Interview with Sarah E. Burr

By Lynn McPherson

I’m so excited to have Sarah E. Burr visiting us today. Sarah is the author of three very different series, including Trending Top Mysteries, Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. She is also host of The Bookish Hour and It’s Bookish Time, along with J.C. Kenney. If that weren’t enough, Sarah has a social media content creation service just for authors, called BookstaBundles. Let’s dive in and find out more about Sarah!

You write the Trending Topic Murder Mysteries, the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. How do you manage to keep on top of all three? Do you write one at a time or simultaneously? How do you stay organized?

My characters are the ones who really help me stay organized. Coco Cline, Hazel Wickbury, and Duchess Jacqueline—my three heroines—are all very different in personality, but they are all very vocal in having their moment. It helps that the worlds they inhabit are also very distinct. Coco lives on a beach in Delaware, Hazel solves crimes in an upstate New York town with a supernatural sparkle, and Duchess Jacqueline ventures around a fictional realm. Because of these distinctions, it’s hard for me to mix them up. But I try to make it easy for myself by focusing on one world at a time. I’ll dedicate my writing time to a particular project and work exclusively on the manuscript as much as I can. For instance, I’m working on the next Glenmyre Whim Mystery with Hazel, so Coco and Duchess Jacqueline are on a well-earned vacation.

Each of these series is unique. Do you have a favorite one to write? Are there different readers in each genre?

Ooo, I can’t choose a favorite. Each series offers me a different escape and a new experience to live vicariously through. But I will admit that there are some supporting characters I prefer writing over others (Jasper and Poppy, I’m looking at you—although, please don’t tell them I used the word “supporting,” as they are stars in their own right). As for readers, I like to think I have something to offer to any mystery lover. Readers who enjoy contemporary cozies will have a blast getting to know Coco. Readers who love a little magic sprinkled on their mystery should check out Hazel, and those who appreciate fantasy and exploring new worlds can find something special in Duchess Jacqueline. And if you love all those reading experiences, I have sixteen (and counting) books waiting for you!

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of #FollowMe for Murder. It’s so well done. Coco Cline is hilarious. Where do you draw your inspiration for ideas and characters?

Thank you! It’s always so lovely to hear that someone appreciates my sense of humor because writing humor is challenging for me. It takes me a long time to think up jokes and quips—that’s often the hardest part of my writing process. Regarding the characters in #FollowMe for Murder, I took experiences with charismatic, extroverted people from my own life and dialed them up by one thousand percent. Coco and her friends are larger-than-life, and it’s so much fun writing about the shenanigans they get up to. I also lean into my pop culture interests in the Trending Topic Mysteries. A guilty pleasure of mine is celebrity gossip, so I love to weave references to actors, public figures, and movies into Coco’s dialogue and thoughts.

There are a lot of social media tips readers can pick up on in the book. How did you become so savvy?

Through experience.Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been a part of my life since my high school days. They’ve just always been something I’ve used. I’m also a big fan of technology, so when something new comes out, I love learning the platform’s ins and outs. Social media isn’t inherently intuitive, so sitting down and taking the time to understand how to use it is a great place to start. Investing your time—not money—in social media is incredibly important.

Each writer seems to do things their own way. Mind sharing your writing process?

Where to start? I guess I always begin a book thinking about the mystery. Before I start writing,
I like to figure out who’s dead, who the killer is, and why they’ve been killed. Once I have that
solved, the rest of the book eventually comes together to support the central mystery plot.
As a series continues, there are subplots I work to develop and explore, but I’m a mystery lover
at heart, so that’s always my main focus. I want to create a great mystery for my readers to try
and solve.

Some of your books are published independently, others with a traditional publisher. Do you have a preference, or are there pros and cons of each?

With my traditionally published series, the Trending Topic Mysteries, it’s fantastic to have the support of a publisher behind you. They help with marketing, editing, formatting, design, the works, and that takes a lot of the pressure off my shoulders. Having that time back allows me to write more. And with my indie books, I love being able to move at my own pace.

Aside from writing and promoting your own work, you also run BookstaBundles, a social media service for authors. It sounds fabulous. Can you tell us about it?

