Yes, although I’ll admit to some genre confusion. In my naivety, I thought if a story ended happily with a man and a woman together on the last page (a kiss was nice, but not required) then it was a romance. Obviously, that meant that a lot of stories that were really not romances were—in my mind.
I learned my mistake and settled into mystery. I’ve always loved mysteries of every flavor and it’s what I like to write, regardless of the trappings (paranormal, romances, contemporary, historical, etc.)
Do you read your sub-genre consistently or do you prefer another?
The main genre I read is mystery, but I also read the classic Regency romances, paranormal, suspense, crime, a few thrillers, horror, and science fiction. I don’t really know how to classify P.G. Wodehouse or Saki (H. H. Munro) but I read them, too, particularly when I’m feeling down and just need a break.
If you weren’t writing, what would your fantasy occupation be?
My day job is in the computer field as an enterprise admin, and I’ve been fortunate to finally attain my fantasy position. Although if we’re talking what I might like to be, I’d have to include: vet, archaeologist, ornithologist, or bum. When I was a kid, I often fantasized about just packing a bunch of stuff into a wheel barrow and escaping to live in the woods on my own. Of course, I soon realized that it might not be the best plan and would probably be pretty uncomfortable when a bear decided he needed my fish more than I did, but…it was a fantasy.
Do you live near, or have you ever visited, the locations you use as settings in your works?
Absolutely. Of course it was thirty years ago, but still…. A lot of my stories are set in London or in various make-believe locations in its vicinity. I took a trip to England in the late 70’s and even attended university at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. That year, I took many, many trips around Scotland and England (as well as other locations). It was a fabulous time, and I loved it. All of my Regency mysteries like The Vital Principle and The Necklace are loosely based upon places I saw or visited, although they are heavily fictionalized.
For my paranormal romance, Vampire Protector, I actually set it in an area in Virginia where I used to go birding quite a bit. Of course, the town itself is completely fictional, but it’s based upon an area I know very well.
If you don’t live near or you haven’t visited your setting locations, how did you research them?
For locations I haven’t recently visited, I use Google Earth to zoom in and see what the streets and countryside really look like. It’s an amazing tool. In addition, I have a large map of London and its environs from the Regency period that I reference when my characters like those in A Rose Before Dying have to navigate the streets of London.
Where do you see brick and mortar book stores in five years?
Unfortunately, I think brick-and-mortar stores are in a bit of a bind. There will inevitably be more consolidation. Some independent stores may do well, at least for a while, but we’re seeing a wholesale move to e-books now and it’s changing the landscape dramatically.
It won’t mean the end (at least for a while) of physical books. After all, you can still buy a CD album, but you don’t see a lot of record stores anymore. You do see combined stores though, cafés with a CD section, for example. Those types of hybrids may crop up. Certainly, discount stores and chains like Target and Walmart will carry at least some books for the foreseeable future.
I’m not completely in agreement with Konrath regarding the death of traditional bookstores, publishers and agents. Most of the time, you don’t see things completely disappear. What tends to occur is a gradual morphing into something that perhaps none of us are accurately predicting.
Do you put any stock in reviews or is reader feedback more important to you and why?
I don’t think you can separate reviews from reader feedback. Often, they are one-in-the-same. That said, I pay attention to both. When someone reads your book, whether from the perspective of reader or reviewer, she will develop valid opinions. If someone has a problem with your book, it’s a real issue, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. In some cases, I may have made a mistake (after all, I’m only human, as are all my editors, and we miss things) or I simply misunderstood something I researched. It may be that for whatever reason, my writing didn’t appeal to the reader, or my characters didn’t grab her.
Perhaps the plot or theme didn’t resonate.
Whatever the criticism, it is valid and if you approach these things with an open mind, you can often learn something about what works, what doesn’t, and what you may have completely missed.
Criticism is an opportunity. I always approach it that way, immediately after I weep, gnash my teeth, and stumble back into the house after a three-day bender.
Where do you write? Home office, local Starbucks?
Everywhere. Mostly at home, but when I have to travel for my day job, I write wherever and whenever I get the opportunity. I have an amazing ability to tune out everything around me. In fact, it’s so good that I have to be careful not to miss my plane when I’m concentrating.
Do you have mood music you write to? What are your top five picks?
Actually, no (see above). It doesn’t do me any good. I completely block out all noise around me and become as good as deaf when I’m working.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have other obligations? If you have another career, what do you do?
