● Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energizes! I have so many projects planned or in process that, out of the blue, I’ll think of something for one of them and I’ll go nuts until I can get it written down on paper or input into the story file for one of them in my writing software. I’m usually itching to get to the keyboard and just write whenever I can.
● Do you write other books under different pen names?
Anne Hagan is actually a pen name. There are so many people out there with my real name on social media, that I chose to use Anne (my actual middle name) and a modified version of my last name as a pen name. Believe it or not, there are only one or two other Anne Hagans out there and they’re not authors!
● Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I only intended to write one book. I failed miserably! That book became a series of lesfic themed mystery/romance novels and novellas, The Morelville Mysteries. Then, I spun off a cozy series, The Morelville Cozies, featuring the over 50-ish mothers of my two lesbian sleuths in the first series. Their daughters appear often but the books are focussed on them and the denizens of the fictional village of Morelville that I created. After that, I just kept going.
My first all-out romance novel (also lesfic) Broken Women, featured two secondary characters who appear in the Morelville Mysteries series from time to time. That book was more focussed on them but they got a second book, Healing Embrace, where several characters from the Morelville Mysteries play prominent roles. There’s another romance spin off planned for a young adult lesbian character from the Morelville Mysteries (Christmas Cakes and Kisses) and I have plans for a spin off series from the Morelville Cozies. The third cozy, The Conjuring Comedienne, will pave the way for the Craft College Conjurers series set in a nearby town but, after it spins off, it will stand completely apart from the other two mystery series.
I do write stories (romance shorts) that are outside of that universe, believe it or not. But, I’ll continue to write the mystery series because they’re fun to do and my readers love them. Why give up on a good thing?
● What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
A Painted House by John Grisham. He’s well known for his legal thrillers. When he ventured into literary fiction, many of his fans ignored those books. They didn’t follow him. It’s a shame. When I read that story – not something I would have typically read at the time – I was transported. I felt like I was that boy, in those fields with those migrant workers, living that life and painting that house.
● Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There are two sides to this question for me. First, every book and story I write has a piece of me and thing that I’ve experienced in it. For the most part, none of my family (aside from my mother) reads any of my work. I have a few friends who read all my stuff though. They can sometimes pick out the ‘real life’ stuff that they know about but they’ll miss other things that they weren’t involved in or that I never told them about.
Second: many of my mysteries and some of my romances (the novels) are based in the same universe. The Morelville Mysteries series should be read in order to see the progression of the relationship between Mel and Dana and how everything evolves over time. The thing is, there are nuggets in each successive book, across series and even in the romances, that only readers who have read everything will pick up on. A reader who just reads the romances, Broken Women and Healing Embrace, for example, won’t feel like she got an incomplete story by any means, but little references and inside jokes are there (especially in Healing Embrace) that only a Morelville Mysteries series reader would know. The same is true of the Cozies series. I have mainstream readers that came to them without ever having read any of the lesfic series that spawned it. Those stories stand alone but they too hint at things only my lesfic mystery readers would know.
● Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve been a mystery reader since grade school so for more than forty years, ahem! I gravitated to that naturally. It was wanting to write primarily for a lesbian audience that got me to include a romantic storyline in my Morelville Mysteries series. Romance is, by far, the most popular genre among lesbians. It’s not even close. I was taken to task for books one and two of that series containing only fade to black sex (book one).
I do read romance. . . not as much as mystery fiction, but I read it. I decided to try my hand at writing some. It’s actually harder (for me) than writing mysteries but I’m getting the hang of it and my readers seem to like my stories. I won’t be writing ‘straight’ heterosexual romance any time soon though. I read a little of that – a lot less than I read of lesfic romance – but I don’t have any real interest in writing it.
● What is the biggest thing that people think they know about your subject or genre that isn’t so?
I’m going to talk about lesfic as a genre here. There are two things. One, many straight men hear the word ‘lesbian’ or see a bookseller category labelled ‘lesbian’ and they instantly think ‘porn’. It’s not true. . . at all and we all know that. Conversely, there are lesbians out there who will tell you that it isn’t lesfic if it doesn’t contain sex; the sex is what makes it lesbian. Over the last couple of years, I see that latter stereotype crumbling a bit but lesbians with that mindset are still out there.
● Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact did they have on your writing?
I’m a huge fan of female mystery writers like Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and later, of Ellen Hart. I love the strong female characters they write who go out there and do the job and who maybe have some insecurities but they sure don’t take any crap from anybody. They all influenced me to write mysteries and Ellen Hart influenced me to make at least some of what I write lesbian-themed to boot.
● Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Pantser or plotter? Summarize your writing process.
