Monday, December 28, 2015

Interview with Laura Wharton, JULIA'S GARDEN

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
In Julia’s Garden is the first in the Lily McGuire Mystery series. It is set contemporarily in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, though the mystery is in history. Lily McGuire is a divorced, 40-something snarky landscape architect who specializes in historic garden restoration. In the opening pages, an old man brings her a journal that once belonged to Julia, a socialite who vanished in the 1940s. The journal may hold clues to the reasons behind her disappearance as well as to something tragic that happened in Lily’s life, so the story is a puzzle mystery.  

Do you have a favorite character?
Definitely Lily. She’s sassy, smart, and knows how to protect herself. This last strength is also her weakness: she is so protective of her feelings that she may miss out on something fantastic (a little romance, perhaps) if she remains closed to possibilities in her life.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I love the cover of In Julia’s Garden. It’s by Francois Thisdale, a Canadian artist. I was introduced to him by another mystery writer friend of mine. He was easy to work with, and after a very brief introduction to the kind of cover I had in mind, he sent me sketches. We decided on one that conveyed a significant element of the story (the journal that once belonged to Julia), and I sent him a descriptive passage of how I imagined it. I will absolutely use his services again on future books in this series. I then sent the art to the cover designer who has worked on most of my books, and she worked her magic by adding the title, back cover blurbs, etc. The result of her efforts is what you see on the cover.
What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
My writing process in fiction is far less stringent than that of the writing I do for my fulltime job, which must be extremely tight and targeted. For fiction, I generally jot down bits of dialog, or scenes, or even sketch out a character—one element that might drive a story. When the ideas start to flow, I start writing and worry about precision later. I prefer silence when I write so that I can “hear” my characters’ voices in dialogs.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Absolutely, and I would not let a manuscript become a book without his eyes on the project first. My editor was recommended by another author. He lives in Michigan, and I live in North Carolina. We’ve never met, and I think we’ve only talked on the phone one time. Most of our correspondence has been through email (and the comments on the side of the manuscripts, which are sent electronically back and forth). We don’t always agree about everything, and I’ve yielded to his way of thinking often. In all, though, he helps to make my stories the best they can be.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
Marketing is by far the hardest piece of the publishing puzzle, in my opinion. I use social media (Facebook, Twitter) and blog tours like this one to help spread the word about my books. I still have book events like launch parties and book signings. One other approach I’ve added to the mix recently is to have a “Bookery” (a booth) at arts and crafts festivals and street fairs. At these events, people passing by can see the books and meet me, and that has certainly helped. I am hearing more comments about audio books this year than I did last year, and of course, e-books for Kindle are quite popular. I still sell a solid number of paperbacks each time, so the physical book is far from dead.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
An excellent question! I do find it challenging to balance the marketing and writing efforts because I also have a fulltime job and a family to tend to. I know others have done all this (and more) forever, so I’m not anything special in this area. One thing that might set me apart, though, is that I don’t have to commute to my job: I just slide my chair from my novel-writing desk over to my full-time job desk and turn on another computer. Not having a long commute is certainly better for me, since the drive to the closest (large) city is nearly an hour away. When I did have to commute, I’d be so tired in the evening, I couldn’t do much of anything else. I’m so thankful for both my full-time job and for the stamina I have left to devote a little time each day to working on a manuscript or marketing. 

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Congratulations! You’ve entered into a fascinating, ever-changing arena. Cultivate your knowledge of how to set up a business (the legal ins and outs as well as the marketing of market your work), because once your “baby” is at the editor’s, the hard work really begins. It’s also a lot of fun to be in complete control of the look (and feel) of your work as well as the process of selling it. And for those writers who are shy, I encourage you to figure out a way to put on an external “extroverted” game face for signings, events, and talks with others. Being open to possibilities is key to happiness in this game of self-publishing.
Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
My other passions besides writing are my family. I love being a mom—best job ever! I also love sailing, swimming, and being around water (in it, on it, under it). I enjoy drawing and painting, sewing (quilting in particular), and cooking. I enjoy gardening, and studying history. (I’m a bit of a history freak.)

What’s next for you?
In the way of writing? I’m working on the second in the Sam McClellan Tales, the other series I started this year, which has to be to my editor by the end of the year so it can be released next spring. (What possessed me to start two series at the same time is beyond me.) The first in that series, Deceived, came out in May, 2015. The next Lily McGuire Mystery will be out in fall of 2016. They are very different types of stories (Deceived is an adrenalin rush, whereas In Julia’s Garden is more of a puzzle mystery), and the characters are, too. 

Thank you for hosting me! I really appreciate it!


Lily McGuire has her plants and her work as a landscape architect. What she doesn’t have (a man to date or an adventure to have) is just fine with her, thank you very much. Yet her world turns as chaotic as the grand old mansion’s garden she is restoring when a stranger presents her with the gardening journal of a 1940s socialite-gone-missing. Snarky and somewhat misanthropic, Lily must search its pages for clues to the young beauty’s disappearance and a potentially deadly mystery, despite the warning that she should tread carefully: the journal was the cause of Lily’s best friend’s death.

The book will be .99 during the tour.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Referred to as the American P.D. James, Laura S. Wharton is the author of sea adventure/suspense/mystery novels for adults and mysteries for children. Award-winning adult titles include Deceived: A Sam McClellan Tale, The Pirate's Bastard, and Leaving Lukens. Wharton also is the author of four mysteries for children, including the popular award-winning Mystery at the Lake House series, and others. Most of her books involve adventure, fun, a little history, and sailboats. (She is a recovering sailor who could backslide at any moment!)

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