Today we sit down for a chat with NYT bestselling cozy mystery author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries,Diane A.S. Stuckart (writing as Ali Brandon). Diane also writes the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries and the Tarot Cat Mysteries, and as Anna Gerard, she writes the Georgie B & B Mysteries.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I started writing feature stories for the school paper in high school, but by the time I got to college I realized I wasn’t a reporter…I was a novelist. And so I switched my core major to Novel Writing.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My first book was my college novel project, though it wasn’t published until a good dozen years later, after it was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest. That book was Masquerade, published by Pinnacle Books under the name Alexa Smart.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I consider myself traditionally published, although I have indie pubbed a few of my vintage romances plus a short story collection.
Where do you write?
In my home office, ideally, or sometimes the back porch – but while on deadline I’ll also haul out my laptop and work in my car or in an empty conference room at the day job.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I’m the only author I know who doesn’t put together a play list to write. I absolutely cannot write with music in the background; however, while driving I do lots of mental plotting to classical music (I think the classical rhythms somehow reset the brain to a creative state).
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
No real-life experiences or people for me, save for a few secondary characters. Most of what I write comes from the ether. Though for fun I sometimes name minor characters after friends or family.
Describe your process for naming your character?
For major characters, I like a short name, as I’ll be typing it constantly; hence, Nina Fleet for my Georgia B&B amateur sleuth (“Rosalinda McGillicuddy” would be a bear to type over and over again!). Mostly, I want names that are a bit different but not distractingly unusual. And one must always watch out for the trap of accidentally starting all the characters’ names with the same first letter (Mandy, Mark, Morris, Mary!)
Real settings or fictional towns?
I’ve done both. My Tarot Cats mysteries are set in West Palm Beach, Florida; however, the Georgia B&B mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Cymbeline, though Cymbeline is based on lots of small towns I’ve known. Both settings have their advantages and disadvantages.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I suppose none of my characters are technically “quirky”. Actor Harry Westcott from the Georgia B&B Mystery series does have a thing for his rooibos tea, which I personally find rather vile.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m not really quirky, though I’m a bit OCD about certain things. And if I have a color choice in purchasing an item, I inevitably go for the red or black version (though now I’m lapsing into pink on occasion).
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
The Stephanie Plum series should have been mine! I had the idea for a female bail bond agent years before her books were ever published. Which is a good example of, if you snooze, you lose.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I would have made some smarter decisions while I was in college, been a bit bolder about life.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who think that being strident equals being right. Related, people who, when they have the choice of being kind or winning a point, opt for being a jerk.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Beyond the obvious food, shelter, and lifeboat, I need Shakespeare’s works and the Sherlock Holmes collection to read and reread, a ukulele to (badly) play music on, and a cooler of Diet Coke.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Most of my college-era waitressing jobs were pretty sucky, but I made some good friends.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
That answer depends on my place in life. But overall my favorite is Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels…a classically fabulous combination of mystery, romance, and ghost story.
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains are beautiful, but the ocean is, in turns, hypnotizing and compelling and gorgeous and terrifying.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll. Right now, I live out in the boonies, though sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in an apartment in the middle of a big city. But I don’t think I could be happy there for too long – I’m a Texas girl, and I need my space!
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m waiting on a few new book deals to come through, which hopefully will happen before year-end. In the meantime, my third Georgia B&B Mystery will be out next summer. And I may have a few indie projects come out in the interim.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
A Georgia B&B Mysteries, Book 2
Innkeeper Nina Fleet finds that hosting an amateur acting troupe can be murder when the star performer for the town’s annual Shakespeare festival is found lifeless in her garden. Nina is the only one who is sure his death wasn’t accidental…that is, except for the troupe’s director and Nina’s sometimes-nemesis, Harry Westcott. With the show having to go on, the pair join uneasy forces to uncover a killer before it’s curtains for another member of the troupe.