Welcome to New Faces, where you can meet some of the newest mystery authors on your bookseller's shelves. This week we're visiting with Denise Swanson, whose debut novel is Murder of a Small-Town Honey, available from Signet.
Denise, welcome to TMR! Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in rural Illinois in a small town very much like my fictional town
of Scumble River. My father was a farmer and my mom a homemaker until I went
to college at which time she got a job as a police dispatcher at the local
police department. I'm an only child. I couldn't wait to get away from small
town life and hit the big city. Unfortunately, the big city hit back.
I got my undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in
Champaign-Urbana. A few months after finishing college I got married. My
husband and I have known each other since second grade. He is a
chemical/computer engineer. For the first three years we were married I
attended graduate school and worked midnights as a police dispatcher. I've
been a school psychologist for 17 years and have worked in every type of
school setting from slum to suburban.
My husband and I love to travel and participate in community theater. Bridge,
crossword puzzles, and chocolate are my vices. We are cat people who are not
currently owned by a cat. Purrcie, our nineteen-year-old Russian Blue died
last January and we have been unable to replace him.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
I've been a school psychologist for seventeen years and still work
part-time for a junior high school. In my past life, I have also been a
police, fire, and
emergency dispatcher, a pharmacist assistant, and a travel agent.
What led you to write mysteries?
I've been reading mysteries for about 15 years. I had tried writing several
different types of books and finally realized mystery was the natural one for
Tell us about your road to publication.
I finished my first book about five years ago--just in time to attend the
Sisters in Crime conference in Houston. I met many wonderful people that
but two first-time published authors made the biggest impression on me.
Earlene Fowler and Harlan Coben. They were both very encouraging and just
I also met an agent that was very interested in my work. Unfortunately, after
keeping my manuscript for nine months she asked for a rewrite, kept it for
another nine months and turned me down. Although I lost more than a year with
that agent at least, I got a revision out of it.
Next I met a lovely lady name Lynn Bradley on-line who encouraged me to enter
the Houston Writers League contest. Finalist got to meet with editors and
agents. I made the finals, but due to my grandmother's death did not get to
travel to Houston to have my agent/editor appointment.
Still, I was encouraged and used the judges comments to polish my manuscript
again. Then I went to the Harriet Austin Conference in Athens, GA. My
manuscript was critiqued by Sara Ann Freed, executive editor of Mysterious
Press. She said it was "cozy writing at its best" and allowed me to use her
quote to query agents. Using this it in my query letter I obtained an agent
within a 4 to 6 weeks of that conference. I finaled in one other contest
before my agent sold my book.
I've been a part of a writers' critique group for about 5 years and
participated for two years on an on-line critique group. Sisters in Crime
have been helpful, but Mystery Writers of America was not. They only showed
interest after I had sold my book. I don't believe they are an appropriate
organization for aspiring authors.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
I did very little research since my sleuth and I share a profession. I looked
into the workings of a small-town coroner and how to put on a festival, but
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?
This has been one of the neatest part of selling my book--seeing the reaction
of my family. Everyone is really excited. They fall into two
categories--those who want to be in the book and those who are afraid they
are in the book.
Tell us about plans for future books.
Book 2 is complete except for the title. It is currently in the hands of a
copy editor and is due out April of 2001. I am writing book three, currently
called MURDER OF A SLEEPING BEAUTY and it is due out January 2002. I am also
writing a short story using these characters and setting for an anthology my
publisher is putting out Summer of 2001.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Denise, thank you for joining us, and best of luck. Readers,
we have a review of on our Cozy Page.
August 22, 2000