Interview with Peggy Webb

Published 2019-02-15.
What is your writing process?
I wish I could say that I put on my favorite hat, face the east and my muse sprinkles me with ideas for New York Times bestsellers. Although my writing process doesn't work that way, I do get visits from my zany muse in the middle of the night so that I'm leaping out of bed and racing into the office to jot down the bare bones of a story or to take dictation from a character who ate too much salsa, can't sleep and wants to talk. (Okay, that's a long sentence. Since I'm from Mississippi, I must be in my William Faulkner mode.)
When I first started writing--about the time of Noah's flood, I think--I wrote detailed synopses that usually ran fifteen or so pages. Nearly a hundred books later, I jot a few notes on characters, plot and setting (two or three paragraphs) then start writing.
Because I'm a musician, I hear the music and rhythm of words. I love going into my office every morning, opening the curtains so I can watch the birds outside my window then sitting down at my computer and letting the story flow. Each novel has it's own rhythm and each character has his own voice. When I tap into my subconscious mind, the story flows and the characters speak in a natural way.
I keep a writing routine, otherwise I'd procrastinate or race off to the movies or sit down at my piano and while away the hours playing rocking gospel or Broadway show tunes. I have breakfast, meditate, feed the birds and then go into my office to write.
In the beginning of my career, I didn't know how many pages I could produce in a day so I set aside a block of time dedicated exclusively to writing. It turns out I can write like the wind. Now I set a page quota for the week. I sometimes exceed the quota or fall a bit short. But having that page-count goal allows me to meet deadlines (In a thirty-four year career I've never missed a deadline.) Having that goal also gives me the flexibility to accept invitations from friends or race into my garden on a sunny day and plant a rose bush.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I started dreaming of becoming a writer when I ten years old. My daddy's small farm in northeast Mississippi was a wonderland for a little kid who loved animals and nature and music and books. But best of all, our house was a stop for the Lee County Bookmobile. Miss Frankie, the bookmobile librarian, guided my reading choices. No child could have had a better mentor. She encouraged me to read mysteries, biographies and the classics. I could hardly wait for "bookmobile day." I still remember the smell of glue on the book bindings. I can still see the rows of books that would lead me into another world,
On summer days, I'd take my books into the hayloft where I could feel the sunshine on my face, smell the sweet clover hay and fall into a new story. BLACK BEAUTY, FLICKA COME HOME, NANCY DREW and HARDY BOY mysteries, biographies of Sacagawea, Daniel Boone and Poachontas and the classics of Louisa Mae Alcott fueled my dreams of becoming a writer. When I remember those childhood dreams, I still smell hay and feel the warmth of the sun.
How do you approach cover design?
What a great question! Because I'm published in multiple genres as both an indie and a traditionally published writer, I have a multitude of approaches to cover design. My Southern Cousins Mystery series features quirky cartoon-like characters that include Elvis, the basset hound who thinks he's the King of Rock 'n Roll incarnate. The transmogrified Elvis with his black sideburns and high-rising patent leather hair was first created by the wonderful cover artists at Kensington. I now indie publish the Southern Cousins Mysteries, and my granddaughter, Cecilia Griffith, does the original art for the covers. In a pinch, I've done the art. If you have ELVIS AND THE PINK CADILLAC CORPSE or ELVIS AND THE BLUE SUEDE BONES, you'll recognize my artistic style--or the lack, thereof. My Elvis cartoon character has only three legs! Sigh!
My early romance covers use the traditional male/female embrace. In the last few years, cover style has changed and become much more creative. I have a lot of fun brainstorming a cover concept with one of the three people I hire for cover design. I love the simplicity of the cover on my three-in-one romance, THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. A rose inside a heart, designed to look like the front of a Valentine card. The cover shouts moonlit nights and stolen kisses and happily ever after.
One of my favorite cover designs appears on the seven books in the DIXIE VIRGIN CHRONICLES. When I create a cover concept, I try to reflect the tone and genre of the novel. Those long legs kicking off their high heel shoes perfectly reflects the zany and fun-filled mood of that romantic comedy series.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Do I have to choose only five? Where to begin? You might have to send chocolate before I can answer this question.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr... Stunningly beautiful prose, World War II setting that transported me, amazing characters I wanted to snatch off the page and protect, and a simply unforgettable read. I wish I had written this book!
THE WIFE by Meg Wolitzer...Okay, I confess. I saw the movie first. Glenn Close blew my socks off in the lead. So I raced to purchase the novel. Meg Wolitzer's voice is wonderfully comic and wry and wise. I loved both book and movie, but the authors sly wit didn't translate onto film.
PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy...for the writing, the writing, the writing!!! The late, great Pat Conroy was a master of lyrical prose. He was also a friend of mine. I first met him years ago when I was Chairman of the Lee County Library Board of Trustees, and he was guest speaker for our Helen Foster Lecture series. He was as delightful in person as he was on page. Through the years our paths crossed many times, and he ended up giving me the most beautiful quote for my literary fiction novel written under the pen name, Elaine Hussey. He was a literary giant, and I miss him.
THE PONDER HEART and the short story "Why I Live at the P.O." by fellow Mississippian, Eudora Welty...for the humor, the voice and the fabulous sense of place. I have a Master of Arts degree in English, and had the privilege of taking a graduate class from Dr. Dollarhyde. He was Eudora's friend and she used his name in one of her novels. Dollarhyde? Who wouldn't? My graduate study included works by Eudora, who paved the way for my comic voice. You'll see that voice in my romantic comedies and my Southern Cousins Mysteries.
Only two more to go? Oh, dear! What can I leave out?
TALK BEFORE SLEEP by Elizabeth Berg...for the gorgeous prose, the great characters and the unforgettable story. Women rallying around each other in a crisis. What's not to love? And how can I forget the author? Elizabeth and I were at the same writers' conference in Kentucky the year a horrific tornado ripped through Tennessee. Nothing sends writers to the bar and creates an instant bond like thinking you're going to blow off to Glory Land in a large black storm funnel.
DREAM BIG starring OLIVIA...Ian Falconer is the author and illustrator of this New York Times bestselling children's book series. When I need to remember why I'm a writer, I pick up this slim volume and thumb through. Every page makes my laugh aloud and remember and be very hopeful that my books, too, are lifting readers up and giving them pleasure and perhaps giving them a long forgotten sense of hope.
What do you do when your hair is on fire from writing and you need to take a break and forget that you've been holed up in your pajamas all day, subsisting on cold coffee?
I grab a cup of anything hot--tea, coffee, chocolate milk--and go to my porch swing to watch the birds. The gorgeous male cardinal who sits on my bird feeder and watches me through my office window is so tame he comes when I call. He alights in the feeder so close I could touch him. But I never do. I want him to remain wild and free and flying high.
Or I sit at my piano and belt out gospel and blues and wish I could sing in a smokey night-club voice instead of the first soprano I use when I sing in church choir. My piano is a vintage baby grand that once belonged to a jazz musician. Sometimes, when I get a jazz piece just right, I can feel his spirit hovering around.
Or I go to the hammock swung between oak trees in my Angel Garden and read a good book, anything by Pat Conroy or Elizabeth Berg. Or a terrific comedy. Or a nail-biting thriller by Debra Webb (Deb and I are dear friends but not related. We are so close we call each other
What is your e-reading device of choice?
i use a Kindle Fire but I'm equally fond of the Nook book used by daughter and the Kobo reader used by my daughter-in law. The thing I love most about an e-reader is that I can order a book at midnight when I have insomnia and don't want to pass the time playing a rip-roaring gospel on my piano and wake the neighbors.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Social media, my newsletter, and the guest pieces I do for magazines slanted toward people who love to read. I've also placed ads in several places that target readers by the genre they prefer.
Describe your desk
Whimsical...I have a water globe that features a silvery blue dragon and plays the theme from Camelot; a small revolving crystal ball that changes color, a desk lamp shaped like a purple tulip, a clock shaped like an elephant carrying posies, two unicorns (brass, not real), a pen with a pink feathered pom pom on the end (sometimes I use it to sign books), a trivet for my coffee or hot tea (trivet says, give your soul a bubble bath).
Messy...See all the above and add stacks of paper containing my latest manuscript, various notes, a book titled FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES if I'm writing a mystery and want to know how to kill somebody (a character, a character!), the story bible on the Valentine gang and Elvis if i'm writing a Southern Cousins Mystery, several letter openers and various pens stuffed into a cup with a picture of James Dean on the front and his quote on the back: "Dream as if you'll live forever; Live as if you'll die today." Did I mention that my desk is a huge mahogany treasure that is six feet long?
Collecting dust....if I'm in the midst of a novel. Because I'm the only one I trust to dust my desk and not move a vital scrap of paper I need. Because I let my housekeeper come into my office with her mysterious cleaning supplies ONLY when I'm there and can yell, "Don't touch that!"
A MOST comfortable swivel chair that slides up to the desk and faces the window so I can see my almost-tame cardinal. He's out there at the bird feeder now, sated on black sunflower seeds and watching me through the window.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up a farm in northeast Mississippi. It was a magical place filled with deep woods and two lakes, wildflowers in the meadows and my mother's lush flower gardens, animals galore, and a hayloft plus secret glens for dreaming. Both parents encouraged me and my two sisters to read, and they worked hard to ensure that all three of had piano lessons. My mother loved to travel, but Daddy was a homebody, who enjoyed huge family gatherings where the various aunts, uncles and cousins always had stories to tell.
