Today we sit down for a chat with adult mystery, YA romantic mystery, and middle-grade fiction author Lynn Slaughter. Learn more about Lynn and her books at her website and blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Following my retirement from a long career in dance, I got this idea for a story about a young aspiring ballet dancer intent upon unraveling secrets both her friends and her parents are keeping from her. That became my first young adult novel, While I Danced. Working on it got me hooked on writing fiction, and I returned to school to earn my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. I just kept going after that!
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
That’s sort of a two-part question for me. While I was still dancing, I was moonlighting as a freelance magazine writer. I’d taken some correspondence classes in magazine writing from Writer’s Digest, and it didn’t take too long before I was getting some article acceptances. However, in terms of fiction writing, I worked on my first novel on and off for close to a decade before it was finally published.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m traditionally published with a small press, Melange Books.
Where do you write?
I’m fortunate to have a home office where I can shut the door to write!
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I often write to music. When I was working on Missed Cue, I listened to a lot of jazz because my protagonist is a huge jazz fan.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Bits and pieces of plots and characters have been inspired by my real-life experiences. For example, in Missed Cue, the protagonist encounters a lot of drama at the ballet company the victim danced with—intense rivalries, love affairs, infidelity, and an obsessed, driven artistic director. As an ex-dancer, I’m familiar with the intensity of behind-the-scenes relationships in a dance company. Thankfully, I never encountered a murder!
Describe your process for naming your character.
I have a baby names book that I love looking through when I’m trying to name a character because it includes origins and meanings of names. I wanted Caitlin to have an Irish name because having grown up in Connecticut, I’d encountered a lot of policemen and women who came from immigrant Irish families.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I’ve done both, but in the case of Missed Cue, the setting is a real city, New Haven, Connecticut.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
My protagonist in Missed Cue has furnished her apartment with finds from garage sales, consignment shops, and Goodwill that include her 50s style red plaid armchair, Danish contemporary coffee table, and side table painted with flowers. Absolutely nothing matches, and she likes it that way.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m a winter holiday fanatic. I have holiday lights strung up year-round in my office and start playing Frank Sinatra singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in July.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written), which one would it be? Why?
Wonder by RJ Palacio. It’s a beautiful story about a ten-year-old boy with a facial deformity who longs for acceptance and friendship. It is so moving and poignant, and the voice of the main character, Auggie, is unforgettable.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Probably marrying my first husband. We were not well matched, and in retrospect, I married him to please my parents, who adored him. Fortunately, both of us went on to have very happy and successful second marriages.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lack of kindness and compassion, especially toward children
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
My husband, lots of books, and my computer (Food and water might be nice, too.)
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
One summer during college, I worked at a publishing company where I sat in a tiny room by myself for eight hours a day typing change-of-address labels. It made me really appreciate being able to go to college and look forward to work that wasn’t mind-numbing.
What’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite, but I do love humor and distinctive voices. For example, I adore the character of Lula in the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich.
Ocean or mountains?
Definitely ocean! I grew up on the coast of New York and Connecticut. Anytime I’m near the ocean, I’m home.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I prefer cities, especially New York City
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently working on a young adult novel, Missing Mom, about a seventeen-year-old whose mother disappears. The authorities rule it a probable suicide, but my protagonist doesn’t believe her mother would ever have checked out on her and her little sister and undertakes her own investigation.
I’m also in the process of seeking a publishing home for my middle grade novel, an identity-swapping tale called The Big Switch: Varney and Cedric.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Except for my middle grade novel, my books have all featured folks involved in the performing arts in some way, since that’s the world I’m most familiar with.
For all my novels, I’m interested in the personal growth and change of my protagonists. As both a writer and reader, characters I care about matter to me more than anything else.
Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor prides herself on being a crackerjack homicide detective with the highest close case record in the department. But the onstage death of ballerina Lydia Miseau has her thoroughly stumped.Why did the apparently healthy Miseau drop dead? The autopsy reveals no clear cause of death. Convinced foul play was involved, Caitlin’s investigation takes her into the world of a ballet company where suspects abound who had reasons to want to harm the company star.
Meantime, Caitlin’s dealing with a partner on the job who’s addicted to alcohol, a married lover she’s addicted to, and mysterious threatening phone calls. To make matters worse, two more people associated with the company are murdered, and Caitlin has to face the humiliating possibility she arrested the wrong person. Time is running out, as she races to identify a killer who will stop at nothing to avoid detection.