As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Both my parents were teachers (my mother in English and as a librarian; my father, a math professor), so that was my first dream. When I started taking music lessons—Suzuki violin at age 3, recorder at age 6, piano at age 7, later voice—that dream morphed into being a performer or a music teacher. I eventually earned two degrees in music, a Bachelor's in Voice Performance and a Master's in Musicology, but ended up working at a classical public radio station and then as a freelance writer.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
Voracious! The kind who snuck books under the cover by flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. The kind who was so obsessive that my mother became concerned I didn't go outside enough to play (she was right).
What were your favorite childhood books?
Mom-the-librarian kept me plied with a variety of books that won the Newbery and other awards. I loved A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte's Web, Anne of Green Gables, and other similar titles. But I also read a lot of my mother's crime fiction, like Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout. (I preferred The Hardy Boys over Nancy Drew because they got to do more interesting things!)
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Very early. Probably when I wrote my first story for school. I won a local poetry contest at the age of ten and got hooked on poetry, a love that has persisted to this day.
What other writers or books have influenced you? Or what books made the strongest impression on you?
I remember when Mom loaned me Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton when I was a youngster. That book really opened my eyes about the world and was probably the bridge between my young adult and adult literary worlds. There were books related to the Holocaust that haunted me, such as The Diary of Anne Frank, and the various works I researched while writing a paper on Harriet Tubman. I'll always be grateful to Mom for opening my eyes to the world.
Where do you get your ideas?
Where do I *not* get my ideas? Everywhere. I've even gotten a few from my dreams. I carry around a little notebook with me at all times and sometimes use an app on my Smartphone to jot down quick ideas. I've had story ideas pop into my head while walking on the treadmill at the gym, driving my car (which is incredibly inconvenient), or just sitting and watching other people at restaurants or museums.
How much research do you do?
A lot. That's the reason I started my blog In Reference to Murder, because I was conducting so much research for my own stories, I thought it might help other people to share some of those resources. The blog grew into more of a general crime fiction news and information site.
Do you ever experience writer's block?
Never have. I always have at least half a dozen stories I'm working on and sometimes more than one book. The only problem is switching back and forth between them and getting back into that new literary world.
Do you base characters on real people? Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
I have never based a single character on any real person. I think each character is an amalgam of characteristics I've observed in hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my lifetime. I name each one carefully to avoid similar names to anyone I know.
Which actor would you like to see playing Drayco?
The 1970s French actor Alain Delon and Greek singer Sakis Rouvas had a bit of the look down in their prime (Drayco has Navajo genes on his father's side), but more current actors who also have the look are Ian Somerhalder, Colin O'Donoghue, or Hugh Jackman. Most would have to wear lifts to get them to Drayco's 6'4" height and also blue contacts.
What is your daily writing routine?
Catch as catch-can. I prefer to get up, go to the gym, then sit down at the computer for four hours or more.
Do you use any special software, such as Scrivener?
I've used MS Word, Excel, yWriter, and Scrivener. All of them work well, and sometimes I even use a combination.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
My first books were completely plotted out, with a very long outline that was many pages in length. When I started using the software programs, I was able to create storyboards that helped simplify the process.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It can take weeks to months to do research in advance and outline. Once the outline is in place, it may take as little as a month to three months to write the first draft of a book. The editing, however, that's another, long, story....
You set some of the Scott Drayco books in Cape Unity on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Is that a real place?
Cape Unity is a fictional town (and Prince of Wales County is likewise fictitious), but combines elements of several communties on the Eastern Shore, as well as the landscape. I do include some real places in the books, though, like Wallops Island and Watchapreague, home of the "world's best flounder."
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Marketing. I don't know of any writers, no matter how they are published, who really enjoy it. We'd all just prefer to be spending our time writing.
Do you go on book tours?
At the present time, due to scheduling and other issues, I only do online book tours. To keep up with events and upcoming book releases, subscribe to my newsletter (I will never share your subscriber information with anyone, and you can cancel at any time).
Can I send you my books to get them signed?
Unfortunately, that would take a lot of time away from writing, not to mention the cost of shipping. However, I may add something like that to the website in the near future. I also have occasional giveaways of signed books at Goodreads, LibraryThing and on my blog, so stay "tuned" for those.
Will your short stories be available in paperback, too?
Currently, False Shadows, a collection of eight Drayco stories, is in print. Others may follow in the future.
Will you read my manuscript or synopsis or poetry? Will you blurb my books? Can I send you a story idea?
Most authors get a number of these requests, and it would be nice if we were able to accommodate them. But in addition to the time issue, there is a legal issue—the possibility that someone would claim an author stole an idea or a story. There are many wonderful, helpful free websites and inexpensive books on the craft of writing out there, many of which you can find in your local public library. There are also many helpful writers' conferences each around the country and the world—check out the Conferences section on my blog, In Reference to Murder.
How do you relax?
Reading of course! I also enjoy listening to music, watching science documentaries, taking out the telescope at night, getting lost in any of D.C.'s wonderful museums, and most of all, spending time with my husband, who is a private pilot—which means fun travels, too!
What kind of music do you listen to?
I prefer classical, but will listen to *almost* anything and have favorites in various genres.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
More than anything else, keep reading and writing! Those are the two best tools any author has for improving their work.