Today I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Death on West End Road by Carrie Doyle. My post today consists of an interview with Ms. Doyle. There will be the requisite links to purchase the book at the end of this post!
First of all, a massive “Thank you!” to Ms. Doyle for being willing to answer my questions. I tend to ask questions with multiple parts and she didn’t back away from any of it! Okay, on to our questions and answers.
Question #1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I run a small press called Dunemere Books with my sister, author Liz Carey and a friend Tiffany Palmer. We publish destination fiction with a strong sense of place in the mystery, YA and middle grade categories. We focus primarily on series.
Question #2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: When I am writing a book I try to write every weekday. I work at the New York Society Library in the quiet room. I usually write for three hours. But if I’m on a deadline I write at home. I can go into hyper-focus and ignore the noise around me quite well actually, as long as my sons and husband don’t bother me! It’s actually usually my dogs who tend to get in my way because they like to sit next to me and lick my fingers when I am typing.
Question #3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: There are some characters that just write themselves. I feel like my body and fingers are a conduit for Larry Lipper, who is a crime reporter in my books. He is very politically incorrect and a childish narcissist, and I like to think that I am not, so he truly speaks through me. I usually do a rough outline and then set off from there. It is always exciting when you are stumped by something and then reread your draft and realize you had subconsciously laid down clues to that question all along and the answer is so obvious.
Question #4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I’ve been rejected hundreds of times. Literally. Not just for my books but for my screenplays and my film pitches. I started as a screenwriter with Jill Kargman (now the star of her own show called Odd Mom Out on Bravo) and we used to go and pitch all of the studios, all of the networks and all of the production companies all the time. We had to come up with original takes on movies or shows or create our own. We had people tell us it was the best pitch they ever heard and then never return our agent’s call. We had studio executives tell us they would love to work with us and they thought our pitch was the best but they would rather work with a male writing team because ‘they were so cute.’ Rejection really propels me, though, and perhaps I am a masochist. In the very beginning I was dissuaded but now it makes me take on the attitude, ‘I’ll show them.’ And things don’t have to be done in the traditional manner anymore. Despite the fact that my books were on seven bestseller lists and translated into 9 languages and I was on the “Today Show” and featured in dozens of magazines I had a difficult time finding a publisher for my mystery books. Rejections all around. So I just co-founded my own small press with two partners and raised money and hired editors, copy editors, designers and publicists who are on staff at the big publishing houses to freelance for us at Dunemere Books. I see it as taking control of not only my work, but the type of books I want to see published. I feel excited every time we commission another author’s book.
Question #5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I probably go through three revisions. I have two editors that read everything I write then I have another editor and a copy editor. I do think it helps when you let a book percolate. It doesn’t always mean that I will put down a book for a while, although I usually do for a month, but sometimes when I get the idea for my next book I let it germinate in my mind for several months.
Question #6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: In my latest book, DEATH ON WEST END ROAD, I actually feel like there are several villains. In this book my heroine Antonia Bingham investigates a cold case—the murder of sixteen-year-old Susie Whitaker who was bludgeoned to death with a tennis racket. Often in cold cases, there are people who know a lot more than they say and that can make them complicit, especially if they never stepped forward. Silence can make you guilty just as much as if you actually committed the murder.
I think the best villains are the most innocuous people. On ‘Law and Order” they always would interview the next-door neighbor who would describe the suspect as ‘a quiet, every day guy.’ It’s the ‘every day guys’ who are the most chilling.
Question #7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: Not really. When I wrote ‘gossip lit’ there were people who thought they were portrayed in my book and were offended, so I make sure not to write about anyone I know. It’s funny, though, someone recently said to me that they know who every one in my first two mystery books is based on and I thought, really? Because I don’t. Sometimes you take little bits from people’s backstories but it is always a compilation.
Question #8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I’m also a journalist so I like doing profiles of people. I would really like to write nonfiction and perhaps a biography on some major business people—like in the way Walter Isaacson wrote about Steve Jobs. But those books are so daunting because there is so much research and you have to be so careful. I just read Alec Baldwin’s new autobiography and I wished I had been his editor or ghost-writer. There were so many holes in the book and I was left with more questions than answers. When a biography or autobiography is done well it is so exciting. I really liked Mia Farrow’s What Falls Away and Andre Agassi’s Open. I’d love to co-author a book like that.
Question #9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I just read The Rosie Project and LOVED it! Loved. I laughed, I cried, I devoured it. I gave it to my husband and one of my son’s who also loved it. I highly recommend it. I recently read Alafair Burke’s The Ex, which was a fast exciting read.
Question #10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I think one of the most important things is timing when it comes to books. Sometimes you read books too early—like I wonder why my school had me reading Madame Bovary in ninth grade, what did I know about discontented housewives and adultery—and sometimes you read them at the very perfect time. I was a Russian Language and Literature Major at Barnard College and read a lot of the great Russian novels during that time. In the fall of my senior year my father died. A few weeks later my family went skiing in Vermont with my aunt and uncle. I would ski all day then come home and read War and Peace by Tolstoy. It was the perfect setting, the perfect time in my life and the perfect book to transport me away from everything. It is one of my favorite books to this day.
Other favorite books are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Secret History by Donna Tartt; The Alienist by Caleb Carr; Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow; Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty; Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
Question #11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I would spend the day with Marty, who is the chef who runs the kitchen under Antonia at her The Windmill Inn. A kitchen veteran, a military veteran, and a no-nonsense guy who possesses a lot of culinary skills, Marty is someone who you could learn a lot from. I am a big fan of cooking—Top Chef is my favorite TV show—and I fancy myself a wannabe chef. I worked at The Barefoot Contessa—Ina Garten’s gourmet food store—in college but I never worked in a restaurant. I would love to learn how to execute the line, and learn proper knife skills. I think Marty could teach me all that. Although, he would be tough so I would really have to be on my toes!
Question #12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Doyle’s Answer: I read most of my reviews, yes. When the book is new for sure I read all. Sometimes I go back and look at what people are saying about my older books on Goodreads and on Amazon. My early books were very polarizing: people either loved them or hated them. And that’s fine; they are not everyone’s cup of tea. It didn’t hurt my feelings if I received one star for those because that just meant the reader completely doesn’t respond to me. The more interesting reviews are the three star out of five reviews, and you can really learn from those. I took a lot of the constructive criticism from my first two Hamptons Murder Mystery books, and incorporated those notes into my latest books. Now there will be—and actually already are—some people who loved the first two books and wished I hadn’t made changes but I had to experiment. Some people thought the first two books were too long and had too much description so I streamlined this book and made it more procedural. I’m interested to hear what people think. I can always go back to longer and more descriptive books for the next one!
Purchase Links: Amazon – B&N – Kobo
Thank you for joining me today for an interview with Carrie Doyle! And thank you to Ms. Doyle for being willing to answer my questions! If you wish to visit any of the other stops on the tour, click on the banner below and it will take you to the main tour page which lists all stops!