New Pop Lit loves authors who embrace new ways of reaching their readers. We’re fortunate to have caught up with Elizabeth Spann Craig, who shared with us her experiences in writing, mainstream publishing and self-publishing… Enjoy!
1.What inspired the Memphis BBQ theme for your Penguin/Berkley series? What inspired the Southern Quilting theme for your Penguin/NAL series? And your self-published series, Myrtle Clover Mysteries?
For both the Memphis BBQ mysteries and the Southern Quilting mysteries, the publishers approached me with themes they wanted woven into the two series. I developed characters, plots, and settings that incorporated those themes. Cozy/traditional mysteries usually have a hook (underlying theme) that the mysteries are built around. To pull off the hooks, I put in many hours of research of both Memphis and quilting.
For the Myrtle Clover series, the inspiration was entirely my own, to the degree that the main character was even based on my grandmother. The story was set in a location very similar to the town I grew up in. The series originated with a traditional publisher—Midnight Ink—and then, when they passed on book two, I started self-publishing the series. I couldn’t find an agent for the series originally, because there wasn’t a defined hook. Now, however ‘senior sleuths’ are considered a hook in themselves. It worked out well for me, though, since the series is now self published and doing well.
2.Were the different themes important to their respective publishers?
Themes in cozy mysteries are important to both publishers and readers. They help immediately identify the genre to readers and lend flavor and texture without overwhelming the mystery. Cozies with themes generally fall into several main categories, although there are others, as well. Culinary and hobby themes are probably the two largest. They provide a framework for the story. It’s definitely easier to sell a cozy series if there is a clear theme.
3.What are the strengths/weaknesses of self publishing compared to your experience with traditional publishers?
The biggest strength in self-publishing is income-generation. I make far more on my self-published books than my traditionally published ones. Another strength is the fact that you’re in charge of your production schedule. This generally means you possess the ability to publish books in your series faster, which is a tactic that helps hooks genre readers. Many writers also relish the control that comes along with self-publishing—we’re responsible for the entire finished product. I’ll admit, though, that’s a responsibility that sometimes weighs heavily on me.
As far as negatives go, I do subcontract for my covers, formatting, and editing, which is an out of pocket cost that I don’t have to worry about with my traditional publishers. And, obviously, there’s no advance in self-publishing.
Marketing is a wash—I have to promote just as much for my self-published series as I do for my traditionally-published one.
4.Your books are fun to read, no doubt why you have a loyal following. At some point did you make the decision to be a popular writer, or was storytelling always what motivated you to write?
My motivation for being a commercial writer was my drive to share stories with readers. I wanted a good-sized audience to write for. The best thing about genre fiction is the built-in, dedicated audience for your books. For me, underlying it all was a deep-rooted desire to tell a good story—the kind of story that I enjoyed reading. Since I grew up reading Nancy Drew and then Agatha Christie, mysteries were a natural genre for me to gravitate toward.
5.Your next books, Shear Trouble and Death Pays a Visit, are coming out in the next few months, can you tell us about them?
Shear Trouble: As the leaves begin to fall in idyllic Dappled Hills, North Carolina, someone puts too fine a point on a local ladies’ man—with a pair of shears through the chest. Fortunately, the detective skills of quilter Beatrice Coleman are a cut above the rest.
In Death Pays a Visit, an octogenarian sleuth discovers a suspicious death at a retirement home and uses her wits to find the killer, against the wishes of her police chief son.
6. Any other projects on the horizon?
I’ve just turned in the fifth Southern Quilting mystery to Penguin Random House, Tying the Knot, which is slated to release in 2015. And I’ve got a cover conference in August for the next Myrtle Clover mystery, which will likely launch in early 2015.
Thanks for hosting me!
Thanks for talking with us, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, the Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin/Berkley, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs at ElizabethSpannCraig.com/blog and tweets writing-related links on Twitter @elizabethscraig.