Why did you decide to write under two different names?
The first book in my Chase Dagger series, THE GOOD DIE TWICE, was released six months after the release of the first book in my Sam Casey series, WHEN THE DEAD SPEAK. Fans thought it would be the second book in the Casey series so I use Lee Driver for the Dagger series and S.D. Tooley for the Casey series.
When did you first start writing?
I didn't start writing poems when I was four, like some writers I know. I was a late bloomer. Although I liked to make up plots for my favorite television shows when I was a kid, I didn't start forming an idea for a mystery book until I was over forty. I actually like TV scripts better and wrote two scripts for the series, Moonlighting, which never saw the light of day. But writing scripts translated great into plotting a book.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I started in 1998 after spending five years trying to find an agent, then a publisher. The consensus was I should write mystery or sci-fi/fantasy but NEVER to combine. I liked Nancy Drew books in my youth, but one day my cousin tossed Stephen King's SALEM'S LOT in my lap. Although I liked mysteries, I also liked "the unknown," stories that challenged believability. Today there are many authors who combine genres, but back in 1998 it was unheard of, or at least not acceptable to most in the industry. I researched self-publishing for a year, attended conferences, joined a publishing organization, studied marketing ideas, found wholesalers, and started publishing in hard cover. Then I added trade paperbacks and eventually, in 2010, created the ebook version of all of my books. I like being in control, choosing my cover art, controlling my pub date, designing my own marketing materials, and most importantly, keeping most of the money.
I was a fan of Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, Shock Theatre, movies with ghosts, paranormal, aliens, you name it, X-Files, Dark Angel, Fringe, similar shows that straddle the realm of normalcy. My Sam Casey series features a cop who can hear the dead speak, combining mystery with paranormal. My Chase Dagger series (which I write as Lee Driver) combines mystery with fantasy, sci-fi, and sometimes horror. Dagger is assisted by a shapeshifter. She can shift into a hawk or a wolf which is part of Native American mythology. They believed their elders could shift into animal forms to spy on their enemies. I have some NA characters in all of my books.
What is your writing process?
I usually know the ending first, then the beginning. I write a very short synopsis which includes one sentence about the beginning, what I want to happen in the middle, and then the ending. I go back to the synopsis and jot down a note or two of what I want to happen between the opening and middle, then the middle and the end. Once I have about eight or ten "scene" notes jotted down, then I fill in the blanks, so to speak. I do not research as I write because I don't want to interrupt the writing process. I just type a double question mark (??) and then search for those when I'm done. Some of this research may require Internet searches or picking the brains of friends and family: doctor, cop, attorney, etc. I don't do this "research" until after I'm done reading over my first draft and making changes. On average I spend six months to write and polish and then send it off to my editor. Then it takes another three months to make those changes and polish, polish, polish to a final copy.
Has anything happened to you in your life that influenced your writing?
From the age of four until my early teens, I saw "little people" crawling in the corners of the ceiling. Mom said it was just my imagination because she had read Gulliver's Travels to us. But my sister never saw them; and when we moved eight miles farther south, the little people followed. It wasn't until I was on a panel at a mystery conference that this same question came up. I had never told the story before so that day I decided to share my experience. Two people on my panel said "hobgoblins." So now I had a name for what I saw. I also saw a ghost while babysitting in my early twenties. The family hadn't forewarned me and when I explained what I had seen, they brought out a painting from a closet of a priest the mother had known. This was the ghost I had seen.
What's the story behind your latest book?
THE TUNNEL is my fifteenth book, the seventh in my Sam Casey series. I feature a curious six-year-old who finds a tunnel in the sub-basement of an abandoned building. Although his mother had warned him the tunnel could be dangerous, he throws caution to the wind and follows it to the end. What it leads to is something no child should witness.
You write two popular adult series. Why did you decide to write a book for middle school age?
When my niece was ten she asked me to write a book for kids her age. I had to tell her I only write for adults. Since she was an avid reader, I loved buying her books. But there came a point where I had a difficult time finding good, clean mystery books for her age. Most were full of angst. So I wrote THE SKULL which features three 13-year-olds. Being a fan of all the CSI programs, I gave each of the teens a talent in forensics. It's a straight mystery, no paranormal or "woo woo."
Who are your favorite authors?
So hard to name them all. Carol O'Connell, Louise Penny, P.J. Parrish, Craig Johnson, Jim Butcher, Jonathan Maberry, C.J. Box, Jeff Lindsay, Casey Daniels; writers from across the pond, like Ken Bruen, Peter James, Stephen Booth, Jo Nesbo, James Thompson, Mo Hayder, Simon Green. Very eclectic list and very short since there are so many more. I tend to read series books.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Actually, the golf course. The creativity bug can hit at any time of the day. I'm not one of those who sets aside 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day to write. I can spend two days in a row, six or more hours a day, writing. Then not write for a couple days. I have a pad of paper and pen next to my bed because ideas can come to me at all hours. Even while driving the car dialogue and ideas pop into my head.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Postcard mailings, sending promotional items to mystery, horror/sci-fi/fantasy conferences, inexpensive ads, giving away books on LibraryThing.com, attending book fairs, networking on online chat lists.
How do you approach cover design?
I search on a photo site online. Since my next book centers around a "tunnel," I found a photo of a tunnel, exactly what I envisioned. For the last book in my Chase Dagger series, THE VAPORIZER, which involved bodies arriving in the morgue without a brain, I actually found a photo of a skull with vapor coming out of it. I spend hours searching on line for the right photo. I spend anywhere from $49 to $99 for the photo and have a talented husband who knows Photoshop and InDesign and he works his magic.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has allowed me to find a larger audience and make my books available in a number of different formats, reaching readers who are technically savvy. (I didn't own my eReader until December 2012)
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Golfing, reading, networking, and watching TV. We tape at least 30 shows, most of which are "can't miss" shows. I try not to spend more than an hour or two answering emails and posting on Facebook. When I'm finished writing a book and waiting for my editor feedback, I spend time designing my press release, getting postcards printed, getting my fan list labels printed, sending out advance reading copies (of print and ebook copies), and reviewing upcoming conferences where I can send my postcards and bi-fold catalog.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Word of mouth from friends and family, titles mentioned on Facebook, DorothyL chat list, reviews in publications, searching the Smashwords database for the latest releases in mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, etc.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle Paperwhite. I can read it in bed.
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