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

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“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.

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, January 8, 2014

An Interview with Sheila Connolly


 


If Sheila Connolly’s main characters met at a cocktail party it’s doubtful they would find much in common. Meg Corey, a former investment banker (one of Sheila’s careers before writing), owns a commercial apple orchard. Nell Pratt runs a Philadelphia non-profit (as Sheila also once did). American-born Maura Donovan runs a pub in Ireland.

Those characters reflect Sheila’s diverse background, as far-flung as her Agatha and Anthony nominated short stories and three mystery series. As an art historian, she lived in San Francisco.
Philadelphia became her home when she practiced investment banking. She currently calls Massachusetts home where she writes full time while digging into her family’s past.

On the side, Sheila writes short stories and single mystery novels, some having supernatural elements. Ancestry and lingering ghosts often haunt her novels.

So what do horticulture, history, and Irish pubs have in common? I don’t know, but maybe Sheila will give us a clue. Please welcome Sheila Connolly to WWK.                                                                              E. B. Davis 

Since I’ve been a SinC-Guppy, your writing career has skyrocketed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it all started with a series-for-hire featuring a glassblowing main character. How did that series come about, and how did it mushroom into three series?

That’s right. I was lucky enough to approach the BookEnds agency (for the fourth time!) in 2006.
Both principals had worked for Berkley, so they often fielded requests for for-hire authors. I guess they finally took pity on me and let me “audition” for the glassblowing series. The editors must have seen something they liked, because we pitched the Orchard series to Berkley Prime Crime and they bought it before the first Glassblowing Mystery hit the stores. And when that first series didn’t quite catch on, the Orchard series was already established, so we pitched my Museum Mystery series, set in Philadelphia. It took us another couple of years before we convinced Berkley Prime Crime that they really wanted a series set in Ireland.

You seem to have abrupt departures in your professional life, from art history to investment banking. What happened, and how did this occur?

You know, I’m still asking myself that—my resume is kind of incoherent. I loved art history (and still do—you’ll notice I sneak a bit into more than one book), but there were no jobs when I started looking. So I went in a totally different direction and got a degree in Finance, and ended up working first for a Wall Street firm (now defunct) and then for a small municipal advisory company (also defunct) in Philadelphia. In fact, we worked for the City of Philadelphia, trying to keep them from going bankrupt. We did succeed at that. When that firm folded, I made a lateral jump into non-profit fundraising. Looking back, obviously I was collecting ideas for future mystery series!

As I understand it, you were born and raised in Massachusetts and went to college there. Why did you return to Massachusetts?

Not quite. On my mother’s side I have ancestors who lived in Massachusetts going back to the Mayflower, but it wasn’t until college that I finally had the chance to live here, and even then life dragged me to North Carolina, California and Pennsylvania before I finally made it back again. I figure all those dead relatives are calling to me—they seem to want me here.

I realize that Meg Corey started out as an investment banker, like you, but she goes into commercial horticulture. I don’t see that profession on your resume. Does the series necessitate a lot of research?

Yes, starting with the eight heirloom apple trees I’ve planted in my minuscule front yard. Actually I’m lucky because I knew where I wanted to set the Orchard series, in western Massachusetts where I had several generations of ancestors (one of whom kindly left his house for me to borrow), and the real town is next to the town where the University of Massachusetts has its experimental orchard. One of my first steps was talking to the director there. But in the series, Meg kind of backs into horticulture out of necessity. At least she’s smart enough to ask for help when she needs it.

Would you say that Nell Pratt most closely resembles Sheila Connolly?

Good observation! You might notice that the Museum Mysteries is the only series where I use first person POV. In part that’s because I actually lived Nell’s life (well, sort of—I’m still looking for James), and in part because I feel I can make my protagonist’s comments snarkier and also make her more vulnerable as a character, since she can admit her doubts and insecurities.

You’ve been working on two independent projects both of which were published in November. The Stone Cold. In “The Other Woman,” the main character is an EMT who knows her medicine. Did you research Alzheimer’s disease or have you known those afflicted?
devastating short story, “The Other Woman,” was published in Level Best’s newest anthology,

The idea for the short story came from a friend, whose mother suffered from that combination of symptoms. I’ll admit I’d never heard of one of them before that. I see that friend regularly, so I followed the progression of her mother’s disease over time. I hope it wasn’t unkind to use it in a short story, but I thought the possibility of the events I described was very real.

I briefly mentioned that you went to Wellesley. Your second project, a novel that involves a reunion of Wellesley graduates titled, Reunion with Death, was also self-published in November. What was the impetus of this novel?

