My friends who went the traditional route were spending a year and even two getting an agent and finding a publisher. Then it’s at least another year before the book comes out. My indie friends, and those who signed with small publishers like mine (Red Adept Publishing-RAP), had their books in hand and were moving on.
Elizabeth Buhmann – 6 June 2013
The Back Flap
Twenty years ago, Kate Cranbrook’s eyewitness testimony sent the wrong man to prison for rape and murder. When new evidence exonerates him, Kate says that in the darkness and confusion, she must have mistaken her attacker’s identity.
She is lying.
About the book
What is the book about?
Lay Death at Her Door is a murder mystery. My main character, Kate, lied on the stand when she was a young woman, and an innocent man went to prison for rape and murder. The book opens twenty years later when the man is exonerated by new evidence. As the story unfolds, we find out what really happened, why Kate lied, and who the real killer is.
When did you start writing the book?
I first started writing this book in late 2009.
How long did it take you to write it?
The first draft took the better part of a year. Then I revised, workshopped and gathered reader feedback for another year before I began to think about publishing.
Where did you get the idea from?
I’d been intrigued by the growing number of cases in which longstanding convictions have been overturned by modern forensic science. I like the idea of a very old cases coming unsolved.
Most of these erroneous convictions are based on eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable. Most of the time, the testimony is just mistaken, but I imagined a case where the victim deliberately lied. Then I figured out why she might have done such a thing.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The hardest part was integrating the two time periods in the story. Part of my story is about how the young Kate got herself into a fix where she felt she had to commit perjury to protect herself. The other part starts with the exoneration twenty years later and leads to a complete unraveling of her life. What was tricky was weaving these two story lines together.
What came easily?
I loved every minute that I was immersed in writing this book. I loved the characters and the setting, the story itself—especially the past story of how Kate’s life got so screwed up. I’m fascinated by the idea of someone doing something rash and heedless in her youth and having the rest of her life totally dominated by that mistake.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I borrowed from real life here and there, and from my own life, but my characters are purely fictional. I worked for the Texas Attorney General for twenty years, and during that time I knew a number of people who worked in victim services. One of my characters is a victim advocate, and although she is pure fiction, the issues she talks about are real, and the story she tells is based on a real story told to me by a victim of rape.
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 read murder mysteries of all kinds. I started with Nancy Drew as a child and moved on to Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner as a teenager. Over the years I have devoured everything ever written by (to name just a few) PD James, Dorothy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Ruth Rendell –especially those last two, who have influenced me more than I can say.
And since I’ve been writing about crime, I have reread Crime and Punishment more than once. It’s a tough read, but Dostoevsky wrote the foundation, in my opinion!
Do you have a target reader?
Readers of mystery fiction! People who love a crime puzzle with clues, where things are not as they seem. Also, readers who like dark protagonists—like Gillian Flynn’s, for example. Or one of my all-time favorites—Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca de Winter.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I begin by boiling down the main story into a summary. I write in major scenes that I can already picture: the climax, opening, and turning points. Then I connect the dots. I don’t worry about the first draft—I just get it down on paper, very rough, but complete with beginning, middle and end. Then I fill in more and more detail and revise until it’s as good as I can get it. Then I start trading manuscripts with other writers to get feedback.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Mainly, I work from an ever-expanding plot summary, but as the manuscript grows in length and complexity, I make a chapter outline with a one-paragraph summary of each chapter. This is mainly for my own quick reference, so I can keep track of what happens when, sort out the days and times, and know where all the characters are at all times.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit up to a certain standard—fairly smooth—as I go, but I don’t spend too much time on editing until I think I have the content and structure right. My feeling is that you can waste a lot of time polishing a scene only to realize later that you really should cut it or change it.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I did not. My publisher provides outstanding content and line editing.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
No, never. It would be too distracting for me. I write in the silence of the early morning.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I did, and although I got a lot of encouragement, ultimately my dark protagonist worked against me. Main characters are supposed to be likable, even admirable. A dark protagonist is considered a risk, especially for a first novel. Kate’s a pretty dodgy girl—though she’s a bit nicer now than she was in earlier drafts.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
It was a desire to move forward and turn my attention to my next book (which is almost finished). My friends who went the traditional route were spending a year and even two getting an agent and finding a publisher. Then it’s at least another year before the book comes out. My indie friends, and those who signed with small publishers like mine (Red Adept Publishing-RAP), had their books in hand and were moving on.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
RAP provides outstanding covers! I think mine is great. Streetlight Graphics did it.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
My publisher does a lot more than most, so I am following their plan, to start with. I am trying to learn from my successful writer friends. I’m launching a new website at www.elizabethbuhmann.com. I’ve had a personal website at www.pommelhouse.com for about ten years, and I’m refurbishing that as well.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
It’s just a personal choice, whether you like to do it all yourself. Some people like having full control over the management of their own projects, and they don’t want to have to share the eventual profits.
For me, it’s better to have a publisher. If you can find one like RAP, that’s author-friendly and offers a decent contract, you won’t have to pay up front for editing, cover art, proof-reading, or formatting, and you’ll have help with marketing and sales as well.
Small publishers are also likely to take direct submissions, so you don’t have to find an agent—or share your earnings with one.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Virginia, where my book is set, and like my main character Kate, I lived in other countries for several years while I was growing up. When I describe Kate coming to the US as a teenager and being something of an alien among girls her own age, I am writing what I know!
Where do you live now?
I live in Austin, Texas.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I want them to know my books—I’m not too fascinating myself! I’m the reclusive writer type. I write, practice Tai Chi, tend my garden, feed my chickens, and like to have my dog with me at all times.
What are you working on now?
I’ve gone off the deep end!!! I’ve written a modernized Frankenstein story. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. It’s pretty crazy, but it seems to be going over well with my beta-readers. I’ll return to form for my next book—it’ll be a murder mystery like Lay Death at Her Door. I’ve already got it roughed out.
End of Interview:
As mentioned above, Elizabeth is launching a website for you to visit. You can also