Meet Lauren Carr
Lauren Carr is the bestselling author of an exciting, yet charming mystery series featuring Mac Faraday. That is how I first came to know her as an author. Since reading It’s Murder, My Son, I’m on a mission to read each of her many novels.
As the author of the Mac Faraday series, the Joshua Thorton and Lovers in Crime series, there is a terrific variety ahead. Plus, a new spinoff begins soon. The Thorny Rose series first entry, Kill and Run, will be published late spring or early summer.
It isn’t often a reader is allowed into the mind and the process behind a beloved novel. Which is one of the reasons I feel honored to have interviewed Lauren Carr about both her method and her series. You will appreciate the author’s willingness to share her experience. I hope you also come to see what delight she is to chat with.
The Virtual Book Tour for Three Days to Forever starts March 2nd. Follow Ms. Carr through Pump up Your Book tours. They maintain the current schedule of events on the tour.
First Lauren, would you give us a little of your background?
I was telling stories before I could read and write. Yep, I was one of those kids with an imaginary friend. His name was Sam. When I started reading, I immediately gravitated toward mysteries. I think it’s because my mother is a huge mystery fan and would read Perry Mason to me at bedtime. Of course, children’s mysteries are not as thrilling as Perry Mason. So, I would rewrite the Bobbsey Twins mystery of the missing sea shell to turn it into a kidnapping story.
As an adult, I worked for the federal government as both an editor and layout designer. That was where I learned everything that I use today to publish my own books and other authors’ books with my publishing company Acorn Book Services.
What took you from publishing to writing? Was it always something you wanted to do?
Actually, it was the other way around. I have always wanted to be a writer. Mystery writing was just a dream because I didn’t think I was clever enough to pull that off.
My very first mystery, A Small Case of Murder was published by iUniverse. It was named a finalist for the Independent Publishers Book Awards in mysteries. I paid them and they did everything, except the marketing. My second book, A Reunion to Die For was picked up by Five Star Mysteries and published as a twenty-five dollar hardback. They gave me an advance and did everything, except the marketing. I learned real fast that it is hard to sell a twenty-five dollar hardback when you’re an unknown.
I knew my next book, It’s Murder, My Son, the first installment in the Mac Faraday Mysteries, had to come out in paperback. I had this uh-huh moment of, “Duh, you know layout and you are an editor. Why not do it yourself? No matter which way you go, you’re going to have to market the book yourself anyway.”
Believing that you are your own worst editor, I contracted out the editing for my book. I also contract with Todd Aune of Projeto Communications for my cover. He still does all of my covers.
Before It’s Murder, My Son was released, I received two offers from traditional publishers but turned them down for various reasons.
It’s Murder, My Son has been one of my most successful books in both reviews and sales.
As a result of that success, many new authors have come to me for advice. Remembering how hard it was for me in the beginning, having no one to go to, I would respond. Next thing I knew, I spent most of my time answering emails for new writers. I had no time to write. So, I started charging for my time and even using my skills to publish other authors’ books.
That’s how Acorn Book Services started.
I bet you are a lifetime reader. Did you have favorite authors that inspired you to write in the mystery genre?
That’s a hard question to answer. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Then graduated to murder mysteries, which are the ultimate puzzle. That’s what a mystery is—a puzzle. You put all of the pieces together to uncover the picture of who did it. I considered Agatha Christie the Grand Dame of murder mystery writing. Her and Earl Stanley Gardner.
I never dreamed I could measure up to them. So, as a writer, I started out writing comedy—humor columns for local newspapers—slice of life type columns. I would write two a week.
But then, with the growth of the murder mystery genres and the sprouting of sub-genres, I did discover that murder mysteries have come a far way since the days of Murder on the Orient Express.
After a long spell of reading really horrible murder mysteries where I would know who did it by the end of the prologue, or with protagonists who I had no respect for, I had a moment where I thought, “I could do better than this!”
So I did.
Did you always plan on writing mysteries?
Oh, yes! Every one of my books has to have a dead body and it has to show up early in the book—by the end of the prologue or chapter one. I hate mysteries where you go halfway through the book with the characters sniping at each other and no one ends up dead until the middle of the book. I want the murder to be afoot real early!
Cozy mysteries have gained in popularity the last few years. Yet your plots are often more complicated than many of the cozies I’ve read. Did you plan for them to be considered cozies?
The categorization of books was actually set up by book sellers so that they would know what shelf to put the books on for their customers. Publishers then adopted it. As a result, authors ended up being put into boxes called genres which dictated rules under which to write. For example, a rule in cozy mysteries is—never hurt the dog or cat. Cozy readers hate that! So do I.
I come up with the plot, and the characters take me where the story goes without really any regard for the boundaries of the genre. My comfort level dictates my boundary and luckily most of my readers agree with my comfort level.
For example, I simply am not comfortable writing explicit sex scenes. I close the bedroom door on the reader and leave the rest up to their imagination, which may be wilder than mine.
One reviewer called my books “gritty cozies.” They’re police procedurals but they have a cozy feel to them.
While it has been receiving rave reviews from reviewers and readers, Three Days to Forever is not really a cozy, according to some reviewers. It has the family feel and humor and romance, but a few cozy readers have been upset because they find the terrorists too brutal for the cozy audience. Sorry, I didn’t think it would be believable to make my terrorists lovable.
When you start a series, do you have your characters developed before you start, or do they appear and grow as you write? I know the characters overlap in the various series. I guess I’m wondering if that was the plan all along or did it just happen?
