I am very pleased to announce that author Patricia K. Batta is stopping by my blog today to talk about her Marge Christensen mystery novels.
Not only that, but I am very excited to be able to give away 2 copies of the first Marge Christensen book
What Did You Do Before Dying?
You can read my review right here!
If you would like to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of What Did You Do Before Dying? please leave me a comment with your e-mail address. 2 lucky winners will be drawn on Monday, July 5th!
Open to U.S. residents only.
Now, without further ado.... my "Q & A" with Patricia K. Batta.
What prompted you to decide to write cozy mysteries?
I started at a time when my life was too busy and complicated for me to put my mind to “serious” writing. I read for escape, and traditional mysteries were my favorite reading. Since I wasn’t connected with any mystery writer groups like SinC, I couldn’t find enough of them to read, so I decided I should write my own.
How do your characters develop?
I wanted a protagonist the average middle aged woman could relate to. I don’t know why I gave her curly auburn hair (maybe because I was born with titian curls that wore off and left me with the mousy brown I still have). From there she started taking on a character of her own. I guess that’s true for all of my characters. I have some idea of who they are, how old, what they look like, and they grow themselves as the story progresses. I’m not very visual, so I find it most difficult to keep track of things like eye and hair color. While I have to keep a written list of those things handy, each character develops an individual personality that I don’t forget.
What’s your writing routine like?
Not nearly disciplined enough. I’d love to get up in the morning and write while I’m fresh, but my mind won’t leave behind other things that have to be accomplished. So, I take care of whatever life demands on any given day and often don’t sit down to write until four o’clock or so in the afternoon. Then, usually, I either have a late dinner or sandwich in dinner while I write until about eight o’clock. Unfortunately, starting so late means that often I have to go out for evening things and that disrupts my writing. A disrupted schedule is a difficult one to keep going. When I get behind in my work and need to catch up, I devote a whole day to writing. That feels sooo good!
What is the most challenging part of the writing process?
Getting started and deciding something is finished. I struggle a lot with the beginning of a book, procrastinating, restarting, and changing gears several times before I get moving. I find it hard to believe I’m going to be able to plan and plot well enough to put another book together. Once started, I become fully engaged in the book until it is finished. I’m a great re-writer. I love playing with the sentences and ideas until I get them just so. The problem is knowing when enough is enough. At some point I have to say the book is ready for the editor. And while the editors’ critques’ can sometimes make me unhappy, they also give me a new perspective and an excuse to go back and work on the book some more.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
Oh, that’s such a hard question. Would you believe twenty three years? But those years were interrupted with work schedules that didn’t allow time for writing, and with taking in my mother-in-law, and with caring for a terminally ill husband, and with several moves around the country. The long “gestation” period was also a result of some good editing advice (the first time to throw it out) that made me just keep working and working on it. I had the second book finished and the third one started before I published the first one.
Do you work from an outline or just see where the characters take you?
I think an outline should be helpful, but I don’t do it well. It is hard for me to visualize steps in a story ahead of time, and when I try, my characters start interfering before I finish the first chapter. It does give me some idea of where the story is going, though, so I don’t have to figure out completely every day what comes next.
Do you know who “dun it” when you start?
Sometimes. And sometimes I just think I know. In What Did You Do Before Dying? I thought I knew from the beginning who did it, but discovered after several drafts that my suspect was incapable of murder. Once I discovered that, I knew who the culprit had to be and it became a much better book. In Why Did You Die In the Park? I knew from the beginning and my main challenge was not giving it away too soon. In Who More Than Wished You Were Dead? I was “dead” in the water two thirds of the way through the book. I had to wait for Marge to figure out who “dun it”, and then how she was going to prove it.
Marge of course is the protagonist in your Marge Christensen Mystery Series. Any plans to start another series with a different protagonist?
I wrote the first two books and started the third one while I live in the Seattle area. I mentioned before, I don’t have a good visual memory, so I thought I would find it difficult to continue writing about that area now that I live in Michigan. However, when I tried to get Marge to move to Michigan with me, she refused, and let me know there was still more to her life in Seattle that I would be writing about. I guess that means I’ll be visiting the area often, which if more than fine with me. However, she introduced me to her family back in Michigan who would be glad teach me a few more things. So…I think my fourth book will be set in Michigan and Marge will have a cameo appearance, but the new cast of characters will include her mother, her niece, and her aunt.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
At one of my latest presentations, someone asked me how I “trained” to be a writer. It made me stop and think. I realized that I have been writing since I was ten years old and have had a total of two English writing classes in college. While those two classes were fantastic, the way I learned to write was by writing, and reading, and reading some more, and writing. And that’s the best advice I can give.
What’s next for you?
As I mentioned, I’m starting a new series set in Michigan. Because of that, I’m also getting involved in all kinds of things to saturate myself with the aura of this beautiful part of the country. At the same time, I’d like to continue with the Marge Christensen series. I’m currently looking out for my mother here in Michigan, but at some point I’d love to spend at least a year touring the country to writers’ conferences, presentations, whatever I can find to keep me out there moving about and meeting fellow writers.