Computer specialist. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Other than Mike Rowe, of course.
You’ve just found a magic lamp, the genie popped out and granted you three wishes…what are they?
That’s a really good question. I’ve always wanted to be smarter, but I suspect it might not really make my life that much easier. I’d probably just get more frustrated when folks don’t understand what I’m rambling on about at work.
I’ve never wanted to be rich, because then you have a full time job managing your money. I would like to have enough, however, not to have to worry about it all the time. But I’m not sure I’d waste a wish on that.
I guess the problem for me is that I’m really quite content with where I am in life. I have a great husband, a tumble-down log home that is in desperate need of repair, 2 dogs and 2 cats. It’s a pretty good life, all things considered. We need things, like a new kitchen (the oven doesn’t work all the time and the floor is rotting through) and we’d love to add on to our 20 acres to preserve the swamp behind the house…. Things like that. But would you really want to waste a wish on that? It’s such small potatoes.
And I wish my parents could have lived long enough to see my first hard cover mystery, Whacked!, come out this year. But then, those types of wishes always result in unintended consequences like poor quality of life, etc. I’m always reminded of the horror that evolved from a wish like that in the short story, The Monkey’s Paw.
While it would be attractive to wish for things like world peace and an end to hunger, those types of wishes have even larger unintended consequences. Sort of like everyone becoming brain-dead and useless like the Eloi from H.G. Wells’ novel, The Time Machine. You can’t have light without dark. It is our struggle to survive and competition that leads to invention and forces us to excel. If we have nothing to struggle for, nothing just out of our reach, then there is no reason to try. Adversity may be unpleasant but it creates excellence.
I would love to be a NY Times Bestseller, though. That would be sweet, although I suspect there are downsides to that, as well. Fame isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, stalkers being what they are these days.
You know, I think I’d wish to give my wishes to someone who needs them more. J
If you won the lottery but the stipulation was you had to give away half the winnings, what would you do with that half?
I’m torn. Half of me would use my half to set aside more wildlife habitat. Especially in areas where they’ve been installing bird blenders (windmills). They have such a devastating impact on raptors. Raptors have a low reproductive rate as it is and frankly, I don’t see how they (or many other species) are going to survive our efforts to “go green. Sorry—I obviously could go on and on.
My other possibility would be to endow a practical skills-based school for the underprivileged. A school that would teach real-life skills like business writing (or any kind of writing, period), balancing a check book/bank account, developing a budget, basic problem solving skills (you’d be amazed at how few people can actually define a problem well enough to allow them to resolve it), job interview skills, real-world math (how to figure out how much carpeting you need to redo your living room, how to make change, etc), and so on. I’d like to help kids get the information they need to improve their lives, get a job, and feel like they have more control over their destiny.
Do you believe that we as writers have certain moral obligations to our readers? How do you fulfill them?
I’m not sure “moral obligation” is applicable to fiction. Because it’s all just made up. It’s not immoral to write a bad story, it’s just sad.
I do think, however, it would be nice for us to let our readers know what kind of content to expect so they don’t buy books with expectations about content and get disappointed. If a reader wants the bedroom door closed, then it’s nice for her to be able to identify books that will meet this expectation. The same is true for any other kind of content, be it violence, expletives, etc.
Do you have children and what do they think about your career?
Only children of the furry, four-legged variety. As far as I know, they have no opinion of my work. Although they do hate it when I’m actually working.
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years. She writes romance, historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.
Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.
A Rose Before Dying
A murderer is stalking the streets of London and the evidence points to Sir Edward, the uncle of Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor. The first victim is none other than Sir Edward’s mistress who threw him over for a younger man, giving him a clear motive to kill her. However, Charles is convinced Sir Edward is innocent and enlists the aide of Mr. Knighton Gaunt of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency. When more clues surface, including roses hinting at another victim, Charles steps in and takes control. He can’t let his uncle hang for murders he didn’t commit, despite his uncle’s foul temper and abundant motivation.
Charles teams up with noted rosarian Ariadne Wellfleet to decipher the clues and prove Sir Edward’s innocence and stop the murderer before he can strike again.
In this excerpt from A Rose Before Dying, Charles Vance, Lord Castlemoor, has brought a rose to the Wellfleets, hoping someone can identify it. The rose is the only clue he has to identify the next victim of a vicious killer bent on framing Charles’ uncle.
