By Karen Harper
Karen Harper recently caught up with sister Ohioan, Julie Anne Lindsey, while Julie was attending the Love Is Murder conference in chilly, snowy Chicago. Julie is building a varied, dynamic career in several genres, so we talked about her great new cozy mystery release and her wide-range of projects.
Tell us a bit about your new release MURDER COMES ASHORE.
Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.
Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.
Are you a plan-ahead author or does the book grow-as-it-goes for you? Did your heroine, Patience Price, emerge full blown or did she develop as you wrote?
I’m a plan-ahead girl when it comes to my mysteries. I tend to create 10-12 page, chapter by chapter, color-coded outlines before writing the opening sentence. Outlining helps me see the whole picture, add clues, foreshadowing, antics and romance without letting any one aspect take over. I use the colors to give me a quick peek at places in need of a little pizazz. Too much pink in one chapter? Why not move some of that pink-for-flirting scene to the next chapter and drop in another red-for-dead-body instead?
As for my heroine, Patience is inspired by my dear friend, Kimberly, who really does work at the FBI. I met Kimberly in kindergarten and we remained best friends for years. When I ran into her again in college and learned she applied for an FBI job, I laughed. Kimberly is the most upbeat, fun-loving gal I know and her image didn’t sync with my notions about the FBI. I was wrong. Kimberly joined the FBI after graduation and works in human resources. She has done recruiting and all sorts of things that fit her loveable, girl-next-door personality. Kimberly continues to inspire me with her addictive smile and contagious laughter.
You have written in a variety of genres for both YA and adult fiction, including romance and now cozy mystery. Do you have a favorite? Do you view these various genres as separate or having overlap? Is your approach and method different depending on the genre?
I’ve never been one of those writers who instinctively knows what they’re meant to write. I only know I love writing. So, I’ve spent the past few years writing all the stories that keep me up at night, hoping to find the place where my writing-voice and style works best.
I think romance is the biggest overlap in my stories. I can’t seem to help myself. Whether my story is about an amateur sleuth or a serial killer, good old-fashioned cheek-pinking romance slips in there somehow. Everyone understands the butterflies of a first love or wayward crush. I use that to the fullest.
I’m not sure if I have a favorite genre. Writing as a whole is a like free therapy for me. I have an obsessive personality and genre jumping gives me a way to balance my feelings (which are usually intense and always exhausting). For example: I pour my darkest thoughts and deepest fears into a YA suspense, then work through my issues using the lives of my characters. The clouds roll away. The heroine overcomes impossible circumstances, and I slough off the stress weighing down my brain. It’s therapeutic. When life is chaotic and I need a reality reprieve, I return to the cozy mystery series. In my cozy, life is the good kind of bananas where anything’s possible and everything is fun. I need both genre outlets to maintain a slim semblance of sanity.
What themes run through a Julie Anne Lindsey story? Your website (http://julieannelindsey.com) says you “like to make people smile.” Can you incorporate humor in all your books?
Most of my stories have a common theme of redemption. I’m also a total feminist writer, and I always make room for laughter. In fact, humor was a main ingredient and personal goal as I created the MURDER COMES ASHORE series.
Tell us a bit about the island inspiration behind MURDER COMES ASHORE. Have you found that readers enjoy escaping to one particular place? Is that easier or more challenging for you to build a world in more than one novel or to start over each time?
The location for MURDER COMES ASHORE was inspired by a family vacation in 2007, four years before I considered writing a novel. We wanted to take the kids to see the ocean, but didn’t want to go someplace overcrowded with two little ones in diapers. Thank goodness for Google. I had no idea there were islands off the coast of Virginia. That trip changed my life.
Chincoteague, Virginia is a tiny island community with a slogan. “Relax. You’re on island time now.” I had no idea what island time was, but I knew I wanted it. Sold. We rented a home on the harbor and stayed seven nights on the little 3×7 mile island. I was thoroughly enchanted. Honestly, I think I carried part of Chincoteague home in my soul. I’ve never really left. My mind has slipped away to the beaches of the Assateague national shoreline for seven years. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was a writer! One of my first stories took place on Chincoteague and all my cozy mysteries have, too. There’s something intoxicating about the wide white sand beaches, bleating tug boats and sandpipers racing the waves. I’d pack up and move there tomorrow if I could. I highly recommend it for your next vacation.
You are a busy wife and mother of three. Can you give us any words of wisdom on how you can balance all that with a prolific writing career?
I wish. I do as much writing as possible while the kids are in school or after everyone has gone to bed at night. It’s an impossible balance, but I try. I put the kids first because there is a day coming (probably sooner than I will be ready for) when they won’t want me at their practices, or need my help with homework or want to tell me about their day. Until my kids demand I maintain a respectable distance, I will be there for them first. Writing will comfort and distract me through the unavoidable transition from much-needed-mommy to that lady who does my laundry.
You have a trailer on your website for a YA novel. How did you go about having that made and have you had any interesting feedback on it? Have you found a trailer to be a key promotion tactic for YA over your adult fiction?
My trailer was a gift from Matt Petrunak, a brilliant film student at Kent State University. When I signed the contract for DECEIVED, I immediately wanted a book trailer. I wanted to use that medium to reach teen and young adult readers, but I can barely upload images from my phone to my blog, so I knew I needed help. I turned to my alma mater by contacting the film school through Facebook and a friend working at the University Library and asking if any student was interested in helping me with a trailer. Matt Petrunak responded. He blew me away from our very first meeting. Matt had an amazing vision, put the scenes together, cast the production and spent his free time bringing the story to life. For me. A stranger. I mean, I was a stranger. Now I’m an author who loves him intensely and in very creepy author ways.
What are you working on now and what do you hope the future holds for you with ebooks and beyond?
The timing of this interview is amazing. I had the opportunity to attend Love Is Murder in Chicago this weekend and got some phenomenal news while I was there. I met Laura Barth from Harlequin at dinner Saturday night and she told me the MURDER COMES ASHORE series was selected for print in the Harlequin Book Club! So, I am currently finishing edits on book three in the series and plotting a new cozy concept in the hopes that I might have finally found my voice in writing after all!
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.
To learn more about Julie Anne Lindsey, please visit her website.