Jacqueline Vick is the author of several as-yet-unplaced mystery novels including “Family Matters” which placed in the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. Her short fiction is found online and in the “Every Day Fiction Two Anthology”, and her article about pet psychics appeared in the April issue of “Fido Friendly Magazine”.
What led you to write mysteries?
Well, the dark version is on my website under bio, but I grew up under the rule of a woman who read every mystery ever written. I remember looking at my mom’s collection of Agatha Christie’s and thinking “How boring!” Since I was a teenager, I probably added a “Duh!”
I’ve become much wiser in my older age. My favorites are Golden Age and British. You cannot top British humor in my book. Robert Barnard’s “Death by Sheer Torture” remains one of my favorites, as is anything by Christie, James, Sayers, Mortimer etc. (I share Agatha Christie’s birthdate!) I’m also discovering “new” authors such as Delano Ames.
A year or so ago, I decided that, since I’m never going to capture the voice of those oldies but goodies, I should actually start reading some of the comtemporaries. I’d tried a few authors and really didn’t get into them, so I wasn’t enthusiastic. Thank goodness I didn’t crawl back into my cave, because I’ve discovered some fantastic authors since.
Do you find conventions and writers groups useful?
My first convention was Love is Murder in Chicago. I met so many fantastic authors; kind, supportive people no matter what level of success they were on. I didn’t know a lot of authors at that time, and I sat next to Charlaine Harris and humiliated myself by asking her if she wrote full time. She was so humble and nice. She said, “Well, yes, honey, I do.” Then she got up to give the keynote speech and they congratulated her on her series making it to television. I guess I should have read the program. Lesson learned: Know the authors in your field.
Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America are both great places to meet other writers and exchange ideas. Both offer programs with speakers that have helped my writing. I’ve just joined the Public Safety Writers Association which promises to be informative and fun. And my critique group (you know them as the WinRs) are intelligent, generous writers who aren’t afraid to slap me upside the head when my writing stinks. (And yet they do it so nicely that I thank them every time!)
How do you balance writing mysteries, children’s fiction, and whatever else?
I don’t. I should be in therapy. I’ll sometimes have five projects going at once and I have to step back and ask, “Would I like to do any of them well?” That usually keeps me down to two projects for a short while.
I don’t understand when people say they don’t have enough ideas. I have three different protagonists so far, I’m writing a pet psychic mystery, I have a Young Adult book outlines, a children’s mystery series in mind, a picture book waiting for an artist, the Logical Larry series, a non-fiction book promoting local businesses in Santa Clarita, a rambo-style Father Brown series I’d like to write…. (OK. Maybe not Rambo, but he is a police chaplain and former marine who get’s transferred to teach at a girls school. Talk about being unprepared. Of course a parent is murdered and things go from there.)
What else do you do to keep on top of your writing?
I am a voracious reader. On average, I read three books a week–sometimes more, sometimes less. Besides enjoying the books, I’ll watch how the author handles everything from dialogue tags to description. I’ve even outlined the plot of books I think work especially well just to see I’ll have a revelation.
Is there an essential ingredient in any fiction you read?
Humor. There are enough humorless people walking around that I’m not going to immerse myself in their company while I’m reading. One of my favorite books is “Blue Heaven” by Joe Keenan. I’ve read it several times and it still makes me laugh out loud. “Lamb” by Christopher Moore is genius. P.G. Wodehouse is another favorite, as are Carl Hiaasen and Neil Gaimon.
I like humor that makes fun of the human condition in a gentle way. Humor that comes from a place of superiority is only funny when the joke is on the lofty character. Otherwise, it’s just a lecture. An example is how Christie makes fun of Hasting’s arrogance through his inner dialogue about Poirot. He’s feeling sorry for the detective, thinks the old guy is losing his abilities, but it’s Hastings who can’t see the forest for the trees.
What’s next for you?
I’ll have my books at a fundraiser at the end of May. I’m working with the SinC/LA Speaker’s Bureau, putting together panels for the Burbank Library. I want to finish the pet psychic mystery, go back over my last mystery for rewrites, and write the next Logical Larry. I really need to prioritize.