I like to welcome author Annette Dashofy as my guest to talk about writing the Zoe Chambers mystery series.
What is the story behind your latest Zoe Chambers book?
In With a Vengeance, emergency responders are being lured into staged accident scenes only to be shot by an unknown sniper. Zoe must not only deal with her co-workers being injured and killed, but with potentially being a target herself. And of course Chief Pete Adams must catch this killer before Zoe becomes the next victim.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I’ve been in love with mysteries and suspense novels since I first read Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are The Children. I’ve never ventured away from the crime fiction genre since then.
There are so many different categories of mysteries, where do you think your books fall?
I’ve been classified as “cozy,” but I don’t think I write cozy. I prefer Traditional. Or suspense. Hank Phillippi Ryan once dubbed my books as not-quite-cozy. I like that!
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The research! This one deals more with police procedure than any of the others, and I soon learned that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about how a case like this would be handled.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? The research! Spending time talking to law enforcement officers and learning how they would handle these situations was fascinating and enlightening.
Did you know when you wrote you first Zoe Chambers’ book that it would be part of a series? Definitely. I had just written two novels of a series that never sold and knew I wanted a new, different series. Zoe and Pete were it.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Julia Spencer Fleming, Craig Johnson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Nancy Martin, and Lisa Scottoline. There are really too many to name, but these five fabulous authors had the biggest impact. I love Julia and Craig’s use of setting. Hank and Nancy have mentored and supported me all along the way. Hank gave me advice during a car ride that directly impacted me getting published. Nancy has kicked my butt when I needed it and has taught me more about craft and the business of publishing than anyone else. And Lisa has been a friend and an inspiration for years now.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
The best advice I ever received was to revise, revise, revise, and not submit until the story was the best I could make it. As for “least useful?” That’s hard. I’d say it was the occasional harsh critique that was only meant to tear down my self confidence without offering help. But even those only urged me to work harder. And to find a different critique group!
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I don’t have a “day job” outside of writing, however my mom is in failing health and I spend a lot of time with her. On those days when I do get to work all day, I usually write in the morning and revise or work on the “businessy” stuff in the afternoon. But even on the days when life gets in the way, I faithfully get at least an hour of writing done first thing in the morning.
What process did you go through to get your books published?
Ten years of ups and downs and twists and turns. I went through two agents and a series that never sold. In the meantime, I started writing a different series—the Zoe Chambers mysteries. After I parted company with my second agent, I started querying again for this new series. When I received no interest from agents, I switched tactics and started querying small publishers. This all took about ten years. Once I submitted to Henery Press, within ten days I had a three book contract offered to me. So I like to say the process took ten years and ten days.
What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I try to do a mix of personal appearances including bookstore events, conferences, libraries, book clubs, etc, combined with an active social media presence with the focus on building friendships and community rather than selling books.
How do you work with an editor without the pride thing getting in the way?
I’ve been blessed with fabulous editors whose only goal has been to make my stories better. However, I admit there were times, especially early on, when my pride occasionally took a hit. I learned to step back for a few days and let the comments just sit a while. When I go back it, almost without exception, I then have to admit, my editor was right! It just takes a little distance. Thankfully I’ve reached a point where I welcome their advice because I know we’re on the same team with the same goal: putting out the best book possible.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Mysteries and thrillers, of course!
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m finishing the fifth Zoe Chambers mystery and starting to map out ideas for the sixth. I’m also giving serious consideration to pulling out a couple of short stories with ties to the Zoe and Pete books. I’m thinking of revising them and releasing them as a gift to my readers between book releases. Craig Johnson does this and, as a fan, I love it. As a writer, I appreciate how it keeps interest stirred between novels.
When you hear from your readers, what do they say?
“When are Pete and Zoe getting together?” seems to be the biggest, most common comment! But I absolutely love hearing readers tell me they enjoy the stories. I never tire of hearing that.
How do you use social media to promote your writing?
Mostly by NOT blatantly promoting my writing. The bulk of my posts are just ME. I share memes and videos I genuinely enjoy. I post pictures of my cat. I share a bit of my life. In other words, I interact with the friends I’ve made. Yes, when I have a book coming out, as I just did, or if I have an event or am up for an award, I post that, too. It’s part of my life, after all. But it’s not ALL I post.
What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
Take classes and workshops—learn your craft. Join writing groups. It takes a village. Besides writing is a solitary endeavor and being part of a writing community helps when we become overwhelmed or when the rejections start rolling in! And finally, NEVER give up.
How do you overcome the writer’s demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt?
Ah! My two best acquaintances: Procrastination and Self-Doubt. As for the first, if you’re one of those people like me who tends to get so busy that all the good intentions in the world to write “later” dissolve before “later” ever happens, the only thing you can do is WRITE FIRST. Get up. Get a cup of coffee or tea. Turn OFF the internet. And write. As for Self-Doubt, I don’t honestly know if you can kick that one. Almost every author I’ve met, including the award-winning, bestselling ones, struggle with it. All you can do is keep writing. Tell yourself it’s okay to write “crap.” You can always go back and make it better.
What do you do apart from writing?
I love to ride horses, although I don’t have one anymore so I have to mooch rides from friends. And I like to camp and to bike ride. One of my biggest guilty pleasures though is old westerns. I own a ridiculously huge DVD collection and spend entirely too much time indulging in cowboy marathons!
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today Best Selling Author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series. Set in a Pennsylvania Township, her first book in the series, CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and for the David Award for Best Mystery of 2014.
Books in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series
- CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE (#1)
- LOST LEGACY (#2)
- BRIDGES BURNED (#3)
- WITH A VENGEANCE (#4)