ABOUT THE BOOKJoni Harte knew her first job out of college would be tough, but she didn’t expect it to be murder.
With the ink mostly dry on her journalism degree, Joni accepts the position of news reporter and photographer for The Ogallala Gazette. She’s tasked with chronicling all of the goings-on of the quirky characters who inhabit this small Missouri town.
While investigating the identity of the first murder victim, Joni makes an enemy of the local sheriff. Worse, she catches the attention of a violent stalker who promises to cure Joni of her curiosity.
As the Ogallala County Fair comes to an end, Joni must uncover the truth before she comes to hers.
INTERVIEW WITH ANNETTE DRAKE
Annette, how did you get started writing?
My goal is to tell stories. I remember making up a song about the American Civil War on my brother’s discarded guitar at age six. So, I think I was born wanting to tell stories. Writing? I love to read, so it’s a natural progression to love to write.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
A couple things: when I’m writing a first draft and I create a scene that has me both laughing and crying at the same time. I love that! I also love reading a book I’ve written long after it’s been published and still finding a small sense of satisfaction in it. When one of those moments happen, I’m content.
Do you have a writing routine?
Well, sort of. I have insomnia, and that helps establish a writing routine. But, generally, I try to spend at least one hour a day writing. I also try to leave myself bread crumbs: a Post-it note saying, tomorrow, I’ll write this scene.
Do you write every day?
No. I don’t. My career might be further along if I did. But I don’t.
What do you wish you’d done differently when you first started the publishing process?
Oh, gosh. To do it again, I would have forgotten querying agents and publishers and self-published all of my books. Author Hugh Howey talked about this as renting versus owning a house. I think no one has as much invested as the author, and so, no one can do as much to promote a book as the author.
What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
Editing. Revising. Killing your darlings. Yes, it’s a smashingly witty phrase. Alas, it makes no sense and does not jibe with the tone of the book. Down comes the hatchet!
What’s more important – characters or plot?
I wouldn’t dream of saying both. The answer: character. Every. Single. Time. Without a strong, likeable character, I don’t think readers care about the book. Recently, I watched a major Hollywood blockbuster movie, and I didn’t finish it because I found all of the characters repugnant. I was actually rooting for the enemy. For me, as a reader and a writer, I must care about the characters.
How often do you read?
What is your writing style?
Hmm. I might say it’s informal. I do not write in first person. That just feels too intimate to me. After all, this isn’t my story; it’s my character’s story. I write different genres, or I sure try to, so I think my writing style depends on the genre. But one thing I always try to do: hook my reader. When a reader stops reading a book, for me, that’s a huge fail. When I hear, I couldn’t put it down, I do a little dance. Kind of a mambo-tap dance thing.
What do you think makes a good story?
Great characters make great stories. The end.
What books do you currently have published?
I have five: Three romances: Celebration House, A Year with Geno and A Beautiful Day in Alaska (novella). I published what I’m calling a middle-grade novel in 2014; it’s entitled Bone Girl. In October, I published Death Goes to the County Fair, my first cozy mystery.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I would have self-published my debut novel, Celebration House. Hindsight offers a beautiful view.
Is writing your dream job?
Yes and no. While I do love writing and I intend to eventually write full-time, I also find a lot of inspiration in my day job. I think they complement one another well.
Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?
I’m a big advocate of promoting other writers as your promote your own work. For about a year, I ran an “Author Spotlight” feature, and I found a lot of satisfaction in that. Time constraints have ended that project, but I did enjoy it. And I think readers learned about my books from reading a blog post about the authors they followed. It was a win-win. Starting in 2016, I hope to host fellow authors again on various blog tours.
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
The Food Network. I love cooking shows! No, I do not cook.
How often do you tweet?
Once a month, maybe.
How do you feel about Facebook?
I can’t say it’s sold a lot of my books, but I enjoy posting my successes and my challenges. I probably post something a couple times a week.
For what would you like to be remembered?
One of the surprises of this journey is how my meager success encourages others to pursue their passions. I love that! I love when people learn I’m an author, and it spurs them to write themselves or pursue a passion, like auditioning for their community theater. I hope I inspire other day-jobbers to make time in their lives for their art in whatever form.
What scares you the most?
Probably like every parent, the death of one of my children.
Would you make a good character in a book?
No. I’m boring. And cowardly.
What five things would you never want to live without?
2. Coffee creamer
3. Sweetener for my coffee
4. Milk for my coffee
5. Bailey’s Irish Cream
What do you love about where you live?
I love the view. We can see the port of Everett from out front porch. I’m also within walking distance of my job, and I LOVE that. I love walking to work. I’ve never had that luxury before.
What’s your favorite thing to do/favorite place to go on date night?
I don’t have enough of those with my husband to know.
What's your favorite treat for movie night?
It’s two days after Christmas, and I’m completely fooded out. I may never eat again. Ever.
What's the biggest lie you ever told?
I love you.
What’s your favorite fast food?
We seldom eat out. But I visit Starbucks often. Does that count?
What’s your favorite beverage?
Coffee. I start every day with a huge cup and wonder why my heart is racing later.
What drives you crazy?
When I’m reading a mystery, and the author gives few or no clues. What the heck? How am I supposed to figure this one out? Or, when the villain turns out to be crazy, and that explains everything. Nope. Not buying it. I think the villain is the most important character in the book. He or she has to give the protagonist enough of a challenge to keep me turning pages. And crazy doesn’t do it for me.
