Episode 48: Ideas to Haunt You, with Steven Womack

Author, screenwriter and film school professor Steven Womack began his first novel when he was 18 years old. A short 18 years later, he finally published one. Murphy’s Fault was the only first mystery named to the 1990 New York Times Notable Books List. Since then, he has published 10 more novels, winning Edgar and Shamus awards and multiple nominations with his Harry James Denton mystery series. In 2014, he co-authored with New York-based screenwriter Wayne McDaniel on Resurrection Bay, a mystery based on the real-life story of Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen. His most recent work is the nonfiction short read Why Politics Sucks: With Just A Few Modest Proposals That Might Make It All Suck A Little Less (2016). Host Patricia McLinn talks with Steven about his background as a journalist, why book design matters, and choosing which book ideas to pursue.

In Steven’s words: “It’s usually the ones that haunt you… it’s that one that you can’t stop thinking about. Once it takes up enough of your headspace, it takes over.” [29:17]

You can find Steven at:

His website

Facebook

or Twitter

steven womack authors love readers

Thank you so much for listening. We hope you enjoyed the podcast enough to want to support us for future episodes. You can do that with as little as $1 a month — that’s only 25 cents per episode! What a deal! — by pledging at Patreon. It’s vital to Authors Love Readers to have your support. Thank you!

Please also consider rating/reviewing the podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

Episode 42: Creating Story Worlds, with Ann Charles

USA Today bestselling author Ann Charles writes award-winning mysteries that are splashed with humor, romance and whatever else sounds fun. Ann lives in the Northern Arizona mountains with her husband, children and a sassy cat. After many years and several colleges, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington.

When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s penning writing-themed articles or standing on her workshop soapbox, sharing what she has learned over the years about the writing craft and self-promotion.  Host Patricia McLinn talks with Ann about creating story worlds as they are revealed from the imagination instead of from a premeditated path. 

In Ann’s words: “When I wrote that first book [Nearly Departed in Deadwood] I intended to write a single title … but it went deep and wide. It’s a story world that I learn about as I go.” (22:30)

You can find Ann at:

her website

Instagram

or

Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers anne charles

Episode 32: The Hardship of Leaving, with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes overly long e-mails, best-selling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction from deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas, in winter and the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming, in summer. Pamela’s mysteries have won several awards, from the 2017 Silver Falchion for Best Adult Mystery (Fighting for Anna) to the USA Best Books Fiction: Cross Genre in 2015 and 2016 (Hell to PayHeaven to Betsy). With nearly 2 million downloads for her What Doesn’t Kill You series, readers seem to enjoy her smart, sassy female sleuths. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Pamela about how an author’s characters become friends, living in Wyoming and what to do with ideas that don’t fit right away.

In Pamela’s words, on leaving your family and home for opportunities far away: “Leaving just isn’t the same anymore. We’ll probably never get to experience something like that, except through our imagination.” (10:39)

You can find Pamela on:

*Her website

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

pamela fagan hutchins authors love readers

Episode 27: You Never Know Until You Start, with Mary Burton

Mary Burton is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly 40 mystery, romantic suspense and historical romance novels, including the recent Her Last Word, Senseless, Dying Scream and Dead Ringer. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Mary about making the transition from small suspense to big suspense and how she plans out her drafts.

In Mary’s words: “You almost feel like you have to give yourself permission to do things. … Trying something new seems so scary … just try it, life is short.” (19:06)

You can find Mary on:

*Her website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers mary burton

Episode 26: Stranger Than Fiction, with Elaine Raco Chase

Elaine Raco Chase is the award-winning author of seventeen paperback novels with over 3 million books in print. She is published in 25 countries and 15 languages. As a romance writer, Chase has won two sales awards for top romance novels of the year, Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award for romantic suspense, and the Affaire de Coeur Silver Pen Award for writing excellence. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Elaine about her start as a writer, overcoming prejudices, and what to do when your plot comes true in real life.

You can find Toni on:

*Her website,

*Facebook

*Facebook

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

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Episode 24: Making an Impact, with Rachel Grant

Author and four-time Golden Heart finalist, archaeologist Rachel Grant writes romantic thrillers where archaeology, politics and war collide. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Rachel about her experience as an archaeologist and making an impact outside of writing.  

You can find Rachel on:

*Her website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

rachel grant authors love readers

Episode 22: Writing for Yourself, with Kevin Tumlinson

Kevin Tumlinson is an award-winning and bestselling thriller author, and host of the Wordslinger Podcast. His thriller series, featuring protagonist Dan Kolter, has won awards and reached top rankings on Amazon and iBooks. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Kevin about not responding to negative comments, engaging with readers, and learning to write for yourself.

You can find Kevin on:

*His website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

Episode 21: A Little Bit of Everything, with Kelly McClymer

USA Today bestselling author Kelly McClymer writes fairytale-inspired romances set in Victorian England (although a few characters escape to the United States), fairytale fantasy and mom-inspired mystery. Host Patricia McLinn talks with Kelly about writing in a variety of genres. 

You can find Kelly on:

*her website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers kelly mcclymer

Episode 14: Writing Is an Ever-Changing Process, with Julie Moffett

Julie Moffett is a bestselling author of historical romance, paranormal romance and mysteries. She knows several languages and almost joined the CIA before becoming a novelist. Host Patricia McLinn talks to Julie about the ever-changing writing process and how she prepares to write a story.

You can find Julie on:

*her website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

julie moffett lexi carmichael authors love readers patricia mclinn

Episode 9: Creating a Past, with Victoria Thompson

Host Patricia McLinn talks with bestselling author Victoria Thompson about her Gaslight Mystery series and the ups and downs of a career spent writing historical romance and mystery books. Victoria and Patricia discuss the craft of writing and teaching that craft to others.

You can find Victoria on:

*her website,

*Facebook and

*Twitter.

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

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Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Victoria Thompson

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Welcome to this. Week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Victoria Thompson [00:24] I’m Victoria Thompson. And I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now let’s start the show. Welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers podcast. I’m delighted to have the guest Victoria Thompson here this week. And Victoria, and I, I don’t know how long we’ve known each other. It’s been a really long time.

Victoria Thompson [00:45] Forever.

Patricia McLinn [00:47] Don’t you think?

Victoria Thompson [00:48]Yes, forever.

Patricia McLinn [00:49] Or it just seems like forever. Is that what you’re saying?

Victoria Thompson [00:52] Right. Well, if we met at Novelis Inc. it has to have been since 1989. That’s what it, that when Novelis Inc. started. So that’s probably back then.

Patricia McLinn [01:02] Yeah. Did it start in 89? I don’t think I joined until the second year.

Patricia McLinn [01:09] Yeah. Great organization. And those have listened to other podcasts, it crops up now and then. And Victoria is a former president, a past president of Novelis Inc. As am I, and, uh, is back on the board doing yeoman’s service as the advisory council liaison to the board. So we really appreciate everything she’s, she’s done and is doing for Novelis Inc. And let’s see when we first met each other. You were writing historical romance, right?

Victoria Thompson [01:47] Correct. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [01:49] And I was writing contemporary romance and over the years and here and there and she, she made this, the switch to, um, historical mysteries. And I’ve added contemporary mysteries. I never let go of anything is as you know, and has this wonderful two wonderful series now.

And we’ll, we’ll, we’ll talk about those a little bit more, but first I just wanted to kind of ask you some. Get to know you questions for the, for the readers. And I uh, I don’t know the answers to some of these, so let’s start off with surprising job you’ve held.

