by Lonnie Cruse
Good morning, everyone. My blog post for today is an interview with author Beth Groundwater. I hope you enjoy reading about Beth and her books. Thanks for stopping by!
LC: Tell us about your book.
BG: A Real Basket Case is an amateur sleuth mystery. The protagonist is Claire Hanover, the 46-year-old proprietor of a Colorado Springs, CO gift basket business. The action starts when her best friend arranges for a handsome young massage therapist to give Claire a massage, and he's shot and killed in her bedroom. When police arrest Claire's husband, Roger, for the crime, she must convince Roger she wasn't having an affair, and, with advice from a PI friend, find the real killer before Roger loses his job and goes to trial. Along the way, Claire confronts the victim's fiery ex-girlfriend, his drug-dealing cohorts, and the gym ladies he supplied with cocaine or seduced for money. She makes mistakes at every turn, but perseveres. One of my critique partners has nicknamed Claire "Lucy" after Lucille Ball's character, Lucy Arnez.
I've been amazed and gratified by the reviews that A Real Basket Case is getting, such as:
"This will appeal to Desperate Housewives fans and those who like cozies with a bit of spice."
-- Barbara Bibel, Booklist Review, February 1, 2007
"Drugs and jealousy add up to a Rocky Mountain murder. A tense, exciting debut."
-- Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2007
LC: What inspired you to write this book?
BG: I start plotting most of my mystery novels and stories with an idea about the victim and some interesting or unique way in which s/he was killed. For A Real Basket Case, I had a "What If?" inspiration: What if a man is killed in a married woman's bedroom and her husband is found holding the gun that shot him, BUT he didn't do it and the woman wasn't having an affair with the victim? That led to all kinds of questions that had to be answered, like how the man got in her bedroom and how the husband got hold of the murder weapon. Then, I made it even harder for myself by clothing her in her underwear and spraying gunshot residue on the husband's hand. It took me quite some time to ponder out that set-up!
LC: Wow, that would have given me pause as well. I'm dying to see how you dealt with it. Do you have an agent, or did you find your publisher on your own?
BG: I found my agent and publisher at the same time and at the same writing conference, the Colorado Gold, held every fall in Denver, CO. Actually the story begins before the conference and shows how networking works. I had "met" my editor on a couple of on-line email lists we both belong to, and a mutual friend arranged for us to get together for a drink at the conference. So, we had time to chat at leisure about my novel, our working styles, and her publishing house, Five Star Publishing. My actual pitch appointment with her was anticlimactic. Since we'd already talked, I brought in the first three pages of A Real Basket Case, she scanned them, and said, "Oh, I want this." We really clicked, and I consider her a friend now. Also, when I learned my now agent was attending the conference, I remembered that a fellow Sister in Crime had just announced that she signed with him. So, I asked her about him, and she advised me to query him beforehand. By the time of the conference, he'd seen a partial, so when we got together for a drink (notice the alcohol theme here?), we had something to talk about. Plus we had the time to discuss long-term career objectives and discover we agreed on them. Turns out, he and the editor already knew each other, and a plan to submit A Real Basket Case to Five Star was formed. Does it sound like I had an easy time of it? Not quite. Almost ninety rejections from other agents preceded this fortuitous lining up of the planets.
LC: Wow! Great story. I'm with Five Star as well. What are your future plans for your writing career? Series? Stand-alones?
BG: I've already written the sequel to A REAL BASKET CASE. Tentatively titled TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, it takes place in Breckenridge, CO when Claire Hanover and her family take a ski vacation and the sister of her daughter's fiancé is killed on the slope. Instead of the marriage problems, Claire has in A Real Basket Case, she has daughter relationship problems in the sequel. I wrote the sequel while I was shopping around the manuscript for A Real Basket Case, and it took so long to sell it that I finished the sequel first. Five Star Publishing looks at sales figures for the first novel before requesting the manuscript for the sequel and contracting for it, but I'm ready when (notice I didn't say "if") they do. Also, I'm currently editing a manuscript that I hope will initiate a new series with a whitewater river ranger protagonist. I'll be sending it to my agent for his review right before I hit the promotion trail for A Real Basket Case.
LC: I've also got a "when" manuscript ready for Five Star. Maybe we need to mount a "divide and conquer" strategy for them? Okay, what inspires you, sends you running to the computer?
BG: An intriguing set-up--the "What-If" that gives me a puzzle to solve, a protagonist who I've gotten to know well enough that s/he starts talking to me in my dreams, and a whiz-bang black moment and climax. When those essential pieces fall in place, I know I've got a story worth telling and I start plotting.
LC: Love it! What authors do you love to read and why?
BG: I'm a very eclectic reader--all types of genres, except I don't like to be scared, so I stay away from horror and thrillers. I'm in a Book Club that meets monthly to discuss literary and women's fiction. My favorites to date are The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
I read lots of mysteries, of course. Some of my favorite mystery authors are Western writers who I've gotten to know at conferences: C.J Box, Kathy Brandt, Christine Goff, Maggie Sefton, and Margaret Coel. I also enjoy light-hearted series by Alexander McCall Smith, Donna Andrews, and Tim Cockey. My favorite mystery writer is Sharyn McCrumb, and I'm collecting all her books. I read romance and science fiction occasionally and enjoy Diana Gabaldon, J.D. Robb, Anne McCaffrey, and Douglas Adams. Why do I like these authors? Given the wide variety, I haven't the faintest idea. The most important criterion is to not bore me.
LC: Same for me. If the book doesn't grab me, it goes back in the closet. What writing groups do you belong to, and how do they help keep your fingers glued to the keyboard?
BG: I'm a joiner and a consummate networker. I belong to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. As for keeping my fingers glued to the keyboard, the biggest help to me is the online goal-setter group in Pikes Peak Romance Writers, my local chapter of RWA. At the beginning of every week I set a goal and announce it, then at the end of the week I have to report in on how I did. That public eye has really kept me (mostly) on track. And, I would still be unpublished without my critique group, without a doubt. That's the first piece of advice I give aspiring authors who ask me for guidance--join a good critique group! Without my group's advice, my writing would not have improved to the point where it's publishable. Without their support, I would have given up in quiet despair as the rejection letters rolled in year after year. I still meet with my critique group twice a month, and I hope to for many years to come.
LC: You're lucky to have a group nearby. Mine is online, but still extremely helpful. Anything else you'd like our readers to know about your writing?
BG: Please visit my website at www.bethgroundwater.com to learn more about me and my books. If you sign up for my email newsletter, you'll automatically be entered into a drawing for a gift basket. If there's something about my website that you like, let me know via the Contact Me link. My webmaster is my husband. He could use all the stroking I can get for him, with all the hours of free labor he puts in! Also, as an adjunct to the website, I post about twice a week to my blog at bethgroundwater.blogspot.com. If you want to learn what one author has been going through from the time of contract signing to publication date, take a gander. I write short stories, too, and have published seven, including one in Wild Blue Yonder, Frontier Airlines's in-flight magazine, and one which was translated into Farsi. Some can still be read in online ezines and others are in anthologies available from Amazon, including Map of Murder, Manhattan Mysteries, and Dry Spell: Tales of Thirst and Longing.
Lastly, there's nothing I enjoy more than making a new friend. I hope to meet many new faces at the mystery conferences I'll be attending this year--Malice Domestic, Mayhem in the Midlands, Murder in the Grove, and the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave. Don't be a stranger. Come up and say hi!
Thanks, Beth, and I do believe you and I met at the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave in '05. Great chatting with you again!