Of all of
your books, do you have a favorite?
Guests of the Emperor was clearly the most important book
I wrote. Seventrees was the most popular. Right now I'm having
fun combining history and mystery in the Grace and Favor
advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a
Articles completed for local magazines or newspapers give a sense of
accomplishment and completion. Talent is necessary, but
self-discipline is more vital. And as a friend of mine advised,
"Never ask for a critique from anyone who calls you 'honey.' They'll
either be brutally frank or too nice."
What other authors do you
I love the Golden
Age of mystery. John Dickson Carr, Edmund Crispin, Dorothy
Sayers, Ngiao Marsh, Josephine Tey. But I also have
contemporary favorites like Peter Robinson and Ruth Rendell.
And I've recently discovered that a lot of former romance writers
have very successfully shifted to mystery.
Do you do a lot of
I love doing
research. I usually do a lot of it. But I use very little of
what I learn. My rule of thumb is when I find one those
head-slapping facts that make me say, "I never knew THAT," chances
are most readers didn't know it either and will be
What other kind of jobs have you had?
Oh, lots of them. In high-school and
college vacations I worked at various banks taking over for
vacationing employees. One summer I did a stint as a lifeguard. When
my children were very small I made several mother-of-the-bride
dresses, provided hand-dyed silk scarves for small stores, and
painted needlepoint canvases for local shops. I taught a
combined fifth and sixth grade class in a country school. And
wrote my first two books while I was doing these things as
write on a schedule or wait until thoughts come to
I've always been very
disciplined. I've had to. This is how I make my living. I have
to write at least five pages a day. I usually go way over
this, but the extra doesn't count for the next day. I can take off
weekends, but don't do so often.
How do you come up with
I don't know.
I think it's magic - and habit. Everything in real life is grist for
do you spend your free time?
Mostly reading. But I like a lot of things that have nothing
to do with words, too. I needlepoint, I garden fanatically,
and in the last few years I've been forced to do a lot of painting
projects. Not artistic, just fun ones. Furniture for my
patio, a bookcase, coffee table and end table for my bedroom,
re-staining the fence around my back yard, touching up the dings in
the lion-head fountain.
How would you like to be remembered?
"She did the best she could."