Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Guest Blogger - Beth Groundwater



Don't you love the virtual world? Who would have imagined 10 years ago that we'd be able to have conversations with folks all over the world simply by typing on a keyboard and then getting instant feedback with photos, video, and sound? I can hardly count the times I've driven miles to hear a favorite author speak—or the times I've missed an event because of conflicts.

Now, it's absolutely delightful to be able to sit at my new computer in North Carolina and host Beth Groundwater in her home in Colorado—and talk with folks wherever they might be. And even better—if you're in a meeting somewhere and can't be with us at the moment we're online, you can still be part of the event.

Wow! Isn't technology great? Welcome, Beth!

Let's get started.

Unlike many amateur sleuths, Claire seems to have a great deal of respect for law enforcement professionals, yet she is compelled to conduct her own investigations. Is this deliberate?

There's a lot of mother-daughter tension with Claire and Judy. Judy often refers to her mother as a "mama bear," which Claire acknowledges. Did this come from life—or imagination?

I'm always interested in how an author gets started. How long have you been a writer? How did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I'll post more questions during the day, so get ready!

22 comments:

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Molly, for the great review of TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, and for hosting me at your blog today. I'll start with answering your first question:

"Unlike many amateur sleuths, Claire seems to have a great deal of respect for law enforcement professionals, yet she is compelled to conduct her own investigations. Is this deliberate?"

Because of my research into police procedures & techniques and my stint with the El Paso County Sheriff's Department Citizen's Academy, I have a lot or respect for law enforcement professionals. That probably shows in my writing. In real-life, one should always leave the sleuthing up to people who know what they're doing.

In an amateur sleuth mystery, the author must always answer the question of WHY the amateur is investigating the crime versus leaving it up to the professionals like any sane person would do. Some mystery books solve this problem better than others. I work very hard to come up with realistic solutions.

In Claire’s case, every book will put a member of her family or a close personal friend at risk, so she's forced through love or loyalty to solve the crime. In A REAL BASKET CASE, police accuse Claire's husband of killing the massage therapist, and her husband accuses her of having an affair, so her marriage is on the rocks. In TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, the sister of Claire's daughter's boyfriend is killed, and Claire begins to think her daughter's life is in danger. In both cases, Claire tries to work with the police, not against them, with varying degrees of success.

For those who are interested in following my tour (remember comments enter you into a contest for an autographed set of Claire Hanover books), you can find the schedule at:
http://bethgroundwater.com/Book_Blog_Tour.html

I'm going to send out some notices about this stop, then return to answer Molly's next question. Discuss amongst yourselves...

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Beth. I'm interested in your writing process and whether you're able to do any writing when busily promoting your current release. It seems there's never enough time...

Pat
http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com

Beth Groundwater said...

Molly asked: "There's a lot of mother-daughter tension with Claire and Judy. Judy often refers to her mother as a "mama bear," which Claire acknowledges. Did this come from life—or imagination?"

LOL, this came from real-life, Molly! I'm a mother myself, with two children, one of whom is a college-aged daughter. I drew on my experiences with my daughter and the experiences of friends of mine with their daughters.

I was also the leader of a Cadette/Senior Girl Scout troop of teenage girls, who I swear exuded pheromes through their pores. Wherever we went camping, within minutes it seemed, teenage boys just "happened" to be wandering by! I still keep in touch with some of these young women and their mothers.

I hope that my daughter would agree with me that I'm not as clingy as Claire is with her daughter (at least not overtly ;) ), but I still do worry about my daughter's safety all the time--what mother doesn't?

And yes, if any young man had threatened or mistreated her, my claws would have come out! Thank goodness my daughter's boyfriends have all seemed to respect her.

Sheila Deeth said...

I was fascinated to learn that you have real experience of "sleuthing." Do you think it shows when people write and don't have the experience to back it up?

Beth Groundwater said...

Molly asked: "I'm always interested in how an author gets started. How long have you been a writer? How did you realize you wanted to be a writer?"

I've been an avid reader since I learned how to read, and I still read at least two novels a month. I think writers first have to be readers.

My first forays into fiction writing were my Freddie stories when I was in fifth and sixth grade. My protagonist, Freddie, had all sorts of wild adventures, including visiting an underground mole city after burrowing down in a giant screw-mobile. Freddie was a boy, because back in the sixties, I thought girls weren't supposed to have adventures. I know better now, and my sleuth, Claire Hanover has all kinds of adventures!

Also, during my senior year of high school I took an independent study in English and wrote fiction and poetry, which was critiqued by a college professor. My efforts came back covered in red ink, but I learned a lot, including how to handle criticism.

I didn't start writing fiction again seriously as an adult until about a year before I retired as a software engineer in 1999. I started with short stories and wrote my first book-length manuscript in 1999.

Shannon said...

Hi Beth:

Have any of your books arisen out of your experiences with the El Paso County Sheriff's Department Citizen's Academy? Or other life experiences?

Thanks,
Shannon

conarnold said...

It's interesting that you didn't start your serious fiction writing until shortly before you retired, Beth. Do you find that your years of experience in different areas add to your success as a writer now?

Molly, I'm glad to "meet" another North Carolina writer! Thanks for sharing the review.

Beth Groundwater said...

Patricia asked: "I'm interested in your writing process and whether you're able to do any writing when busily promoting your current release."

