Hello, my name is Sheila Connolly and I write three ongoing mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. In my spare time I write short stories and self-publish single-title mysteries. And suspense. And romance, with a little paranormal stuff thrown in. And I am an addict.
People look at me and ask, how do you do it? Let’s start with the fact that my husband has a steady job with the U.S. government that pays the basic bills, which when I started writing gave me the luxury of not having to work in order to eat. Then our daughter went off to college, making us officially empty-nesters. That gave me the time and opportunity—and I grabbed both.
Not that I sat down at the beginning and said, if I want to make anything like a living from my books, I must do this, this and this (starting with selling something!). No, I sold a book (after writing I don’t know how many trial books and getting plenty of rejections), and got on the whole editing and marketing and promoting train. After a while I found that I still had time left over. (I know. Don’t throw things, you other writers. I had no idea what “fast” or “slow” was when I started—I just did what felt right.) So I submitted an new proposal and the publisher bought it.
Then I had two series going. One was dropped by the publisher, but I pitched yet another idea to my editor and the publisher said yes, so I still had two. And that was good. Except there was this other series I really, really wanted to write, and I kept pitching to my editor, and she kept saying “no.” Until she finally said “yes,” and they published the first book in the series, and it was a New York Times bestseller.
And that made three. And three of the books have been New York Times bestsellers. I must be doing something right.
Once people get past the “how do you do it?” part, they usually ask, “how do you keep all your characters straight in your head?” That’s easy: they become real to me. They’re friends. Starting a new book in a series is like walking back into their living room and saying, “how are you? What’s new?” (And of course, “who’s dead now?”) People wonder how I keep the characters distinct and separate, and the answer is the same. They’re individuals. Sure, they face a lot of the same problems, like earning a living and fitting into a community and finding love and solving murders, just like most of us (well, except for the murders part). I write about a former banker who is now an apple farmer, a professional museum administrator, and a young blue-collar woman who’s running a pub in Ireland, and each character is unique.
It’s always a challenge to come up with new ideas, new characters, new problems (and new ways to kill someone) in mysteries. I just do it more often than some other people. Do I keep lists and descriptions for each character, like their parents’ names and their favorite food? No, or not yet, anyway. Sometimes I may slip up on a detail or two—but you do that with real people too, don’t you? Like forgetting the name of their dog?
No, I am not going to write a fourth series. Not right now. But there are a few more single-titles I’d kinda like to slip in…
I can’t stop myself