Cozy mystery author Dorothy Howell sits for an interview today. Learn more about Dorothy and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 13 years old. My English teacher introduced the class to creative writing—and I was hooked! Finally, something in school was interesting!
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Actually, getting published took a very long time. Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t pursue it because, according to all the adults in my family, I needed to get a “real” job. So I put the dream of writing aside, got married, got a “real” job, had a baby, and went on with life.
But I never could completely forget about writing. I got to work on an historical romance with no real thought of trying to get it published. I just wanted to see if I could write an entire book. With encouragement from my husband I actually finished it and sold it to a publisher. I was absolutely thrilled!
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’ve been so fortunate to do both!
The Haley Randolph mystery series is traditionally published, and I indie-publish the Dana Mackenzie mystery series. I’m also traditionally published in historical romance under the pen name Judith Stacy.
Where do you write?
I have an office in my house that’s dedicated solely to writing—no bill paying in there! I’m surrounded by my books, my notes, journals, and a zillion slips of paper with my oh-so brilliant ideas on them. To me, it’s very organized, but I’m sure the casual observer would disagree!
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I need absolute silence to write. The tiniest sound jars me out of my thoughts. I only write when I know nobody else is in the house who might interrupt me. I can’t risk forgetting a freshly thought-up plot point—I might not remember it!
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
In the Haley Randolph series, Haley works as a part-time sales clerk in a mid-range department store. Honestly, she’s a terrible sales clerk! Some of the problems, incidents, and troubles that take place in the store come from my own experiences working as a sales clerk decades ago and from my daughters who had sales clerk jobs during their college years.
I used to work a job similar to the one Dana Mackenzie has in that series. I also fictionalized the city I worked in. Unlike Dana, I never found any dead bodies—thank goodness!
Describe your process for naming your character?
For the main characters I try to select names that feel right for each character. The name has to fit their personality and their role in the books. Naming secondary characters is becoming a bit of a challenge. After publishing 39 novels I’m running out of names!
Real settings or fictional towns?
The Haley Randolph series is set in the Los Angeles area. I live there so it makes the research easy. As for the Dana Mackenzie series, I used to live in another Southern California city that I fictionalized for the books.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
The quirkiest quirk definitely belongs to Bella in the Haley Randolph series. Bella is a sales clerk who works with Haley at the Holt’s Department Store. Bella is saving for beauty school and in the meantime, practices on her own hair. She’s fashioned her hair into geometric shapes, animals, landscapes—anything that showcases her hair designing skills.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I don’t think I have any quirks at all but several people have commented on a few of my preferences in life. I don’t drink out of plastic or eat leftovers, and I have to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes before the movie start. Okay, maybe that is kind of quirky.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I’d have to pick Gone With The Wind. I love the strong female lead character, the handsome male lead, the history, the clothing, the struggles. The book has endured for decades.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
If I could get a do-over on anything it would be to stop worrying about the outcome and enjoy the process. I spent a great deal of time consumed with doubt about my writing career. I wish I’d had more faith and optimism.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person so not much bothers me. If I had to pick a pet peeve it would be receiving telephone calls from sales people who interrupt my writing. Aargh! Yes, that definitely bugs me.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Books, books—and maybe a hot guy to turn the pages?
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
My worst job was so stressful I can’t even talk about it. Sorry.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I enjoy all sorts of books—mystery, suspense, romance, science fiction, nonfiction. No way could I pick just one book!
Ocean or mountains?
Definitely the ocean. The sunset, the waves, the long walks—relaxing and awe inspiring.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I was raised in rural Virginia and live now in the Los Angeles area so I’m a little of both. I feel at home in either place.
What’s on the horizon for you?
The next book in the Haley Randolph series will be released in Fall, 2016. In the meantime, I’m plotting more books, fooling around with some new ideas, and always looking for the next fun book to write.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’m so very blessed and thankful for my writing career. My readers are fantastic! I have the support of a wonderful editor and agent. I absolutely couldn’t have accomplished my goals without the love and encouragement of my family. My thanks go out to all of them!
Swag Bags and Swindlers
A Haley Randolph Mystery
Haley is an amateur sleuth who is crazy about designer handbags and often uses her fashion sense to solve crimes. In Swag Bags and Swindlers her dream is about to come true—quitting her sales clerk job at Holt’s Department Store. All she has to do is qualify for full-time benefits at her event-planning gig at L.A. Affairs by acing the upcoming performance review. For that to happen, she must make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong with the star-studded 50th anniversary gala she’s planning for Hollywood Haven, the retirement home for Tinseltown’s most beloved entertainers.
But when Haley finds Derrick Ellery, the home’s assistant director, murdered in his office, she sees her hope of keeping her job—not to mention the dream of owning a Sassy, the season’s hottest handbag—vanishing before her eyes.
To make matters worse, Haley’s ex-boyfriend Ty is a suspect in a different murder. She’s sure he’s innocent—but can she prove it?
Solving two murders while planning the perfect party—and keeping her sights on a Sassy—won’t be easy, especially now that there’s more than one killer ready to select Haley’s final outfit!