We’d like to give a rousing welcome to Clare O’Donohue, author of the Someday Quilts mysteries. The fifth book in the series, The Double Wedding Ring, was released Sept. 24. Clare is also the author of the (so far) two-book Kate Conway mystery series, an edgier series in which the protagonist is a TV producer.
In The Double Wedding Ring, Nell Fitzgerald’s future is on her mind, and it looks as though the pieces are coming together like a perfectly made quilt. Her relationship with Archers Rest police chief Jesse Dewalt is heating up, she’s thinking of starting her own business, and Grandma Eleanor is about to get hitched. But just when the future seems sewn up, Jesse’s former NYPD partner turns up—dead.
Clare decided to participate in the Deb interview. Welcome, Clare!
Storytellers usually have a story about how they came to write. What’s yours?
I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was four or five I would tell my sister stories about the people who lived under our beds. When I was fifteen I took my first stab at writing fiction on my mom’s electric typewriter. It was a mystery. After college I worked as a newspaper reporter, columnist, and then as a television producer—always writing. I finally wrote my first novel, The Lover’s Knot, in late 2006 and early 2007. After so many years of writing in the strict formulas of newspaper and TV, I wanted to see if I had my own voice. And that turned into now seven novels, and two novellas.
You write two book series. What attracts you to series? How do you keep track of your characters, and how do you let them grow?
Writing series books was really my publisher’s idea, as it’s easier to build an audience that way. But I like revisiting the same people and building on what’s there, so it’s been fun to have that experience. Keeping track of the characters is easy—it’s like having lunch with one friend, dinner with another. I know what world I’m in when I’m there. And I guess I don’t let my characters grow—they insist on it.
Which mystery authors do you recommend?
Ugggh. So many. Elmore Leonard created really specific, fully realized worlds in his books. Donald Westlake wrote real people, some funny, some dark—with equal skill. He’s one of my favorites. I also love much of Janet Evanovich’s work. And you can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie.
Have you ever met one of your own literary heroes?
I was lucky enough to co-chair the Mystery Writers of America Librarian’s Breakfast at last year’s Bouchercon World Mystery Conference. Mary Higgins Clark was our guest of honor, which blew me away. I’m a huge fan, and in introducing her, I got to tell a story about the first Mary Higgins Clark novel I read. Years ago, I was on a beach vacation. I’d finished the novel I was reading, so I grabbed one from the stack my friend had brought along. It was one of Mary’s books. I intended to read for about twenty minutes before heading out of the sun. (I’m very pale, and even with sunscreen I probably shouldn’t sit near a 60-watt bulb, let alone sunbathe). I read a few chapters, then a few more, turning page after page until I got so lost in the story I forgot where I was. When I rested the book on my lap, it hurt. I looked at my legs—and you guessed it—I was a lobster. At the librarian’s breakfast I had the wonderful opportunity to let Mary know how dangerous her books can be!
Any advice for first-time authors as their books near publication?
Know that you’re in charge of your career. Big publisher, indie publisher, self-publisher—it doesn’t matter. You have to shape your brand and market your books. Get the best website you can afford, plan a budget for marketing, go to conventions in your genre, meet other authors and booksellers. Ask what’s worked for other people and try those things yourself. And write the next book.
What about for someone struggling to get started?
If you’re struggling to write the book, my advice is the standard, and wise, write badly. Just write something. Sometimes when I’m stuck I write a “placeholder” scene, something I know will change but it moves me forward. If you’re struggling with the marketing, find other authors who are in your position and/or slightly ahead of you. Offer support, ask questions, buddy up. Writers have a reputation for being lone wolves, but the truth is we benefit from helping each other.
What do you write that’s dangerous? Have you ever met one of your heroes?
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post to be entered to win a copy of The Double Wedding Ring! Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck! US shipping only, please.
Clare O’Dononue was born in Chicago. She is a TV producer, working on shows for The History Channel, truTV, Food Network, A&E, Discovery, TLC, and others. Her big break in TV was writing for the HGTV series Simply Quilts, and her big break in writing was the Someday Quilts series, starting with The Lover’s Knot in 2008, and followed by The Drunkard’s Path, The Double Cross, and The Devil’s Puzzle.