Victoria Thompson [02:31] Oh my gosh. I was a printing specialist for the government, US government printing office back in the day, shortly after I got married, my husband, um, wanted to become a preacher. And so he was going to, so we were going to move from the Washington DC area to Dallas and he was going to go to college to become a minister and I needed to get a job to support him.

And a gentleman on our church, it was a friend of the public printer, who’s like the secretary of state to the, to the government printing office. And, uh, he gave me a job in their Dallas office. That’s where we moved to Dallas and, uh, so I became a printing specialist, was my title. I knew absolutely nothing about printing. And for years afterwards, whenever my husband was describing someone who knew nothing about what they were doing, he would call them a printing specialist.

Patricia McLinn [03:29] I think that’s confirming a lot of people’s belief about the—

Victoria Thompson [03:32] About the government. I know.

Patricia McLinn [03:33] —government, that somebody called a specialist, and knows nothing about it.

Victoria Thompson [03:36] And after working in it, I can readily understand that they’re, they’re certainly justified in being a little skeptical. But my job was to order printing for various government agencies whenever they needed anything printed, I would write the specs and bid the job out. So I do know a lot about printing now. I did not however, when I was hired for that job.

Patricia McLinn [03:57] Now, was that ever a good background for you and in your publishing career?

Victoria Thompson [04:01] Never.

Patricia McLinn [04:03] Never.

Victoria Thompson [04:04] Not in this life. I mean, I do know about fonts, maybe that was helpful. I don’t know. I mean, being traditionally published, I was never involved. It’s actually pretty my book. So it wasn’t helpful at all,

Patricia McLinn [04:18] But that’s a great odd job that you’ve had. Okay. What’s your favorite taste?

Victoria Thompson [04:26] My favorite taste. I, you know, sweet, I guess.

Vicki Barry mysteries, the color red, and anger

Patricia McLinn [04:30] Uh, do you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Victoria Thompson [04:33] You know, I read so voraciously when I was a child that it’s hard to pick a favorite book, but what I do remember the book I remember most from my childhood was a series, the Vicki Barr mystery. She was a stewardess. It was sort of like Nancy Drew, except she was a stewardess. It was that same era in the 1950s.

And I had gone to the book fair at school, and I saw this book and it was, um, this character had the same name as I did. She even spelled it the same way. And, um, she was a stewardess, which was the most glamorous job you could possibly have in the 1950s. And she solved mysteries, and, um, I asked my parents for that book and, um, It was a hardcover book and it was expensive and I didn’t really hold out much hope that they get it. And they came back from the book fair without it. So, I just assumed they hadn’t gotten it for me.

And I was looking in a closet one day and I found that book, the sequel to that book in a hidden, carefully away, because they were going to give it to me for Christmas. I was so excited. So of course on Christmas morning I pretended to be very, very excited. Didn’t have to pretendto be happy. But that was like, sort of my, um, it’s sort of, I don’t, I’m not sure it’s the first mystery I ever read, but it certainly cemented my love for mysteries.

Patricia McLinn [05:55] Uh, do you know how you became a voracious reader? Was it from your folks? Or was there something else that got you started?

Victoria Thompson [06:03] I think it’s, um, I think it’s a culture that, um, that you’re raised in. My parents were both readers, and my mom, my mom subscribed to the book of the month club. So we always had, we always had in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, she got, we always had books in our house and my mother was always reading, so, and, and they read to us as children. We had a whole shelf full of Little Golden Books. And so we always had story time before bed at bedtime and stuff. So, um, reading was just a natural part of life, I think. And, um, so as, as far back as I can remember, so I think that’s certainly a contributing factor.

Patricia McLinn [06:43] Do you have any saying from your mother or father that you hear yourself saying now?

Victoria Thompson [06:52] My mother, my mother always said, Be careful. Whenever you left the house was like a mantra for her. And when my sister and I got older, we would say no. When she’d say, Be Careful, we’d say no, just to be contrary. But yeah, that’s she said it to the day she died.

Patricia McLinn [07:16] So do you hear yourself now saying be careful or are you always saying no?

Victoria Thompson [07:20] I try not to, you know, I try not to assume something terrible is going to happen every time somebody walks out the door. So, um, no, I don’t say be careful a lot, but I do say it when it’s, um, I think when it’s appropriate. Like my daughter is out in Los Angeles, and in Los Angeles right now and there’s fires there. So I told her to stay safe, but you know, that’s appropriate. I think.

Patricia McLinn [07:47] So do you have things from earlier in life that you used to fret over that now you just don’t care anymore?

Victoria Thompson [07:54] Oh, my goodness. I guess I used to care what people think. I don’t worry about that so much anymore. Um, I reached the age where, you know, I’m old enough now I can say pretty much whatever I want. People just roll their eyes attribute it to old age. But, um, yeah, it’s a nice feeling that you don’t have to worry about, you know, impressing people anymore.

Patricia McLinn [08:21] That’s terrific. So what’s your favorite color, Victoria?

Victoria Thompson [08:24] Red.

Patricia McLinn [08:25] Do you know why it’s your favorite?

Victoria Thompson [08:27] I don’t.

Patricia McLinn [08:29] You look great in it.

Victoria Thompson [08:30] Thank you. Well, that’s probably a contributing factor, but yeah, cause I’m a winter and I do look good in red. But, I have a red Mustang convertible and just about every, you know, whatever I can, I— Actually are living room furniture’s kind of red. I just really like it. I think it’s bright and it’s a strong cover, color and hot. I, uh, I heard someone talk about, David Morrell was speaking and he said, you should, you should decide, figure out what your, what your dominant emotion of your life is. And I, I was horrified to realize mine was anger.

Patricia McLinn [09:07] Really? I would not associate that with you at all.

Victoria Thompson [09:09] Oh, well, thank you, that’s good it doesn’t show. But I’m, you know, I’m always outraged about something. Not necessarily angry at someone, but outraged about some injustice or whatever. So, uh, in fact, there’s just some stories, news stories that I don’t read and books I don’t read and movies that I watch because I know they’re just going to make me so angry that I, and then not be able to do anything about it. So I just don’t, don’t participate.

Patricia McLinn [09:35] Do you, does that find its way into your books, or do you vent in that feeling at all in your books?

Victoria Thompson [09:43] Actually, yes, um, because in fiction you can, uh, you can get people justice, but you can’t necessarily in real life. Sometimes real life doesn’t cooperate. But, um, in fiction, you can always have a happy ending. You can always get justice and things can work out and be fair, which is not necessarily true in real life.

Patricia McLinn [10:05] So that’s, that’s putting your anger into books. How about fears? Do you have any fears that slide into your body?

Victoria Thompson [10:12] Well, I’m afraid of heights. I’m terrified of heights. Sometimes I’ll give my, uh, character a phobia, because that’s kind of fun.

Patricia McLinn [10:19] Not necessarily heights or is it usually at heights?

Victoria Thompson [10:23] Heights—

Patricia McLinn [10:24] If they have a phobia.

Victoria Thompson [10:25] If they have a thing it’s not, you know, I can, I can, if I’m inside of a building, I can look out the window. But it’s, uh, I think my husband says I’m not really afraid of heights, I’m afraid of falling. So if it’s open and I could, could conceivably fall, then I’m scared. But if I’m inside of a building, like there’s a window between me and whatever, then I’m fine. So, I know people though, who can’t even go near a window.

Patricia McLinn [10:52] Yeah. I really think that glass is going to save you, huh?

Victoria Thompson [10:55] Let’s just say the chances are, I’m going to throw myself through it are pretty small.

