So read the interview and make sure you enter the contest at the end! Shirley is giving away SEVEN books!
Amber - Hello Shirley! Welcome back to Amberkatze's Book Blog! You have your seventh Abby and Ophelia book coming out! That must feel really good?
Shirley - Thanks for inviting me, Amber! It's always a pleasure to visit Amberkatze's Book Blog!
Yes, THE SEVENTH WITCH is coming out this week and I'm really excited! If someone would've told me eight years ago that I would not only write seven books, but be lucky enough to have them published, I never would've believed it! It's been a ride of a lifetime and it's been the support of blogs like yours and all those readers out there who've made it possible...I'll be forever grateful!
Amber - What can we expect from the new book? Can you tell us a little bit about The Seventh Witch?
Shirley - From the beginning of the series, I always knew that at some point I wanted to do a story in which Ophelia and Abby returned to Abby's birthplace. Since I'd never really spent much time in the South, I didn't know exactly how it would all happen, but then serendipity stepped in. About three years ago, I received an invitation to attend The Women's Expo in Kingsport, TN. Let me tell you...I jumped on that one! And thanks to the event's organizers, Sharon Robinson and Lydia Wiley, I had the opportunity to not only take a mini tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but interview women who practice folk magick. It was a terrific experience and I really hope I did justice to the wonderful people down there. But best of all, Amber, Lydia and Sharon are now two of my dearest friends. So I not only gained a story, but two friends!! *g* Doesn't get any better than that!
Now about the book...as I said, Ophelia, Abby, and Tink return to Abby's birthplace for the infamous Great-Aunt Mary's 100th birthday celebration and Great-Aunt Mary is just as prickly and difficult as Ophelia remembers! (Also Aunt Dot, one of the series' most popular characters, makes another appearance.) Ophelia is expecting a quiet family vacation, but it doesn't take long for the trip to turn sinister. And Abby is the target! It's going to take everything Ophelia has learned to get them out of this one!
This story line is a little darker than past Ophelia and Abby's, but I hope the readers will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!!
Amber - You mentioned last time you were here that the seventh book was the last one contracted. So is this the last we will see of Abby & Ophelia?
Shirley - Gosh, I hope not!! I've lived with these women for eight years and it would be sad to think they won't continue to be in my life!! However, it's always been my goal to expand as an author, and Avon has given me that opportunity with my next book, a stand alone. I really can't say too much about it at this time...we want to give THE SEVENTH WITCH a proper launch, but I'll give you a hint..."new concept...new name!" *g* I'll be sharing more about it with the readers via my website in a couple of months.
Amber - Something I have been asking authors lately is about the names of their characters. How do you come up with the names Abby & Ophelia? What about the other characters such as Tink?
Shirley - Good question, Amber!! Naming one's characters is really important!! For me, as a reader, certain names conjure up certain images, so I knew as an author that it's vital that the name "fit"! However when I was trying to come up with a name for my main character, I thought it would be fun for her to give her a name that actually works against type. To me, "Ophelia" always creates an image of someone wispy and a little vague, and that's not my Ophelia! As far as Abby, "Abigail" is a good, old fashioned name, plus it also goes back to the Salem Witch Trials.
And "Tink"...well, one thing just kind of led to another and she just kind of named herself! I came up with her real name "Tatiana", after the Queen of the Fairies in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, one of my favorite plays. But that sounded like too "big" of a name for a kid. Then the idea of her late mother nick naming her as a baby "Tinkerbelle" (until she grew into her wings!) popped into my head. Plus I think naming her for a fairy plays in well with the folk magick theme of the series.
Amber - How much input do you get in the publication of your books? For example you have some great covers! Do you have a say in those kind of decisions?
Shirley – A lot of things are already decided when the contract is signed, such as publication date, length, what format (one question I get a lot...e-books. I don't have any input as to that at all.) etc. . Basically I feel that my job is to write the best book I can and my publisher takes it from there.
Concerning covers...they're really an important marketing tool, Amber. Every author wants a cover that says "buy me!" lol! And I do have some input on them...it was my idea to use the standing stones for this cover, but my favorite story is one concerning THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES cover.
