Black & White & Dead All Over by Anna Castle – Interview

Anna CastleHello everyone! So today marks a special day because it is my SECOND author interview with the first one being with L.R.W Lee on the old Weebly website and it is with the wonderful Anna Castle. Now, exactly one week ago, I reviewed Anna’s book Black & White & Dead All Over and boy was it good. Today is my interview with Anna. I hope you enjoy!

1) To start off with our first question, tell us a little about yourself. How old were you when you realized when you wanted to write?

Hm, probably about twenty.

2) How did you come up with the idea behind Black & White & Dead All Over?

I wrote the second book in the Lost Hat series first, a more common occurrence than you might imagine! At the time, I was still following the traditional route, so I wanted to start book 2 while querying agents — a very slow process. I got some requests for the full manuscript, but no offers, and then I realized that book 2 would make a better book 1, so I stopped querying. But it makes sense. It’s a blackmail story, a great way to meet the townsfolk, and so a better introduction to Lost Hat for both Penny and my readers. And me :-).

3) What was first running through your mind right after you thought of the idea?

I’m a plotter, so once I have an idea like “hey, blackmail!” I start mapping out the story arcs. Mysteries, like all genre fiction, have a structure. I like that because it helps me discover my story. Actually no, the first thing I realized was that Penny would have to be among the blackmail victims. It took me a while to think of a secret she could have that would be worth paying a little blackmail to protect, but not be bad enough for readers to not like her.  Bad, but not baaaaad.

4) How many books do you think the series will have?

This series comes to me in titles, for some reason. Punny stuff, Texas Hill Country stuff. Gotta have a story that involves goats, for example, just because goats are trouble-makers and intrinsically funny and there’s lots of them out there. At this moment, I’ve got ideas (sketchy ones) for the next four or five books. That will take me 4-5 years to produce because I also have another series that I love just as much. By the time I get to book 5, I’ll have 5 more waiting to be written. But I’ll write them because I really miss these characters when I’m not writing about them, which sounds so silly.

5) So the main character in the story, Penelope Trigg, loves photography, something I deeply connected with. I was wondering if you love(d) photography and are there any characters that share a love with you? If so, what characters and a love of what?

My father was a great photographer. During my last year managing a digital archive (working in a room full of computer equipment) I digitized hundreds of his color slides, going all the way back to the 40’s. Mountains, flowers, beaches, cityscapes… I love them. I’ll be sharing some on my blog as time goes by. I’m not that great at it, although modern cameras are a big help. I love to look at beautiful photographs, though, and really admire the art form. Also, photographers notice things, details, and have strong visual memories. Those are good qualities for an amateur sleuth.

Penny is definitely the character I most identify with, although she’s pure fiction; not autobiography. That would be very dull reading indeed.

6) What is your favorite thing about writing and what is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is making up the story: plotting. It’s all so fresh and wonderful when it’s new and the ideas just come pouring out. My least favorite thing is spelling out the details way down in the middle of the book, weeks into the project, when nothing makes sense anymore and my brain feels like it’s been replaced by big wads of that itchy pink insulation. Luckily, you get past it. Somehow hitch up your britches and slog to the end of that dismal first draft. Then you get to start editing and it’s all OK again. Phew!

7) Which writer(s) of your genre do you admire most?

Lately, I’m enjoying writers of madcap mysteries like Denise Grover Swank and Jana Deleon. I like heroines who get out there and go for it, and let the chips fall where they may! I really enjoy those roller-coaster plots and the warm friendships they have.

8) When do you usually write?

Writing is my full-time job now, thanks to the glories of retirement. I can only do first draft work in the morning when I’m fresh, but I can keep editing well into the afternoon.

9) What drew you to this genre of writing?

Good advice from someone whose name I’ve forgotten, at a Romance Writers of America conference a decade ago: Write what you read. He said, “Go home and look at your bookshelves,” and lo! Mine was full of mysteries, mostly on the lighter side. I love plotting, trying to hide clues and pump up the red herrings. Everybody has a secret and I get to know all of them.

10) And for the final question, is there any advice you have for aspiring writers?

Give yourself time to learn your craft and enjoy writing, without stressing out about how you’re going to get published. Write a couple of books to please yourself, anything you like,. Don’t think about marketability, but do get all the way to the end (minimum 60,000 words.) Trust me, that’s hard enough without thrashing yourself about agents or indie incomes or trends in modern fiction or whatever.

Get into some writers’ groups, in person and online. They’re out there. Take classes, read craft books — lots of them. Learn how to build a story. Finish that grueling first draft, which is guaranteed to be horrible because they all are, and then revise it at least three times, learning more each time. Get readers into the game at some point, like a critique group, and consider what they say with an open mind.

Then see how you liked all that pain and glory and start another book. Or take up photography!

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