Just happened. My books are character driven. That means that I bring the character to life before I start writing. I will think about a character for weeks or even months before I start on the book or series.
My first series star was Joshua Thornton. He and his family were the leads in the Joshua Thornton Mysteries (A Small Case of Murder and A Reunion to Die For).
When I came up with the plot for It’s Murder, My Son, I knew that the lead in that book had to be a police detective, or retired police detective, not a lawyer. So, I created Mac Faraday and the gang at Deep Creek Lake.
However, fans of the Joshua Thornton Mysteries wanted me to return to him. Seven years after I had left Joshua at A Reunion to Die For, I sat back to think about where he was now in his life. His kids were grown, except for the youngest. He was now ready for romance. But, I wasn’t ready to leave Mac.
So, I had two detectives. I thought, “Why not have two mysteries that coincide?” That was the inspiration for Shades of Murder, where Joshua meets homicide detective Cameron Gates (Lovers in Crime) and they meet Mac Faraday.
Right now, I am working on the first Thorny Rose Mystery, which is an off-shoot of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. It features Murphy Thornton (Joshua’s son) and Jessica Faraday (Mac’s daughter). I worked on those characters for almost ten months before I introduced them in Three Days to Forever.
Having said that, the most important thing—always—is the mystery. Before I start working on a book, I know the case and I know how it ends. However, I don’t force my characters to go in directions that they don’t want to go or do something that would not be consistent with who they are.
For example, in Three Days to Forever, Police Chief David O’Callaghan is abducted by terrorists. As I had it planned, Mac Faraday, the protagonist, the star, was going to rescue him. But David started nagging me inside my head. He’s a police chief. He’s a major in the marines and spec ops team leader. No way was he going to sit back and wait to be rescued. So, I let him take me where he wanted to go and it did end up being a much more thrilling ride for the reader.
Are you an author who writes with an outline or does the story lead you as it goes?
Both. My mysteries are complicated. I love twists and turns. So I will write an outline, but it is a loose outline and I never refer to it. Just writing it helps to straighten things out in my mind. Then, when I start writing it, I will veer off into other directions, but I always end up at my planned final destination.
Gnarly plays an important part in your books, and I love him! Why do you consider him an important part of your stories?
Readers and reviewers call him comic relief. But that is not so. Gnarly keeps Mac Faraday grounded. Mac is such a perfect character. He has a perfect life. Enough money to do whatever he wants. Go where ever he wants to go. He has a gorgeous wife. He’s smart. He’s respected. It would be very easy for him to get a big head and for readers to hate him.
Just when Mac is in danger of getting a little too full of himself, Gnarly is there to jump on his chest and stomp on him back down to earth. I even have a scene in Blast from the Past where Mac points out to David O’Callaghan that he is sitting in the back of the police cruiser because Gnarly won’t let him in the front seat.
There’s another reason I have animals in my books. I grew up on a farm and I’m still a farm girl at heart. I love them and I am honestly suspicious of people who don’t love animals.
Your virtual book tour is coming up in March. The idea of it sounds very clever. Can you share a little about how it works? Since it is virtual, are they interactive on Facebook, in addition to guest blogs? Are they skype’d, where you on on camera and guests visit a book store to see you?
Today, most readers buy their books online or they learn about books online. It’s sad, but many brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing up.
Also, it has been my experience that in-person book events aren’t that beneficial for authors who are still trying to break-through to gain their following. I actually calculated how much money in time and books and promotion the average author puts into an in-person book signing event at a brick and mortar bookstore and the profit he or she will make based on the average books sold at such events.
It’s a dollar per hour! That’s if the event is successful and they sell books. There is no way to predict that an in-person event is going to be successful. You could plan an event for a day and have the weather be so gorgeous that everyone will want to go outside for a picnic and not come to your event. Or, there could be a horrendous storm and everyone will stay home. Been there! Done that!
A string of bad book events can be very disheartening to an author. It can affect their confidence and their attitude, which potential readers can pick up on.
That’s why I rarely do in-person book events. I concentrate on promoting my books all around the world via the Internet.
During a virtual book tour, authors make appearances on various blogs and book review sites all over the Internet. Some authors set up the tour themselves. It is hard to do. I use a tour coordinator, Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Tours. She’s a gem!
As with anything when it comes to book promotion, it is solely up to the author to make the tour a success. I have great success when on tour because I work hard to get the word out via social media. I will post tweets from tour stops months after the tour is over! Since I am always getting new followers and my postings can end up in a twitter feed anywhere or anytime, that constantly brings new readers to the blog (great for the blogger) and potentially discover my books for the first time. You can’t do that with an in-person book event.
Many authors who invest in a tour expect the tour coordinator and bloggers alone to get the word out and bring readers streaming in to buy their books. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way with in person appearances and it doesn’t work that way virtually.
The tour is set up months in advance. Stops are scheduled. The author does interviews, writes guest blog posts, and sends books out to reviewers. When the tour takes place, the author, blogger, and tour coordinator promote each stop. The author needs to be on hand to answer comments made to the blog. On one tour, I did make a Skype appearance at a BlogTalkRadio site. On other tours, I did appearances on Facebook for chats. As for a Skyped interview at a bookstore? No, but I’m game for anything.
Watch for tomorrows edition of Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine for more information on the virtual tour that starts March 2nd.
Want to connect with Ms. Carr? Check out one of these…
Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:
Blog: Literary Wealth: http://literarywealth.wordpress.com/
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts