Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery writer and publisher Patricia Rockwell, who I interviewed back in July, talking about her publishing. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, again Patricia. For those who haven’t read our earlier interview (or need a refresh) please tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Patricia: Actually, Morgen, I’m a life-long educator. I spent many years teaching in high school and college. My husband was in the Air Force and so we were stationed in many different locations. The last thirteen years of my career occurred at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, after acquiring my Ph.D. in Communication rather late in life. While I was there, I truly enjoyed both teaching and research. My studies focused on deception, sarcasm, and vocal cues. It was there that I learned all about academic publishing and honed my writing skills–albeit a much different type of writing from what I do today. Academic writing is very cut-throat. Not only does the editor read the manuscript, but two other critics do also (and they’re often your academic rivals). This is called peer review. It’s really hard to get something published in an academic journal–and even if you do, there’s no pay. Just prestige. I remember thinking many times while I was working on various research articles, that it might be fun someday to incorporate some of my findings into a mystery. I’d always loved reading mysteries–particularly cozy–or gentle–mysteries, and it was in the back of my head that when I retired I might try my hand at writing fiction. I knew I could write non-fiction because during the thirteen years I spent as an academic researcher, I had many articles and a few books published. I even spent eight of those years editing a regional journal. Now that I’m retired, I’ve found that I not only can write fiction, I love writing fiction.
Morgen: Oh so do I. The only non-fiction I write is on writing. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Patricia: I generally (always) write cozy mysteries. When I wrote my first mystery I didn’t realize it was a cozy mystery because I didn’t know there was such a thing as a cozy mystery. However, after submitting it to one publisher, I quickly was informed that that indeed was what it was, and so I went out and found out all I could about this intriguing little genre that I had obviously been attracted to all my life–but just didn’t know about it. For those uninitiated, a cozy mystery is one in which there is little if any violence, rough language, or explicit sex. The emphasis in a cozy is on characters–usually eccentric characters. In a cozy, the main character is an amateur sleuth–often female. As far as considering other genres, I really am so happy writing cozies that I can’t imagine writing in another genre. I do read other genres sometimes–such as thrillers, science fiction, etc. However, I have no desire to write in these.
Morgen: Miss Marple would be a perfect example then, or Jessica Fletcher. Have you self-published anything? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Patricia: I guess you can say I’m self-published in that I formed my own company–Cozy Cat Press–and I do publish my own books. However, I’m more than that because my company also publishes the books of seven other authors. So, really I’m an author and publisher. I enjoy both roles immensely. Why did I go this route? I guess because the traditional route seemed so excruciatingly slow to me. I did submit my first book to a traditional publisher. It languished on some editor’s desk for six months. Then I got a letter asking me to make some revisions, which I did. Then it languished some more months while the editor thought about my revisions. Then, eventually after over a year, they rejected it. I’m retired and don’t have time to wait that long. But I do have time. Lots of time on my hands to do things, but waiting isn’t one of them. I figured if I was going to have to submit this book to another publisher and go through the same routine for another entire year, I’d just be another year older with nothing to show for my efforts. I decided that I would form my own company and publish my books and the books of others who might find themselves in the same boat–and I did just that. I make it a point of honor to treat all submissions fairly–and promptly.
Morgen: That’s really harsh; to wait a year and then get a rejection. No wonder so many authors are going it alone, or doing what you do and set up a publishing business (as I’ve heard some agents have done). What are you working on at the moment?
Patricia: I’m presently putting the finishing touches on my eighth book, and fifth in my Pamela Barnes acoustic mystery series. It’s called MURDER IN THE ROUND. In this story, my amateur sleuth, Psychologist and acoustics expert, Pamela Barnes, attends a local theater production featuring one of her friends as one of the stars. She makes an audio recording for another friend who is unable to be there. During the show, one of the actresses collapses on stage and dies. It soon is determined that the young woman was poisoned and Pamela’s audio recording becomes an important clue. I’ve been having lots of fun writing this particular book because I used to do a lot of acting in community theater productions so I not only have the academic background in acoustics but also experience in the theater part as well.
Morgen: You’ll probably enjoy Lesley Cookman’s books. I interviewed her for my podcast last year (audio episode available here). Do you have to do much research?
Patricia: That’s a question I get a lot, Morgen. Most of the information about acoustics I know and, truthfully, work hard to simplify to make it palatable for readers. However, sometimes there are aspects of a story that go beyond my experience and expertise. For example, in my second Pamela Barnes book FM FOR MURDER, which is now out as an audiobook, the victim is shot and the acoustic analysis involves ballistics. I know nothing about guns and bullets and anything related to them. So, yes, here I did do a great deal of research, because the gunshot and the sound it makes become extremely important in this book.
Morgen: There’s a fine line, isn’t there between an author not giving enough detail as to leave the reader with questions (or worse still, pull them out of the story) or showing off that they know so much that they bombard the reader with too much information, and then of course run the risk that they get it wrong and find a reader who knows more than they do. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Patricia: Oh, my! If a writer can’t handle rejection, I advise that they find a different line of work. I learned when I started to do academic research that I’d probably have my articles rejected more often than accepted. Once you accept this basic fact, you just get on with writing. I guess all those rejections of my various academic articles just gave me a very thick skin and I’ve learned to let negative comments flow off my back. Of course, as I’m a publisher now too, most rejections nowadays come in the form of reviews. There are reviewers a plenty. In fact, anyone who reads a book on Amazon can–and often does–review it. There’s something very good about this, but also sometimes not so good. It’s very egalitarian, but can sometimes hurt a good book unnecessarily, if it gets blasted by someone who just doesn’t like it. What’s wonderful to Aunt Sue may be completely boring to cousin Jim.
Morgen: “There are reviewers a plenty.” Ooh, great, feel free to send them in my direction for my Reviews page. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Patricia: I have a personal author website: www.patriciarockwellauthor.com and an author Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PatriciaRockwellAuthor. Also, you can check out www.cozycatpress.com which is my company’s website.
Morgen: Lovely. Thank you, Patricia.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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