If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Interview with Author Maggie Toussaint


Maggie Toussaint’s writing career fascinates me. From her first book, published in a most unusual manner, to her EPIC nomination for Hot Water, a romantic suspense released last year, her career has followed an unusual path. She’s created only one series, comprised of four books; the remainder of her twelve published books are stand-alones, which vary by genre and subgenre, featuring characters with diverse careers, from cop to real estate agent. Please welcome Maggie to WWK.                                                                                                                                 E. B. Davis

Your latest book, Dime If I Know, continues Cleopatra Jones’s life as a Mom, accountant, divorcee, and amateur sleuth. Would you give us a series synopsis? 

Cleo is a recovering divorcee. She’s redefining who she is as a single person, and she manages just fine, but in her core she misses the stability of marriage. While she makes great strides as an amateur investigator, she takes baby steps in her personal life. Her dream is to be whole again, even though she’s long since taken off the rose-colored glasses. Each book in the series shows her gaining ground.

Before writing, you came from a science background. What career did you have in “real” life, before writing?

I’ve had the pleasure of working in several science fields. Before marriage, I worked in the health and safety field at a scientific facility. The marriage came with relocation, and I tried my hand as a chemist next in a cool job isolating chemicals from soils. One compound isolated by the team I was on was named after me – Maggiemycin. I switched to writing technical reports for a geology firm and then to consulting during the kids’ preschool years. Then I earned another science degree and landed in the field of aquatic toxicology. We used fish and frogs to monitor drinking water and protect our soldiers.

You had an unusual start in getting your first novel published. How did that happen?

As I raised my children, I was aware of how much life had changed in one generation. My kids didn’t know the same freedoms or dangers I’d known. I recorded my memories about a summer in the 1960s and was unable to land a conventional publisher for the project. But, I contacted the weekly paper back home, and they serialized the book in weekly columns, to the delight of their readers. The clamor from the public continued after the columns were done, so the newspaper printed the book with illustrations for me as Remembering. We sold through our small print run and called it good. Years later, after I developed an independent publishing company, I brought this one back out in paperback, where it enjoys a sale every now and again.

You write in three genres, but from what I’ve read, you’re expanding to another subgenre. Which did you start writing first, how did you expand to the others, and which do you enjoy writing most?

Transitioning from nonfiction to romance, the market where I thought I had the best shot, was hard. I wrote book after book and collected a folder of rejections big enough for a bonfire.

I made the leap from sweet romance to romantic suspense because the danger element intrigued me. And when those rejections started piling up, I decided I needed to try mystery. Long story short, I was contracted in mystery and romance within three months of each other, and I’ve been juggling genres very happily ever since. I also have a strong interest in science fiction and I have a completed three-book series being shopped around about an alien living among us.

I enjoy writing all these genres. Weird, I know.

Are you a plotter, a pantser or a combination writer?

Definitely a hybrid. I like the security of an outline but the option to go off-road when I like. I think of my outline as a guideline, not a recipe I have to strictly follow.

Your Cleopatra Jones series is your first even though you’ve written for years. Why, and how do
you decide which characters command a series?

Cleo came about because I’m an introvert, and I like to people watch. I saw and felt the hurt in my sister’s life following an awful divorce and that pain stayed with me. At writing conferences, they teach that flawed characters are the most compelling. I put two and two together and came up with Cleo as my central character.

Hot Water, a romantic suspense released last year finalized in the EPIC Awards. Next month, the winners will be announced. (We’re crossing our fingers and toes for Maggie.) Have you entered your books in contests before? Do you think winning contests increases sales? Do electronic books sell better for you than print books?

My first romance won the National Readers Choice Award, and that placement did wonders for book sales. For years, that book was my top selling romance – until Hot Water came along. I had more sales with Hot Water in a month than I did with my previous award winner in five years’ time. Good books win awards and awards help attract readers and create sales opportunities. At first my primary market was print, but now online sales are my best income stream.

Dogs are often characters in your books. Do you own a dog? If so, is your dog a model for your character dogs?

I am currently pet-free, but we have had a menagerie over the years: fish, hermit crabs, guinea pigs, cats, and dogs. Most of my friends still have dogs and both of my kids have dogs. Trust me, I’m familiar with pet antics and love pets. We have been doing so much traveling in the last few years that I didn’t want to feel like a pet was a burden.

