Diane Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Well, the month is marching out.  My goodness!  It’s time for my favorite blog posts, the Take 5 interview.  This month, we have a very special guest, Diane Weiner, who has just published her third book in her Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries, MURDER IN THE MIDDLE.  We invite you to join our celebratory chinwag and bubbly 81OSQhTabeL._SL1500_toasting.  Please enjoy getting acquainted such a lovely and talented lady!

1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.

My series is the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries. The main character is a newly retired music teacher, Susan Wiles, who finds herself searching for a meaningful hobby and a way to still feel like a productive member of society. She tries knitting, scrapbooking, vegan cooking….nothing sparks her interest. Then one day, she goes back to her school to hear her former students perform at the holiday concert. During the intermission, the principal is called upon to give a little speech, but no one can find her. Susan, trying to be helpful, runs to the principal’s office and discovers her former boss dead on the floor. A half-eaten Funfetti cupcake sits on the desk. Now this was an interesting way to pass the time. Solving murders. She’d found her calling.

Susan is happily married to Mike, an all-around good guy. She has a detective daughter, Lynette, who is married to Jason, a college professor. Her son Evan is away at medical school, but appears briefly in book three and has a bigger role in book four. Access to a detective and a medical student are valuable tools in solving murders.

Lynette and Mike are not in favor of Susan’s crime solving escapades. Mike worries about her safety, while Lynette doesn’t appreciate the interference in police business. Throughout the series, the theme of the mother/daughter relationship is explored, both with Susan and Lynette, constantly in conflict, and Susan and her mother. I don’t want to give too much away here as there are some interesting turns regarding this issue.

Each book in the series involves a crime related to a school. In MURDER IS SECONDARY, Susan helps her husband’s friend, a chemistry teacher, clear his name. In MURDER IN THE MIDDLE, Susan’s former colleague has become principal of a middle school. He calls on her help when the bookkeeper disappears from her ransacked office. I am currently writing MURDER IS PRIVATE, where Susan goes to Florida to solve a murder at a private performing arts school to help out a family member.

2. What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?

While raising four kids and working full time as a teacher (and earning both masters and doctorate degrees while working), I wouldn’t have survived if I didn’t stick to a schedule. I thrive on routine. I plot out the arc of my books before I begin writing, and decide what big event I want to occur one third of the way, and then two thirds of the way through the book. It helps keep the story from sagging. Before I write each chapter, I write out the events that need to occur to plant clues, develop characters, and move the story along. Then I sit at the computer, get into Susan’s head, and the dialogue takes care of itself. I make a list of suspects, but sometimes change my mind as to who the murderer is as I write the story. I try to throw in enough red herrings to make it interesting.

During the summer and on breaks from school, I can write all day long and love it. During the school year, I try to write most days after dinner, stopping when Jeopardy comes on. Watching Jeopardy with my husband is almost a ritual in our house.

3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?

When Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press sent me an acceptance letter, I felt like a real author. Seeing the book covers and holding the actual books in my hand also makes me feel like an author. When I got the proof copy of MURDER IS ELEMENTARY, I actually took pictures of it from different angles and with different backgrounds like I did when each of my kids was born.

4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?

I get my best writing ideas while running. Something about nature and the rhythmic pace of running spurs my creativity. Of course, sometimes I come up with what I think is brilliant, then I go home and write it down or explain it to my husband only to find I was being a little delusional.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?

I’ve always loved mysteries. Nancy Drew books had me hooked at hello. I love Mary Higgins Clark because she is so suspenseful and you really worry about the damsel she has put in distress. Jodi Picoult is one of my very favorite writers. I’ve read just about everything she has written. Her words are so beautifully put together and she explores real and controversial issues faced by society.

Thanks for sharing your world with me, Diane.  It was a pleasure!  And folks, be sure to check out MURDER IN THE MIDDLE (and the rest of the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries) on Kindle.  Also visit her website at www.dianeweinerauthor.com and follow her on Twitter.  She also has a fab and fun book trailer for her latest on Youtube. And again, congratulations, Diane!

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

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About Barbara Jean Coast

Barbara Jean Coast is the pen name of authors Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff. She is currently hard at work telling the cozy tales of the fictional town of Santa Lucia, loosely based on Santa Barbara in the late 50's, early 60's, known as The Poppy Cove Mysteries.
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