A mystery is not an easy endeavor to take on as a writer, and writing one great mystery after another, is even harder. Yet for a few exceptional writers, it’s a feat that is conquered several times a year. Lorraine Bartlett is a talented bestselling author who defines the category and graciously accept my invitation to share a little insight to her writing process with the readers of the Cozy Corner.
Kym: Hi Lorraine! Welcome to the Cozy Corner!
Lorraine: It’s great to be here!
Kym: There aren’t many mystery authors who’ve had successful series written from both the female and male prospective as the lead character. How do you get into the mind-frame to write from two very different points of view? Which one do you prefer to write?
Lorraine: I have to admit, it took quite a few drafts to be able to pull off writing from a male point of view. Once I nailed it, though, it seems like I can just slip into Jeff’s persona like putting on a pair of comfy slippers.
I haven’t given much thought to how I write my various series. My characters are so vividly etched in my mind that I am able to jump from series to series and not mix them up.
Kym: I read in an interview you gave several years ago that you decided to use the pseudonym L.L. Bartlett because men tend to avoid mysteries written by women. Do you find that still true today now that social media has let your secret out of the bag?
Lorraine: Ebooks changed everything. Now that no one sees the covers of the books, the whole “shame” of admitting you like a certain genre seems to have disappeared. I’ve been surprised and pleased at how many male readers enjoy my cozy mysteries—as well as the Jeff Resnick series. I know romance authors who have gained many male readers via ebooks, too.
Kym: Which of your lead characters do you find the hardest to channel? Is it because you’re complete opposites, because the character is so closed-mouthed he/she won’t even share with you, or something entirely different?
Lorraine: Probably Tricia. (from the Booktown Mystery series) She’s so unlike me, she’s had totally different life experiences. She’s very private, and though she has many friends in Stoneham, she keeps a big part of herself to herself. Even Angelica doesn’t really know the true Tricia, although she probably knows her better than anyone else on the planet.
Kym: You have an incredible new release, TITLE WAVE, you wrote under the pen-name Lorna Barrett in your highly successful Booktown Mystery series. For the few who haven’t read any books in the series, can you tell our readers about Tricia and Angelica Miles?
Lorraine: Angelica is the older (by five years) sister. It wasn’t until “recently” that the sisters realized how truly dysfunctional their family was while growing up. So Tricia and Angelica were never close until Angelica decided to move to Stoneham after her fourth divorce. I can’t even say they had a love-hate relationship, because Tricia truly did not like her sister and could barely tolerate her. It’s taken them years to force a bond, but now that they have, they’d fight like tigers to protect each other. Of course, the sibling relationship is always in flux, so they have their little tiffs, but Tricia can now truly say she loves her sister with all her heart.
Kym: In my opinion secondary characters are the heart of a cozy and you’ve outdone most with Angelica. What is it about her that makes you like her as an author?
Lorraine: I love her. She’s the sister I never had. I could write about her for the rest of my life and never grow tired of her. When the first couple of books came out, I got a lot of complaints about her. I had a master plan for her, but I couldn’t pull it off in only one book; that wouldn’t have been realistic. She’s extremely complex, and kept a number of secrets from Tricia for a long time. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to keep Tricia in the dark about her past (and present), but that Tricia was so used to dismissing her sister as frivolous that she wasn’t open to knowing the truth about Angelica. Tricia always saw herself as the “successful” sister, to find out she wasn’t as successful in life as she thought, was quite a revelation.
Kym: I love the fact that you took Tricia and Angelica on the road (or ocean in this case) while their bookstore is being rebuilt after a fire. What made you decide to leave the store instead of just starting a new book with the store being completed?
Lorraine: Tricia suffered a devastating loss. She needed a change of scenery, and I was very happy my editor, Tom Colgan, gave me the leeway to step out of my usual setting. The name of the series is Booktown, after all. But as Tricia brought most of her friends with her, she wasn’t entirely out of her element.
Kym: Did you find it easier to continue on with the story that way, or more difficult with a new environment?
Lorraine: I was happy to have the opportunity to set the story in a new environment. Giving the characters (and the readers) a break once in a while helps to keep the series fresh.