One of the things no one tells you—or no one told me—is that half the work of publishing a book is marketing it. Once I learned this, I began exploring graphic design because I wanted to create professional-looking content for my indie books without having to break the bank by paying someone else. Along the way, I got really great at designing digital art, so much so that I began receiving requests from other authors to make content for them. Eventually, I turned those requests into a service, and BookstaBundles was born. I’m proud of the skills I’ve mastered and sharing that knowledge with others is extremely fulfilling. Since I understand how time-consuming book promotion is and how draining it can be on your finances, I also strive to keep my prices low for my clients. If you’re an author struggling to create content to post online, check out my designs at www.bookstabundles.com – I might be able to help!

You co-host The Bookish Hour and A Bookish Moment on YouTube with J.C. Kenney, another great mystery author. These are both so much fun. How is it going?

Better than either J.C. or I could have ever imagined. What began as an experiment has turned into a growing media empire! In March 2022, J.C. and I were thinking of ways to celebrate our latest releases (Record Store Reckoning and #FollowMe for Murder). We wanted to do something creative and out-of-the-box. So, we decided to do a livestream on YouTube to celebrate, and because we were live, we could take questions from our audience. The feedback we got after our show was incredible, and we had authors emailing us asking if they could do an appearance with us. One thing led to another; now, we’re scheduling The Bookish Hour shows into 2024. Due to the enthusiasm from both the writing and reading communities, J.C. and I recently launched our A Bookish Moment offering. In these thirty-minute, author-driven vignettes, our featured author has the opportunity to interact directly with readers through interview Q & A, book excerpts, trivia, and more — perfect for celebrating a new release or highlighting/announcing other fun book news.

I love your Author Brand Rehab Tips on Instagram. They are helpful and informative. Do you learn through experience?

Absolutely. Experience is the best teacher. I’ve been at this for over five years now. As an author and a blog/podcast interviewer, I’ve seen both sides. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had an author send me a blurry picture or an interview where they don’t mention their book. So, I want to help those folks out. My Author Brand Rehab videos are meant to help authors reinvigorate their marketing efforts and set them up for success in 2023.

I’m obsessed with your covers. They are all amazing. How much say do you have in their design?

Thank you! I love my covers, too, and each series has its own answer to this question. I design my Glenmyre Whim Mystery covers myself, so I have a reasonably large say in their design. The graphic artist for my Court of Mystery series, Mihail Uvarov, is absolutely incredible and such a fantastic collaborator. He will take a chicken-scratch drawing I send him and bring it to life in the most gorgeous way. As for the Trending Topic Mysteries, my publisher designs two or three options based on their vision for the book. From there, we work together to create something that showcases Coco’s bright and bubbly personality.

Do you plan to attend any in-person events this year, such as Malice Domestic?

I will be at Malice Domestic, for sure. Last year was my first time attending an in-person conference, and I had an incredible time. It may surprise some readers to learn that I am beyond introverted and being around hundreds of people sounded really daunting at first. However, as soon as I arrived at the conference, all that anxiety went out the window, and I had a fabulous experience. I can’t recommend Malice enough.

What are you working on next?

As we speak, I am writing the next Glenmyre Whim Mystery. Hazel has really started to come into her own (she is also a fairly large introvert). She’s beginning to realize that solving murders in her small town might be her new way of life, and readers will see how she plans to tackle this challenge. I’m also getting ready to launch another series, the Book Blogger Mysteries. I can’t wait for readers to meet Arwen Lark. Arwen—or “Winnie” is a famous, yet anonymous book blogger with a loyal following. Add in a Hollywood actor brother and a dead body, and Winnie’s real life will soon become stranger than fiction!

Readers: Sarah mentioned going to Malice Domestic in April. I’m going, too! Are you going to attend any fun in-person events this year? Hope to see you at Malice!

