Welcome to the eighty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with mystery author Sunny Frazier. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi Sunny. Can you start by please telling us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Sunny: I started writing in high school as editor for the school paper. I went into the Navy and continued writing for military publications. College was paid for by the GI Bill and I got a degree in journalism. I was the only female photo-journalist in the Central Valley of California until the newspaper folded. I got a job with the Fresno Sheriff’s Dept. and wrote articles for law enforcement publications. Finally, I started writing mysteries based on real cases.
Morgen: Crime and mysteries are so popular and you have the experience to make them authentic which is huge bonus. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sunny: I write mystery, but I do have a children’s book I need to finish.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Sunny: I published a collection of short mystery stories with two other authors called Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious. My work also appeared in several anthologies. My Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries include FOOLS RUSH IN and WHERE ANGELS FEAR. I saw my first book on the shelves at a coffee shop in Hanford, CA.
Morgen: I love short stories. First love and now revisited love. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Sunny: I’m very hands on with marketing. I prefer to do the work myself and I’m all over the Internet. I’m often asked to speak on the subject on panels. In fact, I’ve created “The Posse” to fast-track other authors into marketing. I say I can take 5 years off a writer’s career path by navigating them through the maze of information. It’s free—all that’s required is an email address and motivation. A friend even made us Posse badges. People will start seeing them pop up at conferences and conventions soon.
Morgen: Ooh… I like the idea of that. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Sunny: I actually won 3rd place in Writers’ Digest competition out of 19,000 entries.
Morgen: Writers’ Digest, wow. 19,000 eek!
Sunny: My first book received top honors by the Public Safety Writers Association. I think awards can be impressive, but they are not what makes a writer successful.
Morgen: It isn’t but it certainly helps the CV. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sunny: I don’t have an agent and I think they are dinosaurs.
Sunny: I’m acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press and we publish many terrific books that were rejected by agents and publishing houses. I’m very proud of our authors and they are doing terrific sales.
Morgen: There are a lot of great books that have been rejected by other sources. Harry Potter. Nuff sed (as my mum once said!). Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Sunny: I don’t read eBooks, but yes, my second novel is on that format. I read enough manuscripts on my computer due to my work as acquisitions so I enjoy a break from the electronic formats.
Morgen: I have an eReader although I’m still a paper girl. Well, I was never actually a papergirl (although I did help my brother deliver papers for about 10p a shift!) but you know what I mean. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Sunny: My first acceptance was Valley Fever. The publisher is now publishing with my publishing house. It was exciting, but I’m less excited about seeing my own work in print as seeing the manuscripts I’ve chosen make it to print. I love the joy new authors experience.
Morgen: That’s a shame but understandable; again it’s a business to you. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Sunny: I really haven’t so I don’t have any idea how I’d deal with the process. Since I have to reject work, I think it would simply roll off my shoulders. It’s just a business.
Morgen: It is and that’s the way to think of it. Just not the right thing for the right person. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sunny: I’m working on A SNITCH IN TIME, the third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery. This time I’m exploring whether astrology can be used as a profiling tool for law enforcement. As a practicing astrologer I try to push the boundaries a bit in my novels.
Morgen: I like that title. One of the agents I mentioned earlier told me I should write crime which I’d considered but it’s a hard genre to start into unless you can find a different angle and it certainly sounds like you have. I know nothing about astrology (I’m a Leo by the way) so you have no competition from me. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Sunny: I’ve knocked out many short stories in a few hours, but now I just go for one good chapter a day. I don’t do rewrites. That’s a journalism thing.
Morgen: From your journalist comment I think the answer will be “no” but I’ll ask anyway, what is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Sunny: I don’t believe writer’s block exists. So many writers cling to that idea, but it’s so self-defeating. If you talk to authors with a journalism background, you’ll find few of us believe in it. When working for a newspaper, you can’t clock in and say to your editor, “Oh, it’s just not coming to me today.” That would pink-slip a writer in a heartbeat.
Morgen: Ah yes, I’ve heard of the pink slip. I’d say that our equivalent here in the UK would be a P45. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sunny: I plot internally, but Karma pulls in extra twists that I didn’t originally come up with. That’s why I resist outlining. I look for those unexpected additions because it keeps the novel a surprise for me as well.
Morgen: And it needs to be doesn’t it really? If you’re bored the reader will certainly be. How do you create your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Sunny: Many of my characters and plots are based on real cases and detectives I worked with. Some are a composite of friends. I love to come up with names, it has to sound just right—not too outlandish and yet not forgettable. My favorites are Lloyd Parr, Leonida Watkins, Trace Malin, Trina Garcia, Maxie Morales and Fremont Hobbs.
