Interview with R.J. Minnick
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in rural upstate New York. We had a centralized school district with teachers that focused on the idea that good writing was the start -- and maybe the pinnacle -- of all communication. Creativity was encouraged; college something to be strived for. I wound up at the State University of New York at Oswego, which led to my meeting someone who would introduce me to antique boats. That, combined with a love of mystery that started with Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie (a tried-and-true foundation for mystery writing), led me to create the series published here on Smashwords, the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries.
When did you first start writing?
I can still picture the notebook page filled with blotchy blue ballpoint pen and feel the cramps in my fingers. It was 5th grade. I wrote a 15-page story that I think might have been called "The Mystery of the Blue Vase". I'm not sure, but I think there were fairies in the story, too.
Writing for me was simply the recording of my imaginings. Being the youngest of five, it seemed I was always waiting for someone -- waiting for sisters to get ready so we could leave; waiting in the car to pick someone up; waiting for the school bus. Even riding in the car on the way to see my aunts and grandmother was a kind of waiting. My brain couldn't stand being still, so I was always making up stories about my surroundings or what I wished would happen next. Eventually, loving books as I did, writing the stories down seemed the natural thing to do .
What's the story behind your latest book?
I spent 24 years of my life in Nashville, Tennessee. You can't live there without meeting a dozen musicians, famous or trying-to-be famous.
I love musicians. I love Southern accents. I'd already set my first Mackenzie Wilder story in upstate New York, where she and I both grew up. I wanted a chance to bring Nashville and New York together, and what better way than introducing someone from the past who was a part of country music? Unexpectedly, that person turned out to be very important to both Mackenzie and her friend Jason Fields. Their friendships blossom in the book as they travel from upstate NY to Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Nashville trying to resolve the murder of another country musician.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Honestly? Frustration. And perhaps a little impatience.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has helped immeasurably. It has a professional community with a realistic attitude. It provides clear instruction on how to use and optimize the site, and it gives me almost all the tools I could ask for. For an indie writer on a shoestring, it is the ideal way to go.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a mainstream novels that may or may not appear on Smashwords. However, I am also working on book #3 in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mystery series. It's called Flying Purple People Seater.
Mackenzie's friend Dorsey Wegman is doing her a favor by retrieving her newly-purchased 1938 cruiser that's being repaired in the Thousand Islands. Unfortunately the police won't let Dorsey take the boat out of Clayton. Not until they figure out who murdered the woman on board. Mackenzie runs up to Clayton to try to get the boat released, and soon the two are embroiled in trying to solve a murder that involves secrets, abuse, Al Capone, and a preacher woman.
I love that I get to put the Thousand Islands in this one. That is where I was first introduced to vintage boats and the annual Antique Boat Show in Clayton. The boat show will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the late summer of 2014. Antique Boat Museum, please note plug.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Oh, this is tough. I hate picking one... so I won't. One pleasure is the actual writing... the ideas, the characters, the bringing together of the exact words to build just the right sentence, paragraph, and story. Then there is the joy I feel when someone likes my work. That I can actually entertain people with my fiction, or move them in some way -- that is immensely rewarding. Money doesn't hurt, either.
What do your fans mean to you?
I'm going all Sally Field on this. I can't get over the fact that readers like what I write and how I write it. I am touched by their appreciation. When I receive a compliment, I am prone to think "They like me. They really like me! " (starry-eyed wonder)
Who are your favorite authors?
Agatha Christie, Tracy Kidder, Isaac Asimov, Susan Wittig Albert, Anne George, E.J. Copperman, Margaret Maron. And for special reasons, Kaye Wilkinson Barley and Karen DeGroot Carter. Like I said, I hate picking favorites.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Through recommendations, and by browsing.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Believe it or not, my Android phone. It's a little smaller than an old-style paperback, and it's easy to hold and read.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Most often, the bathroom.
Actually, with a part-time job as a parish administrator, writing, and part of the family still living with us in a home that rests in a forested, park-like setting, I have plenty of reason to get out of bed each day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Designing web sites (I can't explain it, but I love working on web sites), working on our house, cooking and creating recipes. My family thinks our TV gets only two channels: HGTV and the Food Network. With family -- we have six grown children, but we are all close and involved with each other. My part time job. Creating weird stuff: I've built a bridge and created boulders to sit on across the creek that runs through our property. Singing and dancing. And watching NASCAR and checking out antique boats with my husband.
What is your writing process?
Since discovering NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month event where you attempt to write 50,000 words on a project in the 30 days, I've started 'fast-writing' my first drafts, start to finish. It's a little like a downhill ski run. You just go.
My books tend to be character-driven, so the core group of characters are with me from the start. I may do some research on places and things. And I usually come up with a scene or two, but mostly I work on composing one long draft. This is where the plot and dialogue and big action gets figured out and put together. Later, revisions take care of inconsistencies and smoothing out rough patches. Whole new sections get added as I fill in gaps left by incomplete plotting. Occasionally the rewrite becomes an arduous process as I try to polish and perfect each word and nuance. I know I'm getting it right if it makes me laugh out loud, or cry actual tears.
Would you describe your work space? Your desk?
I work at a large table that stands in as a desk. In my family's words? It's a mess.
I believe in the horizontal surface filing method, layered look. I have a desktop and a laptop (because my desktop is an antiquated Mac that needs replacing). I am running both right now; Facebook is open on both of them - go figure. There is a printer to the left, a messy stack of mail in front of the monitor, upright file folders leaning against a woofer to the right, and five other piles of papers, notebooks, and stuff taking up the rest of the space. One pile is anchored by my desktop's keyboard. Oh, and a glass that held tea up until about 4 minutes ago sits to my right. I canna write w'out my tae.
Cleaning and reorganization occurs periodically, but characters who cannot survive in this environment do not make it into my books.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.
Books by This Author
by R.J. Minnick
Sometimes it’s not about falling in love. Sometimes it's about making love work. Molly and Bret Small are building a Christmas destination shop full of Christmas goodies, decorations, and gifts - until Fate decides to throw cold water on the idea. Trying to start a business and a family at the same time is not the easiest thing in the world, and the attempt puts their marriage to the test.
by R.J. Minnick
Wilson Parker's been charged with the task of getting land Bedlowe Developers needs for its next project. Parker's already been in touch with a few people eager to make a buck selling land to the flashy company. But maybe he should have spoken with someone besides Ray Boone before heading down Highway 70, Then it might not come down to a race between him and the son of a dying man.
Flying Purple People Seater
by R.J. Minnick
Dorsey Wegman agrees to fetch one of Mackenzie Wilder’s new boats. No big deal. BUT the boat that is supposed to be ready for the water, isn’t. The boatwright is missing. And "Doc? There’s a dead woman on board your boat. The police have impounded it, and I can’t leave until they have a handle on what’s going on. They’ll be calling you in about a half hour, they said. Doc, what should I do?"
Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever
by R.J. Minnick
When Jason Fields and Mackenzie Wilder discover the body of a country musician in a conference room of Jason's Research and Design facility, the authorities presume Jason is at fault. Especially when they overhear him say the dead man is the reason he doesn't write country songs any more. They have to stop the killing, but will it cost them more than the diamonds on a country singer's costume?
Where the Bodies Lie Buried
by R.J. Minnick
When Mackenzie Russell Wilder returns home to take over Dr. Kesselman's medical practice, she thinks she'll spend her future taking care of patients and relaxing on the Hudson River in her classic Chris Craft runabout. But skeletons uncovered on the old family farm seem to dictate otherwise.
Was her outlaw father responsible, as New York State troopers think? Or can she and Bryan prove otherwise?