Rosemary Harris is a former bookstore manager and video producer who now writes fulltime. Her debut novel, Pushing Up Daisies has been nominated for both the Agatha and the Anthony for Best First Mystery. She’s the president of Sisters in Crime New England and a board member of Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter. The Big Dirt Nap is the second in the Dirty Business series. She lives in New York City and Fairfield County CT and may be reached here.
Tell us a bit about your current project.
I’ve just delivered the manuscript for Deadhead, book three in my Dirty Business series. I was inspired by the story of the woman in San Diego who was arrested by federal marshals when it was learned that she was really a Michigan woman who’d been on the run for decades. Deadhead isn’t her story, but I was fascinated by the idea of someone completely destroying her past and living a lie for so many years.
We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.
I was incredibly lucky, I’m afraid I don’t have any horror stories, although I’m told I did have an unusual path to getting an agent. After getting three rejections, I did the math and realized it could take me years to find the right one, so I did some research and sent the first chapter of my manuscript to ten agents I had identified as being “right for me.” I was prepared to send it to another three the next month, but I didn’t have to; three of them got back to me and I have been very happy with my choice.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered. Self-doubt?
Absolutely. I don’t belong to a writers group so no one sees my writing until my editor gets it, and the time in between my submitting it to her and her getting back to me is a very nervous time indeed! I don’t really suffer from writers block.
What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
I try not to second guess myself too much – in anything. But I did do one thing I’d undo. I sent the first 50 pages to someone who could have helped me early on and it was way too soon, those pages never even ended up in the book, but I’d wasted a good lead. That’s probably why I don’t show anything to anyone now!
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
Hands down, the newspaper. As long as people keep doing stupid things, I’ll never run out of ideas.
Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.
Not “the look” but “the email.” I was researching poisons and after three or four exchanges with an Australian expert I started to sense that he was pulling back and not offering as much information as he had earlier. It didn’t help that my first book hadn’t yet come out so for all he knew I was trying to dispose of my husband or a rival!
With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?
Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.
What event/person has most changed you as a writer?
The woman who wrote to me to say that her father had passed away and her mom was taking it very hard, but that her mother was so happy to have won a contest I’d run online. When she opened the garden basket with the signed books and garden goodies, it was the first time she’d smiled in along time. It blew me away that I was able to give a total stranger a little cheer at such a terrible time.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn’t have to be one of your books or even published.)
I’ll always be most proud of Pushing Up Daisies – I have no idea where I ever got the arrogance to think I could write a book.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
No. It’s a pretty fun job.
What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?
Meeting readers (although last week I would have answered, the fried okra.)
Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you’d like. See pic.
I go to Utrecht Art Supplies and buy ten Faber-Castell number 5B pencils. (Aren’t you glad you asked?)
Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?
See above. I write each chapter in pencil before putting it on the computer.
Plot, seat of pants or combination?
I guess I’m a combo gal. I have a general idea of what’s going to happen and I outline a few chapters ahead so I’m never really looking at a blank page when I sit down to write.
What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?
I suspect I have all of those things. I tend to write a very light first draft and then I add layers so I don’t expect the first draft to be perfect.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.
I am thrilled to have been nominated for both an Agatha and an Anthony Award for Pushing Up Daisies. Awesome!