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

Our July author interviews: Ellen Byerrum (7/5), Day of the Dark anthology authors (7/12 and 7/19), and Nancy Cole Silverman (7/26).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in July: 7/1--Fran Stewart, and 7/8--Nancy Cole Silverman. WWK Saturday bloggers write on 7/15--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/22--Kait Carson, and 7/29--E. B. Davis.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

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. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

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 October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

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 order.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Interview with Karen Pullen

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 I first read Karen Pullen’s work last year when I served as a judge in the Derringer Awards. Her writing impressed me. When Cold Feet was released January 2013, I wanted to read it. It’s a traditional mystery with a few cozy elements, yet other parts are anything but cozy. Join undercover drug cop Stella Lavender, Special Agent in the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and her grandma while they hunt for a killer.  E. B. Davis

1. You won a Derringer for your short story, “Brea’s Tale,” last year. What are the differences between writing a short story and a novel?

Roller-coaster vs. theme park; chocolate bar vs. four-course meal; sprint vs. marathon. Short stories require no outline; they usually contain a few scenes, a single plot thread, few characters, short timeframe. (“Brea’s Tale” is an exception, covering six years, even longer if you count her backstory.) 

In a short story, you have to go deep quickly with your character, right from the start.  A novel can start more slowly, wander about  into complex plot threads featuring many characters. A novel takes more patience and “butt-glue;” short stories are easier to revise. Of course writing techniques are no different: original language, credible dialogue, creating images in the reader’s mind. 

2. How did you make contacts to obtain the research you needed?

I needed to talk to real agents of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation but those people don’t write blogs spilling details about their work life.  One day I read a newspaper article about a woman who’d recently retired from the SBI after 30 years.  She was in the Raleigh phone book so I called her up. She was happy to answer my many naïve questions and steer me away from gross stupidity.  Also, wasn’t it Robert Parker who advised crime writers to leave out what you don’t know? I followed that advice. For the rest, Google was my best friend.

3. Could you provide a plot summary of Cold Feet so our readers get the gist of your plot?

Special Agent Stella Lavender has a stressful, adrenaline-fueled job: buying drugs undercover from paranoid drug dealers. So one afternoon she’s grateful to be relaxing at an elegant outdoor wedding. But as the guests wait, then grow restive, the satin-clad bride is dying most horribly. Who would kill a bride—an “angel” according to the groom—just minutes before her nuptials? Joining the investigation, Stella discovers the bride’s surprising history, a complex knot of secrets and flawed relationships she must untangle before the murderer claims another victim.

4. Your novel is balanced between being character and plot driven. How did you decide on the structure of your novel?

The best thing about the mystery genre is that the author can hang almost anything on its framework. I wrote the kind of book that I like to read: fiction with strong women characters who encounter and work through challenges. I’m glad you say “balanced,” because I aimed for that.

5. Career-wise, your main character, Stella Lavender, is wedged between a career path that her boss has plotted for her and what she would prefer—a common problem for many people. She also has to work with her ex, which she uses to her advantage when she can, but is still a sticky situation. Some writers chose unique problems for their characters, but yours are more common. Was there a reason?

Stella’s problems – job dissatisfaction and failed romance – are common but another word is universal. Nearly every reader will identify with one or the other.

6. The murder is set at a Bed & Breakfast. What is your experience with this industry?

I own a bed & breakfast! Rosemary House in the small historic town of Pittsboro NC, south of Chapel Hill.  Occasionally I've been inspired (not in a good way) by the rare painful guest. Innkeepers will know what I mean. Nice people don’t make good fiction; conflict does.

There are two fictional B&Bs in Cold Feet; an upscale faux Scottish castle and a peeling-paint Victorian. Since I know how B&Bs operate, it was easy to create scenes in them, and to understand one innkeeper’s anguish when someone begins to sabotage his business.

7. Although Stella has common problems, she also has unique problems: an inquisitive grandma and a mother who disappeared during Stella’s childhood. Will you pursue these problems in future books?

Yes, definitely. Stella’s grandmother Fern will be in all the Stella books; people tell me she is their favorite character. The mystery of Stella’s abducted mother will be solved.

8. Cold Feet’s title traditionally means someone is having second thoughts about a decision, like marriage. Many of your characters are dubious about the institution.

The topic of marriage is fascinating in a novel – so much potential for conflict! Not only interpersonal conflict, but financial, cultural, legal. And weddings provide a perfect situation for a murder mystery.  Lots of potential suspects because family, friends, and perhaps enemies are gathered in one place for a day or more.  Feelings are heightened by memories, old secrets, newer struggles, and possibly unhappiness with this particular couple’s marriage. All the ingredients for a colorful emotional stew.

