Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra H. Goldstein back to the blog!
Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.
When the publishers of my first two books each went out of business, leaving me orphaned, I still wanted to write cozy mysteries, but I had a major problem. Traditionally, cozies take place in a closed environment, don’t have blood or sex on the page, and feature a character who demonstrates an expertise at crafts, cooking or baking. I’m not good at crafts and anything to do with the kitchen frightens me. As I thought about my dilemma of not being able to write what I know, I realized there had to be readers who weren’t handy with crafts or dreaded being in the kitchen. Consequently, I created Sarah Blair who finds cooking from scratch worse than dealing with murder.
Two Bites Too Many is the second book in the Sarah Blair series. In this book, things are finally looking up for Sarah and her Siamese cat, RahRah. Sarah has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending flea-bitten strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, she almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end.
When the president of the town bank is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle. Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice.
Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
RahRah, the Siamese cat who lives with Sarah, is introduced in the first book, One Taste Too Many, as a primary series character. He, rather than Sarah, runs the show. In Two Bites Too Many, Fluffy, a dog, also becomes part of the ongoing story. Although Fluffy is a recurring character, she knows her role is secondary to RahRah’s.
Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them
My first pets were three small turtles – Turk, Durk, and Lurk. When my family moved to a new state, I had to give them to the boy next door. After we moved, we got a toy poodle who was part of our family for the next twenty years. When Lord Silver Mist passed away, a bichon frise took over running my life.
How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?
I use animals in my writing to create a sense of reality for readers and as a means of bringing different personality traits out in my human characters. In the Sarah Blair series, I try to make RahRah and Fluffy pets like those readers might have. That way, they can identify with each animal’s behavior and characteristics. I also want the animals in my books to help readers understand my human characters. As they see the characters interact with the animals in kind, mean, loving or indifferent ways, I hope subliminal clues are sent that generate reactions to the respective characters.
What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?
My favorite animal used as a central character wasn’t in a book or a movie, but rather in a television show. As a child, watching reruns of Fury, I was impressed with the magnificence of the beautiful stallion, but what really captured me was the way the stories were written. There was always a good vs. bad plot line that would never have been resolved in the same way if Fury hadn’t been a central character. I think watching how different characters reacted to Fury and how Fury interacted with them taught me the ways an animal can be used to move a story along in a believable manner.
What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now?
See the picture below — and this doesn’t include what’s on my e-reader.
Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?
My favorite place to read and write is in an oversized club chair. As her first anniversary gift, my mother had the chair made two inches deeper than normal to accommodate my father’s long legs. The arms of the chair are between four and five inches wide. It was the perfect place for him to read the newspaper, write letters, or draw and for my sister and me to stretch our imaginations.
When my sister and I were children, we used the chair to pretend to ride horses and as the base for covered wagons, stagecoaches and tents. The chair was wide enough for both of us to hide in it or pretend one of us was a passenger while the other was a driver or riding shotgun.
When my father died, my mother took comfort curling up in the chair. When she passed away, other than some artwork, the chair was the only thing I wanted from her home. I had it shipped from California to Alabama. Today, it is where I sit with my laptop. Someday, I hope one of my children will continue the tradition of reading and writing in the chair.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
I would tell an aspiring writer to read extensively and think about the feelings each book or story generates. At this point, the reader should read with only the hope of enjoying the work in mind. There is no further agenda other than exposure to the works of an array of writers. Slowly, the would-be writer, now reader, will recognize what is moving, perplexing, exciting or boring. Once a wide gambit has been read, then, and only then, should the would-be writer dissect the stories and books to better understand their internal structure, plots, settings, and characterization. After doing all this, the individual should write the book or story that person wants to write.
What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?
The one lesson I learned is to write what I want to write. Although I read and studied the masters, other books in the genre I thought might want to write in, and what seemed hot on the publishing lists, the lesson I learned was to write the best book or story I could using techniques I’d gleaned from other works, but realizing my tale had to come from me. Trends go out of style; formulas can be broken, but an honest work will stand on its own merit and hopefully find an audience to resonate with.
What’s next for you with your writing projects?
October was a busy month for me. Kensington released the second Sarah Blair mystery, Two Bites Too Many, so I will be busy with launch events and PR. An anthology edited by Michael Bracken, The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, which contains my first private eye story, Harvey and the Redhead was published by Down & Out Books, Inc. I’ve already turned in the third Sarah Blair mystery, which will be published in September 2020, so besides the PR related to the two October publications, I plan to take two classes to advance my skills, write a few short stories in response to prompts, and begin the fourth book of the Sarah Blair series (yes, they recently bought two beyond the original three).
Show us a picture of your writing space or one of your bookcases. What does it say about your style?
It demonstrates that I don’t have any style because I’m so far behind on things, I don’t have time to establish one.
Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (One Taste Too Many, Two Bites Too Many). She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra serves on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and is president of the Southeast Chapter of MWA and past president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .
Let’s Be Social:
Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com
Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein
Instagram – debra.h.goldstein