Welcome to the five hundred and thirtieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with murder mystery, historical, horror and how-to author Prudy Taylor Board. 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, Prudy. Let’s jump in and ask you what genre you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Prudy: I’ve had 2 mystery novels and 3 horror novels published in addition to 17 or 18 regional histories and 1 how-to (101 Tips On Writing and Selling Your First Novel). I don’t “consider”—if a genre intrigues me, I try it! So far, I’ve written 5 novels and they’ve all been published.
Morgen: That’s a great track record and I’m the same, although most of my stories are quite dark and have a ‘body’ in them somewhere. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Prudy: I write the murder mysteries, the histories and the how-to under Prudy Taylor Board. I write the horror novels under Prudence Foster, my maiden name. I do that because I believe a mystery reader might not like horror novels and might feel cheated if he or she bought a book with my byline and it isn’t a mystery.
Morgen: Have you ever self-published?
Prudy: No, I’ve never self published. However, having said that, I have received the rights back to my vampire novel, Blood Legacy, that Pocketbooks published some years ago and I’m going to update it and self publish it as an ebook.
Morgen: Kathryn Meyer-Griffith did a guest post for me recently on revising her 30-year-old novel, that was horror too. Are your books available as eBooks?
Prudy: My books are available both as paper and ebooks.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Prudy: I’d have to say my favorite is A Grave Injustice. It’s the story of a GI ghost who’s murdered while in training to become an aerial gunnery at Buckingham Gunnery Training School in Fort Myers, Florida. He pesters a woman police reporter with the local paper until she investigates his death which was labelled a suicide (allegedly because he was a saboteur trying to steal the operating manual for the Norden bombsight), and despite finding herself in great jeopardy finds and uncovers the murderer, and clears the G.I.’s name.
Morgen: Wow, that sounds intriguing. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Prudy: My first one which I titled Rendezvous With Evil was changed to The Vow by the publisher, Leisure Books. They also said no one would buy a horror novel from Prudence Foster so they changed my name to P. T. Foster. None of the other publishers has changed either my titles or my name.
Morgen: That’s what they said about a book about a boy wizard. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Prudy: I am currently working on The Deadly Cleaver, which is the second in my Recipes For Murder series.
Morgen: I know series are so popular. We just grow to like the characters in a standalone and they’re off. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Prudy: No, alas, I can’t. I have a full-time job as a project editor with a publisher of science, math, and technical books. I’m president of a writer’s organization, Writers Network of South Florida, and I host 2 critique groups—the Mensa Scribes (I’m on the board of the Palm Beach Mensa Area). And I had never suffered from writer’s block until very, very recently. I signed a contract to write the history of a very, very wealthy and exclusive development in south Florida. The problem was that the two people who contracted really wanted a ghost writer or a secretary-I’m not sure which. They didn’t want a real writer, even though I’d have 20+ books published. Between the two of them, they so second judged everything I wrote, changed everything without justification, that I walked out on the contract—something I have never, ever done! That sort of experience makes you doubt yourself to a very destructive degree. But I learned a lot.
Morgen: That sounds awful, but as you say, a learning curve. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Prudy: Absolutely believe in plotting and outlining. If you do that, you have an opportunity to make the best choices. If you have a character standing on the bank of a wild, rushing river, you can decide whether your character being true to himself as you’ve developed him is going to jump in and commit suicide, rush back to town to report the possibility of a flood, accidentally fall in and either strive bravely against all odds and save himself, or be rescued by a person he thought was an enemy. My late husband, the children’s father, was a U. S. Marine. His favourite slogan was, “Prior Planning Prevents ___-Poor Performance.” I omitted his adjective, but it began with a p so I’m sure your readers can fill in the blank.
Morgen: I’m sure we can. I love that about fiction, especially as most of my stories have ‘bodies’ in them. I say it’s the only way I can kill off someone legally (not that I’d want to illegally, of course!). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Prudy: I have created a job application (I used it in 101 Tips) which I complete for each main character. It’s not the standard form, it goes into great detail into that character’s background—family structure, place s/he grew up, but also psychology, how does the character—physically, emotionally, viscerally—express the major emotions, pets, nicknames, school experiences—the traumas and experiences that have shaped the character. In addition, I do a complete breakdown of that character’s contemporary life. I’ll take a week and do an hour-by-hour breakdown so I know his or her habits. That way when the character enters a scene I know what’s really on her mind, or what he’s worried about. I studied acting for a while and I learned that when a character walks on stage, she comes from somewhere—even if it’s only another room. But what room? What was going on there? What did he or she bring into the moment? These tools help me understand and create believable characters.