Patricia McLinn [11:02] A lot of us writers, putting myself into this because I definitely do have a bad habit word or two that crops up in our, our writing. It’s a crutch and most of us have to go back and take it out. And, if we’re aware of it, do you have a bad habit word? Will you confess your bad habit word to us here?

Victoria Thompson [11:25] I do, but it varies from book to book, so, for some reason, I’ll get stuck on, on a phrase or a word and keep using it over and over again in that book and then never, it’s never a problem again. But, uh, um, one, I remember one book, it was, the word was like, and I was in a critique group. This was years ago when I was writing historical romance and I had a critique group. And they said, You know, you’ve used like twenty, you know, thirteen times on this page. And I’m like, What? And I’ve used its various meanings too, but, you know, but I never did that again.

Um, but I think because I was conscious of it from then on it. Sometimes it’s that I tend to overuse that a lot. Um, and I just got a fan letter the other day from someone who said, Do you know that you use the phrase or something, um, which, you know, like, blah, blah, blah, or something, um, twenty-seven times or whatever in this book?

And it was like, Oh my gosh, if only my editor had caught that before it got published. And I noticed the book, I was, I just finished last week, um, I kept, I got a feeling that I was using of course, a lot. But, you know, people would say something and the reply would be of course. And I thought so, um, so I just was conscious of it and I cut it out a lot of them so that it wouldn’t happen. But yeah. The answer is yes.

Patricia McLinn [12:48] That’s particularly difficult when it changes in the book.

Victoria Thompson [12:50] Exactly, because you don’t really notice, not necessarily.

Patricia McLinn [12:53] It’s a moving target. Yeah. Well, we have a question from a reader that I will start you off with. That, um, it’s related to, but not exactly a question that we get a lot. And she says, where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Gaslight series, Murder on Union Square, and Counterfeit Lady series like Robin Hood

Victoria Thompson [13:21] Usually from research for me. Um, I create, you know, I’ve written the Gaslight series now it’s twenty-one books long. And, um, so when I want to, so the characters are pretty much set, their world is set.

Um, and when I want an idea for a story, I just start researching wherever we are in the timeline. Um, what happened at that period of time. What was going on in the world? And usually that’ll trigger something, some idea, because there’s always something interesting going on in the world. If people, what were people thinking about? What were they talking about? Was there a scandal? Was there, you know, something, something new invented. Just anything could be a trigger like that. So that’s what I do. I just, when I’m ready to get an idea, I sit down and, and start reading research on that era.

Victoria Thompson [14:15] In the Gaslight series, um, the, the book I just finished, which will be out in May, um, Murder on Union Square, is, uh, it’s September of 1899. So the next book is going to be set at NewYyear’s time. And when the century turns. They already know some funny things that happened at that time. So those are the things that are going to go into the next book.

The, my other series is a completely different series and it is the heroine of the Counterfeit Lady series is a con artist reformed con artist, I should say. And so each book will feature a different con that she is using her talents now for good. And the second book I just finished, uh, she tucks, she mentions Robin Hood. Someone said, Oh, you’re like Robin Hood or robbing from the rich to give to the poor kind of thing.

And, uh, except she’s robbing from the evil people to give to the good people that they’ve cheated kind of thing. So she’s getting people’s money back from, for them, that kind of thing. And, uh, So I just research, um, books about conmen and, you know, come up, read a story about a real con that happened and think, Hmm, how could I adapt that for this book? So that’s where I’m getting the ideas for that series.

Patricia McLinn [15:32] And when is that series set?

Victoria Thompson [15:34] That’s series, it starts in 1917. The first book is set in November. So the second book is in January of 1918.

Patricia McLinn [15:43] So we should compare notes at some point because my mystery series Caught Dead in Wyoming, the sleuth is a TV reporter and she’s working at this little tiny station. She’s been sort of exiled there from her high flying career on the East Coast. And she is put in as the consumer affairs reporter. So I’m often dealing with a scam that she’s either actually covering or using as a blind for her boss to pretend she’s covering to, to do these other things. It’d be really interesting to know if some of the same cons slash scams have endured for a hundred years.

Victoria Thompson [16:23] Yeah, I mean, it’s really, there’s really basically three big cons that exist. One is the stock market scam. One is a race, like a fixed race, um, I can’t even remember what the third one is, but they’re just really, so what you have to do is sort of fudge. And, but a lot of these scams don’t work anymore because the technology has changed so much. So they, people are more creative nowadays, I think.

Patricia McLinn [16:53] Or the, or the people who call up and say, um, We’re with Microsoft and you have to do, pay this and this and this or your computer—

Victoria Thompson [17:01] Right. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [17:02] —won’t work anymore. I know somebody who told them that they didn’t own a computer and the person started arguing with them. What do you mean you don’t own a computer? Everyone owns a computer.

In your research, have you ever had research that messed up your, your projected plot? Or I guess if you’re doing it early enough, it’s not going to be a dead end.

Victoria Thompson [17:25] No. And since I get my ideas from the research, then it’s, it meshes much more easily that way. A lot of times though, I’ll um, I’ll be writing a, a line… I did this several times in the book I just finished, I’m like, um, I needed a place, I needed them to use a safe deposit box. So I’m like, did they have safe deposit boxes in 1918? I had no idea. Luckily they did. So…

Patricia McLinn [17:52] Where you’re suddenly questioning things that you take for granted now. Yeah. So once you’ve done the research, how do you start actually writing the story? Do you start at the beginning, do you outline, do you just start going?

Victoria Thompson [18:08] Well, when I first started writing, um, I was a plotter, and I would completely outline the entire book before I ever would sit down to write. And the book was essentially finished in my head and I was just typing it up so other people could read it too. Um, that was how I did all my, uh, romances.

And then when I started writing mysteries, I can’t even remember how I wrote the first mystery, if I, um, I just sort of did it by the seat of my pants instinctively. I’m a, I’m an intuitive learner, which means that reading how-to books don’t really, doesn’t really help me.

Victoria Thompson [18:49] I just, you know, I read a lot of fiction and, and I’ve sort of instinctively figure out how it’s done subconsciously. Um, like when I wrote my first book, I, I just knew from reading the hundreds and hundreds of books in my life that you end a chapter with a cliffhanger. Um, you know, that wasn’t something I read in a how-to book. I just knew that that was how you write because good books are always written that way.

Um, I knew, you know, I just knew how, uh, the rhythm of the plot should go because that’s how having read so many books, you just know instinctively where the crisis should come. And so when I started writing mysteries, that was, um, I just sort of relied on that instinct that I had from having read so many in my lifetime.

Victoria Thompson [19:42] And, um, and then I’ve, um, because I teach writing too, I’ve worked out, uh, a system for doing the mysteries now. And I come up with a list of, I figure out who the victim is, and then I figure out five people who wanted that person dead, who had motive, opportunity, and then I give them each a, a secret, which is either connected to the murder or not connected to the murder, but makes them look guilty because they have the secret.

So that is the basis of my plot. And when you have all that, You pretty much have outlined it. You, you know, you can just, uh, you figure what clue, you know, what, what you want to reveal when, and that’s how I write those, the mysteries.

Patricia McLinn [20:31] So you know that before you start writing?

Victoria Thompson [20:34] Not always. Sometimes I don’t know people’s secrets at the beginning. Usually I know their motive and their opportunity, but sometimes I don’t know their secret. And so they’ll tell me as I’m writing along, um, sort of comes up in the conversation.