What is your superpower?
The ability to delete the word “very” in everything I write. I abhor adverbs.
Name one thing you’re really good at and one thing you’re really bad at.
I’m good at calming people. I’m bad at calming myself.
What do you wish you could do?
Despite the beautiful view I now have, I want to live on a farm and write full-time. I want to look out my kitchen window and see my horse in her paddock. I want to grow huge tomatoes, okra and sunflowers. I want to put off turning on my kitchen light because I know my donkey will see it and start braying, demanding his breakfast. Yes. A farm is in my future. I’m just not there yet.
What is one of your happiest moments?
Bone Girl was published in March of 2014. In May, I received an email from a young girl. She had read my book and was writing a book report on it for school. She had a few questions. That reader-to-writer connect still pleases me.
What do you like to do when there’s nothing to do?
Sleep! I love sleeping. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at it. But I do enjoy it.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. It was the motivation behind my first cozy mystery.
What would you name your autobiography?
What’s your least favorite chore?
I hate clipping my rabbits’ toenails. Hate it. I’d rather take a beating.
Would you rather be a movie star, sports star, or rock star?
Movie star, of course!
Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
Yes! Absolutely. But as I write more books – I’m working on #6 – I don’t have so many to choose from anymore. Fortunately, there’s always self-doubt.
What’s one thing that drives you crazy?
Just one? No way. Here’s a couple: overflowing trash cans, distracted drivers on their cell phones, politicians, bankers, and bullies.
What’s your favorite/most visited Internet site?
As a writer, I really like KBoards. I find the authors who post there are knowledgeable and willing to share. I really appreciate them.
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
Milk and coffee creamer. I keep the Bailey’s in the cabinet.
What is the most daring thing you've done?
When I was 18, I applied for a work permit and traveled to the United Kingdom for the summer. I had about $120 in my pocket – that’s about 75 pounds. I quickly ran out of money. Learning of my financial worries, a girlfriend sent me money. The day I went to the post office to collect it, I had no money left and could not pay for my hotel room that night. When the clerk said there was nothing for me, I asked him to check again. Success! Her letter and the oh-so-desperately money were there for me.
What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Please see the above!
What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
Hmm...with two ex-husbands, gosh, let me think. Actually, I am of the mind frame that looking back on our lives is a waste of time. I think for much of my life, I’ve lived in the past, and really, it wasn’t that great of a past. I don’t want to do that anymore. I am the person I am, the writer I am, because of my bad decisions. It’s part of me. I accept it. I think that kind of self acceptance begins in your 40s.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
My family is super sick of hearing this, but, hey, you asked:
“I cannot hear your words, sir, for so loudly do your actions speak.”
What would your main character say about you?
Joni Harte, the main character in my cozy mystery, is a journalist who just graduated from college. I kind of think she would say of me, “Gosh. She’s really old.”
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
When I was writing my middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, I had to describe a beginning band Christmas concert. It’s been many years since I’ve attended one of my children’s concerts, so I went searching for YouTube videos. What I found delighted me! I wrote the scene, and the narrator of the audiobook, Darryl Hughes Kurylo, said the scene was one of his favorites.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
It’s my local library, and they have a great kid’s section. My young son is a ravenous reader – he goes through a book in two days at the most. So, we are there a lot. The children’s librarian knows us by name now.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Atticus Finch. I love gentle, quiet men. Who cook.
If you had a talk show who would your dream guest be?
Mark Twain. Can you hear him commenting on our current political climate? Also, I think Agatha Christie would be an entertaining guest.
What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
I’m an introvert. My favorite three words: Let’s stay home. Wait. Maybe people do know that.
You have a personal chef for the night. What would you ask him to prepare?
Confession time: I do have my own personal chef. It’s my husband. He’s an amazing cook and will fix whatever I ask him to. He’s indulged my requests for many things, including Mississippi Mud Cake for my birthday and low-calorie recipes when I diet. But he has limits. He once said to me, “Annette, I love you, but I will not eat fat-free sour cream for you.” Boundaries. They make marriages work. Or so I’m told.
How do you like your pizza?
What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
My rescue mare, Lacy. Want to see her picture?
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can control electricity. Okay. I wish I could control electricity. Hidden talents? Occasionally, my wit awakens, and I can make my husband laugh a deep belly laugh. That’s a good minute in my day.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Cheerful. Imaginative. Kind. Hopeful. Determined.
What’s your favorite song?
Favorite? Hmm. Maybe "Emily’s Reel" as played by Mark O’Connor. I love bluegrass, and I play the fiddle – badly.
What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing?
Revising and editing, but it’s got to be done. As my writing career grows, I’ve been able to afford the services of a professional copy editor and a proofreader. Not doing it all myself is so great!
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
A stand-up comedy routine at my local comedy club. I’m already putting together my three minutes of material. When do we meet for the hand-off?
At the show. What is your favorite movie?
I love Steve Martin’s movie, Bowfinger. My kids and I actually quote the lines to one another.
Do you have a favorite book?
To Kill A Mockingbird.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
You get what you focus on.
What are you working on now?
I just finished writing my first screenplay – the adaptation of my middle grade novel, Bone Girl. Now, I am writing the two sequels to Celebration House. I plan to indie-publish both books in 2016.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Her first cozy mystery, Death Goes to the County Fair – An Ogallala Mystery, premiered on October 15th.
Annette makes her home in Washington state. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, she loves ferry rides, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp. If she can help it.
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