Friday, February 01, 2008

Q&A: LISA HARRIS

Today we check in with novelist Lisa Harris, one of the inaugural authors in the brand-new cozy mystery series Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries! She's a mom, a missionary, and an author who has written romance, mysteries, and is branching into International suspense. Lisa, her husband of almost seventeen years, and their three kids are enjoying life in Africa.

Her first book with HPM is Recipe For Murder. Next week, she'll give away five free copies through her online newsletter. (Sign up now!)

Q: HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
The first book I sold was a novella in the collection, To Catch a Thief, published by Barbour. (And yes, it was a mystery!) I'd met DiAnn Mills at a writer's conference the year before, and she graciously mentored me during the coming months.

At that time, Barbour Publishing was buying a number of novella collections each year, and, knowing this was a great way to get my foot in the door, I talked to DiAnn about an idea I had for a collection that centered around four women Pinkerton agents in the late 1800s. We invited two other authors on board, sent in a proposal, and a few months later, Barbour bought the collection.

Since then, I've sold about a dozen more books, including Christian romance novels to Heartsong Presents, a romantic suspense to Love Inspired Suspense, and my current cozy series with Heartsong Presents: Mysteries.

Q: HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
This is a great question, because I would assume that I'm not the only author who's had to grapple with this at some point. The first book I wrote was a gothic novel. I wrote it for me, not for a publisher or an audience. I wrote it because I loved reading Victoria Holt growing up and always wanted to write one. While I'd still love to sell that story most publishers will say that there isn't much of a market for that genre.

In my case, I made the decision pretty quickly in my career that I needed to combine elements of what I love to write with what the publisher and audience wants. If it was a romance, I made sure that there was a hint of mystery, or some element of history that intrigued me. I believed strongly that if I wasn't excited about what I was writing my readers wouldn't be either, but that didn't mean that I couldn't adapt what I loved to what an audience wanted.

During the past couple of years, I've discovered how much I love writing mystery/suspense and have been given the opportunity to write several. My current WIP is an international suspense which brings together both all the elements I love -- suspense, intrigue and romance -- plus a setting that I love, Africa. The only problem is that an African setting is another one of these difficult sells, because there apparently (to quote a number of editors) isn't an audience. You can imagine my excitement when an editor recently told me that the time is right for publishing this series.

The lesson to me is never to give up on what you love to write. Interests in genres change from year to year in the market. I have a friend who wrote Biblical fiction for twenty years while this genre was supposedly out. She's just sold her series to a major publisher. So write for an audience, but always stay true to the talents and gifts God has given you!

Q: WHAT FIVE CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
I'm not sure who I'd consider essential, but these are some of the authors I've enjoyed reading throughout the years. I know there are dozens more, and especially now in Christian publishing area where many authors are beginning to make a big splash in this genre. I've added a couple from the Christian market, though some of these authors spill over into suspense.

(By the way, if you're interested as a writer in learning more about the differences between writing mystery and suspense, I have an article that will be posted at www.noveljourney.blogspot.com on February 6 that discusses this.)

Here are some of my recommendations.

1. Lilian Jackson Braun
2. Dick Francis
3. Agatha Christie
4. Victoria Holt
5. Daphne Du Maurier

Q: WHAT FIVE MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?

1. Mary Higgins Clark
2. Michael Crichton
3. Colleen Coble
4. Brandt Dodson
5. Brandilyn Collins

Q: BEFORE YOU WERE PUBLISHED, WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
I had no idea how hard it was, or how much time and effort it takes to continue growing in the craft.

Thanks to our guest, Lisa Harris. Find her online at www.lisaharriswrites.com, and her blog myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com. She also has a ShoutLife page at shoutlife.com/LisaHarris, and is a contributor to the group-author blogs Keep Me In Suspense and Spyglass Lane.

Related links:
Meet the authors of HPMysteries
Book news 29 Jan 08
FREE mystery story!
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