The Saint Bernard in my Cleo series is based on a gentle supertanker of a dog, my granddog Missie. This dog was gentle and delicate in how she stepped, but on a leash she plowed ahead with gusto. I applied Missie’s personality and breed to a fictional dog named Madonna and tossed in a lifetime of living with pets for the dog’s behaviors. Many fans have written me about the dogs in my books.

I’m intrigued by your next book, Gone and Done It, which will be released in May. It’s called a Dreamwalker Mystery. Please explain that term and the plot of the book.

My sleuth Baxley Powell talks to dead people, mostly in her dreams. While she sleeps, she’s drawn to a murdered woman who slowly and fearfully unfolds her story. Baxley isn’t keen about being a dreamwalker, but she realizes her dad can’t do it any longer. This first book in the series is about her coming to terms with her abilities and solving a homicide. It’s set in the deep South, where secrets are as thick as the Spanish moss hanging from the oaks.
                                                  
Baxley has two sidelines, petsitting and landscaping. Pets I understand, but plants are a mystery to me. I have a black thumb, so it is with joy and wonderment that I write about Baxley’s green thumb.

Dream interpretation has always fascinated me, so I riffed on the subject in this book. Because Baxley’s talent isn’t normal, the book falls into the paranormal category, but there are no vampires or shapeshifters coming out of the woodwork. Just a few dreams, a town full of Southern characters, and small town shenanigans.

You write for many publishers. How do publishers vary? Do some publish only by genre? Do some publish many genres, but look for something specific in an author’s writing? 

Publishers vary in content, preferences, and size. I have great relationships with my editors and publishing houses, so I continue to submit to them. My mystery publisher, Five Star/Cengage, once carried romance and science fiction, but now only carries westerns besides the mysteries. My romance publisher, The Wild Rose Press, carried every subgenre of romance there is. The acquiring editors have guidelines on what to sign, and I am grateful my writing meets their high standards.

You often put your main characters in awkward situations. Have you found yourself is similar
situations?

I believe characters need to face their worst fears, so I put them in the midst of what they avoid the most. I’ve been in some awkward spots through the years. My biggest pitfall is shooting my mouth off. That’s why I’d rather write so that I can edit the words to say what I truly mean.

As a Southern gal, do you believe in “Southern Belles?”

I believe more in steel magnolias than southern belles. Women in the south are tough. We’re expected to be conversant on any topic and move seamlessly into our menfolk’s worlds, while we’re also supposed to look pretty, cook like a dream, and smell nice. Most true southern belles have a calling to uplift the downtrodden in their community. I can’t say as I fit the bill after living in exile in the North for several decades, but I admire those qualities in other women.

Bonus: What attracts you to the beach?

Everything attracts me to the beach. I love the crunch of sand between my toes, the warm sun on my face, the lung-purifying scent of seabreeze, the roar of waves breaking on the beach, and the soothing patterns of waves. I’m also an inveterate shell collector. I can’t walk past a seashell without it calling my name. I don’t bring them all home anymore, but I stop to admire and touch many of them.

On a deserted beach, I enjoy watching the birds feeding in the tidal zone, the sand crabs scurrying along, and the banners of sea oats greeting each breeze.


Look for Maggie’s new release, Gone and Done It, due out in May, but it’s available for pre-order now!

21 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I must say that I feel a bit tired this morning just from having read all about all that you've written, Maggie.

Writing series is so much easier from the standpoint of maintaining readers since they are invested in the series -- however standalones provide more flexibility. You seem to have found a good mix.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I agree, Jim. I don't know how authors can write high quality and quantity. Maggie seems to do both. I liked Maggie's stand-alone books, but I have to admit that I'm a fan of the Cleo Jones series. Keeping up with characters and seeing developments in their lives keeps me coming back. I'm also not a romance fan. Mixed with mystery, I like an element of romance. Maggie's combination of the two is fun. I'll definitely read the dreamwalker series.

Gloria Alden said...

I agree with Jim and E.B. about the time and energy as well as skill you put into writing so many books. I read your first Cleo book and enjoyed it. I planned to read more, but so many authors and books with a limited time to read got in the way. I must go back and continue with your series, Maggie, and find out what Cleo is doing now.

I admire someone with your scientific back ground. How totally awesome and interesting.

Warren Bull said...

