Today I’m excited to have debut author Heather Petty here to share about her debut mystery LOCK & MORI that releases tomorrow. I’m just getting back into reading mysteries, so it’s on my fall TBR list.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.
FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads.
FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.
FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.
FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets.
OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.
Hi Heather! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I was always a huge reader, but I never thought about becoming a writer until my high school English teacher, Author Terri Farley (Phantom Stallion series) read an assignment I'd turned in and basically told me I needed to be writing. So, I joined the school paper. Then, in college, when I was kind of over the Journalism thing, I applied for a fiction writing class with Author Susan Palwick, who later taught me one-on-one. She really helped me find my niche as a kidlit writer.
I joined SCBWI shortly after I graduated, and my very first critique (of a really horrible middle grade book) at a conference was from Ellen Hopkins, whose debut novel CRANK was coming out later that year (2004). (Crazy, right?) She was very patient with my rookie writer ways and encouraged me to keep going. But I had a baby the next year and floundered for a bit with my writing until Author Cynthia Cotten read one of my silly LiveJournal posts one night and told me I should be writing YA. She pointed me in the direction of authors like Melissa Marr, Charles de Lint, and Holly Black. I was especially taken by Holly Black's Tithe series, and started writing my own YA within days of reading VALIANT.
2. I had one of those rookie critiques too. Where did you get the idea for your story?
I read an article on nemesis relationships, where the writer mentioned offhand that everything we know about Moriarty is what Sherlock tells us, as he's the only one who meets Moriarty in the canon. That, to me, was a super delicious gap in the story that was begging to be filled. Pretty much any time I can ask the question "What if?" I get super excited. In this instance, I thought, what if Sherlock lied to Watson for some reason? What if he'd known Moriarty since they were kids? What if something that happened when they were kids is why they're rivals as adults? The story kind of spiraled out from there.
3. I read that you’ve loved mysteries since you were a child. What are some of the elements of a good mystery and what tips do you have for the rest of us in plotting out our tips and twists?
There are so many different kinds of mysteries that all have their own cool elements. I’m one of those
As to advice, it’s probably almost cliché by now, but the best advice for any writer is to READ. A lot. But read with the eye of a writer. Find your favorite mysteries and thrillers and re-read them, looking for how the author manipulated her clues and distractions and red herrings, how she developed her puzzles and placed her reveals. I should warn here that once you start looking at mysteries through a writer lens, it kind of kills them for you. It can be hard to go back.
4. I like those kind of mysteries too. Your book is set in London. Have you been there before? What research did you do in developing your story?
I usually develop the story and then fill in the details with research. Thankfully, due to my love of all things English and mystery/crime drama, I knew more than I realized I did about English law and police procedure, which meant I didn’t have to make too many changes to how I wanted the story to go because of research. But, as it always is with research for a book, it was fascinating to learn more about modern London and serial killers and then to apply all of that to my version of these well-known characters to bring them into the now. The best feeling of all is when you find out something through your research that reinforces what you’ve already written or fits perfectly into where you wanted to go with your narrative. And that happened a lot for me writing this book.
5. That would be awesome when you find research that supports what you've written. Share a challenge you had in writing LOCK & MORI and what you learned in working through it.
The biggest challenges I had writing this book were mostly emotional. I had written maybe sixty or seventy pages about a girl whose mom had died of cancer when we found out my mom had cancer. My mother passed away six weeks later. When I could write again, I was left raw and lost and trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to change Mori’s story or face down my own grief as I wrote hers. I’m not sure how to articulate what I learned working through this story, maybe because I’m not done learning it yet. This series will probably always be somehow attached to what happened with my mom and that time period of my life. So, a challenge for sure, but in a good way, because telling these kinds of stories can be very healing.
6. Oh, that's such a sad story. I'm sure it was very emotional writing this. What have you learned about writing from working with your editor? Has it changed anything about the way you write?
I really feel so lucky to work with Christian Trimmer. He’s brilliant and kind, which is a great mix for an editor. Receiving one of his edit letters is always like being called out on all your missteps, but in the most gentle way possible. I really feel like he believes in my ability to make things work, which is very encouraging—and you need that when you’re ripping apart that thing you just spent months and months creating. That said, I think you learn a lot about your work every time you put it into the hands of someone you trust to help you make it better. And those lessons kind of sit in your mind as you work on the next thing. The greatest hope is that every book you put out will be better than the last one. I’m definitely hoping that for this series.
7. Your agent is Laurie McLean. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?
I had two agents retire from publishing on me while I was writing LOCK & MORI. So, when I was done, I was faced with going through the query process again, which was exhausting just to think about. I sent queries out to a few agents who I thought might be a good fit, and whined about it a lot to my friends—one of whom had just started working with Laurie as an associate agent to learn the ropes. She had read a draft of the book and knew Laurie was a huge Sherlock fan and asked if she could pass the manuscript onto her. I said yes and Laurie called me the next day saying she loved it and wanted to offer representation. She left for New York a few weeks after I accepted her offer and pitched the book to editors in person. She got a lot of interest and managed to get our first offer in just five days, which is amazing!
8. So glad it worked out easily with Laurie after having two agents retire. You’re one of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of 2015 debut authors. What have you learned from other authors whose books have already come out about the debut process? Has it influenced your own marketing idea?
There’s no way I could list all of the stuff I’ve learned from the other Fifteeners. It’s seriously an amazing group of people, and I feel just completely blessed to be a tiny part of that group. Better than the networking/learning part of it, though, being in a group like that is really good for the writer-soul. We all have our bad days—I sometimes flirt with the idea of selling everything I own and moving to the forest to become a hermit lady who writes poetry about the evil of birds, for example. But getting to commiserate with people over the scary/sad parts of publishing and to celebrate each other’s successes is vital to survive the ups and downs of being a debut author. My favorite is when I’m having a growly day and then something amazing happens to another of the Fifteeners authors. It’s hard to stay in a funk when you feel so much joy for someone else. Most of all, though I think we’d all agree that even when things seem bleak, it’s so incredibly awesome to hold our finished books in our hands for the first time. That’s the dream. And it’s happening to all of us this year.
9. That's great how you support each other. What are you working on now?
I am now editing Lock & Mori book 2! So lots of coffee and angsting in my future.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Heather. You can find Heather at:
Heather has generously offered an ARC of LOCK & MORI for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S.and Canada.
Here's what's coming up:
On Wednesday I have an interview with agent Moe Ferrara and a query critique giveaway.
Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Lee Mackenzi and a giveaway of her YA steampunk THIS MONSTROUS THING.
The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Laurel Gale and a giveaway of her MG fantasy DEAD BOY.
Hope to see you on Monday!