Morgen: Wow, that’s attention to detail, and probably makes your first draft all the stronger for it. I have a sheet that we sometimes use in our Monday night writing workshops but only has a few details (name, nickname, nationality, age, job, hair colour, height, weight, favourite music, favourite food, regular saying, relationship, children, siblings, religion, aspirations, quirks). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Prudy: I do my editing as I write. When I finish a chapter or a scene, it’s as good as I can make it. And my books seldom require much editing by the publishers. This is mainly because I know who I am as a writer and as a person. I know I don’t like to go over and over the same material. I get bored. I want to get this book written and move on to the next.
Morgen: With 20+ books you’ve had lots of practice. Do you have to do much research?
Prudy: I didn’t in the beginning because I wrote about the places I knew well. This new book takes place in Nassau and does require a lot of research. I’ve been to Nassau a number of times and have been fortunate to be able to interview cops on the best, a homicide detective, visit the morgue, the courthouse. Plus I’ve been to a number of restaurants and attractions and spoken to the owners or managers.
Morgen: The fun side of research. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Prudy: I tried second person and found it too limiting and also not believable. I like first person sometimes—certainly readers can identify more easily with I than he or she. However, there are also times when multiple points of view enables you to tell the story more efficiently. For those books, I tend to stick to third person although some writers can successfully switch from first person to third within the same book. From what I can tell, they do this by using first person for the main character and third for all the others.
Morgen: Second person is my favourite pov but I’d not recommend it for longer than a few thousand words (a few hundred even). It can be wearing on the writer and reader. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Prudy: I’ve sold a few poems and short stories, a lot of nonfiction. Again, knowing myself as a writer, the hardest part for me is sitting down to get started. Once started, I’m in my own happy world. Short stories don’t sell particularly well and it’s as hard for me to start a short story as it is a novel. With a novel, I have more to show for my angst.
Morgen: You do, although I’ve found in my earlier novels (as if I’ve written that many; four and a bit to-date, plus one for NaNoWriMo this year) that I waffled because I had the room but soon realised when I was starting to waffle so reign myself in now. Every word still has to count. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Prudy: Yes, my very first novel, written when I was 22 and knew everything about men and women and the world. When my then-agent wanted to get me out of my contract with my first ever publisher who had rights to consider the second, we sent them my first novel and got it back almost by return mail! I hope it NEVER sees the light of day.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Prudy: My first novel was rejected 30+ times. None since then. My second husband taught me a very valuable lesson about rejection. As I returned from the mailbox on the verge of tears, he said to me (he came from a background in retail sales), “Prudence, when you go into a dress shop and try on 10 or 15 or 20 dresses and walk out without buying any of them, the clerk has not failed. The dress designer, the dress manufacturer, the advertising agency—they did not fail! They simply did not have what you wanted. It’s the same thing with a rejection. You and your book did not fail. Your book simply wasn’t what the publisher wanted. From this lesson, I also learned another valuable one: Do your market research. Know not only what you’re selling, but who’s buying it—agent or editor.
Morgen: What a wise man. And it’s true it’s just the right thing for the wrong person. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Prudy: Mostly I’ve sold the books myself and then gotten the agent. I do think an agent can make a writer’s career—unless the author’s like James Patterson who’s an advertising and marketing genius.
Morgen: Because he writes (or rather his co-author writes) so many books. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Prudy: I do the most I can, given my full-time job. I do give quite a few talks where I can sell my books.
And I have recently launched a blog —
Morgen: Blogging’s great (but then I’m a little biased on that score). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Prudy: I am disappointed by the fact that talent is seldom enough, that luck plays an inordinately large role in any writer’s success.
Morgen: Sadly true, yes, but if you keep going… What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Prudy: Learn your craft. Get involved in a critique group—but make sure at least one member is a working / selling writer and that you will get honest criticism. Accept the fact that you’ve got to be tough because you’ll have to deal not only with rejections, but also with honest (yet constructive) criticism, and hurtful comments from both readers and reviewers.
