- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing a very talented author from South Carolina, U.S.A. Deb's latest book will be released in September 2020 - 'Murder, Forgotten'.
Welcome, Deb ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
When I was 49, I left a career in journalism to earn a Master of Divinity degree, then took a pastorate at an inner-city mission to the homeless in Greenville, SC, USA. Triune Mercy Center, it was called. And it was a mess. I got cursed at, yelled at, spit upon. Someone kicked in the church door, searching for cleaning fluids to huff.
As we slowly turned things around and developed a welcoming church community, I realized I was forgetting how bad things had been, and I didn’t want to forget. So I wrote a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, that was published by Lion Hudson in Oxford, England, in 2012. It was named to the reading list of United Methodist Women worldwide and got me invitations to speak at Duke and Harvard divinity schools, as well as churches in many states.
My publisher asked for a sequel, but I didn’t want to do that. I said I’d always wanted to write murder mysteries. So he agreed to publish the Branigan Powers series about a news reporter and a homeless man who team up in a small Southern city. In The Cantaloupe Thief, The Cover Story and Death of a Jester, the idea is that the homeless man is virtually invisible and hears and sees things no one else does.
My newest stand-alone, Murder, Forgotten (September 2020) follows a new and darker storyline about an aging mystery writer who is losing her memory. When her husband is killed, she fears that, deep in the throes of her latest plot, she may have acted out his murder.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I went to work for a newspaper, The Greenville (SC) News, right out of college, so I’ve written professionally all my life. However, I did not start writing books until I left journalism.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I definitely shoot from the hip. I’m afraid I’d get bored if I knew where the plot was headed.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Creating a whole world where I get to live for a while.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Silencing my inner critic. She’s always wound up and whispering that I don’t know what I’m doing.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
After 27 years as a journalist, I went to seminary, got a Master of Divinity degree and became pastor at a church for homeless people. We eventually grew it into a mid-sized welcoming community that included all races and all socioeconomic levels. It was a way I saw to include our homeless brothers and sisters in a mainstream community that could help them begin to address goals.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My bestselling book, and the one that got me invitations to speak a good deal, was The Weight of Mercy. It is a memoir about my first few years as a pastor to homeless people. But my favourite book is the one coming out in September 2020 – Murder, Forgotten. I suppose the latest should always be your favourite!
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Another domestic suspense/murder mystery. I write what I like to read.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Writers who can fool me with their twists and turns -- which isn’t all that hard. I willingly suspend belief.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I call them cozy noir murder mysteries. They’re not cozies with cats or recipes or bookstores. That waterfront is pretty well covered. But they’re not bloody police procedurals either. They are twisty and, I hope, surprising, mysteries with a strong sense of place
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Silence all the people who tell you that you can’t do it, including your inner critic. Know that what you write is often going to sound amateurish to your ear. Write anyway. Listen for cadence, the rhythm of sentences. It matters.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Coming out of journalism and then weekly sermon writing, that wasn’t a luxury I had. Something had to be written, no matter how mediocre. That doggedness has carried over into book writing, I think.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I like to start around 8 AM, fuelled by coffee, and break around 1 PM for lunch. That’s my best time for creativity. Then in the afternoon, I can work on things that don’t require as much concentration.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
A sunroom set up as an office. It has uncovered windows looking into my back yard, lots of beach relics, and hilarious cartoons done by a former parishioner.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
When it’s going well and I can’t wait to return to see what’s going to happen next. It’s not unlike the feeling when you’re reading and can’t wait to turn the page to see what’s coming.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I can’t pick just one. I’ve read everything Agatha Christie and Jodi Picoult ever wrote. Right now, I’m reading a lot of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner. I love Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, John Hart, Louise Penny. I’m a sucker for those writers who make me look forward all day to getting back to them at night.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I have two if you don’t mind.
An early Goodreads reviewer wrote about Murder, Forgotten: “I can't agree more with the murdered husband's favorite toast to his wife: "The hardest thing about good writing ... is to make it look easy," and this is exactly what Richardson-Moore has done in Murder, Forgotten.”
