Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lisa Q. Mathews - Guest Author

Fellow Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime member Lisa Q. Mathews is a former Nancy Drew and Random House Children’s editor who now writes The Ladies Smythe & Westin mystery series (Carina Press/Harlequin) for grown-ups.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I’m one of those writers who can easily work to a personal or coffee shop soundtrack. But I am most productive with a football (NFL), baseball (preferably Red Sox), or golf game on in the background. Golf is actually the best, because I have less interest in it and I enjoy the hushed commentary and soft clapping. Growing up, I always did my homework on weekends in front of “the game” with my dad, who paid bills (remember those manual adding machines?). Soccer, hockey and basketball don’t work the same magic for me.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

I’m currently reading KILLER TAKEOUT, the latest in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries by Lucy Burdette. I love food critic/sleuth Hayley Snow, and I’m always up for a literary, if not literal, trip to Key West. I have a manuscript deadline right now, and since my series is also set in Florida, I can still stay in “the zone.”

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I have to say “pantser,” if we’re being a hundred percent honest here. I do attempt to outline each story, because 1. I used to be an in-house editor, 2. my publisher requests an extended synopsis, and 3. I know it’s good for me. But I usually discover much better clues (and even switch the killer) as I write.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I used to finish every book I started, without fail. Lately, though, I’ve found it easier to quit if I’m not really that interested. Usually that happens when there are a lot of info dumps, or long stretches of incredible detail inside a character’s head with little dialogue. Maybe that’s because I usually read before bed and I’m overtired. But even if I stop reading a book, I leave it on my nightstand for a while, in case I want to give it another chance.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I do. I think maybe all writers read their own reviews, no matter what they say—unless they have so many, it’s a tiresome chore. I wish I had more of them to peruse! My younger sleuth takes some heat sometimes, because she has a lot to learn about life. She’s breaking a few (okay, a lot) of rules by living in an over-55 community as a twenty-something. One of my favorite reviews was from a reader who was also a property manager. Luckily, I have a very nice, long-suffering property manager character in the series!

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I am a terrible formatter. Sometimes I have long stretches where I’ve used two spaces after a period (old habits die hard). Also, I’m always screwing up the line spacing and number of asterisks in my scene breaks. With two sleuths and two point-of-views, I have a lot of them.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

Most often, my final word count nearly matches my first. I’m a precision reviser, probably because I used to write to spec as a writer-for-hire. If I cut, I refill. If I add, I cut—almost to the exact character count.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

I came up with the plot for Permanently Booked, the second title in the Ladies Smythe & Westin series, after observing some cut-throat, promotional competitiveness between two authors (who shall remain nameless). I couldn’t resist! The book club setting came straight from my parents’ former Floridian retirement community.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Any misuse of it’s/its makes me c-r-a-z-y. I’m also unhinged by constant confusions of where/wear/we’re and there/their/they’re. (Gosh, now that I’ve said this, I hope no one finds any of those mistakes in my books!)

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Aside from the all-important “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle,” which applies to every stage of writing and publishing, I use The Revising Rule of Three: If you hear a comment once, consider it. If it comes up twice, take a second look. Three times? Get out that red pen!

To find out more about Lisa Q. Mathews and her writing, please visit her website LisaQMathews.com or her group blog Chicks on the Case.

Here’s a blurb for PERMANENTLY BOOKED:


First rule of the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club: Don’t talk about the murder.

Semi-reformed party girl Summer Smythe finally feels at home at the Hibiscus Pointe Retirement Community. All that's left to do is replace her late grandma's book collection with a TV. Donating them to the community library is the perfect solution—until she finds the librarian buried in books. Literally.

Summer and her sleuthing partner, longtime resident Dorothy Westin, can't imagine who would want to kill poor, dedicated Lorella. Soon, they're on the case…and the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club is the perfect cover for their investigation.

Even outsiders—including an oddball professor and a pair of dueling authors—are eager to join the once-dull group. But one menacing member has Dorothy and Summer bookmarked for the morgue. If the Ladies Smythe and Westin don't nab the killer fast, the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club may read their obituaries next.


16 comments:

  1. Lisa, I also sometimes turn on sports for background noise, especially if the neighbors are loud. But I've never thought of golf with its "hushed commentary and soft clapping." That's brilliant! I think writing with subtle background applause could be inspiring :-)

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  2. Vickie, Yes, all that clapping is so reassuring when I'm trying to write my way out of a hole (er, sand trap?).

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  3. Jim, many thanks again for hosting me today--this was fun! Great questions.

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    1. Lisa -- great to have you, and I had a great time sitting at your table at the new author breakfast at Malice!

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  4. A lovely interview, Lisa and Jim!

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  5. Great interview.!I am SO with you on "it's" v "its"!

    Ellen Byron

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    1. Thanks, Ellen! I don't know why it makes me so nuts. :-)

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  6. You left out my favorite grammar peeve--misuse of lay and lie. But it was a great blog--good questions, Jim; great answers, Lisa.

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    1. Thank you, Judy! Ah, yes...another popular peeve. (I tend to substitute a different word for "lay," to avoid.)

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  7. Great interview, Jim! Lisa, you are a terrific writer. (Loved the history of your "background noise"!)

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    1. So sweet, Cleo--coming from one of my favorite authors! And yes, the "background noise" is such a special memory. (The Red Sox are playing just outside my office right now.)

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  8. Fun interview! I love the rule of three. It's so true!

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  9. Great interview. There's nothing wrong with being a panster :) I wrote 4 novels that way. I'm trying a 5th by writing an outline... We'll see what happens. I'm curious if I can keep interested if I know the outline first. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

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    1. Thanks, Kristina! Sometimes a compromise "bullet" outline works for me. Just a few, brief points about a chapter, not the details...otherwise, it takes me as long to write (and stress over) the outline as the book!

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    2. Thanks, Kristina! Sometimes a compromise "bullet" outline works for me. Just a few, brief points about a chapter, not the details...otherwise, it takes me as long to write (and stress over) the outline as the book!

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