The way it works...my editor emails me the artist's rendition and I express my opinion. Well, THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES takes place in Minnesota and when I saw its cover, although I thought it was great, it just didn't say "Minnesota" to me. I wrote my editor and told her my thoughts...Minnesota, land of blue skies, clear water, and pine trees. Her response was it didn't matter if it looked like Minnesota...the important thing was to grab the browser's attention. BUT...she would ask the artist to make the tree a pine tree! SO...if you look really, really close at the cover, you'll see these tiny grayish brown things on the tree. Those are MY pine cones! LOL!
All kidding aside, my publisher does a lot of research on what makes a great cover, so bottom line...who am I to argue??? They haven't let me down yet!
Amber - How do you build your Abby & Ophelia mysteries? Does the plot just come to you or is there a lot of trial and error to get things right?
Shirley - Seriously? Without trying to sound too blood thirsty, (I'm actually one of the most non-violent people that you'd ever want to meet!), but I always start out with a murder!!! Some poor, hapless fool meets an untimely end and then I decide how Ophelia and Abby would get pulled into the investigation and how their particular talents would either help or hinder that process. One of my friends happens to have worked for the State of Iowa's Medical Examiner's Office, so he's always good for some really nefarious ideas! *g*
And although, I'm trying to change my process and do more outlining, I've always been a "pantser", you know the type...flying by the seat of my pants???? Anyway, after I do in the poor character, the story just kind of flows from that point forward. That's not to say it's a smooth flow! *g* I always joke around that my two favorite keys on my keyboard are the "backspace" and "delete" keys! So, yeah, there's a lot of trial and error, a lot of time spent on the phone, whining to my friend and fellow author, Joanna Campbell Slan (The Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries) about how stymied I am!! (Btw...she's such a good friend that she always gives it to me straight! "Yeah, that scene works...Nope, don't think Ophelia would really do that." Her input is invaluable!)
Another person who's input in priceless is my editor. After I've completed the original manuscript, Emily goes through it with a fine tooth comb and her little editing pencil!! Then it's rewrite time!! And honestly, I always try and follow her suggestions...her goal is the same as mine...produce a product that the readers will enjoy!
Amber - Are you working on any other projects at the moment? Are there some ideas for future projects you can share with us?
Shirley - Right now I'm working on the stand alone that I mentioned, and I've been invited to contribute to two anthologies. One that author Anne Frasier is putting together, and another THE MAMMOUTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE-2 that Trisha Telep is doing. It's been along time since I've done anything less than a full novel, so I'm looking forward to getting back to my short story roots!
Beyond those projects?? Well this is the year I finally retire from my day job, so I'm going to have a lot more time to devote to writing! If I have anything to say about it, I can guarantee you haven't seen the last of me!!!
Amber - A lot of authors have 'soundtracks' for their books. Is there any music that influenced your books?
Shirley - I always have music on in the background when I'm writing...usually the "oldie goodies"! And although, I really can't say the tune necessarily inspires me, lyrics certainly do. In fact the stand alone that I'm working on now is titled DIE STANDING, (whether or not that will be the published title is hard to say) and it was inspired by a song of Shania Twain's, BLUE TEARS. There's a line in there..."I'd rather die standing than live on my knees, begging please"...that really got me thinking about the importance of standing up for yourself, making your own choices, living your own life. It developed into the theme for this next book.
There's another idea kicking around in my head based on a line from the Gordon Lightfoot song, IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND, too. At this time, I don't know where that one's headed, so I really can't give much info on it. It will be interesting to see what develops though!
Amber - There are so many online sites egg, Twitter, Face book, my space
etc. to get in touch with fans. Which sites are you signed up with? Is it hard to keep up with them all? Do you think they are good?
Shirley - Keeping up and staying in contact with the fans is one of the biggest challenges that I have!! (You'd think it would be writing 70,000 to 80,000 words in a six month time frame, wouldn't you? *g*) All kidding aside, I love hearing from the readers and it means the world to me when I do! I wish I were better at responding to each and every email, but time just gets away from me. I do blog once a week (Thursdays) on "Something Wicked"; have a Yahoo group, a Face book page, a My Space page. Then there's my website. But on the last few, I don't post as often as I should. I hope after I retire, it's going to be easier for me to devote more time to them.
