from the doors of the two families’ side-by-side houses and becomes a single celebration of love and freedom and family.  The book is illustrated with marvelous original hand-painted woodcuts by Bulgarian-born artist Alexi Natchev.

What inspired you to write it? As best as I can reconstruct it, there were bits and pieces of inspiration.  First, the tradition of having huge Passover seders, with never enough chairs and tables to seat everyone you want to invite.  Also, the line from the Passover seder:  “let everyone who is hungry come and eat.”  For the setting and sound of the story, my memory of my Eastern European grandparents’ voices.  And certainly my many memories of family seders.  Where the story itself came from – who knows?

What did you do before you became an author?  I got a Master’s degree in Latin American history, after which I worked in adult education, first in the field of world affairs, then in the field of housing.  I started writing after my children were born – as a stay-at-home mom, I was reading tons of children’s books, but I think I took up writing them as a way of keeping my brain alive. (I re-wrote in my head as I pushed our daughters on swings.)

How does it feel to be a published author?  Any advice for struggling writers?  It feels FABULOUS every time I get an acceptance from a publisher – there’s nothing quite like it.  And also when I hold each book in my hands for the first time.  But struggling writers (which group often includes me) need to remember that there’s a lot of not-fabulous time that goes into the writing, the re-writing, the sending out and the rejections of one’s work that are an inevitable part of this process.  If the only payoff for all the writing time is the publication itself, it’s probably not going to feel like it’s worth it.  You need to love the writing (and re-writing) part, too.  (No one loves the rejections, but sometimes you can learn from them.) And you have to be patient and persistent.  The first book I wrote, A FAIRY CALLED HILARY, took me almost 25 years to sell.  THE ELIJAH DOOR was sold in the year 2000 but took until 2012 to appear in print.  These are extreme examples, to be sure, but this is not an industry that moves quickly!  One of the best remedies for coping with the ups and downs of dealing with the industry is a writers group.  Find some like-minded people and act as a support group for one another.  Read and critique one another’s work.  Share experiences.  Commiserate (and celebrate!) together.

Where do you see book publishing heading? Hard to say.  The children’s book market used to be mostly schools and libraries, who bought based on reviews.  Nowadays, with cutbacks to those institutions, a lot of the selling is in bookstores and online, without the filter of professional reviewers.  So more and more, books have to appeal directly to the children themselves and/or to their parents and grandparents.  And of course there’s e-publishing.  And self-publishing, on-demand publishing, without the filter of the publishing company.  historically, losing that particular filter has been the fantasy of many writers, but talented editors certainly add a great deal to the quality of the finished product.  And I’m not sure one would have that same FABULOUS feeling (see #5 above) when holding a self-published book

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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