Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three Authors, Three Questions: May 2012

Our guests for May are mystery author Bailey Cates (also writing as Cricket McRae), YA and middle-grade author Victoria Hanley, and horror and mystery author Tom Piccirilli.

Welcome to Three Authors, Three Questions.

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Bailey Cates writes the Magical Bakery Mysteries. The first in the series, Brownies and Broomsticks, released this month in paperback and ebook formats from NAL Penguin. She also writes the Home Crafting Mystery Series as Cricket McRae. The sixth in that series, Deadly Row to Hoe, will release this November from Midnight Ink/Llewellyn.

For more information please visit her website or check out her blogs, Hearth Cricket and The Lightfoot Chronicles. You can also find her on Twitter: @cricketmcrae and @writerbailey and on Facebook as Cricket McRae and as Author Bailey Cates.


1. Bailey, describe the genre(s) in which you write. Was this an accidental or deliberate choice?

Every book I’ve written has been a mystery, and that is very intentional. I grew up reading all types of fiction, but my favorite books were crime fiction – from Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden to Agatha Christie and Ngiao Marsh. I also enjoy true crime, mainstream mysteries, thrillers and police procedurals. My intention has always been to have two mystery series and write standalones in between.

It’s worth noting the hybridization across genres. Paranormal mysteries are usually some kind of urban fantasy overlaid with a mystery plot. Romantic suspense is romance overlaid with a mystery plot, or vice versa. Probably in large part due to Charlaine Harris deciding to write what she wanted without regard to categorization, we have her southern vampire romance mysteries and the freedom to break out from traditional definitions of the genre.

2. Of all the characters you’ve created in your novels (including the bad guys), which one is your favorite and why?

Wow – tough question! Oddly enough, the first character who comes to mind is Tootie Hanover, the mother of the victim in my first Home Crafting Mystery. She has a recurring role in the rest of the series, and I can always rely on her to set Sophie Mae straight on a few things. She’s also very appealing to me because I’d like to be able to age with grace and humor even in the face of pain. Tootie pulls that off with aplomb.

3. If you could change one thing about your writing career (past or present), what would it be?

Well, if we’re twitching noses and granting wishes, let’s just say I wouldn’t mind a few hits on the New York Times bestseller list. Other than that, I’m pretty darn happy!

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Victoria Hanley loves to nurture emerging writers. She is a YA and MG novelist published in 12 languages (soon to be 13) and also the author of Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market, and Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write.

Her books have received awards and honors in the U.S. and abroad, including the Colorado Book Award and Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award. Growing up, Victoria lived in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Oregon. She now lives with her family in Loveland, Colorado.

To learn more about Victoria and her books, visit her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook.


1. Victoria, describe the genre(s) in which you write. Was this an accidental or deliberate choice?

So far, I’ve written three fantasy YA novels, two fantasy MG novels, and two nonfiction books. The word accidental is a little alarming—makes me think of cars hitting each other in an intersection, and yet it’s also rather relevant. I mean, many writers—including myself—begin without knowing much about genres. So, my genre choices were accidental until they morphed into something more deliberate.

The first book of fiction I actually completed was The Seer and the Sword. While writing it, I didn’t give the eensiest teeny bit of thought to its genre. Getting the story out was hard enough! Once written, I figured it probably belonged in young adult, and the agent who accepted it agreed. (Lots of writers learn as they go, right?) Inevitably, after my first book was published, I absorbed a crushing ton of info about genre categories. After that, it was easier to keep the “rules” of genre in mind.

By the time I got started in nonfiction, I had at least two deliberate motives. One, I wanted to blow up some of the stereotypes about fantasy writers—like how we’re just lovable escapists who don’t have a good footing in the real world. I’m a concrete thinker. (And in some ways, it takes more concrete thinking and craft to build a whole world.) Two, I’m a sucker for new writers and love to see them peck free of their shells of shyness, doubt, and confusion. When their voices start carrying all over the world, it’s pretty exciting. And so I wrote (very deliberately) two books on writing, one for teens (Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write) and one for adults (Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market).