And do I think they're good?? Yes, I do. I live in the middle of Iowa, and thanks to sites like these, (and your site, Amber!) I can get in touch with people all over the world! I wouldn't have the time or the money that it would take to meet all these people in person! But I do think you can get too many going at once. And there is the fact that although I find writing an exciting job, there are days when there's just not much to tell!!! You know...I got up, ate, went to work, went home, watched TV! How boring is that!! And who would want to read about it!
Amber - What was the best book you read in 2009? And what was the best film you saw last year?
Shirley - Best movie in 2009?? Well, I don't get out to movies too often with my schedule...most of my viewing is done via DVD...but I can tell you my best movie experience. Last Valentine's Day, I wanted to see HOTEL FOR DOGS and one of the best things about having grandchildren...they're always a good excuse to go see "kid" movies! So I invited one of my grandsons (a seven year old) to be my "date." He of course agreed, and when I dropped by to pick him up, he'd dressed up for me. A white dress shirt, his favorite clip-on blue and green stripped tie, blue jeans, and his dress shoes! Lol! AND not only did he dress up, but he'd been to the florist and had three roses for me. Spending time with him was one of the best Valentine's Days ever, and when he grows up, he's going to make some lucky girl a very good boyfriend!! *g*
As far as best book in 2009? Just like everyone else, I have my list of favorite authors, so when I'm in the middle of reading one of those...it's the "best" book! Then there are all the new authors that I've discovered and loved. It's really hard to pinpoint just one! I can tell you two, non-fiction books that had an impact on me during 2009.
One was WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, by Donald Maass. Even though I'm working on my eighth book, it's always been important to me to continue to learn about the craft of writing and to try and improve my skill. Mr. Maass's book was terrific. He pointed out a lot of things that I hadn't considered. Also, thanks to Mr. Maass, I did an in-depth outline for this eighth book! Something that's strictly against my "pantser" tendencies! *g*
Now this next one may sound silly, but I bought Patti Stanger's BECOME YOUR OWN MATCHMAKER! (Yes, I am single.) I love her show on Bravo…she's such a no nonsense kind of a person and I like her style…anyway, I thought it would be fun to read her book. As a result, I realized that in the hustle and bustle of doing this, dong that, working full time, meeting deadlines, etc., that I've kind of lost sight of me in the process. I still need to get all those things done, but I also need to focus some of my attention on other aspects of my life, too.
Amber - If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be and why?
Shirley - That one's easy…a shape shifter! And it would be an eagle. Why? Well, 1. They're a protected species, so while I'm zipping around in my eagle form, I wouldn't have to worry about some redneck with a gun shooting me. 2. They're on top of the food chain. (Again…safety!) And last, but most important, 3. They have the freedom of flight. And wouldn't that be marvelous…to ride the wind!!!
Amber - Thank you for visiting Amberkatze's Book Blog again! I hope you will be back again soon!
Shirley - Thank you, Amber!! As always, it's been a pleasure visiting your wonderful blog and meeting your readers!! I'll come back any time!!!
If you haven't already tried the Abby & Ophelia Mysteries then you have alot of catching up to do! Shirley is ready to help though! However far into the series you are or even if you are new to the lovely witchy series you can enter this weeks contest and maybe you will win one of the seven! Yes seven! books Shirley is giving away.
If you are one of the seven winners picked you can choose which Abby & Ophelia book you would like to get from Shirley. That means you can pick the newest release, the first book or the book you have read up to!
To enter the contest you have to ask Shirley a question. Please make sure you don't ask a question somebody else has asked! If you are lucky Shirley will answer your question but if she doesn't get to it please don't be upset! You will still be entered into the contest!
No question = No entry!´
Earn another entry for each place you link this contest on the net. You can post of Facebook, Twitter & MySpace but make sure you add links here for me to confirm your entries!
You can also earn extra entries by emailing your friends about the contest. Just make sure you send a copy of your email or receipt to me at Amberkatzes_book_blog at gmx dot net.
Keep the contests going by using the Amazon links below and around the site!
The contest will stay open until Sunday 31st of January 2010 4pm CET and the winner will be picked by a randomizer. Entrants should check back to see if they have won. I do not hunt down winners and will pick new winners for any prizes not claimed within 7 days.