IndieView with Judith K. Ivie, author of Dying Wishes

In 2009, I realized that because of the many marketing and PR jobs I held over the years, I had all of the computer, editing, writing and marketing skills necessary to launch a small press of my own, and that’s what I did. Mainly Murder Press is a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, not a vanity press. We now publish the work of nearly 30 talented writers.

Judith K. Iview 28 July 2012

The Back Flap

Kate’s turning 50, and as if that weren’t depressing enough,
she’s about to become a grandmother—twice. Her
investigation of a mysterious death at the Vista View
retirement complex opens her eyes to the new realities of
aging, some of which send her reeling. What really happened
to the wealthy, tennis-playing cougar in Building One? Are
residents covering up a sex-for-hire scandal? Will Kate’s
longtime friend lose her job as Vista View’s business manager?
Kate makes it her business to discover the truth—or die trying—while simultaneously juggling the onset of hot flashes, impending grandmother-hood, and her daughter’s sudden interest in becoming a single mom.  Dying Wishes is the fifth Kate Lawrence Mystery, all of which are set in Hartford and Old Wethersfield, Connecticut.  It features three real, grown-up women with real, grown-up lives that include jobs and kids and lovers and husbands … and the occasional murder that needs solving.

About the book

What is the book about?

Within the context of Kate facing her own 50th birthday and her work as a sales rep for a full-service retirement community, Kate confronts the realities of aging and the responsibility we all must take for insuring a dignified death with as little suffering as possible. The main plot line involves a sudden death at the retirement community. The circumstances are mysterious, but was it a murder?

When did you start writing the book?

About eight months ago

How long did it take you to write it?

Eight months

 Where did you get the idea from?

I have always followed with interest court battles involving difficult end-of-life cases, e.g., when a comatose patient is kept alive through artificial interference (Terri Schiavo), the enactment of death with dignity laws, the voluntary refusal of food and fluids movement, and improvements in hospice care. My interest stemmed partially from watching relatives and colleagues face such issues in their personal lives and from the knowledge that I may well need to face them in the future.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

On one hand, an established series gave me an excellent stage from which to state my case. On the other hand, my readers have come to expect a lot of mischief and humor in my books. This was a difficult and emotional plot line, so I struggled continually to lighten up the somber parts with amusing subplots.

What came easily?

Writing for a familiar cast of characters makes the task much easier. Over the years, Kate and her friends Margo and Strutter, her lover-now-husband Armando, daughter Emma and son Joey, have become nearly real to me. At this point I pretty much know how they will feel about things, what will tick them off, what makes them laugh, and most importantly, how they interact with each other.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I think every writer borrows from people he or she has come across in real life, and I’m no exception. Each of my fictitious characters tends to be an amalgamation of several real-world people with whom I’ve worked or socialized.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I have read most, if not all, of the classic mysteries and many, many modern titles and have enjoyed them all thoroughly. In terms of influencing my own style, I would have to say I started out consciously trying to emulate Joan Hess, particularly her Claire Malloy series. I love the struggles Claire has with her personal life, her daughter, the man in her life. Her sardonic, slightly skeptical viewpoint rings true, and I very much enjoy the humor she injects into her mysteries.

Do you have a target reader?

Each book features characters from age 20 or so well into their 80s. Regardless of readers’ ages, I think those who have some experience of relationships, children, and the work place will get the most from my titles, as well as those who enjoy a small New England town setting.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Once I commit to writing a new book, I forge ahead. I don’t like projects that drag on unnecessarily, so I write every day and have a quota of at least 500 words. I write in longhand in a spiral notebook, usually while still in bed with a mug of coffee handy. Some days, it’s sheer drudgery to get those 500 words down on paper. Other days, particularly when I’m well into the project, I fly through 800 or 1,000 words. The next day, I review what I wrote the previous day and make corrections before continuing. When a few thousand words have accumulated, I enter them into a Word document, print them out and add the pages to a three-ring binder. And so it goes. As the plot evolves in my head, I constantly go back and revise, revise, revise, so by the time I have the 62,000 – 65,000 words I’m aiming for, I’ve really completed the equivalent of several drafts.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I do not outline. My “process,” if you want to call it that, is to create as big a mess for my characters as I possibly can, then let them be themselves and figure out what they’re going to do about it. They’re all nice people – I have confidence in them! In terms of continuity, I think of my job as that of a plate-spinner, you know, one of those guys who used to be on Ed Sullivan and spin a whole row of plates atop slender rods? When one plate started to wobble, he would run down and give it another spin. That’s how I think of my plots and subplots. When one starts to get wobbly, I give it a flick.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Yes, and yes, lol. Having been a writer and an editor of my own and many others’ work for more than 25 years now, I’m always in editor mode. Editing is never finished. You can always make something better, tighter, funnier, pithier … but at some point, you need to stop.

