Lucy Silag: How did you get started writing in the Cozy Mystery genre?
DJ Lutz: I started writing about six years ago, experimenting with different forms, genres and voices. Since mysteries had always been a favorite of mine to read, writing them came easier to me than other genres. I eventually drifted toward cozy mysteries because the style seemed to mirror my own life: somewhat fun with a twist of dry humor, not too much violence at all, and full of quirky characters. My life to a T, without the requisite dead body.
LS: Who are your favorite Cozy Mystery authors? What have you learned from reading their work?
DL: In general, I have always loved the intellectual process used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and I certainly enjoy the whimsical inventiveness of Agatha Christie. I suppose my slant toward the culinary mystery could be due to my quest of reading the entire Rex Stout collection. But of those, I suppose only Agatha would count as a true cozy writer. They all help, though, in that they have shown me it is possible to write a challenging mystery in such a way the reader doesn’t think about the format. They succeed in creating a world of characters that force us to keep turning the page! Recently, I have also started reading Diane Mott Davidson. She is an awesome scribe and very prolific in the culinary mystery sub-genre. I enjoy her books and have discovered it is possible, and sometimes best to break the rules!
DL: Thank you for the compliment. Creating a character is easy; creating believable characters the reader can empathize and commiserate with? Much more difficult, but for me worth the effort. The best advice in this regard came from an agent I met at a conference. She recommended I read Acting: The First Six Lessons, by Boleslavsky. Normally meant for those learning method-acting, the book can teach a writer much about “getting into” your character’s head and then putting it on paper.
Winnie is actually the daughter of another character, hard boiled private eye Witt Kepler. Witt starred in a yearlong detective serial I wrote online a few years back. He had chased a criminal mastermind into Canada, and well, this new protagonist is named Winnipeg for a reason.
LS: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
DL: With work, family (and I include the two dogs and a cat) as well as church activities, finding consistent time to write is always the challenge. I don’t want to give anything up! Which means writing is like playing a 90 hour chess game, one hour at a time, on nonconsecutive days. I reread more than I type some days, just to get the story’s feel back into my head.
LS: Tell us about your revision process.
DL: I write the first draft with an emphasis on getting the bones of the plot right. Solidify my structure. Who did it? How did they do it? Why did they do it? Then I go back and revise, elaborating on the characters. I put more into the backstory, explaining why characters act the way they do. I more fully develop the subplots and red herrings. Finally, one more time through the book revising grammar issues, i.e. unintentional tense changes. Now I let the beta readers tell me what to do next. Their viewpoint is invaluable. What are you learning as you make your way through the process of writing a book? I have no formal education in creative writing. I started out as a typesetter back in the day when “cut and paste” actually involved cutting and pasting; now my career is nonstop business writing. When I decided to write fiction, I learned by reading, reading, reading. Now, as I write/revise, I am continually learning how to be more concise. Every word has to contribute to the story and propel the plot forward. Some days I delete more than I write.
LS: Winnie and her grandma Velma work at a small town café. Velma is the best cook in town. You write so lovingly of her food. Are you a cook yourself?
DL: Yes. For years I moonlighted in restaurants. I started out as a dishwasher and worked every gig from line cook to bartender to front house manager. I was even a bouncer in a country western honky-tonk for a while. I also created two different business plans, one for a catering/personal chef business and another for a gourmet chocolate shop. The shop was to be named “The Cat & Fiddle” after a real diner of the same name that my grandmother ran during the days of prohibition. Her name was Velma, by the way.
LS: What are your goals for THE APPLE PIE ALIBI?
DL: My best case scenario is for this book to be published using traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing options. The book is not meant to be a serious piece of literary fiction on par with The Old Man and the Sea, so a Pulitzer isn’t expected. But if readers enjoy the story and come away with a smile, then I have achieved my goal. If they ask for a sequel? Bonus!
LS: How are you using Book Country to reach your goals?
DL: Book Country has already served well for one purpose, for me at least. I joined BC because I needed a critique group that wouldn’t say everything I wrote “was great.” I had lurked on another site for writers and found this attitude, and realized everyone liked your writing because they wanted you to reciprocate and like theirs. Book Country feedback has been honest, blunt at times, constructive, and necessary. As for publishing, if I go the self-pub route, I do like the service packages Book Country offers and I think they are very reasonably priced, but I also appreciate the fact that Book Country is a place for writers to develop, not just a place trying to sell something to writers before they are ready. Kudos to you all.
LS: Thank you! 🙂
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