Interview with L. Barnett Evans

How did you start writing together?
We are L. Barnett Evans and C.V. Rhodes, co-authors of the Grandmothers, Incorporated book cozy mystery book series and we’re delighted to let our readers know a little more about us. As for how we started this writing partnership. We both have our perspectives:

I’ll let Lillie tell you about the story she shared with me, but using that idea as the backdrop we created a storyline about three widows, in their sixties, who are under the illusion that they are amateur sleuths. We then added the cantankerous mother-in-law of one of them as their constant critic and the formula worked. As we were developing the story we laughed the whole time we were writing. That’s how we knew Grandmothers, Incorporated was funny.

I had an experience in my family that involved two grandmothers doing some investigating. I thought it was funny but kicked around the idea of writing a serious detective novel. Crystal thought that since the idea was funny why not write a comedy? The result was our book, GRANDMOTHERS, INCORPORATED, which, I believe, reflects how much fun we had writing it.
When did each of you first start your writing careers?
I’ve been writing since I was eight years ago. As an adult, I started out writing plays. I’ve written over twenty plays all of which have been produced, not counting the two plays co-written with Lillie featuring characters from our Grandmothers, Incorporated series. One of those plays was performed Off Broadway. I didn’t start writing novels until 1995. I chose romance as the genre of choice because it’s so popular. It took years to develop my writing style and I received a lot of rejection letters until I finally got published in 2000. My first published romance suspense novel is titled Sin. It’s about a female minister renowned in her community for her anti-drug crusade and she unwittingly falls in love with a man involved in the drug world. It’s the first book in the Sin series. I’ve had eight romance suspense titles published in that series. Then, of course there are the three cozy mystery novels co-written with Lillie that have been published. So I’ve had a bit of success as both an author and as a playwright.

That’s hard to say. I first was interest in journalism in high school and wrote for my high school newspaper. Over the years I’ve written for newspaper and magazines. I wrote for a start-up magazine for a brief time. I settled into writing sporadically for special projects. I never considered fiction writing because I pictured myself as a “just the facts” type of writer. Also, I was not aware of many African American writers. I’ve been spinning yarns ever since I was able to talk. I was always shy and didn’t talk much--unless I was spinning a tale. I have the knack for telling the most outlandish things and have them taken as truth. Sometime in the late nineties I launched my career as a story teller after winning a prestigious storytelling contest. So, I’ve always had the stories and performed them, and now I’m a published author and playwright.
When you write together what is your writing process?
Our process, after we decide the concept of the book, is to come up with ideas to incorporate in the story line. We develop an outline so we know where we’re headed. We each write a chapter and then exchange the chapters for editing and add our own touches. Then we meet and hash out any differences of opinion and repeat the process.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Our latest release has an interesting title: THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MISS ZELDA. A trip to California taken by four friends provided the seed for the storyline behind THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MISS ZELDA. Several ridiculous and funny things happened on the actual trip and naturally we thought of the ladies of Grandmothers Incorporated. We began with the question most fiction writers start with: What if...? The result was the very funny novel THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MISS ZELDA. In the novel, best friends Hattie, Connie and Bea go on their dream vacation, but Hattie objects when her mother-in-law, Miss Fanny, invites her friend, Zelda Chambers to join them. It seems that Miss Zelda has a lot of skeletons in her closets, and as those secrets begin to be revealed, mystery, intrigue and laughs abound.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had a lot of problems with the mainstream publisher who released five of my books. So when Lillie and I developed the idea for Grandmothers, Incorporated I decided that it would be more advantageous financially to self-publish that series. I published my second romance suspense novel, SWEET SACRIFICE, and it was nominated for a critic’s award, so I had no fear when it came to publishing subsequent novels, and when eBooks became popular it all go. So far I’ve republished my first book, SIN, and added two more novels to the Sin series--SECRETS and STRANGERS. Lillie and I have three published novels in our Grandmothers, Incorporated series--GRANDMOTHERS, INCORPORATED, SAVING SIN CITY and THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MISS ZELDA.

My first venture into publishing a novel was GRANDMOTHERS, INCORPORATED, which was published by a small press. When we started on the second book of the series, SAVING SIN CITY, I didn’t choose to go through the whole publishing process (I hate rejection). When eBooks started gaining acceptance, Crystal and I decided that was the way to go. Also, for me, the financial reward was greater as an Indie author.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been absolutely essential to our success as co authors of the Grandmothers, Incorporated series! Its distribution of our eBooks has reached audiences that we never thought we would reach. The process of publishing on Smashwords is fairly simple once you learn it and Smashwords offers even more advantages than mainstream publishers, not only financially, but in assisting writers with tidbits and updates. It takes the mystery out of the publishing process. For a writer, Smashwords is a life saver!

The entire idea of self-publishing on Smashwords was a little intimidating at first, but once I started it was really quite easy. The help that Smashwords provides makes it possible to understand and enjoy controlling the publishing process.
What do your fans mean to you?
Without the people who read our Grandmothers, Incorporated book series, there’s no way that we’d do so well as authors. They are the ones who passed the word about our first book, which resulted in our writing the other two books in the series, SAVING SIN CITY and THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MISS ZELDA. There would be no book series without them.

