Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a journalist who worked with the Palm Beach Post, The Associated Press in Chicago, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tampa Tribune, Joliet Herald-News, and Palm Beach Media Group (magazines). My byline has been on thousands of news stories, features, and entertainment reviews. For several years, I’ve been a freelance writer and editor. My résumé includes numerous writing accolades and several awards, including three for Palm Beach Illustrated, which won the Best Written Magazine award from the Florida Magazine Association after I became copy chief and senior writer.
I was a reporter for the Palm Beach Post when the crime that is the basis for my current novel, Murder in Palm Beach, occurred. It was an enormously sensational event, and famed journalist Geraldo Rivera reported on his investigation six years later on ABV-TV’s 20/20 show. The case made newspaper headlines for 15 years.
Besides dabbling in short-story writing over the years, I immersed myself in learning to play the clarinet and tenor saxophone. I performed many years with an estimable 65-piece community symphonic band, and played a few professional big band gigs. I relegated music to the back seat to become an author.
I ghost-wrote a short memoir, A Tale of Two Continents: Jetting Across the Globe to have a Baby, and the coming-of-age novel BREAKING OUT, before authoring MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died. It attracted two publishers, and I chose the one that turned out to be unscrupulous, whereupon three of us authors sued to terminate our contracts. I then put out a Second Edition with resequenced early chapters and a new cover. I compiled a book of short stories titled THE WAY IT WAS: Short Stories and Tall Tales.
A product of Michigan and Iowa, I have a bachelor’s degree in English and German from Drake University in Des Moines, and completed graduate journalism studies at the University of Iowa.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is a novel titled Blood on Their Hands, a legal thriller that is months away from publication by TouchPoint Press. My primary current book is Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, a mystery roman à clef, or faction – a novel based on real events and/or persons. The idea for it fell into my lap. I was a writer/editor for a magazine group, and the flagship magazine, Palm Beach Illustrated, needed stories for its 50th anniversary edition in 2002. I was a reporter with the Palm Beach Post for 15 years beginning in 1974, and this sensational murder happened in the posh town in 1976. I decided to interview the principal people involved in the case for an updated story. The last person I spoke to was a colleague at The Post. He had discovered who the real murderer was, and it wasn’t the person convicted and imprisoned. More important, the reporter learned that a powerful person was behind the deed. But, understandably, my colleague wouldn’t give me the names. The paper never printed his story, probably out of fear of the powerful instigator. Years later, I inadvertently came across the reporter’s chief source, and we planned a nonfiction book. But he was afraid to reveal certain secondary names, and I abandoned the project, writing a novel, instead.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
If most novelists prepare an outline, or at least have a firm idea of where the story will head, I am unusual. I do have a rough idea for the early parts of the book, but don’t necessarily know where it’s going from there. I let the plot lead me; ideas pop into my head as I write. When I end a writing session, I may know where I want to go next, and type a few notes at the end of the text. And I don’t write furiously as an idea strikes me, leaving the editing to later. Probably because I was a newspaper reporter, along with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, I can’t write sloppily and let it be; before I move on, it has to be polished. Perhaps another somewhat unusual writing modus operandi of mine is the time of day in which I engage: night, when all is quiet.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
The level of detail in Pete Dexter’s National Book Award winner, Paris Trout, was insightful for its level of detail and its subtlety in plot development that left me wondering where events were heading, elevating the suspense. John Grisham’s capacity for empathy in revealing a character’s personality and feelings shined through in The Chamber. Frank McCourt’s style of stringing thoughts together in an uninterrupted stream had a comic or satiric effect that I have found useful on occasion.
What are you working on now?
While I await word on time of publication for Blood on Their Hands, I am doing research for a book on a woman who led an amazing life of crime and redemption. Her misdeeds, none especially violent, are proving difficult to track in the criminal justice system. I don’t know yet whether I will write it as a straight nonfiction account, or as a roman à clef, which might be necessary due to gaps in her life that I won’t be able to factually delineate.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I would say Ryan Zee Author Marketing (ryanzee.com). It’s fantastic for garnering large numbers of email subscribers to one’s newsletter, or blog. And Sandra Beckwith’s BuildBookBuzz, which recommended Author Gang.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
First, assess your writing accomplishments to honestly determine whether you have the talent for writing. If you do, attend writing clinics. When you write something, have it professionally edited before submitting it for publication. Finding an agent is a lengthy, arduous process that is more difficult, in my opinion, than landing a small or medium publisher. I came close, with a venerable New York agent adjudging me a good writer whose dialogue was “true to life, hard to do,” but having reservations about focus in the early story lines. I subsequently received contract offers from two traditional publishers.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“You have a flair for writing,” a college professor told me, and advised me to pursue journalism as a career.
What are you reading now?
After finishing the long, dense novel The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, I have dived into a mystery that I bought in a library sale, The Scarpetta Factor, by Patricia Cornwell. This woman’s knowledge of physiology surely is comprehensive enough to rival that of any medical professional.
What’s next for you as a writer?
In the midst of battling computer technical issues involved in promoting Murder in Palm Beach, I am finding whatever time I can to gather information for the aforementioned book about a woman who led a fascinating life of crime and eventually made an impact on prison reform in Florida.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Ones that I haven’t read and don’t have time for. Perhaps Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, and any of several novels by Saul Bellow, maybe Humboldt’s Gift, just because it won the Pulitzer Prize.