Kym: Did you find yourself intrigued with any of the new characters to the point that they will continue on in the series?
Lorraine: At least two of them will show up in the next book. (I won’t tell which ones, however!)
Kym: I love that you’ve also indy published. What made you take the route of exploring both avenues to publishing?
Lorraine: LOL – The small press I was with did such a poor job (like doing nothing but listing my books in a catalog) that I figured I could do a better job of getting the word out myself. While my L.L. Bartlett name isn’t as well-known as my Lorna Barrett pseudonym, the Jeff Resnick Mysteries are my most successful series.
Kym: What do you like best about Indy publishing? Least? What’s the best and worst thing about House publishing?
Lorraine: What I like best is the complete freedom. What I like least is that sometimes I don’t always make the best decisions—usually about covers. But then I have the freedom to change them, too. (Which I recently did with my Tales of Telenia series.) In traditional publishing, if you’re saddled with a lousy cover (and I have had that displeasure) you’re stuck with it for life.
Kym: Your stories gravitate toward New York. Did you find it difficult to leave the Northeast or did you use a real cruise to inspire you?
Mystery Historical [Author Self-Published, On Sale: May 24, 2016, e-Book, ISBN: 2940158527081 / eISBN: 9781940801339]
Lorraine: Mr. L and I have been on three cruises, and I used parts of those experiences when writing TITLE WAVE. I’ve written stories set in other places (such as my latest, OFF SCRIPT, which is set in Los Angeles, where I lived for a short period of time), and Martha’s Vineyard, where I’ve never visited. Thanks to the Internet, you can do a lot of research. I’ve never been to Bermuda (and would love to cruise there), but luckily I have a friend who lives there, and she generously helped me with local color.
Kym: What do you have in store for Tricia and Angelica in their next cozy adventure?
Lorraine: I left them with a bit of a cliff hanger—namely their father visiting Stoneham, and that will be part of the next book. I’ve got my outline and I’ll be starting the book very soon. I’m looking forward to picking up their story.
Kym: In March you released a short story, A Dream Weekend, A Tale from Blythe Cove Manor. Do you write short stories as a break from your series, or are they stories and characters who insist you take time to bring them to life in the middle of your very busy schedule?
Lorraine: A Dream Weekend was originally published in the SUMMER MAGIC anthology put out by Storytellers Unlimited. We are a trio of authors (Kelly McClymer, Shirley Hailstock, and myself) who came together because we see ourselves first as storytellers. (Summer Magic was our third project.) We based our magical B&B on the HGTV 2015 home on Martha’s Vineyard. We came up with a proprietor (Blythe Calvert), her cat (Martha), and have even drawn maps of what the B&B looks like. Our second project, MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS, An Everlasting Bond, came out May 6th. I’ll be self-publishing my contribution (A Final Gift) in August. Shirley has written a delightful story that’s being serialized in our newsletter (and will be published later this year) called The Obsidian Cat.
We see a lot of Blythe Cove Manor stories in our futures simply because we enjoy writing them. We will have a Christmas anthology available later this year.
Oops—sorry. I need to actually answer your question. Yes, I like to take a break from novels by writing short stories. I’ll get an idea and just go with it. For instance, in 2014-2015, I wrote three Jeff Resnick short stories back-to-back. The ideas weren’t big enough for a novel, and couldn’t be worked into a full-length book. For example, I knew that Jeff would never be able to fully get on with his life until he came to terms with his ex-wife’s murder. It was cathartic for me because I was trying to come to terms with my mother’s impending death. Richard was not happy with how Jeff handled the situation, but that’s real life, and finally Jeff had closure.
Kym: I love that you’ve also indy published your Tales of Talenia series. What made you take the route of exploring both avenues to publishing?
Lorraine: Quite simply, having total freedom. And—LOL—it doesn’t hurt that the money is a lot better. My Victoria Square series was rejected by agents and editors because they didn’t like the setting. (It was originally set in an antiques arcade.) Cozies set in antiques venues had failed, so nobody wanted to take a chance. My editor wouldn’t look at it until I’d hit the Times list with Booktown, and even then I had to change the setting to an arts and crafts arcade.
