Andrea Sisco is co-founder/owner of the popular book review site, Armchair Interviews. She's joining us to today to talk about her debut mystery novel, A Deadly Habit, to be released on July 17th by Five Star. Visit her website at AndreaSisco.com. To read my review of A Deadly Habit, click HERE.
Thanks for this interview, Andrea. Tell us, when did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I didn't decide. It just happened. Really, it just happened. I had an idea. I sat down and wrote it and when I wrote 'The End' I said to myself, "You wrote a book! Now try and get an agent and sell it smarty pants." By that time I was determined. I was 60 (a very young 60) years old and my bucket list cried out for 'author' to be written on it. Did I tell you how excited I am? It's just bubbling over.
Your mystery novel, A Deadly Habit, features a feisty, stubborn, and quite endearing protagonist. What was your inspiration for her?
I'm not sure where Penelope came from. However, my editor, in a flurry of emails, said at the end of three or four of them, "Oh, I get it, YOU are Penelope. I was shocked. My son Guy (he's an actor in New York) called and I asked him about my editor's comments since he had read the book. He laughed and said, "Duh." So maybe there is just a little of Penelope in me. They say, write what you know and I guess I knew Penelope. And I had been a probation officer for almost 20 years…
Did you plan in advance all the parts of the plot or did she lead you along the way? I wouldn't be surprised!
I did everything wrong. I had no idea how to write a book. I had the basic plot. I sat down at the computer. I wrote. The result was A Deadly Habit (my husband titled the book). The characters led me every step of the way and let me tell you it was an uncomfortable position to be in. I don't like to lose control of things! I tried many times to just slap them down, but they were like stubborn children and wouldn't mind. By the end of the book I thought I would like to take my own gun and just shoot Penelope. She can be a bit aggravating. The process was painful and I won't do it like that again. The next book is plotted!
Some of your secondary characters, like the nun and the priest, add a lot of humor to your novel. How did you come up with the idea for these characters?
I grew up a protestant and all my cousins were Roman Catholic. I was entranced with the ritual, the pomp and circumstance of the faith. I used to dress up in bed sheets and pretend I was a nun. And let me tell you, I was a drama queen. It seemed like a great deal of fun to have an elderly priest and a young nun trying to keep the impetuous Penelope on the straight and narrow (Yeah, that would be a Kodak moment). So a little idea became Father Daniel and Sister Germaine.
Will this be a series? If so, when will the second one be published?
It began as a stand alone book and grew into a series. I didn't sign on for another book, but it is happening as we speak. I had to write it because Penelope was hounding me, not to mention the three emails from my editor.
Tell us about your writing habits while working on this novel? Did you write every day? Were you disciplined?
My writing habits were despicable! I don't want to talk about how I wrote this novel as it is embarrassing. But I will tell you because I think other authors feel awful about how they write. They feel guilty about their process. And they shouldn't feel guilty.
They read those interviews where the author says: "Oh, I'm disciplined. I write six days a week, five pages daily…" Or "I write every day for four hours." Or the big lie, "I'm at my desk for five hours every day, even if I can't think of anything to write. I just sit there." Well doesn't that one make you want to slit your wrists? Hey I've got a husband, children, grandchildren, a puppy and friends, two homes, not to mention the wash, ironing (yes I still iron) and bills to pay. I don't have time to punish myself if I'm experiencing writers block. I'm a woman with things to do. I write or I don't write. But what I don't do is gaze out the window (I'd just look at weeds that needed plucking or think about taking Sophie for a walk). But what I did do was write erratically. I'd write every day, all day for three weeks and then nothing for two. It's difficult to do everything I do and then run Armchair Interviews and write a book. I should be three women. What I need is a wife. Oh, did I say that as busy as I am, we're discussing another puppy? Crazy woman that I am. Yes, Sophie and I need a companion and we're thinking about a certain Yorkie. A little boy that needs us. My husband Bob has veto power and we're waiting to see what he thinks. But I digress. See how it goes? Its tough to have a writing schedule when you've developed adult onset ADD.
What was the hardest part of writing this novel? The easiest?
The most difficult part was actually writing A Deadly Habit. It's tough to be funny and I'm not sure I accomplished it. I'm waiting for some reviews to tell me if I was successful. I have an interesting view of the world. I see it like a movie and I provide the running commentary. I'm not sure others will think my view is humorous. The easiest thing was writing The End. In other words, when writing a novel, nothing is easy. Oh, it was easy to tell everyone "I sold my book!"
How do you divide your time between maintaining a popular book review site like Armchair Interviews, which has about 100 reviewers, and writing?
I don't do a very good job at all. I'm leaving my Minnesota home early this fall (mid October) and locking myself away in my Arizona home (I'm not telling anyone I've arrived) and writing. I have to. If I allow myself any leeway at all, I'll be off and running in another direction. I'll start a new quilt, take the puppies (notice the plural — I am like Tinker Bell — I believe!) for a walk, I'll call my grandchildren or read a book. Note to self: You should cook something occasionally. Your husband would certainly appreciate the effort. That effort may help the puppy situation also.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
A Deadly Habit: A Penelope Santucci Mystery will be released July 17, 2009. The easiest way to purchase is from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or the publisher's website which is www.gale.cengage.com If anyone is in the Twin Cities (St. Paul/Minneapolis) on July 30; please join me at Once Upon a Crime mystery bookstore at 7:00 p.m. for the formal launch. OUAC is my FAVORITE bookstore. If anyone is coming that night they can preorder A Deadly Habit via www.onceuponacrimebooks.com
And finally: If you long to write a book, do it! If I can write and sell a book at age 60, anyone out there with the desire can do it! Go for your dreams. Life can sometimes be a real downer and daring to follow through with a dream is better than those little bitty pills I've heard so much about.
Thanks for the great interview, Andrea, and good luck with your new novel!