September 6, 2016

Victoria Hamilton - Cozy Mystery Author Spotlight and Interview

I am going to be hosting a number of cozy mystery authors on my blog for the next two months. If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying a cozy mystery I encourage you to do so. The cozy mystery industry as a whole is in danger of being lost as the publishers are ending a number of series. Please note that not all series I will be sharing are in danger. There are many that will be continuting on as normal. I just wanted to do my part to make everyone aware of this genre as a whole. 

Today I will be showcasing Victoria Hamilton and Amanda Cooper 

About the author:
Victoria Hamilton is the national bestselling author of three bestselling series, the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries and Merry Muffin Mysteries as Victoria, and the Teapot Collector Mysteries as Amanda Cooper. She is also the bestselling author of Regency and historical romance as Donna Lea Simpson.

Victoria loves to cook and collects vintage kitchen paraphernalia, teacups and teapots, and almost anything that catches her fancy! She loves to read, especially mystery novels, and enjoys good tea and cheap wine, the company of friends, and has a newfound appreciation for opera. She enjoys crocheting and beading, but a good book can tempt her away from almost anything… except writing!

Where to follow the author:
Killer Characters - Victoria writes for this blog on the 21st of each month

Merry Muffin Series

Merry Wynter didn’t know a lot about her family until she finally made her way to take possession of her inherited castle near the town of Autumn Vale, in upstate New York.

Though she intended to do a quick fix and put it back on the market, she realizes if she is ever going to find out her family history on the Wynter side, this is the place to do it.

Baking muffins, investigating murders, making friends... and enemies... among the quirky residents of Autumn Vale, keeps Merry busy, and local Sheriff Virgil Grace keeps her heart rate high.

Though the widowed Merry still carries a torch in her heart for her late husband, photographer Miguel Paradiso, maybe there is enough room there for a new flame?

With her wonderful friends Pish Lincoln and Shilo Dinnegan, who have joined her at the castle, Merry is starting to find it hard to imagine leaving the ancestral home of her Wynter ancesters. If folks wouldn't keep getting murdered, it would be pretty much perfect! **Taken from the author's website

Q1 - When did your love of writing begin?
A1 – I’m not sure when it dawned on me that all those books I loved to read had writers, and that there was a real person behind it, but by the age of 12 or so, I knew I wanted to write. I just didn’t know if I could, and it took me a lot longer to see it as a career option. I grew up in a working class family of factory workers and nursing assistants, so it just didn’t seem possible.

If I could give advice to parents – which is a little presumptuous, since I’ve never had kids – I’d say, don’t let them be confined in their dreams to what they know or see. Be sure they know they can do anything. I suppose with today’s access to the world through the internet, it’s a lot easier to see the possibilities.

Q2 - What made you choose this genre?

A2 – There was never really any choice involved. I started reading mysteries as a kid, and that’s always what I wanted to write. However under my real name, Donna Simpson/Donna Lea Simpson I actually broke into being published with Regency romances, then paranormal romances, then historical mysteries and finally cozy mysteries! You might say I took the long and winding road.

Q3 - Do you have a scheduled writing time, place and/or routine?
A3 – Wake up, get a coffee and stumble to the computer. Catch up on a game I play online, (and try not to spend too much time doing it) do some social networking with the blog I write for, KillerCharacters,com, and then to work. I work most days, but there are so many work related tasks to take care of too – social networking, now a necessary part of a writer’s life; writing proposals; copy editing; typeset editing; research; conferring with my agent and editor – that the day is never long enough. I never write in the evening; I wouldn’t sleep if I did. I need a little TV in the evening to calm my brain, because otherwise it never really stops humming. Even while relaxing, I’ll occasionally jump up from watching TV or reading and run to my desk to make a note on one of the WIPs (work in progress).

Q4 - What do you do to get over writer's block?
A4 – I don’t believe I’ve ever really suffered writer’s block. If I’m having trouble, it means I need to go back in the WIP and figure out where I went wrong. Or switch to another task.

Q5 - What was it like to get your first publishing contract?
A5 – Surreal. First, a little backstory, because there is my first publishing contract, and then there is my first real publishing contract: I had signed a contract with a tiny publisher of niche books, but I had had all kinds of trouble with them. The books were coil bound (!!) and had pages mixed up. The editor/publisher was not responding to emails and seemed unprofessional to me. It was annoying.

In the meantime I had submitted a manuscript to Kensington’s Zebra Regency line. I had an email account, but back then I did not have internet on my own computer, only my sister’s and the connection was dial-up, so the phone line was tied up by it. So I got an email from the editor at Kensington that simply said, “I’ve been trying to call you all day but your number’s busy. I’d like to talk. Let me know when you’re free.” I was free that moment, of course, so we talked, and after he offered me a contract and $2000.00 advance the rest was a blur. We just happened to have a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge, we cracked it open, and then… I took out the garbage. Glamorous!

Q6 - How has the publishing/writing world changed since you first started writing?
A6 – When I first started writing I did all my research in the library, wrote notes and the manuscript longhand, and my sister typed my manuscript on a manual typewriter, with carbon to make a copy. Yeah, it was that long ago. Even when I first got published, copyedits were done by couriered typeset pages, or fax, tho’ I had to fax from the variety store for a buck a page and half the time that didn’t work. So, we’ve come a long way!