And upon reading The Weight of Mercy, singer/songwriter Edwin McCain (“I’ll Be,” “Solitude”) emailed me this: “I started your book as we lifted off the runway in Atlanta on my way to Japan. I cried twice by the time I reached South Dakota and finished the book as we flew over Alaska. I am in awe of your work at Triune, and I just wanted you to know how much your book impacted me.”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Something to do with objecting to my “strong language” for a pastor. I had said “damn” or something. Sheesh.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Sure. Of course, after writing the memoir, I turned to fictional murder so I have to imagine what might happen if my life were more exciting.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
The beach. Gardening, though I use the term loosely. Happy hour on my back deck with my husband. Seeing my adult children who live halfway across the world.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
My publisher, Lion Hudson, did that.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Reading a thriller under a beach umbrella all day with friends. Blending a batch of pina coladas in late afternoon. Showering and going out to a dinner of shrimp or deviled crab. Sitting on an outdoor deck later looking at the stars and talking. Going to bed to finish that book.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Though she would die at the thought, maybe my younger daughter Madison. I once spent 11 days with her in a tiny apartment in San Diego as she was recovering from knee surgery, and we had a fantastic time. We like a lot of the same books and TV shows and have similar senses of humor. It’s probably no coincidence that she’s also my most enthusiastic early reader.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Please forgive the United States for our current boorishness on climate change, human rights and racial inequality. Many of us truly do not believe in what the current administration is doing.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Writing and travel. Travel and writing.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I hate to admit this, but I had to look it up. I didn’t even know it was a thing, so I have no idea whether it works.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
In Murder, Forgotten, Julianna is a mystery writer who is losing her memory. Just ask anyone who knows me how accurate that is!
My first three mysteries featured a news reporter, Branigan Powers, whom everyone assumed was me. Actually, Branigan was more likely the reporter I wanted to be. But there is also a male character, Liam Delaney, who is pastor of a homeless congregation. I certainly drew on some of my opinions and theology for his character.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Of course. I am still astonished at how little of a book price goes to the writer under a traditional contract. And how hard it is to get an agent or publisher to begin with.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Not really, because writing has always been part of my profession – first as a journalist, but also as a pastor who preached weekly and gave speeches quite often. Book writing was a natural evolution that folded easily into running the Triune Mercy Center. My board of directors was so supportive of my books that they granted me three writing sabbaticals during my time there.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Hands down, Murder, Forgotten. I didn’t have a sabbatical for it, but I was so eager to see what happened to Julianna that I wrote on my days off and vacations. I finished it in nine months. It was almost as much fun as reading a good mystery. Almost.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I would define it entirely according to the satisfaction it brings the writer. One writer may be a success if he comes up with an autobiography to leave to his family. Another may want wide readership, money and speaking engagements. Either is a success if it satisfies the author.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
They should walk away from The Weight of Mercy knowing a lot more about homelessness and how the rest of us might respond to it. The same is true of the Branigan Powers series of murder mysteries – The Cantaloupe Thief, The Cover Story and Death of a Jester. A homeless man helps Branigan solve the murders because he is virtually “unseen.”
After reading Murder, Forgotten, I hope they’ll think, “I loved that! How do I buy her books for all my family, neighbors, friends, employers, book clubs….?”
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I’d LOVE to have a movie made, but I have never written a screenplay. A producer actually came to visit me about making The Weight of Mercy into a movie or TV series, but he couldn’t come to terms with my publisher. I never got my hopes up because I knew it was a long shot.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
My publisher has a team who does that so I’ve not been privy to it. But I love what they have come up with – especially for Murder, Forgotten, The Weight of Mercy and The Cover Story.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To publish a book every two years, interspersed with travel. Our children are far-flung – one here in South Carolina, one in California, one in Europe. They generally make it home for Christmas, but I’d love to be able to invite all of them, and their significant others, to meet up for yearly summer vacations.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I think this is probably the hardest part for most writers. We want to make up stories and create characters, not toot our own horns. I would love to have an agent to take care of that part of the business, but I got published without one and have never had one.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Mother, friend, disciplined, caring, loyal.
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Narcissism, arrogance and blatant disregard for the welfare of other people.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Lisa Gardner’s “Never Tell.” I like to read the masters of the genre at work.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Do not squander your inheritance, you three.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
As much as I’d love to gain real sales success and fly to Hollywood to consult on HBO series being made from my books (!), I honestly can’t say it would make me happier. I think that comes from within.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
This is incredibly generous of you, Clancy, to provide this format to us. Thank you very much. Australia is on my bucket list!
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Deb. I enjoyed your answers immensely. Some were exactly what I'd have written. Oh, when life is free of Covid 19, we'd love to see you in Australia. Well done. Keep at it, and stay safe!