What’s so ridiculous about that is … the same publisher saw that my “book series” was doing so well, that they decided to publish four or five OTHER series with books as the central theme.
The cozy mystery market was saturated to the point where they’ve now had to make a correction (i.e. stop publishing so many books), which is confusing and disappointing to the readers, and devastating to the authors. So far I’m hanging on, but I know many authors are scrambling because they don’t feel confident enough of go indie. I wish they had the confidence to trust themselves, and their characters, because there is life beyond traditional publishing. I found that out when I was let go from my day job eleven years ago. In retrospect, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Although I was broke for a couple of years, I was able to become a full-time writer who supports her family with her writing income.
Kym: You said in an earlier interview that you enjoyed making internet advertising images. Have you continued with that creative outlet, have you advanced to creating any of your own book covers?
Lorraine: I love making graphics to plug my books (and just for fun). I’ve accumulated a vast collection of stock photography images (and sometimes take my own shots) that I can play with. And I’ve learned just enough Photoshop to become dangerous.
I’ve played art director on many of my covers, but I’ve only actually done one cover myself; it’s for my Jeff Resnick novelette Eyewitness. I found a black and white shot of a pair of sunglasses, paired it with type, and I was going to hire someone to put together a real cover–but thought it might work as is. A year later, it’s still working for me. But I don’t have the skills to pull off a complex cover and I leave those to the professionals.
Kym: Do you have another release coming soon under one of your other pseudonyms?
Lorraine: My latest is OFF SCRIPT, which was inspired by my short stint working in the Script Department of a major Hollywood studio many years ago. It’s a police procedural, which is something I’m not known for writing. I’m not sure if I’ll make it a series—I’m already juggling five of those—but it was fun to revisit the past and play with some different characters.
Kym: Describe your leading man from the Jeff Resnick Mystery series. What do you have in store for him?
Lorraine: Jeff is special to me. He was my first original character, and I played with him in several short stories before I decided to write his first real adventure Murder On The Mind (which is free for all ebook formats). I’m currently finishing up the seventh novel in the series, SHATTERED SPIRITS. Usually I have a cover going by now, but I haven’t decided what I want to do. It’s time to talk with my cover designer and perhaps let her figure out what would work best. It will be available sometimes this summer, but I haven’t nailed down a date as yet.
Kym: What do you have in store for Jeff next?
Lorraine: It’s not pretty. He’s riding his bike when he’s hit by an SUV. Not pretty at all.
Kym: What can we expect from you next?
Lorraine: To keep writing. It’s what I do! I’ve got SHATTERED SPIRITS coming out this summer; A FINAL GIFT on August 8th; TALES OF TELENIA TREACHERY out on September 6th, and DEAD, BATH AND BEYOND (Victoria Square #4) out on December 6th, with a couple of short stories in between (if I can get them finished, that is). I like to keep busy.
Kym: You are one of the few authors I’ve seen that still offers autographed books on their website. That is so awesome! Where can you be found on social media?
Lorraine: I feel like I’m everywhere on social media, but mostly on Facebook (simply because that’s the easiest—and I can put up my graphics there, too). Readers can find me on Facebook (me, myself, and Lorna), and I have pages for each of my series, (The Lotus Bay Mysteries, The Victoria Square Mysteries, The Jeff Resnick Mysteries, and the Booktown Mysteries, and Tales of Telenia). I’m on Twitter (again, as me, myself, and Lorna), Google +, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram (although my phone has such a crummy camera I’ve only uploaded one picture so far. I’m used to my Canon EOS Rebel, and the camera phone is quite a comedown). I’ll be playing with it more, but … being a writer, I lead a pretty boring life. The most exciting thing I do is go junking on Saturday mornings.
Kym: Thank you for joining us at the Cozy Corner!
Lorraine: Thanks for inviting me!
Lorraine is offering a hardcover edition of MURDER ON THE HALF SHELF to one reader who comments on this post! Good luck, and until next time, get cozy and read on!
Kym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her latest releases, Red Lace and Fatal Fiction, A Book Barn Mystery both available for pre-order now!