Patricia McLinn [20:51] It’s interesting that you’re doing less outlining in the mystery, because one of the things that, that, um, held me back from starting mysteries, I’m a real pantser, and everybody said, Oh, you, but you have to plot mysteries. And it wasn’t until I thought, Well, wait a minute, I’m not actually writing any mysteries by thinking I have to plot them. So it can’t be any worse if I try pantsing it, you know, what do I have to lose?

Victoria Thompson [21:23] You know, I mean, I, I have a lot of friends through the years who say, if they know how the book is going to end, they aren’t interested in writing it anymore. So that would be, yeah, it would be critical that you don’t know how the book ends. Um, I don’t even know how, uh, who the killer is. I used, I mean, when you’re writing a romance, you know, if the couple is going to get together and live happily ever after in the end, so that’s all you really need to know. But in a murder mystery, you kind of have to know who the killer is by the end of the book. But I, I set it up so that everybody had motive and opportunity.

And, um, so they all had it. You don’t have to decide right away. You can, uh, you can wait to decide until close to the very end of the book who the actual killer is. And that also helps create suspense too. If the writer doesn’t know, then, I mean, what I, what I discovered writing the first couple is that if I knew who the killer was at the beginning of the book, I made it so obvious that I had to change it anyway, so I just didn’t decide until pretty far into the book who the killer is.

Patricia McLinn [22:27] And a little over a year ago, I was working on a book called, um, Look Live, and I knew who the killer was, which is rare. And I’m writing along and I’m thinking, I’m going to be done ahead of time. And then the one I thought was the killer ended up dead. And I can remember sitting and looking at the screen going, This is a problem.

Victoria Thompson [22:52] Exactly. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [22:54] So what I took from that as a lesson is don’t think things out ahead of time. It just is a waste of time, but, so what is your favorite part of the process? What’s your favorite part about writing?

Victoria Thompson [23:09] My favorite writing quote, which I think is another one of the questions, but it’s from Dorothy Parker, and she says, I hate writing, but I love having written. I think most writers feel that way. I, you know, writing is, it can be fun. I mean, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just so much fun, but a lot of times it’s like pulling teeth too. It’s not always fun, but what is really fun is typing The End and knowing you’re finished and having written a book. That’s the best part for me.

Patricia McLinn [23:41] Then, do you celebrate when you finished?

Victoria Thompson [23:45] Um, I went out the other day and bought clothes, went shopping, treat myself to, you know, just be good to yourself, do some, do fun things. You know, that I, that I enjoy doing.

Patricia McLinn [23:58] Do you have something that really cool that you did one time?

Victoria Thompson [24:00] I think I went on a cruise once or I’ll go on a trip, you know, try to finish up. So then when we go, I usually planned trips ahead of time, but knowing that I have that to look forward to, that’s my reward, when I finished the book kind of thing.

Patricia McLinn [24:13] Do you need deadlines? Or do deadlines add more pressure for you?

Victoria Thompson [24:18] I need deadlines. Um, I’m not sure, it’s just too easy to not write if you don’t have anybody waiting for it. I don’t always meet them, but it does keep my nose to the grindstone.

Characters keep adding up, superstitions come true, no room for everyone

Patricia McLinn [24:33] Do you miss your characters after you’ve finished a book? Now I know you’re doing ongoing series, but you have characters who appear in some books and, and, uh, not others. And this, this is a question from a reader who says she does miss the characters. So I’ll, I’ll give that part away. Um, but do you?

Victoria Thompson [24:52] Oh, my Lord, yes. I have put too many, I’ve created too many recurring characters. Um, there were in the beginning, it was Frank and Sarah and Frank was, Frank has a son, and his mother lives with his mother who takes care of his son. And Sarah was childless, a widow and estranged from her parents. So it’s a very small world in that first book.

But then Sarah makes up with her parents. So she has her parents in, to deal with. And then her, um, nosy next-door neighbor, who gets involved in some of the mysteries, and her next-door neighbor has a son. And then Sarah picked up a, um, an orphan, an orphan child and she couldn’t leave the orphan child alone, so she had to get a nanny for the orphan child.

And then Frank needed a cohort at the police department, so he got Gino as his sidekick. And Gino’s in love with the nanny now. And it’s like this, you know, it just got bigger and bigger, and I get fan mail that says, So-and-so wasn’t in the last book. What were you thinking? I didn’t have room. There was no reason for this person to be in this stories.

Patricia McLinn [26:07] The readers are not going to be very understanding if you start killing off any of those characters.

Victoria Thompson [26:13] Oh, I wouldn’t dare kill any of them. Heaven above, no. But I did get, I did have now Sarah and Frank are married and they all live in the same house. Sarah and Frank and his mother and, and his son and her daughter and the nanny. So that’s six people that live in their house, one house. So that makes it a little easier to get everybody.

Her parents still live somewhere else. And the next-door, the next-door neighbor now lives across the street. So cause they had to move to a bigger house obviously because of so many people living here, you know.

Patricia McLinn [26:45] You’re going to have them have their own village pretty soon.

Victoria Thompson [26:47] Exactly, it takes a village. Yes. Um, and my, the neighbor is superstition, superstitious, and I started by having her, um, quote some kind of superstition in every book, which seemed like a really great idea in the beginning, but I am running out of superstitions. I mean, I have books and books of superstitions, but you’d be amazed at how few of them work in an urban setting.

Most of them require some kind of nature or, you know, uh, exterior birds or bees or wildlife or plants, or, you know, so it’s hard. People say, um, you could make them up and I could, except I can’t just make them up. I just I’ve tried, and I’m just, my brain just doesn’t work like that. So it’s um, so Mrs. Elsworth always has to come by at some point and spout some superstition. And her superstitions always come true. Like if she sees an omen, and whatever it is, the omen was for, happens. So, which nobody’s ever challenged me, but it’s true.

Patricia McLinn [27:58] How about having a reader contest?

Victoria Thompson [28:00] I should. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [28:01] Where they give you, uh, superstition ideas.

Victoria Thompson [28:05] Ah, yeah. Well, you know, I get the same three every time. I actually have tried that on Facebook, and I say, what are some superstitions? And you know, he’d throw the hat on the bed, shot salt over your shoulder, breaking a mirror. I mean, I’ve used all of those so…

Patricia McLinn [28:24] Well, there are a lot of, there are a lot of superstitions about New Year’s, and if you’re doing the end of the year, that should give you, New Year’s is the only time in the year ever that I eat pickled herring and I still do it under protest, but it’s, I don’t know if it’s a family superstition, but it’s a superstition that you have to, that has to be the first thing you eat in the new year.

Victoria Thompson [28:47] Oh my goodness. Yeah, the Pennsylvania Dutch say pork and sauerkraut, which is not too bad. I actually liked that. So, in Texas it was black-eyed peas.

Patricia McLinn [28:58] No, I think I’d take pickled herring over that. Yeah, black-eyed peas is a big one. The other thing is you have to go out and you make noise, and then the first person back in the house has to be a dark-haired man. Well, there’s a fair amount of gray going on with the dark-haired man. One time we made a family member back in to the house where the dark hair was. So superstitions can be fun, at least for, for observers of the writing process.

Victoria Thompson [29:30] Unless you scour, unless you realize, Oh my gosh, Mrs. Elsworth hasn’t shown up yet. I have to find a superstition. So everything for three days, while I scour all these books looking for a superstition.

