James: How long have you been writing?
Lea: Most of my life. For many years I supported my family writing corporate nonfiction. When I was in my forties I began focusing on fiction, and have now been writing fiction full-time for about twenty years.
James: What motivated you to become a writer?
Lea: I’ve always loved the challenge of choosing the precise words that best describe a world, a story, or a person, and putting those words together with emotions that keep a reader turning the page.
James: How many hours a week do you commit to your craft?
Lea: In a normal week I spend most days at my computer, writing, researching, plotting, editing, and marketing, but I also do a number of appearances at conferences, schools, and libraries that keep me away from home. Unless I’m under a tight deadline, I try to write 5-10 new pages each day.
James: What is the source of your inspiration?
Lea: Inspirations come from newspapers, my own experiences, history, the environment … in short, the world. When I was single I was an adoption advocate and adopted four daughters. Now I write mysteries and historical novels about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home.
James: Do you use a formula for your books?
Lea: No. Although when I’m writing a mystery I often have more than one murder, several suspects for each – and an “action scene” close to the end. Characters in all my books have secrets.
James: What are some common traps aspiring writers should avoid?
Lea: Taking too much time to tell backstories; using too many adjectives; choosing adverbs rather than strong verbs; not editing enough times.
James: What advice would you give to a writer whose manuscript has been rejected several times and told he or she will never make it as a writer?
Lea: Keep trying! My first book was rejected by forty agents before it was purchased by Scribner and was a finalist for a “best first mystery” Agatha Award. In the meantime, I’d written and sold three other books.
James: What is the most important tip you can share with other writers?
Lea: Read. A lot. Especially, keep up-to-date with published books in your genre. Don’t focus on books you read and loved years ago. Styles have changed.
James: What was one challenge you had to overcome to become an author?
Lea: Knowing when to stop researching and start writing.
James: How did you overcome that challenge?
Lea: Learning to recognize when I knew enough about my topic to feel comfortable and competent writing about it. And knowing that additional research can be done during the writing itself.
James: Please pick one excerpt from one of your books you would like to share with readers.
Lea: “The body was bloated and discolored, and mercifully half-covered by the rockweed tangled around the sand-encrusted legs and torso. It sprawled on the sand just within the dark high-tide line, a few feet from where breakers of ebbing waters were slowly returning to Cape Cod Bay. Gulls and crabs hadn’t feasted. Much.”
– opening paragraph of SHADOWS ON A CAPE COD WEDDING: AN ANTIQUE PRINT MYSTERY
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