Sarah E. Burr is the award-winning author of the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, Trending Topic Mysteries, and Court of Mystery series. She currently serves as the social media manager for the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime and is the creative mind behind BookstaBundles, a content creation service for authors. Sarah is the co-host of The Bookish Hour, a live-streamed YouTube series featuring author interviews and book discussions. When she’s not spinning up stories, Sarah is singing Broadway tunes, reading everything from mystery to manga, video gaming, and enjoying walks with her dog, Eevee. Stay connected with Sarah via her newsletter: https://bit.ly/saraheburrsignup

Links:
Website: www.saraheburr.com
Newsletter: https://bit.ly/saraheburrsignup
Trending Topic Mysteries: https://bit.ly/trendingtopicmysteries
Court of Mystery series: https://bit.ly/courtofmystery
Glenmyre Whim Mysteries: https://bit.ly/glenmyrewhimmysteries
The Bookish Hour & A Bookish Moment Podcasts: www.itsbookishtime.com

Lynn McPherson has had a myriad of jobs, from running a small business to teaching English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo, where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. Lynn served on the Board of Directors for Crime Writers from 2019-2021. She is the author of The Izzy Walsh Mystery Series and has a new series coming out in 2024 with Level Best Books. She can be found at http://lynnmcpherson.net/.

 

 

 

An Interview with Saul Golubcow

by Paula Gail Benson

Last Monday, I introduced you to Saul Golubcow, whose Frank Wolf and Joel Gordon mysteries have just been compiled in The Cost of Living and Other Mysteries, available through Amazon and the publisher Wildside Press. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve enjoyed reading each new story and been bold enough to ask Saul for more! I think you’ll find his characters and situations so intriguing it’s difficult to put a story down until the end. Saul’s been gracious enough to answer some questions about his life and how he found his way to writing fiction.

Thank you, Saul, for agreeing to be with us.

If you haven’t already been reading his work, now is a great time to start!

(1)        What made you decide to write fiction? 

Hard question as it suggests a definable or rational causality. But here goes. I think when I was much younger, feeling inside a pulse and rhythm of the English language and resonating viscerally to so much of what I read, I thought perhaps I could bring forth life through a fictional rendering. And perhaps I thought if others can do it, why can’t I? But in the same way I try to present Joel in my stories, I was immature not so much from an impulsive or know-it-all perspective, but rather as Joni Mitchell may have put it, I couldn’t see “both sides now.” It took decades of growing up to feel comfortable with myself writing fiction. Writing non-fiction opinion pieces demands much less in its two-dimensional approach to a subject. But I realized if I wanted to really depict Holocaust survivors, I had to devise a multi-dimensional way which could only be done through a fictional world of relationships, tensions, nobility, hypocrisy, loss, and vindication. I thought I was finally ready to create lives.

(2)        How did you create the characters of Frank Wolf and his grandson Joel Gordon? 

An easier question. As I mention in the “Acknowledgments” section, for one of my drawer-kept projected stories, I thought about the life and personality of my father-in-law. He had lost his first family during the Holocaust, and he arrived in the United States in later middle age following the Hungarian Revolution. He was well versed in religious practice, history, arts, the sciences, and the technologies of his time. I was also struck by his various observations of the human condition. Although he never attempted private detective work, he often spoke of “critical analyses” as an imperative for reining in impulsive and rash decision-making, the core skill of a good detective. I back then wondered, might I create a Holocaust survivor character who becomes a private detective in Brooklyn?

But also, Frank Wolf represents that spirit of Holocaust survivors that has insisted that while they suffered horrible victimization, they would not succumb to victimhood. Even before I met my father-in-law, this response to suffering was bred in my bones. I also saw it in my own family. My parents also lost whole families in the Holocaust. Grateful for the opportunity to make a living as poultry farmers in South Jersey even though they knew nothing of farming, nor later of being hotel managers in Atlantic City, they demonstrated a resilience in the midst of enduring pain, building a new life in which my sister and I were protected and a path into our future developed. My father often insisted, “I can’t give up.” These traits are infused into my Holocaust survivors’ characters, regardless of their individual and differing personalities.

As for Joel, I think my wife and I are the models for his character. Young, sometimes over-confident, sometimes self-doubting, sometimes respectful, sometimes imperious, we wrestled with our “Frank Wolf” and learned a good deal about love, trust, and respect as we did so.

(3)        Tell us a little about Frank’s background, which is unique. How did you develop it? 