Readers will discover my background in all my books--my love of nature and animals (I DO, AND SO DOES THE GORILLA, one of the three romance novels in THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, DONOVAN'S ANGEL in the Donovan romance series); my love of music, which threads through so many of my novels I can't begin to name them; and the quirky characters who might have been transplanted from those long-ago family gatherings to the pages of my books.
What are you currently writing, and what can readers expect from you in the future?
I'm writing ELVIS AND THE DEVIL IN DISGUISE, another indie Southern Cousins Mystery that will be available in April, 2019. I hope my granddaughter will do the cover art so it won't have another three-legged dog.
The latest Elvis book, as my fans call them, will introduce a new mystery series I'm launching this summer (2019). THE CHARMED CAT mysteries will be indie published and will have the comedic touches my Southern Cousins fans have come to expect from me.
Also, I will continue to write women's fiction novels that showcase strong, independent women who celebrate each other's triumphs and help each other soldier through the tragedies. Readers can expect my books to continue exploring the dynamics of friendship and family. They can expect books infused with laughter, tears and hope.
Thank you for providing this platform to discuss writing. And a huge thanks to all my readers. You are so generous with your reviews and your emails.To learn more about my books, follow my blog and sign up for my free newsletter, please do visit me at I look forward to hearing from you!
Have you ever worked at another job?
I've been writing exclusively for most of a career than spans more than thirty years. Before I began my writing career (with TAMING MAGGIE, a romantic comedy), I taught English at Saltillo High School. I also did a brief stint of teaching summer school English at Tupelo High.
In order to devote more time to my mother when her heart began to fail, I took a hiatus from writing in early 2000. During that time, I was an adjunct instructor of writing at Mississippi State University.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Currently I'm working on another Southern Cousins Mystery. My latest one is entitled ELVIS AND THE BLUE SUEDE BONES, available now. All the books in this series have a strong romantic story line between Callie Valentine Jones--one of the two narrators and owner of the best little beauty shop in downtown Mooreville, MS, population 650 and growing-- and Jack Jones, bad boy on a Harley who is the most lethal agent in a secret crime fighting unit called The Company. Callie's cousin Lovie--who says she'd had more lovers than Elvis has fleas--also has a love interest: hunky Rocky Malone, a bouncer/body guard in Las Vegas turned archaeologist. Think a younger, more handsome version of Indiana Jones.
Because I'm from Tupelo, the birthplace of the most iconic entertainer in the world, I was going to make Elvis a ghost in this series. But my chocolate Lab, Jefferson, had other ideas. When he did his little shake, rattle and roll dance that means "take me outside this minute," I knew Elvis was a dog. And not just any dog. He was a basset hound. Furthermore, he woke me up in the middle of the night, talking. "I had umpteen hit records as a fat man in a white sequined jumpsuit..." I got up to take dictation...and knew Elvis, the sleuthing basset hound, would be the other narrator of the Southern Cousins Mystery series.
By the way, he's the reader-favorite character.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Though I've published many novels the traditional way, I absolutely love the freedom to set my own deadlines and have complete control over the story, the cover, the back cover copy and all promo copy.
I've always had wonderful relationships with my publishers, and the same is true of the indie publishers. The support they lend to authors makes writing indie books a pleasure.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The Smashwords team is amazingly savvy and supportive. They answer every question personally and work closely with the author to successfully launch new books and promote the ones we've already indie published.
In the years I've been with them, I've benefited greatly because they are constantly studying ways to expand distribution, educate their authors and create unique opportunities for us to showcase our work. This is a win/win situation. Knowing that every author is important to Smashwords is a great incentive to keep putting out indie product...which in turn contributes to success.
The Smashwords website....Oh, joy! Oh, bliss! I'm one of those writers who views my computer with suspicion and is mystified by anything more technologically advanced that a hand-held can opener. This team has made it so easy for me to change my price, make updates, change covers, offer free books and basically do everything it takes to market indie books that even I can do it.
Rock on, Smashwords!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The art of making my characters come alive in a story that compels readers to keep turning pages until they get to the end.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are my lifeblood. Writing is done in solitude. No cheerleaders. No shortcuts. No boss saying, "Good work," at the end of the day. After spending months with the characters and the story and not really knowing whether you got it right but keeping your fingers crossed that you did, it's amazing to see the book fly into the hands of readers and inspire them to write or email or come to a book signing or meet you on at a conference and say, "Wow! I loved your book!"
I write because I can't imagine doing anything else. And because I love to fall in love with the characters who make that brave leap from my mind to the page. And because I love to tell a story where the ending makes me cry and then stand up and cheer.
But it's the fans who make sure my book stays alive and who encourage me to keep on writing. I have two words for my fans. Spoken from my heart. Thank you!
