Thursday, October 08, 2009

Author Krista Davis ~ Interviewed


Krista Davis is the nationally bestselling author of the Domestic Diva
Mystery series. Her first book, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, was
nominated for an Agatha award. Krista lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains
of Virginia with an Ocicat and a brood of dogs. Her friends and family complain about being guinea pigs for her recipes, but she notices that they keep coming back for more. Visit Krista at her website and her blog .

Tell us a bit about your current project.

In the Domestic Diva Mysteries, Sophie Winston and Natasha (one name please, like Cher) write competing lifestyle advice columns. Their tips are included in the books, along with recipes. Sophie keeps things simple but elegant, while Natasha thinks we should all craft our own wrapping paper, make our own wedding veils, and spend six months cultivating a topiary centerpiece for a luncheon. Their rivalry is a friendly one, though there is that little issue of Natasha's relationship with Sophie’s ex-husband. Sophie is okay with it, though, since she has a weakness for Detective Wolf Fleishman.

In The Diva Takes the Cake, Sophie’s sister, Hannah, is getting married. Even though Sophie has everything under control, Natasha promptly interferes with the wedding plans and hampers Sophie's budding relationship with Wolf. But neither Sophie nor Natasha planned on finding the groom’s ex-wife hanging from a pergola. Will the killer be seated on the bride’s side, the groom’s side, or will he be standing at the altar?

Since we're headed toward Thanksgiving, I should mention that my first book, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, has a Thanksgiving theme. I'm amazed by the number of people who have asked me if I based the story on their families!

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

The first agent I ever contacted called me on the phone to request my manuscript. I was surprised, of course, but was so green that I had no idea how rare that was and thought it wouldn't be hard to get an agent. Ultimately she rejected my manuscript, and the long road of queries and rejections commenced.

Ten years, several manuscripts and two agents later, I still hadn't made a sale.

I took a huge chance and pitched a proposal to an agent with whom I'd had some communication. She didn't think that proposal would fly, but she suggested an idea and I ran with it. She sent it to an editor and it looked like it would finally be the one. And then it was killed in an editorial meeting. Poof! In one second, it was a goner.

Fortunately, both the agent and the editor were willing to look at another proposal. The editor had asked if the previous proposal would appeal to readers of a popular magazine of which I had never heard. It was in the drugstore that I realized the Martha phenomenon had produced a counter culture of women who want to have lovely homes and prepare delicious meals, but don't have the time or inclination to hand embroider napkins for guests or grow live grass for Easter baskets. Thus the two divas were born, Sophie, who loves to entertain but keeps things simple, and Natasha, who never met a complicated craft she didn't embrace.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Oh my, yes! I always worry like crazy that everyone will hate the next book.

I try not to let criticism get to me too much. I sing "everybody doesn't like something" a lot. Thanks, Sara Lee!

Some of my friends insist that writing anything will help overcome writer's block. Glue yourself to the chair and just write. I do the opposite. Stories are created in our heads. I walk away from the computer to think about the story and the motivation of the characters. It feels like lost time, but it usually works for me because I think through the problem. When I sit down to write again, I have a better idea of where I'm going -- even if that means scrapping three chapters!

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I think I made every possible mistake. I remember talking on the phone to a man who almost convinced me that no one gets published anymore without a book doctor. Fortunately, a few days before Christmas, he made the mistake of telling me that if I could send him his huge fee in three days, he could speed up his critique. I can recognize someone who needs money in a hurry! The last I heard, he was in jail. People do get published without book doctors. Don't let anyone tell you there's only one way to get published. Everyone's path to publication is different.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

People. They do crazier things than I could ever imagine. We all react so differently to stress and difficult situations. I hear things at the hairdresser's, read newspapers, and sometimes I'm just curious about something I see someone do and it gets my imagination going.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

1. Join writing groups in your genre. You might have to look around a bit and try some on, but the right writing groups can save you time and anguish. There are so many pitfalls, and publishing is different from any other industry. I belong to Sisters In Crime and their Guppy chapter. Not only are both groups supportive, but it's rare that someone doesn't know the answer to a question about writing, queries, or agents.