Following our reunion (held every five years) last year, two classmates put together an incredible trip to northern Italy, and took forty people along. I think they deserve medals! I didn’t plan to write about it, but when a number of classmates realized I was a writer, they started urging me on. But I knew I didn’t want to write a travelogue or a memoir (although there are some elements of both in the book), so I threw in a body—I already had plenty of suspects. Unexpectedly that victim I created allowed me to explore a lot of the issues we dealt with when we were at college, and how they had affected each of us since.

Next month, Scandal in Skibbereen, your next Irish series novel, will be released. Would you give us the jacket blurb?

As the new owner of Sullivan’s Pub in County Cork, Ireland, Maura Donovan gets an earful of all the village gossip. But uncovering the truth about some local rumors may close her down for good…

Bostonian Maura is beginning to feel settled in her new Irish home, just in time for summer tourist season to bring fresh business to her pub. But the first traveler to arrive is thirsty for more than just a pint of Guinness: Althea Hathaway is hot on the trail of a long-lost Van Dyck painting.

Maura agrees to help Althea meet with the residents at the local manor house, the most likely location of the missing art. But when the manor’s gardener is found murdered, Maura wonders what Althea’s real motives are. Now, to solve the secret of the lost portrait and catch a killer, Maura will have to practice her Irish gift of gab and hunt down some local history—before someone else is out of the picture

I managed to incorporate the art history from one of my former lives, a local manor (a shameless reference to Downton Abbey), and a grand finale where all the investigators and suspects come together in the manor’s drawing room over tea for the big reveal—my homage to the great English mystery writers.

You’ve led a busy life. How and when did you have time to develop your writing craft?

I spent years trying out different professions, and enjoyed all of them. And I never stopped reading.
Finally, just over ten years ago, I decided I’d collected enough information and wisdom (ha!) to write something. Then of course I started joining writers groups, both real and virtual, and I wrote something over a million words before I even came close to selling anything. And then I started submitting, and I wouldn’t give up. It took six years to land with BookEnds and get my first contract, and clearly I’ve never looked back.

While other authors must use pseudonyms for each series they write for brand association, how have you managed to write under your own name? How do you feel about branding?

I write three series currently, but I think they are consistent in some critical ways. There’s a woman protagonist who is not a law enforcement professional; there’s a small-town community setting (you may wonder how I can call Philadelphia a small town, but within the cultural community there—and I’ve been part of it—everyone knows everyone else and their friends and their history); and there’s a murder that upsets the equilibrium of that community and must be solved. I also use family history as a recurring thread in all of them—I’ve been a genealogist for decades.

Your preference, Sheila, beach or mountains?

Definitely mountains—my fair Irish skin burns far too easily for me to enjoy beaches!

10 comments:

Carla Damron said...

Sheila is very interesting. I love her crazed career path and how that fed her writing. Also love how her persistence paid off.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Shelia,

It’s great to have you visit WWK after meeting you at our joint signing at The Gift Cellar in Baltimore. Sometime we’ll have to have your Meg Corey and my Seamus McCree talk about their experiences coming from investment banking.

I assume you must have to work on your series simultaneously; how to do you keep your series separated in your mind?

~ Jim

KM said...

I can only sit back and admire Sheila and her work. She obviously has not only the talent and ambition to succeed, but the self-discipline to implement them.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Sheila,
Scandal in Skibbereen is definitely one for my TBR - I love so many of the elements in your story - and I am fine with shameless references to Downton Abbey! Thank you for stopping by.

Sheila Connolly said...

Thank you all for having me today! One thing all that job-hopping did was give me all sorts of behind-the-scenes information--about investment banking, non-profits, political campaigns and more. I love to learn new things!

Thanks for having us in Baltimore, Jim. It's a great shop. As for the multiple series--I've explained it to some people as getting back together with friends, each time I start a new book. You don't mix up your friends, do you? Different places help--and they're all real ones, so I know where I am in each. I've got rural Massachusetts, Center City Philadelphia, and a small village in Ireland to play with!

E. B. Davis said...

I love each one of your series, Sheila. The story of how you got your start in this business inspires. Don't freeze up there in New England! Thanks for the interview, and I hope to meet you at Malice.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

I am so glad Berkley finally decided that Ireland is place to be. Your County cork series is terrific--as are the others.

Kara Cerise said...

Since I studied art history in college, I’m glad that you sneak a little of it into your books, Sheila. Best wishes for a successful release of Scandal in Skibbereen next month.

Gloria Alden said...

Hi Shiela, Good to have you here at Writers Who Kill. I've enjoyed all your series - well haven't read the museum ones yet. I was a little put off by having a bulldog with my name in your glass blowing one, too. :-)
I really enjoyed the first in your Irish series and look forward to reading more. I can't imagine writing more than one series at a time, but then most people can't imagine how I can be reading 2 or 3 books at a time, either, but I have no problem of keeping them straight. See you at Malice.

Sheila Connolly said...

Thank you all for having me today, and thanks as well to those of you who left comments. Really good questions!