2. Of all the characters you’ve created in your novels (including the bad guys), which one is your favorite and why?

Oh, come on. Really? That’s like asking a mama bear which cub is her favorite. I just cannot pick. But I will say this: I tend to really love the male characters in every book I’ve written—Landen in The Seer and the Sword, Jasper in The Healer’s Keep, Kiran in The Light of the Oracle, and Laz in Violet Wings and Indigo Magic. If answering that way is cheating, I apologize. But hey, you’re the one asking the tough Qs.

3. If you could change one thing about your writing career (past or present), what would it be?

That’s easy. Well, actually, maybe it isn’t. I’m going to break the rules again (like a good YA writer) and give two answers:

1. I wish I’d known sooner how marketing works in the book world. It took me a long time to understand it—even partially—and that’s mostly because I didn’t want to deal with it. I’m quite sure I’m not alone in hoping to avoid listening to marketers. I don’t like the annoying truths they’re always shouting about, for example: If people never hear about your book, they’re not going to buy it and read it. So yeah, I’d encourage writers to forge alliances with marketers.

2. This may seem to contradict #1, but I wish I had been able to keep the stance I started with: Don’t worry about what the world thinks. Just get into your story. I’ve been published for 12 years now, and finally come full circle. This is so important, I’m going to be obnoxious and repeat myself: Don’t worry about what the world thinks. Just get into your story.

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Tom Piccirilli is the author of more than twenty novels including The Last Kind Words, which is scheduled for release June 12th, Shadow Season, The Cold Spot, The Coldest Mile, and A Choir Of Ill Children.

He's won two International Thriller Awards and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire.

Learn more at Tom’s blog, The Cold Spot.  He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


1. Tom, describe the genre(s) in which you write. Was this an accidental or deliberate choice?

I've written in just about every genre there is--mystery, horror, SF, F, western--all with a dark edge or tinge to it, but I've settled into crime fiction these last several years. When I was younger I was more interested in fantastical matters, plots, and characters, but in my middle age I've found a need for emphasis on more realistic/authentic darker elements. I prefer writing about the fears coming up behind rather than those ahead. The disappointments, the desperation, the fear of failure, the missed opportunities, and crime fiction allows me to explore all of that more freely.

2. Of all the characters you’ve created in your novels (including the bad guys), which one is your favorite and why?

Possibly Finn from Shadow Season. He's a blind ex-cop teaching English at an all girls' school in an isolated community. In a lot of fiction handicaps are turned to the protagonist's advantage. They act super-heroic. They're not slowed up at all. But I wanted to write from a more authentic perspective. Finn's blindness is a handicap. It's his greatest fear made real. He becomes confused and lost on occasion. He misses his sight. His brain clamors for concrete imagery and detail. He's slowly losing his own identity within a sea of memories and darkness. I think he might be my most complex and sympathetic protagonist.

3. If you could change one thing about your writing career (past or present), what would it be?

I started off writing very young. I was focused on my craft by 16 and had my first novel accepted when I was 21. I learned the process of writing early but it took many more years for me to understand the nature of my own worldview--to actually become mature enough to have a worldview that I could share with readers and connect with them on a more grounded literary footing. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I'd tell him to go out and have more fun, get into more trouble, get out of the desk chair, and live more. It's not just about saying something but having something to say.

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Mini-interviews were conducted and compiled by Pat Stoltey. Chiseled in Rock thanks Bailey Cates, Victoria Hanley, and Tom Piccirilli for graciously agreeing to participate in the Three Authors, Three Questions series.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - What terrific questions :-). I really especially like the "if you could change one thing..." question.
To Bailey, Victoria and Tom - Thanks! I enjoyed reading your answers.

Greengabardine said...

Great blog post Pat--these questions you asked the authors were great! I really liked reading the answers and different perspectives--they are so informative and gave me some great food for though.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margot, thanks for checking out this month's three authors. I'm having a good time recruiting participants.

Thanks Greengabardine!

Bailey Cates said...

What vaunted company I'm keeping here today. Really enjoyed reading Victoria and Tom's answers -- thanks, Patricia!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Very cool, right? So glad you stopped by, Bailey!

Victoria said...

Agreed, Patricia--lots of fun reading Bailey and Tom! Thanks for chiseling a few more rocks. :)

Jenny said...

Fun post, Pat. Great authors, great answers!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for coming by, Victoria.

Hi Jenny, this just keeps getting better and better.