Sunday, August 11, 2019

Interview with Debbie De Louise

Debbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library. She’s a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. Her novels include the four books of the Cobble Cove mystery series: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Written in Stone, and Love on the Rocks. Debbie has also written a romantic comedy novella, When Jack Trumps Ace, a paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow, and two standalone mysteries, Reason to Die, and her latest release, Sea Scope. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats.”

15) Debbie, you write the Alicia Fairmont-McKinney Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. Like you, Alicia’s a librarian. How much of you go into her character?

Alicia has many of my personality traits. In the first book, A Stone’s Throw, when I introduce her, she’s afraid of change but realizes that it’s necessary when she decides to travel to her dead husband’s childhood town in search of answers about his past. I, too, have had periods in my life where I’ve resisted change but have also learned to accept that one can’t experience life without taking risks.

There’s one major difference between me and Alicia. When she first meets Sneaky, the Cobble Cove library cat, she isn’t sure how to befriend him because she’s never had a cat. I grew up with cats and have always been fond of them. Of course, Alicia not only befriends Sneaky, but becomes very close to him as the series continues.

14) You have an MLS degree in Library Science. How much has that aided you as a mystery novelist?

Quite a lot actually. As part of my job, I order the fiction and mystery books for the library by reading reviews from publishing journals. That gives me a feel for the current market and mystery writing trends. I also have access to research databases and other sources that I use in my writing. I’ve given presentations at my library and other libraries about my books and have applied my library background and knowledge for plotting the scenes and events at the fictional Cobble Cove library in my mystery series.

13) As with Wendy Corsi Staub (Mundy’s Landing), you’ve set your mystery series in a small New York town. How much of Cobble Cove is purely fictional and how much was inspired by your native Hicksville?

Cobble Cove is very much a fictional place. It’s smaller and less populated than my hometown. The location and stone houses are more like those of New Paltz which is a real upstate New York town that I’ve visited. I like the idea of creating an imaginary place because readers can fill in their own vision of what it’s like. I wrote a guest post once about the town. Here’s the link to that post:

12) You’ve won several awards! What were they and for what titles?

I received the Laurence C. Lobaugh Memorial Award for Journalism in my Sophomore year at Long Island University/C.W. Post Center for my feature writing on the student newspaper. This award included a medallion and an engraved plaque displayed in the campus’ Great Hall.

I also won the Glamour Puss Award for my article on pet grooming in the Cat Writers’ Association contest. This award featured a glass plaque from Purina engraved with a cat and also check. The article can be read here:

As for my fiction awards, I’ve won Certificates of Excellences from the Cat Writers’ Association for my short story, The Path to Rainbow Bridge, and my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks. I’ve also recently won TopShelf Magazine’s June cover contest for my standalone psychological mystery, Sea Scope.

11) Cats feature prominently in your life and work. How have your cats in particular and cats in general influenced your work as a novelist?

My cat Floppy who passed away in 2007 inspired me to publish my first book, Cloudy Rainbow. I featured him as a character in the book, and many of the cat scenes I described actually happened except for how Dulcie, the main character, came to have him. That book was republished with new edits and a new cover for its 10th anniversary in 2018.

I also used my knowledge of cats in general to write about the antics of Sneaky the Library Cat in my Cobble Cove mystery series. Sneaky was loosely based on my Siamese, Oliver, who died two years ago this November.

I almost always include a cat in all my stories and books (sometimes more than one and also dogs and other pets occasionally). Some play larger roles than others. I feel that people enjoy reading about animals, so I like to include them in my writing. In my standalone mystery, Reason to Die, I even feature a bird, although I’ve never owned one.

10) Without resorting to the official synopsis, tell us about your latest standalone release, Sea Scope.

Twenty years ago, a brother and sister found a body near a lighthouse in South Carolina. The dead man was a guest staying at their family-owned inn. After an investigation, the police term the death a suicide, but there are many unanswered questions.

The book begins in present time when Sarah Collins nee Brewster, now married and living on Long Island, is invited back to Sea Scope, the inn which is now her aunt’s. Sarah has been having problems in her marriage, and has recently lost her brother, Glen, who was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles where he worked as a psychologist.

Sarah decides it’s best for her to get away and takes the trip with her friend, a writer whose children’s books she illustrates. Returning to the inn, she meets people from her childhood including the man who kissed her for the first time. She also receives messages from someone claiming to be her dead brother and that the man whose body she and Glen found that summer 25 years ago didn’t commit suicide but was murdered.

As the story progresses, it shifts from the present to the past as family secrets are revealed and what happened that summer at Sea Scope is finally discovered.

9) Describe your typical writing day. Do you use notebooks, laptops or both? Do you have daily word goals, and do you write at work?