9. What was the biggest obstacle you faced when writing Cold Feet?

Finishing the first draft.  It was, at times, a real slog. I don’t write fast; my internal editor is always perched on one shoulder.  After the first draft, it was easier.  I knew where I needed to add, rewrite, and cut.

10. What was the process you used to obtain a contract with Five Star Cengage? Do you have a literary agent?

It’s not a business for the impatient.

I had an agent in 2008-2009 but she  gave up when none of the Big Six? Or is it Five now? nibbled.  So I identified publishers who would look at un-agented work, and started submitting myself.  Five Star was on my radar – so many mystery writers have gotten a start with them – but they wanted an exclusive, so I collected more rejections.  Then, when I sent it to Five Star it was too late; they’d filled their slots for 2011. The editor recommended that I re-send it in the fall, when they’d be acquiring again; I did, and they took it, for publication in January 2013.  Over four years, from novel completion to publication.

11. Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

I kind of like Dorothy Parker’s advice: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”   

Seriously – read widely, take classes, join a critique group, write daily, enter contests, submit. Your writing will improve, you’ll get new ideas, you’ll take risks, you’ll get published. Persistence is key since giving up guarantees failure.

Bonus: Beach or Mountains?  

Beach. 
Karen Pullen left a perfectly good job at an engineering consulting firm to make her fortune - (er, maybe not) - as an innkeeper and a fiction writer. Her B&B has been open for 12 years, and her fiction is finally ready for prime time. She's published short stories in Every Day Fiction, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Spinetingler. Her first novel, a mystery called Cold Feet, was released by Five Star in January 2013. She lives in Pittsboro NC with her husband, father, and four spoiled cats. Her website is www.karenpullen.com.

19 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

I understand that the "I've been inspired" link doesn't work. I think that the site may have been taken down because it isn't the link. My manual searches don't come up with anything with that url, and it did when I posted the interview. Sorry for the inconvenience to readers. I've sent a message to Karen. Perhaps we can rectify the situation. Thanks!

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Karen,

Your novel sounds interesting and congratulations on the Derringer!

~ Jim

Karen said...

Thanks, Jim! And Elaine, thanks for having me on WWK today. It's an honor!

E. B. Davis said...

I enjoyed Karen's book. It was fast moving and well written. I was very disappointed that it wasn't nominated for an Agatha. So, I hope instead it becomes a best-seller.

Gloria Alden said...

Your book sounds quite interesting, Karen. I look forward to meeting you at Malice and having you sign Cold Feet that I'll get there.

Karen said...

Gloria, thanks! Especially for the reminder - to find out whether my book will be there. I learn something new every day!

Karen said...

E.B., any Agatha nomination (I can dream, can't I?) would be next year, because COLD FEET was published in 2012. At least that's how I think the Agathas work!

E. B. Davis said...

You mean 2013! Yippee! I forgot I read an ARC. How wonderful--I had wondered why it hadn't been nominated. This is great. Push for next year then!

Karen said...

Oh boy, of course I mean 2013. My brain is fried today. I've spent the entire morning making a video trailer for my B&B. Old dog, new tricks, painful.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm sanding drywall. Not fried, covered!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Congrats, Karen, you're novel sounds like one I'd certainly like to read!
I believe you're another Five Star/Gale author? Always quality mysteries.

Jacqueline Seewald
DEATH LEGACY

Liv said...

Nice interview! Are there any plans to release Cold Feet as an ebook? It sound like a fun read.

Kara Cerise said...

Congratulations on the Derringer, Karen! Where can we find "Brea's Tale"?

I enjoyed "I've Been Inspired". Grin.

Sherry Isaac said...

N'Nice people don't make good fiction." Well said!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Karen, I ordered you book and am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for this interview.

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for joining us today, Karen. I enjoyed your book. I'm sure everyone else will too. Good luck with sales, and I hope to meet you at Malice!

Anita Page said...

Karen, the book sounds like fun. I hope to meet you at Malice.

Karen said...

Jacqueline, yes, Five Star published Cold Feet, and they've been great to work with. Liz, I haven't heard whether there will be an e-book; the publisher has the rights for 18 months. Kara, "Brea's Tale" was published in Ellery Queen in Jan 2012, and it's in e-form on Smashwords and Amazon. Sherry - ha - nice people are boring in fiction! Unless they're hiding something or in deep trouble . . . Paula - thanks so much for ordering my book. I hope you enjoy it! Anita and E. B. - I will look for you at Malice!

Yolanda Renee said...

Cold Feet, sounds intriguing! I'm a mystery lover, have been since getting my first library card and found Nancy Drew.

I'm trying my hand at writing them too.

Great interview - especially knowing the timeline -- there is still hope for me!

Good luck!
A derringer, awesome!