I’m pleased to introduce you to Ritter Ames, a traitional and cozy mystery author. Your can find out all about her books on all the major sites including Books2Read, Bookbub, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, an Facebook .
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved books, but as I child I didn’t really think about how they got onto shelves—they were gifts, or were already in the library, so it was just kind of everyday magic to me that books were there when I wanted one. Then in the fourth grade I read Little Women, and not only identified early on with Jo March, but when she began writing to make a living, I realized people actually made careers out of writing (yes, I read Louisa May Alcott’s name on the cover, but it took seeing my favorite character write for a living in the story to make the idea sink in. I was a dense child). After a long stint in corporate life, juggling numbers every day and writing reports and analyses, I moved into the new millennium by freelance writing magazine articles as a side gig to my full-time job. Loved it, but I wanted to make a living writing fiction too. A few years later, I quit my corporate job when I was making the same income selling to magazines that I made in my corporate job. I signed my first fiction contract in 2013 and I’ve never looked back. I just wish I’d been able to do it sooner.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting?
Understand the business end of writing as well as honing your talents in the craft.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I outline a lot and do character sketches on everyone. Then all the information goes into a series bible. I start a series bible for every project I begin—whether it ultimately becomes a finished work or not, because I love reading series, so that’s what I prefer to write.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve published seven Organized Mysteries titles (and one more is drafted but needs revision/editing), five in the Bodies of Art Mysteries (again, one in draft but farther in the revision process), and so far, one published in the Frugal Lissa Mysteries series—but book two will be out this summer, as will the audio books for the Frugal Lissa Mysteries. I’ve also written a number of books that haven’t yet been published—some because they’re in a new series and I’m trying to have several ready to publish together, and others because I’m not exactly sure how to market them effectively. My favorite series to write is the Bodies of Art Mysteries, but it’s also the most difficult—my favorite book in the series is probably the third book, Abstract Aliases. On the other hand, the most comfortable series for me to write—not necessarily easier, but most relaxing because of the characters—is the Organized Mysteries. And the new Frugal Lissa Mysteries are the most like me, and they include my Labrador retriever in the stories as well. Sometimes I really have to stretch to write the Frugal Lissa books simply because I feel a lot more vulnerable writing them, as I truly do give Lissa a lot of my own personality. That’s the series I wrote the project for to put into the Murder on the Beach summer beach read collection.
When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for both your readers and also yourself?
I don’t start a new book until I find some angle I want to learn something about. It doesn’t have to be a big thing—though sometimes it is important—and as I begin researching, I start thinking of ways to twist the idea to fit or adapt a plot, or to incorporate my characters into this new plot scheme.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. Seriously, when I was freelancing, I could generate five to ten pitches to send to editors in less than thirty minutes, and I did that every week on Monday morning. That was great practice before I started writing fiction, because I was used to combining ideas to give my articles a lot of different slants, and doing this allowed me to sell articles many times to many magazines, but still use the same beginning idea and interviews. That practice kept everything fresh for my nonfiction work, and I still use that practice for fiction.
Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
I write a lot more than I publish. It’s nothing for me to rewrite an opening scene multiple times. The farther I get into a story, the more I’ll see what I needs to be at least pursued in a different way to see if the change improves the story. I have no problem slicing and dicing a manuscript when I realize I can write something better. I save the portions I take out, sometimes to reuse in another way, but if I can’t reuse them I’m fine with that. I want each story to be the best I can make it.
What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
The theme for Murder on the Beach is cozy fun on the beach. Yes, there are crimes, but there’s humor in all the stories too. We had so much fun writing for this anthology, and we can’t wait to share it with readers.
Can you give us some insight into what makes you main character tick?
My main character, Lissa Eller, or the Frugal Lissa, is a full-time mom of two elementary aged boys and the family’s Labrador retriever, Honey. Lissa’s husband travels constantly as a photojournalist, so she tends to be “on” for her boys 24/7. The story in Murder on the Beach is “Frugal Lissa Needs a Break,” and it happens soon after she’s solved the murder in the first Frugal Lissa mystery. She’s reunited with her best friend Abby, as they strike out for a girls’ weekend in Galveston, while Lissa’s husband takes their two sons on a working weekend in San Diego. As is becoming too common in Lissa’s world, Honey discovers another body on the beach and Lissa must sleuth out the murderer.
Who is the author you most admire in your genre?
I’ve always said I want to grow up to be Nancy Pickard. I love her books, but I met her a number of times before I was published, and she was just as interested in what I was writing as an un-pub writer, as she was the authors who had a long list of publications. And she’s just so very real, in every sense of the word. She did so much for women mystery authors in the early cozy years of the 1980s and 1990s, as did many others. But for me, she’s so genuine, and I respect her and her talent tremendously.
Do you have a library membership?
Of course. And we make annual donations to our Friends of the Library.
Would you rather have an endless summer or an endless winter?
I don’t like extreme temperatures, either hot or cold. I was born and raised in California’s Bay Area, so my friends and family know they’re going to hear me gripe when the weather changes too drastically. I currently live where the summer humidity is horrible, and I’ve been plotting for several years to get my husband to sell our place and move. We also had the North Pole come down and vacation for two weeks over our state this February—also not a nice thing. But if I have to choose between the two, I’d take winter over summer, just to avoid the humidity/heat issue alone.
Morning person or Night owl?
I sleep so little. I’m up before five every morning because we had a cat for 20 years who believed when she awoke at 4:30 a.m. that I should be awake too. Now, I automatically wake around the same time every day, and we have a Lab who usually has to go outside about then too. Once I get up, I can’t go back to sleep. But I do nap about 20 minutes most afternoons, and that gives me a true second wind, and I don’t go to bed at night until close to or just after midnight.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Most of the time, that’s relatively easy. I get a first name I recognize is what my character needs, and then I work on the last name. For the Frugal Lissa series, however, there was a speed bump that made me change things. I originally planned to make this the Frugalista Mysteries, and Lissa was named Olivia, but went by Livvy. Then I learned frugalista was trademarked by a blogger, and since Lissa subsidizes her family’s income by writing a blog too, I knew I had to make a change. So, she became Lissa, and the Frugal Lissa Mysteries debuted instead.
A big thank you to Ritter for answering my questions. To keep up with her, I suggest you sign up for her Newsletter, and check out all her books at her website.
I hope you’re filling your beach tote with books from all these wonderful writers! Enjoy the weekend and we’ll meet our next author when we meet again.
Victoria LK Williams