When I'm writing a rough draft, I need consolidated blocks of time, 2-3 hours each morning & afternoon on the weekdays to crank out those pages. However, I'm not doing that now. I'm devoting April-June to full-time promotion for TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. April was for writing my tour articles and arranging signings, May is for blogging & Mayhem in the Midlands & preparing bookmarks, etc, and June is for touring and conducting signings.

Sheila asked: "I was fascinated to learn that you have real experience of "sleuthing." Do you think it shows when people write and don't have the experience to back it up?"

It certainly shows when you DON'T have the experience or knowledge to back up what you're writing about police procedure or investigative techniques! Mystery fans are very knowledgeable themselves and will let you know if you got something wrong. So, I try very hard to get it right, and I've even asked law professionals to review chapters and tell me what they think.

Book Bird Dog said...

I started writing in a secret journal when I was about 10 or so. I love reading, so writing about it isn't so hard. I love mysteries!

Beth, how did you become interested in mysteries? Did you start out being a Nancy Drew fan as I was?

From Harvee at harvee44@yahoo.com

bluspider said...

I know with all your fiction writing you are up to your Wha-zoo in words....but other than your blog, do you do any journaling or creative journaling?

Beth Groundwater said...

Shannon asked: "Have any of your books arisen out of your experiences with the El Paso County Sheriff's Department Citizen's Academy? Or other life experiences?"

I would say that the overall plots did not arise out of the Citizen's Academy, but individual scenes or character actions did. And like any writer, my life experiences color what I write. I've already mentioned how my relationship with my daughter and her friends and their mothers influenced the relationship between Claire and her daughter, and how my skiing background was used to make the scene where Claire teaches a ski lesson authentic.

I think I based some, but not all, of the personality of Summit County Sheriff's Detective Owen Silverstone in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET on that of Derek Woodman, Undersheriff of the
Summit County Sheriff’s Office, who I interviewed for the book (and thank in the Acknowledgements).

Where I don't have appropriate experiences to draw on, for instance the snowshoeing and snowmobiling scenes in the book, I do those activities or at least research and question people who have done them to make sure I can describe them well. I had a great time trying out both of those winter sports and will probably do them again!

Conarnold asked: "Do you find that your years of experience in different areas add to your success as a writer now?"

I think years of just plain living and having lots of interactions with lots of different kinds of people all go into the creative storage locker for writers. Good stories are all about emotion, so we draw on past emotional scenes with people in our lives to flavor our characters' interactions. Also, I met a lot of interesting 'characters' in my work as a software engineer and combined bits & pieces of them into my story characters.

As for the work experience itself, having a lot of practice speaking in front of groups large & small for my prior career has helped me handle book promotion events with more ease. Also, lots of years of software code reviews was great practice for dealing with writing critique groups and getting feedback from editors.

Beth Groundwater said...

Harvee asked: "Beth, how did you become interested in mysteries? Did you start out being a Nancy Drew fan as I was?"

Oh yeah, I read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe while in middle and high school. And I still read a lot of mysteries. I love puzzles and trying to solve the puzzles in mystery books.

Bluspider asked:
"I know with all your fiction writing you are up to your Wha-zoo in words....but other than your blog, do you do any journaling or creative journaling?"

I tried keeping a diary a few times while I was in high school, but it always petered out after a couple of weeks. I've never really gotten into journaling as an adult. I'm someone who hates to "waste" the time I spend writing because it takes me so many bloody hours to produce and polish prose. I want to be writing for a reason, to create a scene for a book or short story (for which I hope to get paid!) or to write an essay to teach something or like this, to convey information about me and my books. I'm someone who always has a goal in mind and seldom just plays with words. You know, I need to lighten up more!

Charlotte Phillips said...

Beth,

Another great blog stop idea - quesitons and answers throughout the day. You are so creative when it comes to marketing.

Char

royalescape.mystery said...

Thank you for introducing me to this great site and also for answering questions.

I want to ask, Do you work full-time on your mysteries? If not, do you find other work or writing projects to be helpful for the mystery plots?

Good luck with the book!

royalescape.mystery said...

I realized you answered questions in previous comments! But could you give an example of how another project work work background as software engineer helped with a plot?

Beth Groundwater said...

Royalscape.mystery asked: "Do you work full-time on your mysteries?"

I am a full-time writer now, but my work doesn't always consist of writing mysteries. There's also research, promotion, editing, and all the other myriad tasks associated with being a fiction author.

I did use my software engineering background in my first novel-length manuscript, a futuristic romantic suspense that sits moldering on the shelf. Frankly, I'm lucky that I only had to discard one novel-length manuscript before my second one was published as A REAL BASKET CASE. Many successful authors have 5,10, or 15 unsold manuscripts sitting on the shelf.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by here and asked such interesting questions! My blog stop today is at:
http://firstoffenders.typepad.com/offenders/

I am discussing Stretching the Boundaries of a Cozy Mystery and the topic has already generated some controversy in the comments, so join in the scuffle!

Sheila Deeth said...

This was great, catching up on all the questions and answers. Thanks so much Beth.

Kaye Barley said...

Molly & Beth - GREAT interview! I've enjoyed it very much, along with all the comments.

Beth, I see where Molly asks if she needs to knit you a hat. Girl - I'd take her up on that. Our Miss Molly knits some gorgeous hats, I must say!

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