Patricia McLinn [29:43] Before you wanted to be a writer, did you have something else you wanted to be, or, or, and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Victoria Thompson [29:50] Well, I don’t think when I was young, I never really thought of writing as a profession, uh, a job. And, you know, I grew up in the 1950s, my goal was to get married and have children and be a housewife. I was not planning on having a career at all at first. So, um, and then as I got older, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. And I actually picked the college I went to originally because they offered nursing. but by the time I got to the college, I realized that the sight of blood may be faint. And you had to study science to be a nurse. And I wasn’t that interested in science at all. So once I figured out those two things, I thought, Nah, nursing is not for me.

And at that time, they’re, really the choices for career for a girl were teacher, nurse, or secretary. Couldn’t be a nurse already decided that, and I didn’t want to be a secretary. So that left teacher. And I did sort of like teaching. So I, that’s what I majored in, in school. I was, uh, I always say I’m a retired English teacher. I taught one year and retired. It was quite a nightmarish experience that I still have nightmares about.

But, um, teaching writing since 2000 and that’s been, and informally before that for many years. Um, so yes, I really do enjoy teaching. So, uh, it did work out in the end, but it took a long time.

Patricia McLinn [31:21] And a lot of us are involved in teaching writing in that informal way, but you did it in a very formal way. So tell us some about that.

Victoria Thompson [31:31] Um, well, the, I teach in the Seton Hill University and at Seton Hill. And it’s located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. There is a Seton Hall in New York City, but that’s not it. Okay. So don’t correct me. You’d be amazed how many people say I know it’s Seton Hall, but no, no. There is Seton Hill.

And Seton Hill has a master’s degree program in writing popular fiction. It was the first in the country that focused on popular fiction. Most writing programs at the university level are focused on literary fiction and are very, very, um, snobbish about popular fiction. Don’t even accept people who write popular fiction. Um, so ours was the first program and I was recruited, I think, in the second term that they offered this program.

Victoria Thompson [32:30] And, and I started in, uh, January of 2000 teaching in the program. And it’s a, it’s a low residency program designed for people who can’t take two years out of their lives to get a master’s degree. So you only have to be on campus for a week, each semester, and then you go home and we, and um, you come for the week and you take classes, and then you’re assigned a faculty mentor, and you go home and every month you write pages.

A certain number of pages and turn those into your mentor who critiques them for you. And you take online classes as well for, um, during the semester. So, uh, by the end of the two and a half years, you have a completed manuscript, hopefully suitable for publication at that point. So it’s a really great program for people who are serious about writing and want to write popular fiction. And we accept people from all, all the genres.

Patricia McLinn [33:20] And so it’s open to people outside of the United States, as long as they can come and spend this week on campus?

Victoria Thompson [33:25] Yes. We’ve had people from Russia, people from, um, Austria. Those are just the ones I happen to know, but yeah, you can come from anywhere, from all over the world, but you do have to come to be on the campus for the, for that week.

Patricia McLinn [33:39] What has surprised you, uh, from the teaching angle? What, and have you, have you learned things about your own writing from the teaching? And what, what things have surprised you about this teaching in this program?

Victoria Thompson [33:54] Uh, the reason I keep doing it, even though it doesn’t pay very well and, uh, it’s a lot of work in it doesn’t pay well, but it’s, it’s really, really, really rewarding. Every time I would think, Oh, you know, I should probably flip this and I think, Oh, I miss it so much because it’s so to go to the campus for that one week and be with, be with the other teachers and be with the students who are so excited and so invested.

Um, and to remember what it was like to be a, uh, unpublished and, and to be brand new in this business and innocent and, uh, and, and teaching really does keep you on your toes, you know, you’re, cause you catch yourself falling into bad habits. And, um, it just keeps my writing fresh because I always have, I’m, I’m always criticizing someone else’s work and it’s so much easier to see faults in other people’s work than your own.

So, um, it keeps my attention on the things that are important. So there’s that. And it’s just fun to have students who get pumped to see them go through the program and then get published. One of my students has a book coming out this month, her first book, and she’s contracted for three different mystery series. It’s cool, which is really unusual for that level of success. But, you know, she asked me to give her a cover quote for her book. And I was like, I’m thrilled to do that. That was just so exciting to see people coming through and, and, um, having success.

Teaching writing, using many ideas or only one, refusing help with your writing

Patricia McLinn [35:29] So when you, when you’re looking at this student’s works, can you spot story ideas that just are not going to work? You know, the writer can be talented, they have the, the ability to do the writing, but you can see that that story isn’t going to carry it?

Victoria Thompson [35:48] Oh, yes. Um, you see every possible kind of mistake that people can make. And I think, you asked me, I think the original question was what is surprising. And I think what a surprise, been surprising to me is that, um, when you point out these things to people, you know, like you say, this character, isn’t appealing, this plot element isn’t going to work, this whole plot idea isn’t going to work. Nobody’s going to buy it. Nobody will publish it. Nobody will read it if you publish it.

It’s, um, when you point these things out to people, some people are like their aha light clicks right on. And they say, and you know, part of my job as a teacher is not only to point out the errors, but to suggest ways to fix it. And so I always like editors who will, you know, they say, This is, this is wrong in your book. And here’s an idea for fixing it, but then they don’t expect me to necessarily use their idea.

Victoria Thompson [36:44] But then their idea gets me thinking in a whole other direction and I come up with a better one of my own. So, I expect my students to be able to do the same thing, but some people can’t. Some people, um, I mean, come in the program and with an idea, one idea it’s been their idea for their entire life and their dream is to write this story.

And they’ve come to you to figure out how to do that. And when you tell them the story is not going to work, they don’t want to hear that. And so they’re reluctant to change the story in any way or to think about it any, in a different way. And some people don’t make it through the program because they’re unable to accept criticism and improve their work based on other people’s suggestions, which is pretty critical if you’re going to be published.

Patricia McLinn [37:40] Yeah. Well, that’s, that’s true if you’re going to have a career as a writer, but that’s very different from having one, one story idea that has—

Victoria Thompson [37:51] Right.

Patricia McLinn [37:52] —you know, taken up space in your head. Um, because I think a lot of us who do it as a career have many, so we have more, more ideas than we could possibly finish in a lifetime.

Victoria Thompson [38:03] And I think that’s also, that’s also the problem with people who come with one idea is that they think that’s the only idea they can ever have, and they may be right about that. And so there, I think it’s a fear that if they let that go or change it in any way, it will slip away from them and they all, and it’ll be over.

And, and for some people that may very well be true, they have one idea and that’s all they’re ever going to get. But real writers, oh my gosh, we get so many ideas that we couldn’t possibly write them all. I think that’s where you separate the real writers from the, from people with an idea.

Patricia McLinn [38:44] I remember a session at, um, Novelis Inc. long time ago. Um, long, long time ago. I want to say, were we ever in San Francisco? Hmm, someplace like that.

Victoria Thompson [38:56] Gosh, not that I know of. San Diego.

Patricia McLinn [38:58] Maybe it was the one in Vancouver. I know it was on the West Coast. And the question was asked, you know, the group of us all sitting around in a, in a circle. And the question was asked if you had a choice, would you rather be a career writer or have one huge hit. And, and never write another book again, but that one book would set you up. You’d be rich. You know, you wouldn’t ever need money again. And I was stunned that a few people said the one big book, I, it never occurred to me that—

Victoria Thompson [39:38] —that anyone serious.

Patricia McLinn [39:41] Yeah. Would want, would want that option. And I, uh, It was a good lesson to me that not everybody thinks the way I think. What a concept.

Victoria Thompson [39:53] Right. I mean, I’ve been around a long time. I published my first book in 1985, and I remember I went to my first Romantic Times conference before my first book ever even came out because I was writing for Zebra, and which was at that time was Kensington. And, um, and they had a, the Kensington authors had a fashion show and they invited me to participate. So we all dressed up like our heroines of our books and were in this fashion show.

