I’m thrilled to interview Patricia Stoltey on my blog this week. Patricia’s book, Dead Wrong (2014, Five Star Publishing), was a Finalist in the 2015 Colorado Book Awards, and it is a suspenseful thriller that I highly recommend. She has a new book, Wishing Caswell Dead, that will be released December 20, 2017, and I can’t wait to read it. Welcome, Patricia!
Please tell us about yourself:
First, Margaret, let me thank you for inviting me to participate in an interview for your blog. It’s always a pleasure to work with my Colorado author friends.
I qualify as a late bloomer when it comes to writing. I dabbled a lot during my “working in the real world” years, attended mystery fan conventions, took writing courses, and dreamed, but the only thing I had published during all that time was a humor essay on ham radio (“What’s a Nice Lady Like Me Doing in a Shack Like This?”) and a books-on-tape version of a pretty bad thriller about truckers and unions (The Troubleshooter) my brother and I wrote back in the 80s.
Illinois was where I grew up, but I also spent some years in Muncie, Indiana where Ball State University started the Magna cum Murder mystery fan convention. Then off to a couple of years in the South of France (an amazing experience), eleven years in south Florida (hot and sticky), and finally retired to Colorado (a writer’s paradise).
Once my husband and I got the travel bug out of our systems, I got serious about writing. A novel writing class was the beginning, followed by a critique group, joining Northern Colorado Writers and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and finally, attending the Colorado Gold Conference where I signed up for a critique workshop moderated by Five Star editor Deni Dietz. The rest is history.
Let’s talk about your new book.
Wishing Caswell Dead is the novel of my heart. Even if I never get another book published, I’ll be content, knowing this one finally found its way into the world. It took a long time. I wrote the first draft back in 2006-2007.
The novel is the story about some of the people who end up in the Village of Sangamon on the day Caswell Proud is murdered, how each of those folks came to be there, and how their lives were impacted by the evil that lurked in the village. Caswell’s younger sister Jo Mae is a central character, and more than anyone else, wishes Caswell dead. The short synopsis on the Amazon page reads like this:
“In the early 1800s in a village on the Illinois frontier, young Jo Mae Proud wishes her cruel brother dead. Forced into prostitution by Caswell, Jo Mae discovers she is pregnant and vows to escape. When Caswell is injured by a near lightning hit, he becomes more dangerous and more hated. The flawed residents of the Village of Sangamon harbor many secrets. Caswell knows them all. Will he tell? Jo Mae runs away and eventually finds shelter with Fish, the old Kickapoo Indian who camps by the river. Wishing Caswell Dead is a historical mystery about the evil that hides within a village, one girl who is determined to save herself and her child, and a violent murder no one wants to solve”–
How did you go about your research for writing a story set in the 1800’s?
It helped that I grew up in central Illinois where the book is set, so I had a little bit of Illinois history in my memory bank to give me a running start. There is even a detailed local history of a small town that’s located just about where the Village of Sangamon would be if it was a real place. Once I started reading, I almost couldn’t stop. Did you know that part of the Mississippi River ran backward right after the main New Madrid earthquake struck in 1811? You learn the coolest stuff when you start researching for a historical novel.
To fine tune my knowledge of the land, occupants, tools, and events, I visited the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Champaign County, IL (http://www.museumofthegrandprairie.org/exhibits.html) and reviewed everything I’d ever learned about New Salem, IL, including when Abe Lincoln ran the little post office there.
Luckily, when Five Star asked for the sources for my information, I had every book title and author written down with my notes plus all the URLs for websites I’d consulted. I have everything carefully filed for future reference…just in case I decide to write a sequel someday.
Being a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards is quite an achievement. What has helped you most with the art and craft of fiction writing? Do you have recommendations for aspiring writers who wish to publish their work?
You know, I felt so prepared and so confident when I wrote my first novel because of all the reading I’d done, the classes and workshops I’d attended. When The Prairie Grass Murders was accepted by Five Star and I sent in my completed manuscript, I knew it was clean and ready to publish.
Can you imagine how I felt when I received the manuscript back from my new editor with corrections and comments and requests for changes on every page? Almost every paragraph? First I felt shocked, then anger, and finally, after reviewing every one of those comments and requests in detail, I felt embarrassed. I still had a lot to learn.
I had two choices. Quibble about everything and be a difficult author (and possibly lose my contract) … or put my nose to the grindstone and do the work. I chose to do the work. My editor, Deni Dietz with Five Star, taught me more about writing through the editing process of my four books that I learned in all those years of reading and attending classes.
Many of today’s writers want to shorten the process from writing to publication, and I don’t blame them. But each writer should be aware that we’re not our own best editors, and our critique groups probably can’t do the job an expert editor can. For the self-pubbing group, I recommend hiring a professional editor before publishing.
For those, like me, who prefer to stick with the traditional path because it’s easier on the time requirements and the wallet, be prepared for the worst when those editor letters arrive. If you managed to submit a clean manuscript the first time around, you’re a genius and I’m jealous. If you have a lot to work on, consider it a learning experience and be grateful for those wonderful editors.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Patricia! Please find contact details below in Patricia Stoltey’s Bio.
Patricia lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Katie Cat who keeps stealing her chair, and Sassy Dog who thinks watching Facebook dog videos is the only reason to turn on a computer. When she’s not writing, she gardens, crochets, and does a lot of lollygagging. Learn more about her at her website/blog (http://patriciastolteybooks.com), Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1105939.Patricia_Stoltey). Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/patricia.stoltey), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/PStoltey). Wishing Caswell Dead is available for pre-order at amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Caswell-Dead-Patricia-Stoltey/dp/1432834401/) and other online booksellers.