A book club featuring books for smart women.
Author of the Ghost Duster series and the Bodies of Evidence series
I discovered your Ghost Dusters Mystery series a few years ago and loved every one of them. Now you’re working on a new mystery series, Bodies of Evidence, and I love that also. Both have a strong paranormal element, but their landscapes are unique and so very different. Can you tell us a bit about both and what made you choose these two themes?
In my Ghost Dusters series, the protagonist can see the dead, and she also runs a crime scene cleanup company. In my Bodies of Evidence series, my heroine uses dowsing rods to locate bodies. In both series, the theme is ordinary women with extraordinary abilities overcoming their fears to help others. Although the paranormal element is strong, I like to think that the strong nature of the protagonist is the most relatable and compelling theme.
Every reader has favorite authors, ones they consider their ‘go to’ authors. For example, I always read Robert Crais and the late Robert B. Parker. Who are your go-to authors, and what do you like about them? That being said, do you ever take a reading break because you’re constantly dealing with words all day?
There are so many authors that I love! Some of the authors on my automatic buy list are Allison Brennan, Tana French, and Louise Penny. I sometimes take a vacation from working, but I rarely take a break from reading. Curling up with a good book at night is one of the best feelings in the world!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Travel. I have a passionate love for seeing the world, and it’s not always practical to bring my laptop along; like when I was on safari in Africa a few months ago. When I’m not traveling, I’m drawn to all the travel sites online.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Well, that happened without my planning! I’ve always written under Wendy Roberts which, of course, was my actual name. However, when I divorced a number of years ago, I returned to my maiden name (Doell), and yet I continue to write under Roberts. There are a number of valid reasons an author might choose to use a pseudonym.
You’re published by one of the big five publishers. How do you determine the stories you write? Is the publisher involved in storylines, or do you have full creative authority to decide?
Whenever I’m contracted within a series the publisher, of course, needs those books to follow the natural arc. That said, I have full authority to decide on how that plays out. Whenever I’m not contracted, I write whatever sticks in my head and won’t let go. I’ll fire off a new book to my wonderful agent (Melissa Jeglinski of the Knight Agency), and she sends it out into the world.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
That’s a very interesting question. I think it would be possible, but it would make the creative process more difficult. When I read a story, I can tell when an author is emotionally invested in the outcome of her characters. I imagine it would be a lot like a musician just playing the notes without any passion.
Are you involved in any writing groups?
I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers as well as some small Facebook writing groups. Some of my closest friends are other writers.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When I submitted my first book, Dating Can Be Deadly, an editor immediately asked for the full manuscript. I’d only written three chapters at the time of submission, so I banged off the rest of the book in a month. That was not something I’d recommend!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Long before I was published, I attended the Surrey International Writers Conference annually. The workshops were invaluable, and the conference introduced me to agents, editors, and fellow writers. Also, paying my agent continues to be a great investment. In addition, I buy a new laptop every few years. I’m a bit superstitious about buying a new computer when I’m in the middle of writing the first draft of a story and earlier this year that bit me in the butt. My laptop died immediately after writing a large amount, and I paid big bucks to have a tech guy retrieve those precious words. Well worth the cost but lesson learned!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
As a child, I learned early on that when things weren’t great you could escape into books. Stories held a power to change my mood and even my outlook on life.
Do you subscribe to any writing magazines? If so, which, and do you suggest new writers do the same?
I don’t have monthly subscriptions, but I do regularly pickup Mystery Scene and Romantic Times. I think that new writers should read anything and everything they can, but they shouldn’t blow their budget.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor is a fabulous collection of short stories and a personal favorite.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Before I was published an editor once told me that a story is a promise and it’s up to the writer to deliver. I try my best to take the reader along on the journey of discovering whodunnit and hope that when I deliver the truth, they find it both believable and plausible.
Do you base your characters on any real people you know?
My characters are usually an accumulation of everyone I’ve ever met. Sometimes, though, I meet someone or observe someone’s conduct that strikes a chord, and I find myself modeling a character after their behavior. This is more true for villains.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Oh many! When I sold my first novel, I’d already written five or six complete stories. In 2015 and 2016 alone I wrote a couple of books that probably won’t ever see publication. I may choose to rewrite them one day but the way they stand now, they won’t see publication.
What does literary success look like to you?