As mentioned above, I took my father-in-law’s real-life background as the blueprint for Frank Wolf’s character. Before the War, though not a university professor, he was well educated in both secular and religious studies. He may have become a professor or a Rabbi or both had he, as the eldest male in the family, not been forced to take over the family business after the early death of his father. Frank Wolf before the Holocaust was the easiest task for me. The challenge was conceptualizing his life after, and seeing him as a private detective the way I present it in the stories seemed the right way to go.

(4)      How do you determine the length of a story? What length do you feel most comfortable writing? 

Intriguing question. When I am in short story conceptualization mode, I must deal with the constraints of forums accepting just so many words. So I go into “less is more” mode, and that’s ok for that particular genre. But as it occurred for me with “The Cost of Living” which was originally published as a short story, I wanted to say so much more about Frank’s background and life story that turned it into novella length. I gave myself the same leeway with the other stories (especially “The Dorm Murder”) because I wanted the reader to understand so much more about psyche, feeling, and crime solving method that I couldn’t advance in a word limited short story. I am comfortable novella length, but it’s possible my next mystery will be even longer.

Saul Golubcow

Saul’s Bio:

When he is not immersed in the New York of the 1970s with his detective Frank Wolf, Saul Golubcow lives in Potomac, Maryland with his wife, Hedy Teglasi. His Jewish themed fiction centers on the complexity of and challenges Holocaust survivors in the United States have faced. His stories have appeared in Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Weekly, and Jewish Fiction.NetThe Cost of Living and Other Mysteries is his first book-length publication featuring Frank Wolf, a Holocaust survivor. In addition, his commentary on American Jewish culture and politics appear in various publications.  

Interview with Kathryn Lane

 by Bethany Maines

Today I’m interviewing fellow Stiletto Gang member Kathryn Lane. Kathryn enjoyed a two-decade career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson before taking an early retirement from corporate life to follow her passion to write fiction. So today we’re finding out more about her writing and what inspires her.  From growing up in Mexico to traveling the globe, and splitting time between Texas and New Mexico Kathryn’s journey into writing has been unique.  

Q: What do you write?

I’m enamored with the mystery genre.
During my corporate career, I traveled all over the world. Before a long flight
to Japan, I purchased a Harlan Coben paperback at the JFK airport in New York. The
twists and turns in the story slapped me around like a go-kart on uneven
terrain. I was instantly smitten. Now that I’m a novelist, I write mystery and suspense.

Q: What got you excited and started
you on your writing journey?

During my two decades in the corporate world, I always
thought someday I’d return to painting, the object of my natural abilities. Growing
up in Mexico, a country with an abundance of talented singers, I always felt left
out since I could not even carry a tune.

Yet I could draw. And I could paint. By age ten, I sketched
portraits and painted landscapes. Naturally, I thought I’d grow up to be an
artist. Life, or perhaps destiny, had other plans. I had to earn a living, so I
became a CPA and specialized in international finance. Hence my corporate
travels.

Before leaving the corporate world,
I analyzed what I really wanted to do. After all the countries I’d visited, it
quickly became obvious I should write rather than paint. It’s exciting to pen
stories set in other lands.

Q: Are you a Plotter or Pantser?

Since I’d written strategic plans, I
thought I’d complete an outline for each story my brain conjured up. After all,
wasn’t it like analyzing the steps in a product launch?

It didn’t work that way – my right
brain took over. As much as I’ve tried to plot, my stories grow organically
every day while I pound away at the keyboard. Even after deliberate attempts to
speed up my writing, I struggle to plot anything. It’s normal for me not to
know from one paragraph to the next what I’ll compose. Stories unfold magically
in my mind like a movie reel.

Q: Who encouraged you to write?

I’m so fortunate, friends, family, and
my husband are all incredibly supportive. I could not do it without the help of
my husband who manages the back office details and takes on household tasks, except
for cooking, to give me time to write.

Q: What secret skill do you have
that our readers might not know about?

I can kill snakes. I’ve lived in
places with deadly snakes, like the Inland Taipan of the Northern Territory of
Australia, considered the most dangerous in the world. (
One 100mg dose of Inland Taipan venom is enough to kill 100 adult humans). I’ve encountered corals and rattlesnakes of the Chihuahua
desert and mountainous terrain, and now the copperheads and cottonmouths of Texas.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t like killing snakes, but when it comes to
either them or me, it’s an easy choice.

