Interview With Author Shirley Spain
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Fitness instructor. Animal lover. Author of dark and chilling thrillers…
I credit my love of Nancy Drew mysteries for sparking my interest in writing thrillers, although I didn’t publish my first novel until my 53rd birthday! So I consider myself a late bloomer.
Since 2013, when I published “Mistaken Trust,” I’ve written 22 books including a memoir called “One Last Kiss” and “The Late Bloomer’s Guide to Blooming,” a self-help workbook.
I’m a believer in the adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” One day in late 2011, when I was chatting with a dear friend, out of the blue she recited the saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Although we were not talking about my dream of being a writer, incredibly, she spoke those words at just the right time when I was ready to hear them, which motivated me to finish my first book, “Mistaken Trust”.
I had written the first draft of “Mistaken Trust” in the mid-1990s, then shelved my writing endeavors because of family issues. In 2011, I caught the writing bug again, updated “Mistaken Trust” then built upon it to create a series of six novels with the first letter of each title spelling MURDER … all thanks to those ten little two-letter words spoken by a dear friend at just the right time for me to hear them. Subsequently, I had (and continue to have) mega support from family and friends, which brings me to where I am today, living my dream as a writer.
I’m often asked if I do research for my novels, and the answer is: ABSOLUTELY, YES! That’s a big part of the fun of writing suspense novels, especially because I often wrangle friends into helping me perform experiments or act out scenes in the name of novel research.
Once I experimented with locking myself in the trunk of my car, then attempted to escape. Everything that could go wrong, did. To make matters worse, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. Though I wasn’t laughing at the time, looking back now, that experience could be a story of comedic proportions itself and offered insight into scenes in my novels.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with trying to escape handcuffs, duct tape, and even wearing a “hazmat” suit to “conceal” DNA evidence. Oh, I could write a book about the crazy experiments I’ve done and maybe I should, except people would think the book was fiction!
Perhaps now that you know I experiment when creating some of my scenes, as you read, you might find yourself wondering: “Do you think she tried that?” The answer might surprise you.
In addition to hands-on “experimenting,” I do a lot of research via experts in the law enforcement and self-defense fields because I strive for a level of “plausible realism” in my fiction.
On a personal note, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I’m a huge Pittsburgh Steelers football fan. I reside in West Jordan, Utah, have been married to the same wonderful man for 42 years (and counting), and we have two four-legged children—Ben and Charlie, both “rescue” dogs—who totally rule my life.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
“Countdown to Murder”—book 3 in my Pepper Jackson Thriller series—is my newest release. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Even at the age of 62, I still enjoy dressing up and decorating my yard with pumpkins. I hadn’t written a novel set around the Halloween holiday, so why not this one?
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Charlie, my border collie mix, “helps” me write by reminding me about every hour that I need to take a short break to go outside—rain, shine, or snow—to play a round or two of “wing-ding” (a Frisbee-like soft disk with a hole in the middle) with him. Those short breaks help me return refreshed.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Nancy Drew mysteries as a little girl top my list. Later, as an adult, James Patterson.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on two projects. “Murder Bait”, the working title for book 4 in the Pepper Jackson Thriller series, and “The Muffin Man Murders,” a short story for a thriller anthology I want to put together to include other thriller authors.
As a child, I used to sing that “The Muffin Man” rhyme all the time. As an adult, learning that the child’s song was likely based on the disturbing truth of a child serial killer in London, of course, I was intrigued. My “Muffin Man” story does not involve children but does involve a killer obsessed with homemade muffins… and that’s all I’ll say about that!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I mix things up. I love to learn new things and “experiment,” so I’m always looking for something new or different to me. That’s how I became involved with Awesome Gang.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone sugar-coat that. They’ll be days when you wonder what the hell you’re doing and why you ever thought you could write a book. When that happens, take a break, a short one like a day or two. Then consult your heart with an open mind. Ask yourself if you’re in love with telling a story or if you’re infatuated with the concept of saying you’re a writer. Big difference. I know too many people who SAY they want to write a book and maybe even START an outline or write the first paragraph or chapter then that’s it. Honestly, that was me 20 years ago. But my true desire to write was resurrected by a friend’s perfectly timed words when I was ready to hear them and I’ve never looked back.
Have I been discouraged since then? Absolutely. Have I wanted to quit? Absolutely, and I have for a day or two. But my heart, my passion to write, keeps me going. And it will keep YOU going too.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I can’t credit a specific person for this advice, but I remember being told over and over by my mentors: “Your book is NOT for everyone,” and “Everyone will NOT like your book.”
And boy can I attest to the truth of those sentences, especially the last one. People can and will be cruel when it comes to giving their opinion to leave a “review” for your book. And those negative comments hurt, which is why I’ve found those two pieces of advice invaluable. They help me keep things in perspective.
Bottom line, when the critics bash you and the naysayers cut you down, remember (this is crass, I know): Opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one!
What are you reading now?
“Twisted” and “More Twisted” by Jeffery Deaver
What’s next for you as a writer?
Spearheading an anthology with other thriller writers.
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?
A desert survival guide, 1,001 things you can make with sand, and the latest dictionary.
Author Websites and Profiles
Shirley Spain’s Social Media Links