I am very excited to present to you the first mystery writer to be featured on Newbie Novelist. Like her main charachter, psychologist/advice columnist/sleuth Rebecca Butterman, Dr, Roberta Isleib is also a clinical psychologist. With that in mind, I think it's safe to assume that every member of the cast of Asking for Murder will be an excercise in some deep characterization...
What makes a book un-put-downable for you?
For me, it’s always the characters. I can excuse a lot of plot flaws if the characters are appealing and complex. This is probably why I loved being a therapist too: understanding what makes people tick and how they struggle, and then helping them find a happier way to live.
Can you tell us about any real-life events that inspired a scene or two in your book?
People tell me that my books have a realistic feel—for good reason. The settings are modeled on the Connecticut towns nearby. Also my protagonist uses the therapy office I used to have, and she cooks meals that either I’ve made or I’ve watched friends prepare. (Spaghetti carbonara and red velvet cake in this book!)
Can you tell us the story behind meeting and signing with your agent?
I studied Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Toolkit and Jeff Herman's Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. I contacted agents who had interests like mine (mystery, sports, psychology), or who had some feature in their personal background that made me think we might connect. I hired an independent editor to give me fairly inexpensive but useful feedback on my manuscript-she directed me to several agents. I attended mystery conventions and talked with people there about the process. I attended the International Women's Writers Guild "Meet the Agents" forum in New York City. I groveled in front of everyone I even remotely knew connected with the publishing business. And I suffered through multiple rejections and shouldered gamely forward, my skin toughening by the hour. Finally an agent I'd met at IWWG called: Another agent had visited her office, seen my manuscript, and fallen in love with it. We're still working together!
What typically sets off your thought process when beginning a new book?
Characters are easier for me--I can imagine their lives and their history and the arc their relationships will take. I'm always looking for the plot part of the story--in newspapers, conversations, other books. Really, I'll take it wherever I find it! And brainstorming with my writing friends is also very helpful.
What’s the most useful thing, in terms of promotion, that you’ve done?
In a word: networking. Working as a writer can be lonely and discouraging. By getting involved with Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and my own writers group, I’ve made so many writer friends. And from those friends have come tips, invitations, suggestions, questions, and unlimited support.