And I look back on all the women that were in that fashion show with me, all of whom were at that point in time, much more successful than I. How many of them had stopped writing at some point along the way. And I, you know, I actually had an opportunity to stop writing when I got dumped by my publisher and I couldn’t, couldn’t publish historical romance anymore because my sales were too low and nobody else would take me on, and I could have given it up.

Victoria Thompson [40:54] I had to get a job a day job anyway. And I could have just packed it in and said, No, the heck with this, but I couldn’t. I just, I couldn’t stop getting ideas for stories. I could not even think of myself as someone who wasn’t a writer, it just, you know, wouldn’t compute. So I just kept plugging away until I finally, um, had success again in mystery and got published there. But a lot of people who started out with me in the business, quit at some point. And God bless them, if you can do it, fine.

Patricia McLinn [41:29] Yeah. Well, and I look back and I see people I thought were they, and they were doing so much better than I was—

Victoria Thompson [41:37] Oh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [41:38] —at various times. And they aren’t, they aren’t around anymore. Um, for a variety of reasons. Have you ever gone through a period where you didn’t write for a while?

Victoria Thompson [41:50] Yes, I did. Um, actually. Well, I used to take off half the year and not write when I was working full-time. Um, I’d write for the first six months and then take the second six months off. I was just, so just get one book a year, um, just because it was so hard because when you’re writing, you go to work all day, come home, eat dinner, and sit at the computer and write until bedtime. And all weekends are taken up with writing too, and you don’t really have a chance to live a life. So, so you need that time. So now I’m writing just in the daytime. Now that I’m retired from my day job, I just write in the daytime.

So I, in the evening I can watch television. I can relax. I can read, I can do whatever I want and I can take days off if I need to. And that sort of thing. But, um, and you know, I’ve been chasing rabbits and I can’t even remember what we were talking about originally.

Patricia McLinn [42:50] About taking time or, or going through a period where you didn’t write.

Victoria Thompson [42:54] Where I didn’t write, yes. Uh, well, when I, when I lost my publisher, um, and this was the late 1990s and, uh, I couldn’t, it wasn’t that I wasn’t writing. I was, um, I was churning out proposal after proposal sending them to my agent and she was sending them out and they were getting glowing rejections left and right. I did have to take some time at that point.

And I remember I was so stressed and so, such a wreck because, you know, it’s, it was, it was very traumatic being dropped by my publisher, and a career I thought I would have for the rest of my life. And, and even though I was still writing it wasn’t, nobody was interested in publishing it. So I had to step back and think, Okay, what am I doing wrong here?

Um, and I needed to, I needed to reboot myself essentially. And one of my friends who, um, who, like me, very practical and very skeptical of all the touchy-feely stuff, said I needed to do The Artist’s Way, needed to read that book and go through the program. And I resisted for several months, but then several other friends who didn’t know that, that the original friend had suggested it, were suggesting the same thing to me.

Victoria Thompson [44:13] And I thought, Well, This, obviously this is something I need to do if everybody thinks it is. And people who, um, who were like me and were not touchy-feely, and, you know, were skeptical about this kind of thing were telling me to do it. So I bought the book and I did, did The Artist’s Way program and it, it successfully rebooted me. And not only that, but it led to me, um, getting the mystery series.

And, uh, I, I found a letter that I had written to my agent, but I’m, a cover letter because back then we had to do things by snail mail and I’d sent her a proposal. And, uh, I wrote her, the cover letter said, this is because I’ve been doing the writer’s Artist’s Way. It’s all synchronicity.

So yeah, that’s, but yeah, it, it’s, it’s, I know writer’s block is a definite thing and what it really is, is burnout. When you’ve gone to the well too many times, without letting it, giving it a chance to refill and refresh. It’s, you just have to be good to yourself.

Patricia McLinn [45:20] How did you make the decision or, or what, what took you from writing it, knowing that the historical romances weren’t working, um, for the market, guided you to historical mysteries?

Victoria Thompson [45:34] Okay. So I was trying to write a contemporary thriller, um, uh, romantic suspense. And I actually wrote several, um, one of them was optioned and, uh, the producers sold the option to ABC and they wrote a script. Then it was never made into a movie. Um, I got really glowing rejections on that. Everybody, my agent loved that story. She sent it to every publisher known to man, and I said, Are we trying to set a record here, being rejected by every publisher? And she said, Yes.

I think it was rejected by just about every publisher and they all, none of them said exactly what they thought was wrong with it. I just, I’ve figured it out later. Catherine Coulter read it for me. And she told them, I was telling her about it, and she said, Well, if it comes back again, send it to me and I’ll see if I can figure out what’s wrong. And, and, um, when she, after she read it, she said, I think you must’ve done something really bad, and God punished you by giving you the idea for this story.

Victoria Thompson [46:33] I reminded her of that years later. She’s like, I didn’t really say that, did I? But yeah, it was fatally flawed, she figured it out, um, what the fatal flaw was, but nobody else could. The editors couldn’t figure it out, they just knew instinctively there’s something wrong with it, they didn’t know what it was.

So anyway, um, so I had been doing this and, and, you know, I was sending these proposal after proposal, and I sent this one to my agent, and she calls me and she said, You know, with just a few minor changes, this could be a launch book for a mystery series. And I said, the thirteen stupidest words I’ve ever said in my life, I said, Eww, I don’t want to be stuck writing the same characters over and over.

Victoria Thompson [47:17] So I did not take her up on that. Um, I probably wouldn’t have been that successful as a series in any event, but, um, so I kept trying and trying for probably another year. And then I, uh, I was actually at a conference for my day job in Chicago of all places where I live now, but, and I got a message to call my agent. And I, uh, I had to wait until I had, uh, some time off and we were, we had an afternoon off and we had gone down to The Miracle Mile to shop, and I was in the food court where there were payphones. Cause we didn’t have cell phones in those days.

I called my agent, you know, it’s noisy and I got my finger in my other ear so I can hear her. And she said she had had lunch with an editor from Berkley who was looking for an author to write a series set in turn of the century New York City, where the heroin is a midwife, would I be interested in giving it a shot? She had been trying to talk me into trying it, doing a mystery series for a long time, and I’ve been resisting and resisting, as I just explained.

Victoria Thompson [48:23] Um, but by then, I was so desperate to be published. I would have done anything. So I thought, Okay, I’ll give it a shot. And it was set in turn of the century in New York City. My daughter had just started school at NYU. My husband and I had walked around Greenwich Village. We’d even bought a couple of books on the history of Greenwich Village, just because we were interested. Um, I was working for the March of Dimes. Some of my volunteers were midwives, and I thought, This is kismat.

Patricia McLinn [48:52] Yeah. Yeah.

Victoria Thompson [48:53] So I, um, so I wrote a proposal and, um, sent it to them and they bought it. And that, I added a few tweaks. They wanted, they wanted the, uh, heroin to be the poor relation of a rich family, but I made her the daughter because, uh, uh, she needed to be able to go, move in all social classes easily. So I made her the daughter of a rich family and, uh, I knew she needed a sidekick. And that a midwife probably would not be coming across a lot of murders in the general course of her life. So I gave her a police detective to be her partner because it’s his job to solve murder. So the two of them between them manage, always managed to stumble across the body in the course of there work at some point.

Patricia McLinn [49:46] Do you ever struggle with the, the dichotomy of the real world calendar and how it runs versus the fictional world calendar where you’ve, you’ve written twenty-one books in how many years?