At our summer cabin in northern New
Mexico, we don’t have snakes. Only bear and mountain lions and I leave them
alone!

Q: And of course, I would be remiss
if I didn’t ask… what are your favorite shoes?

Knee-high leather boots with
stiletto heels!

Connect with Kathryn!


 

Snatch up one of the globe-trotting Nikki Garcia Mysteries:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B08C7V2675/ref=dp_st_1942428944

**

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae MysteriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Three Things: With Debra H. Goldstein

 by Shari Randall

If you’re a reader of the blog, you’ve made the acquaintance of the multi-faceted Debra H. Goldstein. Judge, litigator, author are just a few of the words that describe her. 

I thought it would be fun to play a game to learn a bit more about Debra, things you might not know. I stumbled upon a Facebook game called Three Things that was a lot of fun, so here’s “Three Things With Debra!” I loved learning more about her, especially our shared love of pizza and dark chocolate.


Three Things You Might Not Know About Debra H. Goldstein

Three favorite foods:  Pizza, ice cream, dark chocolate
Three places I’ve lived: New Jersey, Michigan, Alabama
Three jobs I’ve had: Salesperson, litigator, judge
Three things I can’t do without: Family, books, and it is a toss-up between pizza and dark chocolate
Three favorite places: Beach (any place with water), New York City (Broadway), almost anywhere in Europe (I love exploring)
Three favorite hobbies: Reading, Writing, Piano
Three things I’m looking forward to: my son’s wedding; more grandchildren (this may take awhile to achieve); Four Cuts Too Many (Sarah Blair Mystery) was released on May 25, 2021, but I can’t wait for Five Belles Too Many to come out in June 2022.

How about you, readers? What are three things about you that you’d like to share?

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Yes, she plays too many games on Facebook. Three things about her? She loves to dance, can’t do without cardigan sweaters, and writes the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series as Meri Allen.

Interview with Debra Sennefelder

 by Bethany Maines

Bethany Maines

Debra Sennefelder

Part of being a collective blog group is that we have many fantastic members that I’ve never met in person and aside from the sparkling repartee on group email threads (trust me we’re brilliant), we often don’t get a chance to interact with each other.  So this month, I’m taking the opportunity to get to know one of my Stiletto Gang members – Debra Sennefelder. Debra has nicely agreed to sit down and answer a few questions to let us into her writing bubble. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.


Q: What do you write?

I write cozy mysteries. I have two series, The Food Blogger
Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series both published by
Kensington Publishers.

Q: Plotter or Pantser?

I’m a plotter. I like to have a detailed outline completed
when I sit down to write the first draft. My working outline (it’s not as
pretty as the one I send to my editor) can include snippets of dialogue, a
little description, links for research. While it may be long (sometimes thirty
plus pages), it’s not carved in stone, so changes can happen while I’m writing
the manuscript. Sometimes I find that a scene falls flat and doesn’t move the
story forward, sometimes inspiration sparks and I add or rework scenes,
sometimes I add a new character.

Q: What is your go-to relaxation
read?

My go-to relaxation read is a fashion magazine. Always has
been.

Q: Favorite authors or your most
favorite recent read?

I have way too many favorite authors to list. So, let me tell
you what I just finished reading. It was Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna.

Q: And of course, I would be remiss
if I didn’t ask… what are your favorite shoes?

I bought a pair of Sam Edelman black leather pumps a couple
of years ago and I love them. They’re a classic that pairs perfectly with jeans
or a dress.

Connect with Debra!

Connect with Bethany!

BETHANY NEWS UPDATE:

The Deveraux Legacy Series will be on sale Sept. 10 – 17.  Grab Books 1 & 2 and preorder Book 3, The Hardest Hit, for .99 cents! The Hardest Hit will return to full price 24 hours after release day. 
The Deveraux Legacy Series: The Deveraux Family is wealthy, powerful and in a lot of trouble.  Senator Eleanor Deveraux lost her children in a plane crash, but she has a second chance to get her family right with her four grandchildren – Evan, Jackson, Aiden and Dominique. But second chances are hard to seize when politics, mercenaries, and the dark legacy of the Deveraux family keep getting in the way.

***

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.