Interview with Cecilia Peartree

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a very small village in Fife, Scotland. I tended to feel like an outsider there for much of the time as my parents, although both Scottish, had met and married in England, where I and my brother were born. One of my friends later pointed out that I hadn't quite lost my English accent even ten years after moving to Scotland.
I think feeling like an outsider is quite possibly an advantage for a writer as it encourages you to see things from a different perspective and to try to understand various points of view.
When did you first start writing?
Almost as soon as I could physically write, I wanted to write stories. The first one I can remember writing was when I was six years old. I sat at our dining-table all afternoon laboriously writing away with a pencil in a notebook which I still have somewhere. By the time it was getting dark, I had a story in four chapters and a lump on my finger where the pencil pressed against it - I still have that too.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest publication is 'The Christmas Puzzle', the eighth in my Pitkirtly Mystery series. Whenever I start on a new Pitkirtly novel, it feels like coming home. I know the recurring characters very well by now and quite often their thoughts and dialogue run away with me and it seems as if they are writing the novel themselves without very much intervention from me..
Sometimes when writing a mystery novel I have a clear idea of who has committed the crime before I start, and sometimes (more often than not) I have a vague idea and then change my mind at some point. In the case of 'The Christmas Puzzle' I was only a few chapters from the end of the book when I experienced this sudden change of mind. I think the only other novel where it has come so close to the wire is 'A Reformed Character'.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had been writing for years but without managing to get anything published, although I did feel I was gradually getting closer. I had written ten plays for children which had been performed by an amateur group. I had a novel professionally critiqued and I attended a couple of writers' conferences. However I am quite an impatient person in many ways and when it suddenly became easier to self-publish, I jumped at the chance rather than hanging around waiting for query letters to be answered and go through the whole, very slow traditional publication process.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords was the place where I first tried out any of my work on a real live audience! I uploaded a short story ('Recycled') there as a sort of test run, setting it as a free download. I was thrilled when I noticed the numbers of downloads building up.
Another thrilling moment was when my first paid for sales from other outlets appeared in my account, especially the ones that showed more than one currency - I felt like an international author for the first time!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love being able to spend time in different worlds where I can use my imagination to decide what happens - although another joy is actually creating the characters and letting them run away with the story themselves, or so it seems.
What do your fans mean to you?
I am very grateful to all my readers, and I suppose I can count the ones who have contacted me in some way as 'fans'. I particularly enjoy being able to interact with them on places like Facebook and my blog. They do help me keep on writing, although I have to confess I would probably keep going anyway! But maybe not quite as fast.
What are you working on next?
As I write this, we're just coming up to NaNoWriMo and I plan to write a sequel to a dystopian sci-fi novel I wrote for my very first NaNoWriMo in 2006. I found it very difficult to decide what to write next, because I had three completely different projects in my mind, including a new 'Edwardian Adventure' and a prequel to 'The Lion and Unicorn Quest'. However in the case of the Edwardian novella, I decided I could probably fit it in between other projects, possibly at Christmas or in the spring, and in the case of the 'Quest' one I have quite a bit of research to do before I can start on that one, so I reluctantly put these aside in favour of the sci-fi one. I've been inspired to write it by events around the Scottish independence referendum of September this year.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Addams, M.C. Beaton, Loretta Chase, Lexi Revellian and David Wailing.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Haha - the need to go to my full-time job and earn a living!
If I didn't have to go there, I would get up a little later and write a few hundred words just after breakfast to get the day started properly.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work full-time as a database manager, so that takes up quite a bit of time. Otherwise, I help with a local amateur theatre group, chair a local committee and act as doorkeeper to three cats. I delve occasionally into family history research.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I look at the recommendations on my Kindle first - if there are any I would like but don't have time for just now, I add them to a wish-list.
I look for more books by writers whose books I've already enjoyed.
I look at 'Indie Book Bargains' newsletter for ideas.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, and I still have it (see above). It was called 'Penny and Peggy go to the Seaside' and that's exactly what it was about - based on my family holidays at St Andrews, but an idealised version.
What is your writing process?
I only need a plot idea and some characters to get started. The idea has to tell me where I think I'm going with the story, but sometimes not very much more than that. Once I have this and the characters, I will do any research I think I might need before starting to write, although there is always more to do along the way.
I don't let myself start writing until a sort of head of steam builds up, and quite often that is so effective that it carries me through the first couple of chapters. Once I start, I write methodically in bursts of several hundred words, trying to write something at breakfast time, lunchtime and in the evening. I always like to know where I'm going next before I stop for the day, and I try not to break at the end of a chapter.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
That's very hard to answer, because I can't really remember a point in time when I couldn't read and then suddenly could read. But I did love the Beatrix Potter books when I was small, and the first book I can remember really making an impact on me was 'The Tailor of Gloucester' - that was mainly because of the illustrations, which were mostly of mice sewing in tiny little stitches on beautiful fabrics.
How do you approach cover design?
I like to have a photograph on the cover of my Fife mysteries, so I usually have a look in my late brother's photo stash for something I think is more or less appropriate. For instance, the cover of 'Reunited in Death' shows a graveyard in Angus where one set of our great-great-grandparents are buried.
Apart from that I am always keen to make sure the text is visible on a thumbnail.
If I ever get round to writing the steam-punk novel I have somewhere in my head, I'll have to get a professional cover design as I doubt if my own skills are up to that.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Pride and Prejudice - such a lot in it. I can re-read it over and over, finding something different each time.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Addams) - always amusing but with kernels of deep truth in it.