Victoria Thompson [50:04] Twenty-one years I’ve written them, but it’s covered, they met in April of 1896 and now it’s September of 1899. So it—

Patricia McLinn [50:17] So does that ever blow your mind? Do you have trouble with, with the timeline?

Giving the characters time to get themselves together after life-changing events

Victoria Thompson [50:23] Well, what I used to have trouble with it in the beginning, after about five or six books, I started getting fan letters that asked, When Frank and Sarah are going to get together? And I would say, You know, it’s been five years for you, but it’s only been six months since they met. So it’s really… And they’d be, Oh, really? I didn’t’ realize that. So…

Patricia McLinn [50:42] Uh, I’m getting that with, with my sleuth, who, um, in story time has been divorced for now exactly a year. And she’s met, she met these two guys basically seven or eight months before, and a few readers, not many, but a few are like, Well, how much longer do we have to know which one she’s going to go with? And why isn’t she over this? And I’m thinking, come on she—

Victoria Thompson [51:11] Yeah. Give her a break.

Patricia McLinn [51:13] Yeah. Give her a chance to, to really get her feet, and, you know, they say when you have these major life changes such as moving and, or divorcing that you should wait a full year before making big decisions, but…

Victoria Thompson [51:26] Right, at least.

Patricia McLinn [51:28] She’s practical. She’s going to do that.

Victoria Thompson [51:30] Right.

Patricia McLinn [51:31] She may wait longer. How do you like that? Sometimes I think, I’m just going to make you wait.

Victoria Thompson [51:38] That’s right. That’s right. Well, I made my readers wait like fifteen years before Frank and Sarah finally got together, but it was only like, two and a half years for them.

Patricia McLinn [51:49] How has having them be married changed the books?

Victoria Thompson [51:53] Oh, it has been wonderful because they have, I mean, they’re together, first of all, they don’t have to figure out ways to be together that are proper. They sleep together now, so they’re sharing a bedroom. Um, And, uh, and they, and, and I had to, um, in order to get them married, I had to figure out a way to make Frank socially acceptable.

And that was, he came into some money and because he was rich, he, the police department, uh, he could no longer work there. Um, it was just, people were just, the other employees were just too jealous of him. So he couldn’t, he couldn’t work as a police officer anymore. So he, but he didn’t want, wasn’t interested in becoming the idle rich.

So he opened a detective agency. So now he can pick and choose. He can get justice for people that the police department wouldn’t mess with. Um, you can do all kinds of things so that that’s opened up a lot of possibilities as far as the kinds of cases that he can take. And he doesn’t even have to worry if he gets paid or not, because he’s rich so he can help poor people as well.

Victoria Thompson [53:00] And Sarah naturally helps them because they’re married. And I don’t have to figure out a way for her to get involved every time, which I used to have to do because she, they weren’t married and she was not involved with the police department. And there were reasons, many reasons why she shouldn’t be involved.

Now, it’s just, you know, he’s always worried about her safety, but other than that, that’s about the only hang up, uh, so it’s, it’s opened up all kinds of, uh, of opportunities for them.

Patricia McLinn [53:31]Well, that’s encouraging. I’ll have to keep that in mind, when I think about mine.

Victoria Thompson [53:36] Yeah. And actually it rebooted the series because everything’s different now. The whole dynamic is different now.

Patricia McLinn [53:42] That’s cool. And how have readers reacted to that?

Victoria Thompson [53:45] They seemed very happy that they finally got together. They were getting angry before. In fact, that was why I finally figured that I had to get them married because I don’t normally read my reviews, but I, for some reason was an Amazon and happened to catch site of some reviews of the latest book, and people were just like, I’m never reading this series again. I’m so mad, you know, fifteen books in one kiss and blah, blah, blah.

And I was like, ah, I gotta get these people together. It’s just cruel to make, and, and it, it was getting very awkward after awhile, you know? I mean, there were many reasons that they couldn’t get married, but still it was, they, they probably would have stopped seeing each other would have been too difficult to continue because if they weren’t going to get married.

Patricia McLinn [54:32] Yeah. In addition to your readers agitating for, for them to, to come together and get married, do you have other, um, reactions from readers or have you had encounters or, um, special letters?

Victoria Thompson [54:46] I haven’t had anybody not like the fact that they got married. I think it was just so, people were just so desperate, but you know, it’s really ironic when I, cause I was came to mystery from romance and, and my editor and my agent and everyone warned me. You have to be so careful in mystery because mystery readers don’t like romance in their mysteries.

I can’t tell you how many people told me that. And I’m like, I don’t think so. I think what they don’t like, they don’t want it to be a mystery, a romance plot. They don’t want the romance to take over the story, like it would’ve in a romance. But they really do like relationships. They like their characters to be real and have real human relationships and romances, or one of them.

Victoria Thompson [55:34] And so, so I, and it was really hard writing that first book, because if it had been a romance, those two people would’ve gotten together by the end of that book and lived happily ever after. So I had to keep them apart, but it was obvious, and they were so different, and the relationship was so interesting, and the people had so much room to grow and it was just so cool.

And so I started getting fan letters, and every fan letter I got would say, I really liked this or that, or blah, blah, blah, and when are Frank and Sarah getting together, I mean, that started immediately with book one. And so I knew I hit the right balance there then, they, they wanted a relationship. Maybe they didn’t want romance, you know, the whole sexual attention stuff, or, you know, they might not like that part, but they did want, uh, those people to fall in love and get married and live happily ever after and keep solving histories. So it was, yeah, that’s how it came to be.

Patricia McLinn [56:34] Well, I have some more questions from readers that I am the designated question asker on their behalf. Um, one question is she says, when the cover image doesn’t match the character description, a pet peeve of mine, how does it feel for the author? How does the author react to that?

Victoria Thompson [56:55] My very first novel that I ever wrote, um, my very first published novel, the hero was named Dusty Rhoades, and he had red-gold hair, when I got the cover he had black hair.

Patricia McLinn [57:12] Oh no.

Victoria Thompson [57:13] Yeah, oh no. And it was imperative that he have red-gold hair. So they sent it back to the artist and the artists put what might be highlights there. It was pathetic. So I felt really bad, really bad. And then I had another hero who was prematurely gray. He was like 28, but his hair had turned gray. So, and it was like a joke in the beginning of the heroine meets him, and she thinks he’s an old man, because he has gray hair and, um, so she’s not at all interested in him. So, um, that was just sort of a, a little joke.

And, uh, um, so I get my, when my editor calls me, she says, we love the book. We’re going to buy it, and he can’t have gray hair on the cover. So they made him blond, I think. And then, you know, I got letters, all kinds of letters. They always blamed the author for these things. You know, my husband used to say that they made you fill out these forms with the description of the character so that they, to make sure that the people on the cover look nothing like the people in the book.

Patricia McLinn [58:19] It felt like that, didn’t it? Yeah.

Victoria Thompson [58:23] It does sometimes. And I’ve been very lucky, I’ve only had a couple instances, like the ones I just described. However, on my brand new series that just launched in November this month, the heroine has dark black hair and blue eyes. And when I got the cover, the heroine has auburn hair and she was beautiful. Just. Beautiful.

And my agent is like, you have to change her hair. And I’m like, I know I have to change her hair. It’s just, the cover was just so breathtaking that, it only required a couple of changes in the text. So I fixed it pretty easily. But, uh, and, and I did a signing for it not too long ago. And, uh, I was chatting with some, some of the readers and they were looking at the cover and she said, I’m so glad she has red hair.

Patricia McLinn [59:18] Oh, well, that’s good.