He pulled out the small bundle containing the rose. He knew it was useless, her father, the rose expert, was dead. But he couldn’t stop a small spurt of hope. “I’d like to identify this rose. Do you recognize it?”
“I supposed you’re only asking me as a last resort. Because my father is no longer with us.” She held out a peremptory hand. “Let me see it.”
Her face was a smooth, expressionless mask. However, he detected traces of tired resignation at the implication that she could not be expected to have the depth of knowledge exhibited by a man.
When he placed the limp spray in her palm, she held it up to her nose and breathed in several times with closed eyes, cupping the flowers in her hands. Then she gave it a cursory examination before pulling the petals off of one flower.
“Stop!” He reached over to wrench it out of her hand. She turned her shoulder, blocking him. “What are you doing?”
“Counting the petals. Why?”
“You’re destroying it! How shall I identify it if you ruin it?”
She held it out. “Take it. Plant it, or allow me to root it. Or graft it. If it grows, you can ask your friend, Mr. Lee, to identify it in two or three years from the shape of the bush and bloom habit. Most men who grow roses agree that it takes at least one cycle of blooming to identify a rose with any assurance.”
“Yes—if you want to be sure. And isn’t that why you wish to identify it? So you can purchase a specimen for your own garden?”
He gazed into her coolly discerning eyes and realized she was aware that he was not being open with her. But given Mr. Lee’s reaction, he could not bring himself to tell the complete truth. The rose wouldn’t last long enough to find another master gardener, assuming he could even locate one in London. “It’s…a wager. Silly, I know, but one of my friends said I couldn’t identify this rose.” The tips of his ears burned.
“I see.” Her eyes grew colder. “This is all a wager?” She glanced at Rose.
“No, of course not. Not Rose—she’s not part of it.”
Miss Wellfleet’s fingers pushed the petals into a line on the table and hovered over them. Thirteen petals, thin and wilting, spread in a tattered line. The slender spray was dying. The small, tight buds had already blackened and hung limply. His chest tightened with frustration.
Then with a theatrical gesture that suggested more defiance than scientific inquiry, she ripped apart the remaining flowers. She arranged the petals in three parallel lines, one for each flower. The roses didn’t all have the same number of petals. The first had thirteen petals. The next had eleven. The final rose had seventeen.
After examining what remained of the stalk, the yellow stamens, and leaves, she looked at him.
Although she didn’t precisely shrug, there was a quality in her expression that spoke of disdain when she said, “Rosa Collina fastigiata.”
“That’s it?” His tired disappointment reminded him of the lateness of the hour. Useless. He needn’t have come here at all. Lee had it right the first time.
“Well, yes. What were you expecting?”
“Something…more. A name….”
“That is a name.” Irritation sharpened her voice. “Or Flat-Flowered Hill Rose, if you prefer an English one.”
Her eyes hardened. “As sure as I can be from this small spray.” She flung the petals and twig onto the table. “No one can be absolutely sure without seeing the bush and knowing the growth habit and bloom cycles. Have you any idea how many roses there are?”
“That’s why your friend made a clever wager—if wager it was.”
“No. Truly, I apologize. I sincerely appreciate the name.”
“It’s late. You have your name. I hope you win your wager.”
With a coolness he deserved but saddened him nonetheless, she gestured for him to leave. The butler, Mr. Abbott, waited just outside the French doors to the greenhouse. His silent presence ensured Miss Wellfleet had never been truly alone with Charles. Somehow, this reminded him of how attractive he found her, and he flushed when he caught Mr. Abbott’s curious gaze.
However, his embarrassment faded as he remembered his purpose.
A life could be saved if he interpreted Rosa Collina fastigiata properly.
How many people named Collins lived in London? Unless the clue rested with the English name, Flat-Flowered Hill Rose. Did this blossom point to a location instead of a person?
Time was slipping away.
Legends foretell death for anyone who possesses the fabled Peckham emerald necklace, lost by an Archer ancestor. Certainly, it has brought the Archers nothing but heartache. So Oriana is relieved it’s missing, assuming it ever existed. She has enough difficulties protecting her uncle—and her heart--from his dangerous new friend, Chilton Dacy. However, when Oriana finds the necklace, the curse reawakens. The necklace disappears, only to reappear clutched in a dead man’s hand.