Going Postal (Terry Pratchett) - as above.
Persuasion - again, such a lot in it. Brilliant characterisation.
Strong Poison (Dorothy Sayers) - classic detective story.
What do you read for pleasure?
Historical novels
Non-fiction - history or pop psychology
Mysteries - nothing too violent
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle 4
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Permanent freebie (achieved via Smashwords).
FB good for keeping fans up to date.
Describe your desk
Always more cluttered than I want it to be.
Published 2014-10-18.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Christmas Puzzle
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 63,370. Language: British English. Published: October 16, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
This is the eighth novel in the Pitkirtly Mystery series, set in an imaginary small town on the Fife coast in Scotland. A Christmas market is interrupted by a murder nearby, and the usual suspects are drawn into the investigation whether they like it or not.
The Coronation Quest
Series: Adventurous Quests, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 70,220. Language: British English. Published: August 3, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
'The Coronation Quest' is the third in the 'Adventurous Quest' series of historical mystery novels. It is set in 1953 in Britain, mostly in London at the time when everyone was preparing for the Coronation.
Two Edwardian Adventures
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 34,750. Language: English. Published: July 27, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
This book consists of 2 light-hearted novellas of about 16,000 words each, set in Edwardian times, mostly in Edinburgh, and linked by some of the characters involved. ‘Adventure at the National Exhibition’ is a tale of old and new illusions, some of which are shattered by the end of the story. ‘Adventure on the Scotch Express’ is a tale of several people with something to hide.
A Tasteful Crime
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 7. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 60,810. Language: British English. Published: February 15, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
This is the seventh book in the Pitkirtly series of cosy mysteries, set in a fictitious small town on the coast of Fife. A baking competition comes to Pitkirtly, followed closely by murder and its aftermath.
Blackberry Crumble
Price: Free! Words: 9,680. Language: British English. Published: December 23, 2013. Category: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
'Blackberry Crumble' is a long short story about a haunted phone, a desperate café owner and her son, and a ruthless woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
The Four Seasons Quest
Series: Adventurous Quests, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 72,480. Language: British English. Published: October 7, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Is Aunt Caroline’s murder just an isolated incident or could it be part of a much larger web of crime and intrigue? The case spawns secrets of its own which threaten to separate Flora and Oliver almost as soon as they get engaged. A sequel to 'The Lion and Unicorn Quest'.
The Queen of Scots Mystery
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 6. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 62,140. Language: English. Published: July 3, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
This is the sixth novel in the Pitkirtly mystery series. What would you do if you thought you were about to lose everything you cared about most? 'The Queen of Scots Mystery' tells you what some familiar figures in Pitkirtly did in this situation, and explores the consequences.
The Lion and Unicorn Quest
Series: Adventurous Quests, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 64,880. Language: English. Published: March 2, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
Can people learn to leave the past behind them, and move on? Flora has tried hard to do this but her wartime past as a secret agent just won't let go of her. For a while it's as if the pieces from two jigsaw puzzles have got mixed up and will never be sorted out again.
Frozen in Crime
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 5. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 68,820. Language: English. Published: October 7, 2012. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
Frozen in Crime is the fifth novel in the Pitkirtly mystery series. As Christmas approaches, deep snow cloaks the little town of Pitkirtly, an armed robbery takes place and Jemima’s husband Dave disappears. But that's just the start of it!
Death at the Happiness Club
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 63,010. Language: English. Published: April 6, 2012. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
The fourth novel in the Pitkirtly series of quirky mysteries. The Happiness Club, offering opportunities for friendship and romance, arrives in Pitkirtly, where it is met with healthy suspicion in some quarters and naive enthusiasm in others.
Murder in the Midi
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 67,800. Language: English. Published: November 30, 2011. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Isabelle doesn't expect a summer job in the south of France to turn into a nightmare. But even before she encounters the mysterious Nathan Freelander at the wheel of a boat on the Canal du Midi, she is already fighting for survival, and after that things go from bad to worse. Is Nathan's friend Josh friend or foe? Who can she trust?
A Reformed Character
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 61,170. Language: English. Published: September 17, 2011. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
Can anyone ever really change? Christopher and Amaryllis ask themselves this question when a young man comes to the door of their holiday caravan one wet evening. The attempt to answer it takes them and their friends on a dangerous journey from a Pitkirtly ice-cream shop to a knitting club and then to a cattery before they reach a dangerous conclusion in an old railway yard. A Pitkirtly mystery
Reunited in Death
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 62,280. Language: English. Published: June 15, 2011. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
When Jemima Stevenson helps to organise a Pitkirtly Homecoming day she has no idea that she has invited some of her long-lost cousins into danger. Reunited in Death is a cautionary tale for family historians and an entertaining read for others. Don't forget, there are some family occasions you won't want to put in your scrapbook!
Crime in the Community
Series: Pitkirtly Mysteries, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 64,680. Language: English. Published: October 26, 2010. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Christopher's illusion of having his life under control is shattered when the mysterious Amaryllis appears in his small town in Fife, bringing new ideas, confusion and ultimately chaos in her wake.
Price: Free! Words: 3,420. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2010. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
What was Amaryllis doing at the rubbish tip in the middle of the night? And would she get away with it once her friend Christopher was on the case? This short tale of revenge, retribution and garden gnomes takes place in a small town in Scotland and is an introduction to a series of cosy mysteries by the same author.