Emails from readers saying they loved a book is the ultimate success. Also, continuing to find publishers wanting my work.
What’s the best way to market your books?
I’ve yet to find the key to unlock that secret! I try to focus on all forms of social media and reach out to my reader list through emails. Do these things work? Sure. The very best marketing though is still word of mouth. If you love a book, tell your friends!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
All of my books are written from the point of view from the main character and all my protagonists are female. There are strong male characters also in my books, but you see them through my heroine’s eyes. I try to give my main male characters at least one trait that makes them vulnerable and that helps me ‘get into their head.’
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I was a stay at home mom taking my notebooks or Alphasmart Dana with me to write at baseball practices and dance classes for many years and, as my four kids grew and were able to drive themselves, I transitioned to spending more time writing.
How many hours a day do you write?
If I’m under deadline, I’ll start writing around seven in the morning and work until noon. I leave the afternoons for edits or research. If I’m not under deadline, I will write only if a fresh idea for a book is driving me. A few months ago I wasn’t under deadline but a story in my head was so compelling I was driven to finish it. At that time, I was easily putting in eight hours of writing a day.
What did you edit out of your latest book?”
In the second draft of my last book, I removed an entire character. She was a great character, but she wasn’t furthering the plot. I’ve saved her though, and she might reappear in another story.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I love to read books that challenge the way I think about everything!
How do you select the names of your characters?
I will often use a site like Random Name Generator and will just keep refreshing until a name shows up that reflects the nature of my character.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I would become the full-time stalker of my children! They are thrilled that I write instead.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I have been extremely blessed to have a large amount of good reviews. If I receive a bad review that’s constructive, I do try to give it some consideration. It’s impossible to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Describing scenes of child abuse in A Grave Calling was extremely difficult. It was so important to the story to get it right, so I spent a lot of time on those scenes and, honestly, they took a lot out of me.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’ve written a complete first draft in thirty days and also in a year. On average, I try to write a first draft in four months and let it rest a few weeks before completing it in the second draft.
I stalk your IG and see you love to travel. What’s your favorite place?
My favorite place is wherever I’m planning to go next! I thrill at the planning almost as much as the actual travel. My favorite place had to be the Giraffe Manor in Kenya. It was a bucket-list item and didn’t disappoint!
Where haven’t you gone that you’d love to go?
My goal is to see every continent in the world by the time I’m 60 years old. That only leaves me five more years to see South America, Antarctica, and Australia. I already have plans in the works for two of those places in the next couple of years.
If you could meet one famous (alive or deceased) author, whom would it be?
I’d love to meet poet, Maya Angelou. It would be a dream come true. I’m sure that one day when I leave this mortal realm, I will find her, buy her a cocktail and discuss words.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a project but, unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to discuss it until my signature is on the actual contract. In the meantime, keep stalking me on social media, and you will find out!
Learn more about Wendy at wendyroberts.com
About A Grave Calling
There had been no attempt to bury the dead girl, naked except for the white ribbon tied to her wrist.
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Hall has a unique ability: when she takes up a dowsing rod, she finds not water but bodies. To Julie, it's a curse, not a gift, and one she rarely uses—she prefers her quiet life in a trailer, with her grandfather and her dog for company. But when FBI agent Garrett Pierce shows up at her door seeking help with a case, she has no choice but to assist with their search.
Three girls are still missing. The killer is still out there. As bodies are discovered, and more girls disappear, the case becomes almost more than Julie can bear. And when the killer turns his sights toward her, even her growing relationship with the protective Agent Garrett may not be enough to save her.
A Grave Calling is available at Amazon and other online retailers
About A Grave Search
Julie Hall is finally adjusting to her new career: locating dead bodies with dowsing rods.
The crime scene is drenched with blood, but the body is nowhere to be found.
When a grieving mother requests Julie’s help tracking the body of her missing daughter, Julie is hesitant. Not only do the circumstances sound disturbing, the job is in her hometown, a place steeped in upsetting memories and unresolved trauma. But her interest is piqued, and she takes the case, knowing she’ll have the support of her FBI agent boyfriend along the way.
Soon, Julie finds herself exactly where she doesn’t want to be—trapped in the dangerous spotlight created to keep the story in the media. And as she digs deeper into the mystery of the young woman’s death, she uncovers secrets about her past she thought were buried forever.
A Grave Search is available at Amazon and other retailers.
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