My guest today is Anita Rodgers, author of the Coffee and Crime series. She writes mysteries with a sense of humor. Her love of mysteries started with her dad’s collection of Mickey Spillane novels. And she learned early on that her her ability to solve puzzles and make stuff up was a perfect skill set for mystery writing. The Scotti Fitzgerald Mystery series was inspired by her many years of slinging burgers and waiting tables in all kinds of eating establishments – from dinner houses to greasy spoons (an experience I can certainly relate to!)
Hello, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
In addition to being the author of The Coffee & Crime Series, I am also the author of False Witness and the upcoming Dead Dog Trilogy. I’m a writer, a pet mom, a gardener, a cook and a lover of puzzles.
I live in Southern California with my beloved terrier Lily and two silly cats, Boodie and Bitzy. I can often be found at Starbucks contemplating the perfect crime over a cup of Sumatra. I have a serious social media addiction and love to interact with family, friends, and fans on Facebook and Twitter.
Tell us about your newest book.
Coffee & Crime is about a waitress/pastry chef who must solve a murder in order to get the diner she wants.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I always found writing comforting, even when I was very young. I’m still basically a shy person and find it easier to express myself through my writing. I suspect most writers feel this way though.
What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on a thriller series called the Dead Dog Trilogy. The premise: What if a dead serial killer started killing girls again?
What books have most influenced your life?
Different books have had a different influences on me. My dad’s old Mickey Spillane books taught me about suspense and mystery; the Bible taught me about good and evil and the frailty of human beings; My first official library check out book was about a boy who played with fireworks and was blinded and how that changed his life – for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the book but I’ll never forget the story.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I actually wrote my first book when I was 10. It wasn’t very good. Or very long. But it was about a girl who suffered from addiction. I think it was inspired by an old Frank Sinatra movie I saw on TV, but the real inspiration I believe was that I was aware that there was a lot of suffering in the world. And it made me sad to think that there were so many people in the world suffering and feeling that no one cared.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Scotti is former foster kid who has made her own way in the world, through hard work and determination. She is a waitress and pastry chef who dreams of having her own place, and being somebody. Due to her growing up in the system, she also has a strong sense of justice and loyalty and will go to pretty much any length to help and/or avenge a friend. Which is how she ends up solving crimes when she isn’t working out her latest cupcake recipe.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not really big on integrating messages in my stories but I suppose I hope the story shows that there is still honesty and integrity in the world, and that most people really are trying to do their best.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Turning off the internal editor – especially when she is being super critical. Or if I get stuck on a word. Sometimes, I just get obsessed with finding the exact right word (or tiny factoid detail, or acute description, or name) and can go off for hours looking for it. I try not to let this happen often but it happens more than I’d like to admit.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The new series is a police procedural, which is new territory for me. Working to ensure I get the details right, is a challenge. Also, the story is a lot more gritty than the previous books, which takes a different mindset.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Even when I’m having trouble with it, it’s the thing that feels most natural to me. Being able to write is just this kind of awesome thing that feels like a gift, a special one, that I get to have because I’m lucky.
What book are you reading now?
“A Twisted Paradise,” a collection of short stories by a fellow indie author AnnMarie Wyncoll.
What is one random thing about you?
I love liver and onions.
What does your writing process look like?
Not sure, don’t really watch it. Haha. Intense. I get very super focused on what I’m doing and can lock myself in a room for hours/days at a time and just live in that world.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I sometimes have editorial meetings with myself while driving.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
When I really really want to write but the words don’t want to come. Like every word is a battle, and I’m sure all I’m doing is writing pure crap, but somehow have to force myself to continue.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read. Garden. Walk. Watch movies. Binge watch detective series online. Refinish old furniture. Play with my new puppy, Lily.
From where do you gain your inspiration?
Everywhere. A story from the news, something posted online on social media, a story from a friend. Anything can be an inspiration I think, if you keep your eyes and ears open. But probably more than anything space (open space) inspires me. There is nothing like looking out over the edge of a cliff, or to the sea, or to the mountains in the distance to open up your mind. Is that weird?
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
I think the main advantage is that the author has much more control over the creative product, how it is marketed, promoted, publishing dates, etc. And the disadvantage would be the same thing because you have to cover every facet of book creation, production, marketing, etc. Most writers don’t have those skills already there, so the learning curve can be wicked.
How do you market your books?
I am still trying different things. I haven’t found a particular method that is ‘the’ way, yet.
What are your views on social media for marketing?
I think it’s kind of confusing. First, there are so many ‘experts’ who give conflicting advice on promoting via social media. But mostly, I just see a saturation of tweets or posts about books. Seems like everyone is just throwing things out there. I don’t think it’s very effective though. It’s too much noise and not enough substance.
Which social network worked best for you?
The social media network that I understand the best is probably Facebook. I’m more comfortable there than on Twitter. But I don’t really leverage social media much for promotion. And I wouldn’t say it works particularly for me. However, I have a blog that I’ve had for a very long time and I think that is probably the most effective platform for me so far.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I think it may have been a mistake to go exclusive with Kindle Select. There have been several incidents that have made it problematic for authors. Also, it seems now that if you un-enroll in Select it tanks your rankings.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I don’t use a PR agency, but sure I would consider using one if I felt it could help my books reach a wider audience.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write. Write a lot. Then write some more. Keep writing. Write every day if you can. Certainly get books about the craft and learn as much as you can. But the sheer act of writing will teach you things that nothing else can.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Probably the best way is to visit my blog: http://writerchick.wordpress.com
As we draw this series on mystery and suspense to a close, I want to thank all the authors who have appeared here to share their journey with us. It has been a pleasure getting to know some phenomenal writers. I know I will be following up on their work and adding to my already lengthy reading list!
After a short family vacation, I will begin a series on YA authors in the next few weeks. Watch for more interviews and articles in this space.
Wanda DeHaven Pyle