This month’s author spotlight interview features veteran mystery writer, Christine Husom, and thoughts and feedback she’s shared on the writing craft, her interesting history, and her two two successful mystery series. Her latest release from her Winnebago County Mystery series is Firesetter in Blackwood Township.
Barns are burning in Blackwood township, and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has a firesetter to flush out. The investigation ramps up when a body is found in one of the barns. Meanwhile, deputies are getting disturbing deliveries. It leaves Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes to wonder why they’re being targeted, and what is the firesetter’s message and motive.
Firesetter in Blackwood Township is the 7th of your Winnebago County series. How has your main character Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson changed since the first book in your series?
Corky has maintained her moral fiber and love of law enforcement, but her personal and professional experiences have influenced and shaped her. She’s been involved in a number of critical incidents that have strengthened her resolve to continue in her chosen field. She’s also fallen more deeply in love with her mentor, Detective Smoke Dawes.
What are the main do’s and don’t’s of series writing?
I believe the key elements for success writing a series are: creating realistic characters who continue to evolve with each book; having an ending that leaves the reader wanting more; and writing each book as either a standalone or as the next book in the series.
Characters need to be living-, breathing-, thinking-people who are interacting with other characters, going to jobs, falling in love, and committing crimes for your readers. How do the characters react under pressure, or when they get knocked down? What are their strengths, their talents, their fears, and vulnerabilities? What role do they play in the story, and what will they do next?
You want people to read the next book in your series, so besides engaging characters, you need stories that hold readers’ interest. Readers need to be satisfied the mystery has been solved, the bad guy has been caught, but they will also find unanswered questions —often in the protagonist’s personal life—to be intriguing.
The most challenging of the three elements is that each book is both a stand-alone and the next in the series. Background information on the characters, laid out in the first book, needs to be shortened to a sentence or two in subsequent books. You don’t want to get bogged down with too much back story. I address past issues and introduce characters from previous stories through conversations between the characters and tapping into Corky’s thoughts about situations and people. You want to limit spoilers, but they’re unavoidable to a degree.
What do you have in common with the main characters in both of your series?
I share a strong sense of justice and a need to uncover the truth with both protagonists.
What parts of your personal history and background do you draw upon to perpetuate the Winnebago series?
I’ve served as a corrections officer, mental health practitioner, and deputy sheriff. Firsthand experience in those fields has been a great help. I’ve been creating stories all of my life, but a family tragedy sparked the idea for the first Winnebago County Mystery. About halfway through writing it, I started loving the characters and decided what their next two cases would be, based on dramatic incidents that happened when I worked in the sheriff’s office.
What are you reading now, and what genres are you most drawn to?
I’m reading Matt Goldman’s Gone to Dust. I read a variety of subgenres in the mystery genre, but I love well-written books in general, mostly what would be classified as mainstream. I also have a deep appreciation for the classics.
Tell us about your writing process. Are you super disciplined, waking up at 6am every morning to write?
I wish I had a more regular writing schedule, but I also serve as a county commissioner, and my schedule is far from regular. I write when I can. Some days I write fourteen or more hours, and then I go days without writing.
What do you see as key things inexperienced writers get wrong when plotting mysteries?
Some have too many characters for a reader to keep track of. Or the characters all sound like they have the same voice. Or they can give too much back story, or include detail that isn’t relevant and doesn’t build the plot to move the story along. I read a mystery where the writer didn’t get to the crime/mystery until after one hundred pages, and I wondered when the real story would begin. Reading other authors’ works, taking classes on plot, pacing, and character development, being in a good critique group, or finding honest beta readers are great tools for improving techniques.
Can you tell us anything about your publishing path?
I learned a great deal about the publishing industry working with the editors at Penguin Random House on the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries. That inspired me to start a sole proprietorship business, The wRight Press. I independently published Firesetter in Blackwood Township, and am in the process of gaining full rights to my first six Winnebago County Mysteries. They’ll be published March 1, 2018 under the new company name.
THANK YOU, Christine, for joining us here and sharing your expertise!
Firesetter is available on Amazon in Kindle and trade paperback and can be found here.
High Praise for Christine’s Firesetter in Blackwood Township:
“Thoroughly engrossing journey down the rabbit hole.”~Timya Owen
“I felt like I was searching the crime scenes and investigating with the characters.”~Barbara Schlichting
“This excellent series features a character who is tough but compassionate.”~ Jim Doherty
“A fine addition to Christine Husom’s successful Winnebago series that will give mystery fans an exciting ride.”~Lisa Towles
“Fans of the series will enjoy the overlapping twists and turns as the action steadily builds to a shocking climax.”~Patti Phillips
“With great hanging questions, compelling characters, along with the gorgeous Minnesota setting, Husom’s book leaves one question–when will the next book come out?”~Kathleen Donnelly
Thank you for reading!