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Latest books by This Author

Elvis and the Heartbreak Hotel Murders: With Bonus Recipes (A Southern Cousins Mystery)
Series: Southern Cousins Mysteries. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 42,560. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2020 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
Leaving their baby with Callie’s flamboyant mama and her legendary dog Elvis, Callie and Jack head to a weekend getaway in Memphis. Cousin Lovie and her new hunk’a burnin’ love husband go along for a delayed honeymoon at the famous Peabody. But somebody with revenge always on his mind turns the romantic tryst into heartbreak hotel.
Elvis and the Devil in Disguise (A Southern Cousins Mystery With Bonus Charmed Cat Mystery)
Series: Southern Cousins Mysteries. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 37,710. Language: English. Published: March 28, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Jack and Callie are awaiting the arrival of their baby and the whole Valentine clan is in a fever. Jack goes on one last mission for the Company while Callie grabs her last-chance getaway before there’s a whole lotta crying going on in the Jones household. She and her dog Elvis join the Valentine gang as they head to New Orleans. Includes short story prequel to Peggy’s Charmed Cat Mystery series.
Magnolia Wild Vanishes (A Charmed Cat Mystery, Book 1)
Series: Charmed Cat Mysteries. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 22,370. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Maggie Wild, an Olympic sharpshooter, had a job, a fiancé and a life--until she stumbled upon the secret activities of her fiancé’s family. Now she’s on the run, hiding out in New Orleans with two eccentric great aunts. What could be safer than two little old ladies who own a lotion and potion shop and think their cat can talk? Maggie hadn’t counted on murder in their knitting circle.
A Necessary Woman
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 87,120. Language: English. Published: June 29, 2018 . Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Historical » USA
In the last summer of Camelot, President Kennedy urged a nation toward unity. In November, he was struck down by a bullet. Against that backdrop of enormous hope and great heartbreak, Jolene, a teenaged biracial girl whose only family is a stray dog named Catfish, and Margo, a desperate mother whose only living child seems broken beyond repair, discover the true meaning of family and of grace.
Elvis and the Blue Suede Bones
Series: Southern Cousins Mysteries. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 49,820. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2018 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
Jack and Callie just want to make the world go away, but her mama throws a garden party so she can spread the news. While party goers chow down on Cousin Lovie’s sausage balls, Elvis is in the flower beds digging up some blue suede bones – human bones. Suspicious minds put the blame on Mama. Callie goes into sleuth mode along with a whole lotta help from Lovie and everybody’s favorite canine.
Elvis and the Pink Cadillac Corpse (A Southern Cousins Mystery, Plus Bonus Recipes)
Series: Southern Cousins Mysteries. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 52,630. Language: American English. Published: May 23, 2017 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
Callie’s hunk’a burnin’ love is in parts unknown so she heads to a cooking competition on the Gulf Coast with cousin Lovie where the only trouble her mama can get into is sunburn. But somebody is out to win, come what may. When the first victim goes missing and the body won’t stay put, the Valentines go into a fever. Can everybody’s favorite hound dog, Elvis, save the day?
The Rules of Engagement: A Bestseller’s Romantic Comedy Trio
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 139,450. Language: English. Published: January 20, 2017 . Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
A laugh-aloud trio of romantic comedies from the award-winning, bestselling author reviewers call a “comic genius.” Review: “This may just be the Best Box Set of the Year! It starts with a hilarious scene in the first book and never lets up! Don’t miss it!” Includes: The Goddess Trap, An Unlikely Affair, and I Do and So Does the Gorilla.
Driving Me Crazy
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 61,860. Language: English. Published: July 30, 2016 . Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Is there a god of second chances? Laugh and cry as two sisters attempt to take care of their ailing, spitfire mama. Maggie, the family’s go-to girl, has lost her career, her husband and her home. Then older sister Jean drops a shocker, screeching, as always, “Maggie, what are we going to do?” Maggie is exasperated, Jean is terrified, and Mama thinks it’s the best gossip she’s heard all year.
Elvis and the Rock-A-Hula Baby Capers
Series: Southern Cousins Mysteries. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 44,960. Language: English. Published: October 15, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
The secret is out! Jack and Callie have decided to have a baby and the whole Valentine clan is offering bad advice. To prepare for their future blessed event, Callie talks Jack into attending baby boot camp. Of course, Elvis and the gang tag along. But somebody is out to spoil the fun. Can Elvis save the day before bad boy Jack backs out of fatherhood and Callie becomes the next murder victim?
Disturbing the Peace (Sunday Cove)
Series: Sunday Cove. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 47,600. Language: English. Published: June 14, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Romance » General
Amy Logan, a zany inventor with a robot named Herman, has moved to Sunday Cove with her eccentric mystery-writing aunt in an attempt to pull herself together after the death of her beloved husband. She never expects to be caught in the spell woven by the Legend of Orange Blossoms. And she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for a sexy judge who is her polar opposite.
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