Victoria Thompson [59:19] Not in the beginning. So sometimes, you know, it’s fate, it’s just have to—

Patricia McLinn [59:26] Yes. Yeah. I don’t know that, well, it depends on at what point I knew her hair color cause sometimes certain pieces of the characters come to me and they’re so it’s so strong and so vivid, I cannot change it.

Victoria Thompson [59:41] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [59:43] You know, it could be, it could be that he wears a brown bomber jacket or that, you know, he has a dog named Chair or, you know, whatever it is, but that, that cannot change. Everything else could change about them, but that can not. So…

Victoria Thompson [59:57] Yeah. But when I saw that cover, I knew that was Elizabeth. Now Elizabeth has red hair, apparently. I didn’t know.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:03] There you go. Okay. So, what is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view? That’s what a reader asks. And then I would expand on that and ask if you have a writing routine.

Victoria Thompson [1:00:17] Okay, I have a writing nook in my house and I, you know, I started, when I started writing, a computer was a big clunky thing, a tower and a keyboard and a monitor, and you had to have a desk. You couldn’t sit on your couch and write. Um, there were no such thing as laptops. So that’s how I started writing was sitting at a desk and writing. And even today, even though, um, even though I have had many laptops now, go through many laptops in the course of my career. I used them as my tower now. I plug my keyboard and my monitor into my laptop and I write at a desk.

Now, if I do my email or something, I can take my laptop and go sit in the recliner. But, but if I’m writing, I really do need to be at a desk. And in my writing nook, I have liked that, it’s like an office. I love my bookshelves with all my research books. And I have a file cabinet with all my files and, uh, all my writing awards hanging on the wall.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:18] And is that the view?

Victoria Thompson [1:01:21] And I have no view I’m facing a blank wall. So, uh, just cause I’m not distracted, I don’t want to be distracted. I have a beautiful view if I turn around, I’ve a, my backyard and there’s a Lake back there and it’s really lovely, but I don’t… You know if I want to stare at that, I go sit on the patio. I need to not be looking at the view.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:40] I can sort of understand that. Although I like to see outside. But I purposely do not have my, um, office at the front of the house because I’d be watching what was going on out there distracted by that.

Okay. Here’s another question from a reader. If you could write a book with any author alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Victoria Thompson [1:02:03] That is so hard. I, my, my instinct is to say Mary Higgins Clark, just because I admire her so much. But you know, the truth is I’m such a control freak that I can’t imagine every working with someone else to write a book. Cause it’s my way or the highway. I’m not going to compromise for someone else. So the answer to that question is Mary Higgins Clark if I had to, but probably wouldn’t happen.

Patricia McLinn [1:02:35] That’s, that’s an interesting insight. Yeah. Cause it does specifically ask, you know, who would do work with, cause there’d be lots of people it’d be interesting to talk to.

Okay. Among your books, which one is the best place for a reader who’s new, new to you to start?

Victoria Thompson [1:02:54] It sounds very cliche, but um, I would always recommend that you start at the beginning of the series. Um, although you can read my series out of order. Um, I don’t give away, you know, previous cases. I hate when that happens, you know, read a book, read a series out of order, and you already know who the killer was in the previous book because you just read it in this book. So I never give away the solution to other books.

But the, book one is Murder on Astor Place. It, it, you know, it’s the book that introduces the characters and explains how they got together and why they worked on their first case together and that sort of thing. And it builds from then. And then you get to watch the relationship develop over the course of the series.

Patricia McLinn [1:03:37] And what’s, what’s the title of book one of the new series?

Victoria Thompson [1:03:40] Book one of the new series is City of Lies, which is brand new, right, just been out a few weeks. And it’s a, it’s a completely different kind of series. One of the reviews said if you’re, you’re expecting, uh, a dead body and five suspects, you’re going to be disappointed because that’s not what this book is about. This is a different kind of book. It’s a lot of fun. It’s funny. It’s an, and very interesting, I think because of, uh, the cons and the way they work and you get to see how conmen actually operate and, and how they think. Which has been fun for me to research.

Patricia McLinn [1:04:22] So that, that the title then refers to the, the lies of the cons.

Victoria Thompson [1:04:27] Exactly. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [1:04:29] Okay. And what else, what’s coming up next?

Victoria Thompson [1:04:33] Uh, next I have, uh, the Gaslight series. The next book is Murder on Union Square. And in that book, Frank and Sarah are ready to adopt the little girl that Sarah has taken in because according to what they believe, her parents are dead. Both of her parents are dead, and so they, um, they think that they can adopt her. But they find out when they go to adopt her that, uh, the law considers this other man, who was the man who was married to her mother, to be her legal father, even though he’s not really her father at all. So they can’t adopt unless he relinquishes his rights to her.

And so they go and ask him and he agrees. But when Frank goes back to have him sign the papers, he’s dead, he’s been murdered. And so Frank is accused of murdering him and they have to figure out who really killed him to, uh, Clear Frank’s name and to enable them to adopt Catherine.

So, uh, and then the next book in the, uh, in the city, in the Counterfeit Lady series will be City of Secrets and, uh, And that’s, that book will involve, Elizabeth will be, uh, she’s engaged to the hero at that point. I’m not going to make the mistake I made in the first book when she was going on for years, knowing him forever. So she got, he proposes to her at the end of book one, but from, for many reasons they cannot get married right away. So, um, and they can’t even announce their engagement because she was engaged to someone else. It’s very complicated. But anyway.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:14] When does that book come out?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:17] That book will come out about next November and then Murder on Union Square will be out in May of 2018.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:24] And readers can find out about these releases and other things about you and your books. Where’s the best place?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:31] Um, you can go to my website, victoriathompson.com. Or you can follow me on Facebook. It’s Victoria Thompson.Author. Or you can follow me on Twitter. Um, Gaslight VT, and I guess you’ll have those posted somewhere.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:47] All the URLs will be in the show notes. And, um, people, where it’s so much easier to—

Victoria Thompson [1:06:51] Right.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:52] —follow, then listening to them and doing them. So I’ll ask you, is there anything I should have asked you that I haven’t?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:58] Oh gosh, I can’t think of anything. You’re very thorough. I don’t think I have any secrets left.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:03] Well, we’re, we’re going to do a few more. We’re going to do these rapid-fire ones.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:09] Oh, God.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:10] Um, and so it’s they’re either or questions. Not, not real serious.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:14] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:15] You can just answer. So we’ll, let’s see, we will say tea or coffee?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:21] It depends on the time of day, coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:27] You troublemaker.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:28] I know.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:29] Sailboat or motorboat?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:32] Sailboat.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:33] Day or night?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:35] Night.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:36] Cake or ice cream?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:38] Ice cream.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:39]Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:43] Toenail polish.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:44] Dog or cat?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:46] Dog. I’m allergic to cats.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:49] Ohh. Cruising or backpacking?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:53] Cruising.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:55] Gardening or house decorating?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:59] House decorating.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:00] Paint or wallpaper?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:02] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:04] Good. Appetizer or dessert?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:09] Desert.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:10] I’m with you. Heels or slippers?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:13] Slippers. I don’t even own heels anymore.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:18] Binge watch or make the watching last as long as possible?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:22] Binge watch.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:24] Okay. So then, uh, I’m guessing we might know that, but we’ll try, save the best for last or grabbed the best first?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:32] Save the best for last.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:34] Well, thank you so much, Victoria. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope everybody has enjoyed the, your visit to Authors Love Readers, and will come join us next week for a new interview. And have a great week of happy reading everybody.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me. At www.patriciamclinn.com.

You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.