2. I also took a huge step forward when I joined an on-line critique group. Why is it so much easier to see one's own flaws when someone else does the same thing? Critique groups are a terrific learning experience. I still rely on my critique group to keep me on track. Just remember to be kind -- writers get enough rejection! There's nothing you can't say in a thoughtful and gentle way. Be brave when you receive critiques and don't fight them. Not all comments will be helpful, but you have to keep an open mind to learn.

3. Know that it might be a long journey to publication. I love the saying, "the difference between a writer and an author is perseverance." There's a lot of truth to that. It's not easy to be cheerful and upbeat in the face of rejections. Remember that no one was born writing. We all have to work at it.

4. Avoid charlatans. If someone wants money from you, red flags should pop up all around. Check out and learn what to avoid.

5. Learn as much as you can about the publishing industry. There are so many options for authors today. I believe there are some very valid reasons for self-publishing. Before making that sort of decision, though, authors need to understand how publishing works, especially distribution and marketing which vary considerably. There is no wrong path as long as you understand what you're getting into and what to expect.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

I think that would have to be my editor, Sandy Harding. One of the agents who couldn't sell my writing kept telling me "I want you to have the chance to work with a great editor." I see now what she was talking about. I learn more from Sandy with each book I write.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I'm not sure it's a pet peeve, but I'm disappointed that some agents don't respond to query letters. I understand that it's time-consuming to respond, but my fellow writers put a lot of effort into writing professional queries and deserve a response -- even if it's a form letter or e-mail.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

Honestly, I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to be writing the Domestic Diva Mysteries. If I have one passion, though, it's dogs and cats, and saving the homeless ones. Someday, I would love to be involved in rescue.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I worked as an assistant manager of an enormous convention hotel. That meant dealing with dignitaries, actors, protesters, a pimp, and parents who let toddlers wander at night. I loved that job. Every day was different. Okay, I didn't love the bomb threats, fires, or con artists, but all those people and events broadened my horizons and understanding of people. Great fodder for books!

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

It's really not anything special. A chair and a table are all I need. I'm not good at working in a small room or office, though. I'm much happier writing in the family room/kitchen combo with my dogs and cat lounging around me. And I have to have my cup of tea.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

It might sound strange, but I have to know the details of the murder from the point of view of the killer. I don't write from the killer's point of view, but I have to know what happened and what might have gone wrong before I can work out the rest of the plot.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I used to be strictly seat of the pants. Now I'm a combination. Plots are important to me. I work through the basics of the plot now, but I don't outline. I've heard of people who write 100 page outlines. Aack! The mere thought gives me goosebumps.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

Too many characters. I whittle and whittle, but they just keep popping up. I'm always determined to write a book with only a handful of characters, but they all have spouses, or children, or secret lovers . . .

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

My first book, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, was nominated for an Agatha. That was a wonderful surprise and a huge thrill.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

At the moment, I'm heavily into Twitter. I love being limited to 140 characters because it keeps me from spending a lot of time on tweets. I'm still learning, but I think the the potential for spreading news is incredible.


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks, Krista. I enjoyed poking around at your blog. : ) Fun place.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Krista and Kelly: What a great interview! Truly educational--and also very reassuring. YOu both really know your stuff..
Loved it.

xox Hank

Krista said...

Thanks Kelly! It was fun being interviewed by you. I'm so glad you enjoyed our blog!

Thanks, Hank! I hope it's reassuring to some of our friends who aren't yet published. It takes a long time -- but it can happen for anyone!

pat jeanne said...

Thank you, Krista, for this encouraging interview. Thanks to Kelly, too.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for all the insights, Krista! This is a wonderful interview. Good job, both Krista and Kelly!

Krista said...

Thanks, Pat. The key is to keep at it!

I'm glad you enjoyed the interview, Kaye!