Morgen: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Sunny: My editor, Ann Scott. Then it goes to my publisher, Billie Johnson.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sunny: I don’t need much editing.
Morgen: Because you’ve honed your craft… and had the training. It certainly makes a difference. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Sunny: I make a list of the five senses and then fill in words based on the scene I’m going to write. A Diet Dr Pepper is usually required to get the juices flowing.
Morgen: That’s a great idea… the five senses (not such a fan of Dr Pepper, diet or otherwise – it’s a bit like Marmite for me, I have to be in the mood). Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Sunny: I write straight on the computer. I had to learn to do that when we wrote news stories on electric typewriters. It was good practice.
Morgen: I learned on an electric typewriter at secretarial college (or a manual in exams with carbon paper!). What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Sunny: I like a totally quiet house. I live alone and the cats are very quiet.
Morgen: It’s funny the last few answers (in the order I’ve been getting them anyway) have gone for quiet over classical and certainly anything with lyrics. I’m a classics girl. Definitely no words to get in the way of mine. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Sunny: I write novels in third but many short stories in first. Second person annoys me.
Morgen: It can do that. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Sunny: I do use a prologue and they don’t bother me. I know they’re out of favor these days. Never did an epilogue. That’s what the next book is for.
Morgen: Ah ha, a series. Good plan. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sunny: All of my work has been published except the children’s book.
Morgen: Yet. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Sunny: I love going to conferences and speaking about publishing. I love taking pitch sessions. I think re-reading my own work is my least favorite thing to do. I already know the ending.
Morgen: Public speaking… eek! I’m getting better but standing up and reading out my work has always been a bit scary. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Sunny: I love it when my characters take control and I’m always curious as to what they will say and do next.
Morgen: Isn’t that great! What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sunny: It’s tenacity over talent. Learn the craft. Call it art if you want, but treat it like a business.
Morgen: Absolutely. A lot of ‘famous’ authors do that; work 9-5 and that’s it. It makes sense if you can switch your brain on and off like that. I can’t; it’s on 24/7. What do you like to read?
Sunny: My guilty pleasure is historical fiction. I’m reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett at the moment.
Morgen: It’s very popular (and sought after by the agents I’ve spoken to recently) and my German friend is a big fan of Ken Follett (in English!). Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Sunny: the one book I recommend for all writers is Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print. The websites I enjoy are Anne Allen’s blog Writing About Writing. Mostly. http://annerallen.blogpsot.com; Robert Lee Brewer’s My Name Is Not Bob http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com; and Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books http://www.cncbooks.com/blog.
Morgen: Brilliant, thank you. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Sunny: I’m in the USA and promotion is easy here.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Sunny: I’m on 35 networking sites and they have certainly got my name out there.
Morgen: Wow… that puts my four (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BranchOut to shame ). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Sunny: I haven’t updated in awhile but I’m at http://www.sunnyfrazier.com.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Sunny: The future has never looked so promising. Writers are not at the mercy of agents or Big Publishing. POD technology and electronic reading devices make it possible to produce books quickly and writers can produce them themselves, cutting out the middleman. For once, the book business is determined by the author’s own drive and initiative.
Morgen: Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Sunny: Only that Oak Tree Press is putting out three books a month in trade, Kindle and e-book versions. We’re looking for mysteries, romances, Westerns and paranormal (NOT vampire or werewolves) novels. I am also actively looking for plots with strong Hispanic characters. I believe that is the next big market.
Morgen: Brilliant, thank you Sunny. Finally, do you have a piece of your writing that you could include here?
WHERE ANGELS FEAR
The sharp click, click, click of her red spiked heels annoyed her, but not enough to slip them off. She paced the ten-foot-square room, careful to step over the loose floor board each time. Think, think, think her mind sang in accompaniment with her shoes. She wandered down a maze of possibilities, each time running into a dead end. There was no other solution. She picked up the cell phone hit speed dial.
“Wass up?” he answered, his usual greeting slurred by sleep.
“I need you.”
“Baby, it’s 2 a.m. Nobody needs nothing bad enough at this time of night.”
“Cut the crap. I have another situation on my hands.”
All sleepiness evaporated from his voice. “No, girl, you promised. You said it was an accident before and you’d be more careful.”
“Stan, I don’t need a lecture. I need a body bag. Get over here.” She hit the off button and snapped the phone shut.
Morgen: I love that. A strong woman in fiction. Actually, I saw Captain America at the weekend, which I really enjoyed and one of the best things was having a feisty lead female character.
Sunny Frazier worked with an undercover narcotics team in Fresno County for 17 years before turning her energies to writing the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries: FOOLS RUSH IN and WHERE ANGELS FEAR.
Based in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the novels are inspired by real cases and 40 years of casting horoscopes.
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