Did you hire a professional editor?

No, although my daughter and sister and a few close friends often read the finished manuscript for typos.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Music is one of the great joys in my life, and I enjoy everything from classical guitar to country to opera to Cole Porter, but not while I’m writing. I write in silence.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents

I started out as the author of nonfiction books years ago, and I had an agent at that time, but we’re talking 30 years ago when one could actually get an agent. When I switched to fiction in 2006 or so, I went through the proscribed process of attempting to get an agent, fielding the close-but-no-cigar rejections, and ultimately abandoning that approach. I discovered e-presses (Wings E-Press, Whiskey Creek Press) and things really took off from there. While I sold lots of books, it was tough to make any money just on royalties. In 2009, I realized that because of the many marketing and PR jobs I held over the years, I had all of the computer, editing, writing and marketing skills necessary to launch a small press of my own, and that’s what I did. Mainly Murder Press is a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, not a vanity press. We now publish the work of nearly 30 talented writers. As a part of that process, I regained the rights to my own first two mysteries and now publish them as well as the subsequent three books in the series. Then along came the Amazon Kindle and Amazon’s amazing distribution, so we now publish e-books as well as trade paperbacks. Complete information on all of our fresh, new voices in the mystery genre can be found at www.MainlyMurderPress.com.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?

My book covers have always been professionally designed, but there is a wide range of talent out there. I am in the process of having all of the covers in my series redesigned by Karen A. Phillips, who also designs covers for our other authors. She is an amazing talent, and I’m delighted finally to have a “series look” for the Kate Lawrence Mysteries.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

New or aspiring writers who say things like, “Oh, I don’t want to be bothered with all of that marketing stuff” are doomed in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace. The plain fact of the matter is that the average new author today sells fewer than 300 copies of a title. If you want to do even that well, you must participate actively in marketing. If you don’t get out there and doggedly build a reader base, starting with friends and family and colleagues and schoolmates and members of your church or running club, you will sell precisely nothing. You have to have a launch event. You have to contact your local newspapers. You need to have a Facebook page and a website and maybe a blog. You need to speak at your local library and Elks Club and book clubs. Paid advertising doesn’t work, and attending most conferences doesn’t work. If you want simply to Be An Author and swan around at writers’ conferences, good luck to you. You won’t sell many books, but you’ll meet lots of other writers, all of whom want to sell their books to you.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Be willing to work as hard at the marketing as you do the writing. Keep your expectations about small presses and what they can and cannot do for you realistic. Don’t fall for vanity presses’ pitches. Consider only presses who do not charge you for anything and do not require that you purchase copies. If you self-publish, at least have your manuscript professionally edited and get an experienced designer to do your cover.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Connecticut and have lived here all my life, with the exception of my flower child period in the late 1960s, when I lived just south of San Francisco.

What would you like readers to know about you?

A lifelong Connecticut resident, I have worked in public relations, advertising, sales promotion, and the international tradeshow industry. I also served as administrative assistant to several top executives. Along the way, I produced three nonfiction books, as well as numerous articles and essays. In 2006, I broadened my repertoire to include fiction, and the popular Kate Lawrence mystery series, set in historic Wethersfield, Connecticut, was launched. All are now published by Mainly Murder Press, my small publishing company, in trade paperback, and all are available as paperbacks and e-books at Amazon.com.

Whatever the genre, I try to provide lively, entertaining reading that takes my readers away from their work and worries for a few hours, stimulates thought on a variety of contemporary issues and gives them a laugh along the way.

What are you working on now?

Having just completed the fifth title in my series, I am not actively writing a new Kate Lawrence Mystery, but I try to release a new book at least every two years. Right now, I’m working on promoting Dying Wishes, editing the next title in the Mainly Murder Press line-up, reviewing author submissions for 2013, preparing the fall sales catalog … you know, just keeping busy!

End of Interview:

For more Judith, visit her website or that of the small publishing house she founded, Mainly Murder Press.

For your copy of Dying Wishes, if you’re still reading paper books, your best bet is probably going directly to Mystery Murder Press, where the prices are best. For ebooks or if you want to take advantage of Amazon Prime free shipping, you can go to Amazon US (ebook or paper) or Amazon UK (ebook or paper).

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