Morgen: Yes, some people can be cruel. It’s like just because it’s on a screen it’s not going to sting. Constructive is far better. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Prudy: First, I’d make reservations at a favourite restaurant. I would like these people too well to cook for them! I’d invite E. L. Doctorow, Charles Dickens, and Abraham Lincoln.
Morgen: I’d probably do the same, go somewhere like a buffet so there’s plenty of choice. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Prudy: I think it’s my own: It’s not enough to DO your best, you must BE the best.
Morgen: Winston S. Churchill – “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.” But I like yours. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Prudy: NO, although I love to party.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Prudy: Just got a new one that I’m over the moon about. James W. Hall’s Hit Lit: Breaking the Code of Twentieth Century Best Sellers.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Prudy: The published authors network section of LinkedIn is about the only one. I have very little free time.
Morgen: That’s probably how we met. I put a shout-out for interviewees in February because I was running low and thanks, primarily, to the PAN group I’m now booking nine months ahead, which really is too far so I’ve deleted the shout-out but will know what to do when I start running low again. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Prudy: The same as it’s always been. The prizes go to the good, the determined, and the persistent. As for the publishing industry, I think it’s too early to say. And while, hundreds of thousands are self-publishing online, I think the good books will succeed and the chaff will be left by the wayside.
Morgen: It’s certainly an interesting time. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Prudy: At my blog
. That’s about the only place at the moment. I’m in the process of rebuilding a website.
Morgen: Thank you, Prudy.
I then invited Prudy to include an extract of her writing and this is from ‘Devil eyes’ – Chapter One…
Isla de las Martyres off Florida in the Gulf of Mexico
Hap Forrester reached out to help, but it was futile. Quicker than the flutter of a hummingbird’s wing, Marisa fell. One second she was perched confidently on the sturdy pine ladder hanging the moss green draperies in the Tarpon Inn’s dining room. The next second the ladder tilted and the interior designer was clutching empty air.
Marisa cried out as she struck the corner of a table and slid to the floor as the ladder fell on top of her. The sound broke Hap’s spell. He knelt beside her. From the leg’s contorted position, he could tell it was broken.
Hap lifted the ladder and yelled to the black man standing just inside the door, “Marns, bring a pillow and a blanket and tell Alejandro to call Dr. Morse.”
Within minutes Marns returned, followed by Anne Hunt, the woman who ran the boutique off the lobby.
“Got the doctor comin’,” Marns said, handing him a pillow and a blanket. Anne sat on the floor next to him and brushed the hair back from Marisa’s forehead. “I was in the lobby.”
Marisa tried to shove the blanket away, but Hap shoved her protesting hands away. “Just a precaution. We don’t want you going into shock.”
“Marisa,” Anne said in a calm voice, “don’t move. You don’t want to make this worse.” Anne was wearing a décolleté black chiffon cocktail dress. He tried unsuccessfully to draw his eyes from the tanned breasts barely contained by the ruffled vee of the neckline.
The draperies Marisa had been hanging drooped, reminding Hap of a shroud. And the rain banging against the windows sounded like a funeral dirge. Florida’s high season didn’t begin until late October or even November, so he’d scheduled a soft opening as a dress rehearsal for the Tarpon Inn’s formal reopening. The rain wasn’t helping. Anxiety slammed Hap’s gut. This hotel had to make it or he was washed up.
Marisa groaned with pain as she tried to shift her weight. Anne took her hand. “Marisa,” she instructed, “when it hurts, squeeze my hand. And hang in there, Doc’ll be here any second.”
Dragging a ring of keys out of his pocket, he said, “Marns, get a bottle of brandy out of the liquor locker in the bar and some glasses.”
“Glad you’re here,” he said to Anne. In contrast to the reassuring smiles she gave Marisa, she looked at him her lips compressed and her eyes narrowed. If Marisa weren’t lying there, she would tell him what an SOB he was for forcing her to move her boutique to the Inn.
a synopsis of the same book…
On an elegant resort on a remote tropical island off Florida’s Gulf coast, the lives of the people who work there are jeopardized by the spirit of a deranged French au pair and a Seminole curse… brought into focus through the eyes of a child and an antique toy — a stereopticon.
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