Teresa is a cozy mystery writer (with a touch of romance!) with a series, Mariposa Cafe Mystery, set in a fictional southwest Florida. You can find her ebooks on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. You can also get her books in paperback and audio.
What inspired you to start writing?
From the time I was a young reader, I’ve always loved mysteries. From Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Karin Slaughter and so many more. When I retired from a career in healthcare, writing became my retirement gig.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting?
Keep writing. Don’t give up. Get your words out there. Go to conferences. Write. Network. Write. Learn. Join a critique group. Keep going. Write. Write. Write.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
First I get the idea for the story from where ever that comes from (the idea fairy?). Then I do a short rough synopsis of what’s going to happen, the crime/murder. I have a notebook, I call my bible that I keep this information in along with notes about characters, research reminders, etc. I also put ideas of the town, location, etc.I do a mind map with the victim in the middle, draw a circle around the victim’s name and then draw lines (rays) out from circle with the potential suspects and their possible motives for doing the deed. By the time I’m finished with this exercise, it looks like a sun with lots of rays coming out from it. Sometimes, I even color it in with colored pencils. I am mostly a pantser. I’ve tried outlining but I get too caught up in the outline and I end up not following it as the characters take me where they want to go. I do a synopsis about 3-4 chapters ahead and I may even do short scenes along the way that I work with when I get to that chapter.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Take care of yourself. If a scene has been especially emotional for you, take a break. Go for a walk, have a glass of wine or a snack, read something in another genre than what you’re writing, watch something light on television. This helps to give you a new perspective. It is so easy to get drawn into the emotion of the scene especially if you’re writing something personal. After a calming break, you can go back and look at your writing from a clearer more objective perspective.In emotional or hard to write scenes, I find it helpful to identify what I want to accomplish in this scene, what do I need in this scene to move the story forward, or move the character forward. When you’ve finished with the scene, go back and make sure you’ve hit your marks. This will help you to stay on track and not go down a rabbit hole that doesn’t do service to the story. That is the goal for each scene—to move the story forward.
When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for both your readers and also yourself?
Putting the main character in new and challenging situations helps to keep the series fresh, help the characters evolve, and keeps the reader guessing. For example in Deception in Mariposa Beach, Libby Marshall, the main character, discovers a family secret buried for 35 years. It’s a big secret that impacts her sense of identity, her relationships with her family, and stirs up lots of emotions for her. I like to have a cast of regular characters, sort of like a TV ensemble cast, and then introduce new characters and situations in each book. For example in Mistletoe and Missing Persons, Steve Devereaux comes to town and opens a gallery. Who knew there was a skeleton hidden in the wall?In my new release this summer, Redemption in Mariposa Beach, a private detective is killed during the July Fourth celebration and the cast of quirky characters are questioned in the mystery.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From everywhere and anywhere – the idea fairy
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
I hope there will be many more sequels as each regular character has a story to tell and with the location being a beach town, lots of people come and go. Lots of opportunities for storytelling.I’m also planning to start another series called the Harrington House Mysteries, set in a bed and breakfast in an Ohio River town. I grew in Ohio and Kentucky and I’d like to revisit that.Additionally, I’d like to revisit the characters in my novelette, Indian Rock, set deep in the mountains of Kentucky in the 1960s.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
There are so many – my mind is going all the time. After I write the first Harrington House mystery and maybe one more Mariposa mystery, I’d like to have Libby and Jack from Mariposa Beach go visit Harrington House. Libby is originally from Ohio and she goes back to visit for some reason – maybe her mother is getting remarried. Anyway, that’s what’s cooking. I think that will be a fun book to write.
Who is your favorite author, and why?
I have so many I can’t pick. I love Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness Series; I love Karin Slaughters’ Grant County and Will Trent series, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, John Sandford’s Prey novels. I get their new novels on or near release day.
I also like Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, Elaine Viets Angela Richman Death Investigator series and her dead end job series, David Baldacci especially his Will Robey series and his new Atlee Pine series.
Would you rather have an endless summer or an endless winter?
I live in Florida so I sort of have an endless summer. I left the cold weather behind when I moved to Florida from Ohio. But, sometimes I do miss the fall leaves and a crisp autumn day.
Do you base your characters real people?
Some characteristics, yes.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Picking names is the hardest part for me. I had a contest to name the victim in the upcoming book, Redemption in Mariposa Beach. I couldn’t come up with a name for the private investigator. I got lots of great suggestions. Charles Winslow was the winner. I gave away a book to the lucky winner.I keep track of the character names on a spreadsheet along with who they are, descriptions, who they’re related to, etc.