The stranger’s death leaves Oriana with a frightening choice: ask Chilton for help, or face the possibility that she may hang for murder.
In this scene, Chilton Dacy has been accidentally shot and is convalescing at the Archer residence. He just can’t resist teasing Oriana Archer, his reluctant nurse….
“Sir,” Oriana said, frantic to change the subject to something less provocative. “How did you meet my uncle? I do not recall him mentioning you before.”
“Umm,” he said unhelpfully.
“I beg your pardon? I’m afraid I did not hear you clearly.”
“Perhaps you’re hard of hearing and should turn around to face me.”
“My hearing is perfectly adequate, sir.”
“Are you afraid to face me?”
“I am not, but you’re not dressed. This is all quite improper.”
“That was my thought when you tucked me into bed, Miss Archer.”
A burning fire raged up her bosom, scorching her neck and cheeks. She had sincerely hoped he wouldn’t remember. After a dreadfully long silence, she said, “If you will recall, you were actually unconscious a great deal of the time.”
The bed creaked behind her. At the noise, she instinctively turned.
He lounged against the stack of pillows with his hands locked behind his head. Another fiery wave cascaded over her cheeks as her eyes followed that line down his chest again. The sheet had slipped even further. It barely covered his lap. A thin line of bandage was visible at the top of his thigh where an insolent corner of the sheet had flipped over.
“And how, precisely, should I recall it if I was unconscious at the time? All I remember is you unfastening my breeches—”
“Sir, it was an unfortunate circumstance that we must all strive to avoid in the future,” she hurriedly interrupted him.
“Oh, I don’t know. I can think of a worse fate than being stripped, bathed, and put to bed by a pretty woman.”
“You are obviously suffering from some pernicious form of delirium. I never bathed you. But, I shall send Joshua up to you directly if you desire to wash.” She spun and worked very hard to walk—not run—out of the door.
His deep chuckles raced after her, despite the fact that she slammed the door shut behind her.
The Vital Principle
An inquiry agent seeks to expose a spiritualist as a fraud only to uncover a murder.
In 1815, inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, an unseen killer poisons Lord Crowley, leaving Gaunt to investigate not fraud, but murder.
Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard. But as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers a series of deadly secrets. Long-time friends soon turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.
The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.
“Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness and Slightly Tarnished.
In this excerpt from The Vital Principle, inquiry agent Knighton Gaunt realizes their host, Lord Crowley, has been poisoned.
Swirling the amber liquid, he held it up to examine it. The light from the candles glowed through the brandy, highlighting the unnaturally dark hue. After rotating the glass with a practiced movement of his wrist, Knighton Gaunt sniffed at the fumes before placing it back on the table.
“Well, what’s wrong?” Lord Thompson stared at Crowley as if he suspected a trick. “Crowley, get up, damn you. Quit playing the fool.” He nudged Crowley’s flaccid arm with his toe.
“Stop!” Knighton pushed Thompson back. “This isn’t a joke.”
“What’s wrong with him? Is he having some kind of a fit?” Mr. Jekyll asked.
“No. It’s not a fit.” Knighton glanced at the dowager. He was reluctant to inform her that her son was dead, most likely murdered. She already appeared to have suffered more grief than she could bear. Her tired eyes and gray face made him fear any further pain would bring about a complete collapse.
How much could one woman bear?
“Lady Crowley.” He caught Miss Barnard’s eye and to his relief, felt an immediate flicker of understanding. She put an arm around the older lady’s shoulders, bracing her for the shock. “Lady Crowley, I’m sorry,” he said. “Your son is dead.”
“Dead?” Lady Crowley repeated, her voice quavering. She glanced down as if she could not comprehend what she saw. “How can he be dead? You must be mistaken.”
Miss Barnard bent over the dowager and murmured, “I’m sorry, so terribly sorry.”
A sob broke from Lady Crowley’s throat. Miss Barnard held her more tightly, speaking softly, trying to comfort her.
“Dead!” Miss Spencer leapt out of her chair. She whirled to stare into the gloomy recesses of the room, her hands covering her mouth. When Mr. Denham touched her arm, she shrieked. “A ghost! It must be! That thing I felt hovering behind me when the candle blew out. It touched me—I felt its cold fingers! It passed by me on its way to kill Lord Crowley! It will kill us all! We must leave, now! Now!”