Q7 - You write about strong female characters. Are they modeled after anyone?
A7 – I’m really happy to hear you say that! It’s important to me that my female characters are strong, independent and smart, like most of the woman I know. I want to create people who feel real to me, not caricatures or stereotypes. That’s why I people my books with characters of all colors, sexual preferences, and ability/disability. That is the world, after all. They are generally not modeled after anyone, but on occasion I will take some traits of people I’ve observed and use them.

Q8 - When you are not writing what do you like to do?

A8 – I’m a homebody, so I enjoy reading, and my secret addiction, TV. I find after a long day of thinking too hard, TV takes me away, engaging me and relaxing me at the same time. Movies, nature shows, news, sitcoms (Big Bang and Mom, anyone?), dramas (How To Get Away With Murder, Once Upon A Time, Flash, and Supergirl) and (gasp!!!) so called reality TV like Survivor and Amazing Race. But I also love crafts; I like to crochet, cross-stitch, watercolor paint (badly!) paint ceramics and beading. I really enjoy making jewelry and bookmarks from beads. Sometimes I give away the bookmarks I make in online contests.

Q9 - Do you have any advice for beginning authors?
A9 – Oh yeah… I have advice.

1 - Don’t expect your first novel to be publishable. It may be, but probably not. I wrote three (at least) crappy novels before producing something (marginally) publishable.

2 - If you’re doing it right, you should make tons of mistakes in your first draft. And your second draft. Keep working, keep noticing, and keep your mind and eyes open for problems.

3 - Read… a LOT! Read in the genre you want to be published in, but read lots of other stuff, too. And – here’s the trick – think about what you read. Think about your reactions. Think about what made you want to read on, or made you want to put the book down. Then apply it to your own work. We can fall so in love with our own work and words that we stop seeing the flaws. This happens to everyone, and it takes strenuous discipline to get past it.

4 – Write. Write a lot. Write often. Don’t expect it to be easy. If it is, you’re probably missing something. And… may I repeat, don’t expect your first novel to be publishable!

Q10 - Do you have a favorite author or book you would like to recommend to your readers?
A10 – For readers: Anything by Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky for modern mysteries; Anne Perry and Stephanie Barron for historical mysteries. For writers: On Writing by Stephen King and Writing the Novel; From Plot to Print to Pixel (an update from the original) by Lawrence Block.

Q11 - Please tell us five random things about yourself.
A11 – Oooh, cool. Nobody’s ever asked me that before.

1 – If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d be a librarian or English Lit. professor.

2 – I collect a lot of things: teacups, teapots, vintage kitchenwares, old cookbooks, cat figurines, antique classic literature, jewelry… etc. It takes a lot of effort and culling to keep the house from looking like an episode of Hoarders.

3 – Never had kids, and never wanted children. When I was a kid my dolls had ‘stories’ and plotlines, rather than playing ‘house’. I think being a parent must be the hardest and scariest job in the world.

4 – I like my wine cheap; I’ve tried drinking the better stuff, but I always go back to what is politely called a ‘wine beverage’ ‘cause I just can’t educate my palate.

5 – I don’t drive; I don’t know how. Is it too late to learn?!

Vintage Kitchen Series

Jaymie Leighton is just your typical small town girl, except that she keeps tripping over dead bodies! And unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to stop any time soon.

Jaymie lives in the century-plus Queensville, Michigan house she grew up in, deeded to her and her sister, Becca, when their parents moved to Boca Raton, Florida. A collector of vintage kitchenware, Jaymie is passionately fond of cookbooks, and is compiling a collection of vintage recipes updated for the modern cook.

She also juggles several jobs: helping out a couple days a week at theQueensville Emporium, where her best friend Valetta is the village pharmacist; running her own vintage picnic basket rental service, and working for a couple of vintage dealers in town in their shops. And now she writes a cooking column for the Wolverhampton Howler.

As a member of the local heritage society, she is also helping redo the kitchen of the former Dumpe House, now the Queensville Historic Manor. And as for her personal life... well, she really needs to figure that out. Her love life is just as complicated as the historical romance novels she loves to read! In fact, dating has been a bumpy ride ever since Joel Anderson dumped her, though she feels that she is recovering nicely and moving on.

All this adds up to a busy life, even if it weren't for that nasty habit of finding the recently murdered. Jaymie has a unique way of solving things, though, with an inquisitive nature and determination. The local police chief has called her "a natural investigator, with a nose for trouble", but when she's on the hunt for a killer, she's got her trusty friend, Valetta, at her side, and her sweet three-legged Yorkie-Poo, Hoppy, to help her out!** Taken from the author's website

What I learned about this author:
I had a lot of fun reading Victoria's author and learned a lot about her. For one I liked the advice she gives to parents on encouraging your children to follow their dreams. Also I did not know she wrote regency romance books. More books for me to check out. I liked that she admitted to loving tv and yes I am a Big Bang fan too. Her advice to aspiring writers was good as well. I have been looking at Stephen King's book on writing now I may actually pick it up. Like Victoria if I am going to drink wine I seem to prefer the cheap ones. 

Teapot Collector Series

Sophie Taylor, young chef and restaurateur, returns to her Nana’s home in Gracious Grove, New York - andAuntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House! - to lick her wounds after losing her beloved New York City restaurant In Fashion.

But life in the town is not as idyllic as she remembers from her childhood, and murder interferes.

Sophie decides to stay, for the time being, and reconnect with old friends, rediscovering the town and making sure her grandmother's tearoom continues to be the best little tearoom in Gracious Grove, despite murder, competition, and decades old rivalries. **Taken from the author's website

Stay tuned for the next author to be spotlighted. 

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