When did you start writing?
I've always loved reading and watching mysteries, which probably began in my childhood with Agatha Christie. But I was a math major in college and never thought seriously about writing until I took a journalism course. I quickly changed majors, and then went on to get a master's degree in journalism. Once I started writing, it came so naturally, and I knew it was the job for me. I became a newspaper reporter, magazine feature writer, and publications editor. When I took an early retirement, I decided it was time to start writing mysteries myself. I I love coming up with oddball characters and writing books where the unexpected happens. I can’t stand formula stories.
What is your approach to writing?
I write in a simple journalistic style. Grab the reader’s attention and hold on to it. The first page is essential. If readers aren’t drawn in immediately, they may put down the book. It’s important to use quotes effectively and succinctly. They have to be natural. I put myself in the character’s head and ask “What would this person really say?” The quotes have to reflect the character’s personality. Above all, you can't allow the reader to get bored. You have to keep the story interesting and keep it moving! The biggest challenge in writing mysteries is to give the readers enough clues without giving away the killer.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Having been a journalist, I write quickly. I can write a book in two months, and a novella in two weeks. I don’t have a set writing schedule, but just go at it until I’m done. I might write two hours a day, or ten hours a day. I can’t really rest until I’ve finished the book. Then, I might take a few weeks, or a few months break, depending on what else is going on in my life at the time. Hopefully do some traveling, as in the picture above in Lake Como, Italy.
Who is your favorite character?
I have two favorite characters. One is Scratchoff McLean, a homeless man with a big heart who is obsessed with scratch-off lottery tickets. He appears in two of my novels, Somebody in the Neighborhood, and my new cozy mystery, A Book Signing To Die For. The other is 11-year-old Lily, a manic matchmaker in my Christmas novella Airport Christmas. She doesn't take no for an answer. I truly love odd characters and try to include at least one in every book I write.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Miami enjoying everything about South Florida life, in particular swimming and tennis. I became a top junior tennis player, later played No. 1 for Florida State University, traveled in Europe playing tennis, and then became a teaching pro. Beach paddle tennis also became a love, and my partner Sheryl Craig and I won the national championship three times. Now, I just play golf and swim, as well as travel every chance I get. My daughter, Jennifer Dooley, is a lawyer who lives in Santa Monica, Cal., with her husband, filmmaker Patrick Meaney. I've lived my entire life in Florida -- Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and now Vero Beach -- and wouldn't trade it for the world. That's why I write so lovingly about Florida in my books.