Fans represent a perfect balance of give and take. I like to believe that I give my writing as a chance for readers to escape from whatever is going on in their day. It’s a chance to laugh along with three characters that become so familiar it’s like spending time with old friends. That is what I enjoy giving to fans. In turn what I take from fans is a sense of satisfaction in knowing I’ve made them laugh, ponder on the nature of human beings, and then laugh so more. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable relationship that I strive to keep alive.
What are you working on next?
Our next book, WHOSE KNIFE IS IT ANYWAY?, has our ladies solving an actual crime. There is a body and a victim who is quite dead. The backdrop of the story is a conciliatory retreat involving feuding church ladies. When a dead body is found in the woods, Bea, Connie and Hattie are ready to prove their metal as “true” detectives.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I don’t have much spare time, especially since I write both the Sin Series (romantic suspense) and the Grandmothers, Incorporated series (cozy mystery). I do like to travel when I have the time, and I like going to the movies and I like to read.

Reading, watching movies and staying involved in church and family activities. I like to sing--notice I didn’t say I could, I said I like to--so I’m involved in church choir. For three years I participated in a concert series called Gospel Meets Symphony and I even sang with the choir on a Gospel Workshop album. So I try to stay busy with anything that interest me or that I enjoy.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Instead of naming their books, I’d rather say that these are five of my favorite authors because I like almost everything they write.

Maya Angelou - her stories resonate in my soul when I read her work. She’s lyrical, and yet still down to earth when she writes.

Beverley Jenkins - I think she’s the best when it comes to historical romance. Her love scenes are beautifully descriptive and she entertains as well as educates when she writes. She includes real African American history in her stories, and I love it.

Donna Hill - In my humble opinion, she’s one of the best writers around. She goes from romance to general fiction and beyond. Her writing is a solid and her stories are well told.

Terri McMillian - She’s funny and insightful. On top of that with the success of Waiting to Exhale, she opened the door for a lot of contemporary African American writers.

Stephen King- What can I say? The man is the master of horror and his imagination is phenomenal.

I’ve read and enjoyed too many books to pick, so mostly I have to go with authors.

Standing at the Scratch Line - Guy Johnson - this was epic story about an African American raised in the bayou in the early 1900’s. I loved the character who was undeniably determined, strong and intelligent, demanding respect rather it was in France fighting in WWII, battling the Mob in Jazz Age Harlem, the KKK in Louisiana or crocked politicians in a black township in Oklahoma. The writing had hold-your-breath action and one heck of a romantic element.

Presumed Innocent - Scott Turow
It was an excellent thriller but the court room scenes will always stand out to me as being vivid, accurate, and humorous. The scenes were written by a man who knows his way around a court room.

Mary Perry - I think her period writing (nineteenth century England) is superb. She is a very good cozy mystery writer but her William Monk series had me the most intrigued. I loved the way she started with a character that neither the reader nor the character himself knew--he was a police detective with amnesia. With each case he solved, he discovered more information about his background so I discovered the true Monk at the same time he did.

Beverly Jenkins - I like the educational element of her books. They are well researched and the historical details are seamlessly woven in to her romance stories.

Stephen King - his books have kept me awake in the night more than anything else --both by reading and making me too nervous to sleep. His writing makes me cringe and get excited at the same time. Cringe at vivid horror-filled imagery and excited that an author can write in a way that that has the reader at his mercy.
Published 2015-02-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Whose Knife Is It Anyway?
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 42,250. Language: English. Published: April 23, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
WHOSE KNIFE IS IT ANYWAY? is what Bea, Hattie and Connie want to know. Trapped in the woods with a group of feuding church ladies, and a dead body, they wonder who will be next? Can the amateur sleuths of Grandmothers, Incorporated discover WHOSE KNIFE IS IT ANYWAY before the murderer claims another victim?
From the Page to the Stage: Two Plays for Women
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 18,680. Language: English. Published: April 16, 2015. Categories: Plays » Women Authors, Plays » American / African American
FROM THE PAGE TO THE STAGE: Two Plays for Women features two comedies, Grandmothers, Incorporated (Two Acts) and Stake Out (One Act), with marvelous characters who are both mature and memorable. The plays in FROM THE PAGE TO THE STAGE: Two Plays for Women are available for production. For those who want to enjoy a good read, FROM THE PAGE TO THE STAGE: Two Plays for Women delivers!
There's Something Wrong with Miss Zelda
Series: Grandmothers Incorporated, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 44,760. Language: English. Published: August 5, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
When friends Bea, Connie, Hattie and Hattie's mother-in-law Miss Fanny, go on a dream vacation, no one objects when Miss Zelda Chambers is invited along. After all she's a sweet old lady and Miss Fanny's friend. However, things are not as they seem. Soon mystery, intrigue and laughs abound as the amateur sleuths of Grandmothers, Incorporated discover that There's Something Wrong with Miss Zelda.
Saving Sin City
Series: Grandmothers Incorporated, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 54,710. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Crime solving takes a holiday,when amateur sleuths Hattie Collier, Bea Bell and Connie Palmer win a trip to Las Vegas. However, when the devil's playground proves to much for Hattie, she launches an outlandish plan to save not only her friends, but Sin City from the gates of hell. Take two fun loving grandmothers and one religious zealot, put them in Las Vegas and the result is pandemonium!
Grandmothers, Incorporated
Series: Grandmothers Incorporated, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 56,990. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
When a former high school classmate dies, three "sixty-something" widows are determined to prove that the cause was nothing less than foul play. Certain that they know the culprit, the ladies turn the lives of everyone around them upside down in their hilarious quest for justice. In this cozy mystery authors L. Barnett Evans and C.V. Rhodes offers readers a belly full of laughs!