I use a desktop computer. I don’t have writing goals, although I did participate in Camp NaNoWriMo that helped me move my WIP along. I write early in the morning before work. I usually only have 15 to 20 minutes, but I’m a fast typist (I once worked as a secretary), and I can think while I type. I try not to think too much, though, because I like to let the words flow to keep my creativity active. I often think about the book throughout the day and especially at night and let ideas pop into my head to extrapolate upon in the morning.

8) If you were ever offered a Big Five contract, would you jump at it or would the control freak side that’s common to every indie author insist on independence?

I would definitely jump on it. It’s my dream, and I’ve queried agents on different books but haven’t had much time to do so. I think it’s something I need to prioritize.

7) Who were some of your favorite authors/fictional detectives in your formative years and would you say any of them influence you to this day?

When I was a teenager, I loved Gothic romance. My favorite authors were Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. I gobbled up all their books. I dreamt of emulating Phyllis Whitney and even wrote to her once. She was a local author, and she answered me. I’ve been searching for her reply since I married and moved away. I’m still hoping it will turn up one day because it will give me even more inspiration to keep writing.

As I got older and interested in cozy mysteries that feature cats, I read Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie Series; Shirley Murphy’s Joe Grey series; Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who books; Carolyn Burns’ Fear Familiar series, and other cat writers. It was my pleasure to meet Shirley at a Cat Writers’ Association conference in Kansas City many years ago, and I also met Carole who autographed the anthology of Cat Crimes Through Time in which we both had stories. She and Carolyn are also Facebook friends of mine.

6) Plotter or pantser?

Definitely a pantster. I keep most of my ideas in my head. I only create a general character outline as I work. Sometimes I surprise myself the way my characters act and the twists that turn up in my books. For instance, I killed off a character that I hadn’t planned to in one of my books. I find being a pantster makes it harder to edit my rough draft, but it also leaves more room for creativity and the unexpected. I enjoy when my characters take over and the plot moves in a direction I hadn’t foreseen, and readers often tell me that they love the surprises.

5) Just so the readers know, you don’t write just cozies. You’ve also started a hard-boiled mystery series (Lang and Thompson) set in Connecticut. Tell us a bit about the world of Reason to Die (which I’ve just bought).

Thank you for purchasing my book. Reason to Die, while not a cozy, takes place in a small, Connecticut town. Detective Courtney Lang is assigned the case of the “Handicapped Strangler,” a killer who targets disabled people. While on the case, she is paired with her old partner and ex-lover, Bill Thompson, who was shot and disabled by a mugger. She believes that same mugger, who was never caught, is responsible for the current murders and sets out to prove it while trying to sort out her feelings for Bill and her current boyfriend, Mark Farrell, also a detective. Her search leads her into dangerous territory where she must face demons from her own past and avoid being killed at the same time. 

4) Are your books in your own library? If so, were they put into the system by an acquisition librarian or did you do it yourself?

I order them myself. I am the acquisition librarian – lol. I order the fiction and mystery books for my library. Actually, I can’t place orders for my book directly because I use Baker and Taylor to order books, but my books are only available on Amazon. Our library uses Amazon as an alternate source for books, but the head clerk of technical services processes those orders after I give my selections to her. We use Amazon Prime, so the books arrive within two days or so. I’m then given them to autograph and put on the shelf.

3) The old tropes of detective fiction are giving way. How do you see detective fiction changing in the years to come?

I’ve seen a shift toward more thrillers. There seems to be a blurring of lines between fiction, mystery, and thrillers. We have a mystery section in my library where my Cobble Cove mysteries are located, but some of my other books are in general fiction. Popular authors such as James Patterson who write mysteries and mystery series are usually housed in general fiction. I also see more amateur sleuths who are common in cozy mysteries making more appearances in detective fiction of all types. People identify with amateur sleuths and try to solve cases along with them.

2) What do you see as the most difficult challenge facing mystery novelists?

Mystery novelists have the same challenges as novelists of other genres. The market is overflowing with books. Agents receive hundreds of queries each day. To stand out, your book must not only be good, it has to have market appeal and a strong push behind it. That isn’t easy for most authors because they tend to prefer to write than promote their work but need to do both. A good promoter could do wonders for an average title, but a poor promoter has a hard time selling a superior book.

1) What’s next for you, Debbie?

I’m halfway done with a new standalone mystery. I won’t say much about it because it still needs to go through several drafts before I’m ready to submit it to a publisher. I would also like to start my fifth Cobble Cove mystery at some point. I have a short, true story that’s already been accepted for an upcoming anthology of rescue cat stories and several other books in varying stages of completion. I’m also still querying the first book of a new cozy mystery series to agents. 

Debbie and her work can also be found at the following links:
Amazon Author Page:
Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up:


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