|Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet new mystery authors and find out about their books. This time we're visiting with Stephanie Jaye Evans, whose debut novel is Faithful Unto Death from Berkley Prime Crime.
Stephanie, Welcome to TMR! Tell us about yourself.
See, I just want to make up stuff when I'm asked this question because my life is boooooring. Let me tell you some of the stuff I have going against me as a writer.
1. I have never been oppressed.
2. I'm happily married and I don't want to kill my husband.
3. I'm not misunderstood (except when my boys don't want to do something I want them to do).
4. My parents love me and though they were unbelievably strict (I really did once get grounded for leaving my shampoo bottle on the side of the tub), they did not warp my tender psyche, and they continue to be loving and supportive.
5. Insurmountable odds? Nada. Not one.
6. Ghosts avoid me the way my pugs avoid mustard and that's a total heartbreak, because I write ghost stories, too, and you'd think they'd want me to get it right.
You see what I'm up against? I do my best.
Give us an introduction to your new book. < br>
There are no serial killers or sociopaths in Faithful Unto Death. I've never met one-I don't think I've ever met one -and I don't understand what motivates people like that. What I do understand is how you might care about someone or something so passionately that you would do almost anything to protect who or what you love. Take a second and think about it. Is there anything you would die for? Okay, me, too. Now. Is there anything you would kill for?
Faithful Unto Death explores what happens when good people do bad things, and I set the novel in the very master-planned community I live in because I'm also interested in all the artificial perfection I live amongst. Because it's not real, right? Bad things still happen in my neighborhood even though it's filled with nice brick homes and two parent families and everyone has a basketball goal on their driveway. Along with all that, I made my protagonist a preacher--that puts him in a position to hear secrets and confidences, to be involved in people's lives.
Faithful Unto Death tells a story about how well-meaning people making well-meaning promises make choices that leads to a man's death-that's the core mystery. Along the way, Bear has to deal with the mystery of a young girl's heart and dreams-he finds that the most baffling of all. So it's a serious story, but it has some very funny people in it. Everybody run out and buy four or five copies, okay?
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
Oh, yeah, baby. I had a job. I had three sons in four years. On purpose! Well, the last was supposed to be a girl, but he declined to cooperate and ended up big enough to play football for TCU for a year. The whole boy thing was culture shock for me. I didn't have brothers and my dad was a preacher-he's a very civilized man. We won't go into the things boys get up to because a.) I don't want to scare the young women out there who are pregnant with boys (one piece of advice only-anything you bring into the house, anything you bring into the house, can be turned into a weapon-I mean it-a box of Froot Loops can be a lethal missile) and b.) those awful things they did are going into my books. My boys say I exaggerate when I tell their stories. I tell them to write their own dang books and tell the stories their way.
What led you to write mysteries?
My sister Lisa is a couple of years older than me, and I would pick up whatever she had finished and read it. So it's really all due to Lisa that I ended up a mystery writer. If Lisa had been a huge SF fan, I might have gone in an entirely different direction. Like lots of readers, Lisa and I read everything, but mystery is the comfort food of my reading, even when it's very uncomfortable (did you read Jo Nesbo's The Snowman? Or S.J. Bolton's...well anything S.J. Bolton has written? Not comfortable but grrrrreat!)
Tell us about your road to publication.
Oh, I love this story. This is my honest-to goodness Cinderella story. I wrote Faithful Unto Death (it was titled Standing On the Promises, then) as the capstone project for my Master of Liberal Studies degree at Rice University. I probably queried one hundred and fifty agents. Or seventy-five, I don't remember, but it was a lot.
Then at the library one day, I picked up G.M. Malliet's Death of a Cozy Writer (great fun, that book-check it out). I'm the kind of reader who reads intros and acknowledgements, and in hers, Malliet thanked the Malice Domestic board for awarding her an unpublished writer's grant. I hadn't known there was such a thing. I went straight to the internet and discovered I had a couple of weeks to apply for the 2010 grant. I did. And in April of 2010, I won a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers.
The money was lovely, but better yet, Malice invites winners to their convention, a huge jumble of wonderful readers and terrific writers (this is held every year in the D.C. area and it is so much fun, I will go for the rest of my life-I don't care if you're a reader or a writer, get online today and get your tickets-then find me at the convention and tell me I owe you a drink and I'll buy you one, only it can't be eighteen-year-old scotch). I got to make an acceptance speech and it was the most important forty-two seconds I have ever spent on stage, because that's how I attracted THE WORLD'S GREATEST AGENT forever and ever amen. Janet Reid (I will buy her eighteen-year-old scotch anytime she asks me to). Her blogs are award-winners-queryshark.blogspot.com and jetreidliterary.blogspot.com. Must reads for writers trying to get published.
Janet sold Faithful Unto Death to Shannon Jamieson Vazquez (THE WORLD'S GREATEST EDITOR) at Berkley Prime Crime on April 8th, 2011, and the book came out June 5th, 2012.
SO. From the end of writing the book to publication, it was three years. That really is a Cinderella story. Ask any writer.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
Most of my research was done on my laptop. The rest on my cell phone. So far, I've found experts are happy to share info with you.
Who are your influences as a writer?
For a more complete list, visit my Bookshelfor friend me on goodreads.
But here's a short list: Susan Wittig Albert, M.C. Beaton, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Louise Penny, L.C. Tyler, Peter Robinson, Andrew Grant, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth Peters, Sharyn McCrumb, Martha Grimes, Steve Ulfelder, P.D. James, Michael Bond, Reginald Hill, Alexander McCall Smith, Harley Jane Kozak, Malla Nunn, Ruth Rendell, Michael Pearce, Deborah Sharp, George Copeland, Val McDermid…
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?
They're all as pleased as punch and as supportive as a Roman arch. Nobody is jealous. No one is trying to sabotage my career. You see what I mean about being handicapped as a writer?
Do you have plans for future books?
Berkley Prime Crime gave me a two book deal, and book two, Safe From Harm, is in the editing stage. The Sugar Land Mystery series is intended to be a multi-book series-go out and buy Faithful Unto Death for everyone you know and a few strangers, too. Help me make Berkley proud.
How can readers get in touch with you?
I write a blog at stephaniejayeevans.com, and I'm quick to answer comments. I'm on facebook as Stephanie Jaye Evans, and if you want to email me direct, firstname.lastname@example.org will reach me.
This has been fun. Thanks!
Stephanie, thanks for joining us and best of luck with your books!
September 3, 2012