Wow. You have an impressive range of genres and topics. I hope you have continued success.

KM said...

Your perseverance and flexibility is inspiring. Thank you for telling us how you use events and people in your life and turn them into fascinating books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Sarah Henning said...

Such a great story about the beginning of your career (and the rest of it!), Maggie! Thank you for stopping by!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Here I am!!! Sorry to be out of pocket this morning. And Hello to everyone at Writers Who Kill.

Jim, I wish I could say that my plan for series vs stand-alones was well thought out, but it just sort of happened. Thanks for your visit.

Thanks for your support, EB Davis. I'm so glad you love the Cleo series. I have more plans in that vein!

Hi Gloria, thanks for your kind comments. I agree, there are a lot of well written books out there vying for readers' attention.

Thanks for your encouragement, Warren.

KM, I'm delighted to find a way to get a lot of this stuff out of my head. Book writing is a good way to decompress and to dream.

Sarah, thanks for your encouragement. I've made a big effort to make this my second career, but it seems like a good many other baby boomers had the same idea! Trying to keep it fresh and gain reader share is a continual challenge.

There! I think I've got everyone so far. I'm so happy to be here today at Writers Who Kill!!!

Maggie

C.D. Mitchell said...

What an awesome interview! i wish you continued success on all your writing projects!
CD Mitchell

Maggie Toussaint said...

Thanks, CD. I'm so thrilled to have been asked to do this interview. It's nice to rub elbows with the folks here.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Maggie,

I enjoyed reading the interview and learning more about you. Congrats on the new novel! I love your books.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Jacquie,

Thanks for your support and encouragement. They mean a lot to me!

Maggie

Celia Yeary said...

Maggie--I wonder at how your mind works. I don't know what else to say! The best thing about your books--any of them--are your quirky lovable characters, all from the south, of course, and just wonderful. I'm not a mystery lover--I think yours are the only ones I've ever read, but I do it for the fun..finding dead bodies is fun?...and the characters. Well done, and I know you're just getting started.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Maggie -
Sorry I am late to the party but let me add my good wishes for the EPIC award. Thank you for sharing with WWK today. All your work sounds great, but I must say that the Dreamwalker series sounds so enticing!
Shari

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Celia, Thank you for liking my characters. With your science background, you know what a struggle it was to switch to fiction writing. To hear that my characters are what make the books, that brings a tear to my eyes! Thanks.

And Hullo to Shari, Thanks for the warm welcome to Writers Who Kill. It's certainly been a blast to hang out here today. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that award, though it does make typing a wee bit difficult...

Karen McCullough said...

Fun interview, Maggie! You're a great example of how the combination of talent and persistence can pay off in this difficult business.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Karen! You're so sweet to say that. Writing is one of the few places that being stubborn and refusing to quit actually pays off. I'm very happy to have found publishers who like my work, and even better, readers who will buy my books. Definitely feeling lucky!

Maggie Toussaint said...

I'm getting ready to log off for the night. Thank you to my host group, Writers Who Kill, for featuring me here today. I am thrilled to have had this opportunity to showcase my zany publication journey.

Take Care, Maggie

Polly Iyer said...

Maggie is one of the hardest-working writers I know. She's also one of the most adventurous, writing sci-fi, fantasy, romance, suspense. She writes them all and writes them all well.

Morgan Mandel said...

Writing fiction sounds like a lot more fun than technical reports!

Ella M Kaye said...

I'm late to the party, but I really look forward to Gone and Done It (still need to catch up on the rest of Prolific Maggie's work!). People watching introverts make the best authors, I think.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hello again, Writers Who Kill! Thank you for your show of support and your encouragement.

Polly, I appreciate your kind remarks. Lord knows, its only in publishing that people could shower you with praise for hearing voices in your head!

Ha Ha to Morgan!!! There was nothing fun about technical reports, except turning those suckers in. We do what we have to do, right?

And thanks for stopping in, Ella. I know you do a lot of people watching for your art as well as your writing. Looking forward to your next release!

So now I'm all caught up. I should go eat bonbons and watch soaps, right? That's what my husband thought I'd be doing once I quit working fulltime, just lazing around. Can't say I do much lazing and I wouldn't know a bonbon if one knocked on my door, though I am addicted to reality TV and crime shows.

Anyway, I'm off again. Thanks so much for the fun and the energy!

Maggie