I pantsed the first draft of Relic, my first book and it was a disaster. There were so many plot holes and things that didn’t make sense. I was trying to write a mystery but, all along the reader knows who we’re after: Relic, so it really was more of a suspense story. Then there was a romance element; it wasn’t well-developed at all. It took some work to get it up to a state where I felt it was ready to publish. Even then, a trusted author friend who read it for me as soon as I released it pointed out a glaring error early in the book which affected the ending; an error I should have caught. I had to fix that. That’s what you get when you don’t outline and when you self-publish without a competent editor or, at least, Beta readers.
Now, I plot everything out. It’s all logical. I have a template that I’ve created on my own, through trial and error, that lays out the overall structure of my books for me. I use my template rather than an outline and I go chapter by chapter, with at least a couple of basic lines about what has to happen inserted in each chapter. As I think of research I need to do, names I want to use and so forth, I put them in the appropriate chapter.
I started using Scrivener writing software in March of 2017. It’s so much easier to move things around and to create new templates than it is to do it with MS Word. It’s also easier to see exactly where you stand with what’s finished, what isn’t, word count and so forth. I haven’t gotten the hang of creating publishable files from it yet, it seems a little unwieldy for that. I just ‘compose’ to MS Word and it creates a really nice file for me that I can convert easily for Kindle with a quick two-step process. I take that same MS Word file when I’m ready to take a book wide and I load it to Draft2Digital. It does the heavy lifting of creating all the other formats readers like.
● What projects are you working on at the present?
I’ve always got a Morelville Mystery for my lesfic mystery/romance series on the burner. As I write this, there are nine of those books out and one due out. My plan for those going forward is to do two new books a year.
Ditto the Morelville Cozies. Two books are out, a third is in the works as I write this, and I’ll be adding two books a year to that series. I’d like to do more of those but there’s so much more involved with writing them than with writing the mysteries. They have to be entertaining without including sex, violence, etc. There’s a lot more dialogue and ‘wit’ required.
I’ve committed myself to do more short stories, especially romances. I had 15 specific stories planned for 2017 in three different series that were supposed to start releasing in early March. The first story in the first series, Loving Blue In Red States: Sweetwater Texas, didn’t get published until the middle of April, so I’m about 45 days behind but I’m enjoying doing that series and the readers seem to like it. I’m working on the 4th book in that, at this writing.
● Are you a morning person or a night person?
Definitely night but, as I age, staying up much past 10:00 is getting to be harder and harder, especially when I’m usually up with my wife between 5:00 and 5:30 on weekdays. 22 years in the Army and the Army National Guard in one form or fashion made me able to get right up in the morning and get to it, whatever ‘it’ is but it didn’t make me like it!
● You have multiple personalities. Describe some of them.
There’s my post office personality. That’s the one where I’m nice to everyone no matter what because it’s my job to be. Then there’s the one inside trying to get out that wants to say what she’s really thinking sometimes. I used to have a strong military personality that would come out a lot, especially while I raised my son. I see it less and less except in times of stress. In stressful times, I’m usually calm and collected. I’ve seen and been through worse, is the way I look at it.
Where we live, we’re surrounded by my wife’s family and it’s a tiny village where everyone knows everyone and all their business besides. There are always people around. I’m an introvert at heart but I’m so used to it, I put on a happy face and get out there in the mix. People who don’t know me well, think I’m extroverted. There are times, though, like as I’m writing this, when I have a yard full of people doing a project. They didn’t need my help so I snuck off (with my wife’s blessing) to decompress and get some things done. The introvert in me craves the quiet time to work and think.
● Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes. I knew my wife and I would be together forever the first time we met. It’s been more than ten years. She, by the way, took a little more convincing. She was a player back in the day but she’s settled into married life quite nicely.
● Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched?
Yes, but not in a spooky, paranormal or scary sort of way. I’ve worked places where I was on camera constantly. I knew I was always being watched.
● Are you a spring, summer, autumn or winter person? Please share why.
Autumn. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold and the leaves are beautiful. Plus, there’s pumpkin everything and hot and cold apple cider. Oh and, of course, Halloween! Did I mention my wife and I own a commercial haunted house attraction, Hagan’s House of Horrors? (We were closed for a total remodel in 2017, but we’ll be open for the 2018 season). Halloween and the whole month of October are good times around here.
● If you turned into your partner for a day, what would you do?
Oh, what wouldn’t I do?! Seriously, we’re so different. She’s very intelligent but uses her brain completely differently than I do. She’s very mechanical and I’m decidedly not. I know what tool to get when she asks for one and I know what car parts are what but I can’t fix anything. I would so be running around looking for things to fix and tinker with just because I could. She had different creative skills than I do too. I write and I do lots of web design, advertising and other graphics manipulation work. I can’t draw or paint at all. She draws and paints very well but she doesn’t write.
We own and operate a commercial haunted house business. She dreams up sets and starts the process – does all the carpentry and a lot of the mechanical stuff. I’m one of the minions that does what she says when we’re doing sets but I do all the advertising, the website, social media, etc. I’d like to dream up and create sets from the ground up, like she does.
● Tea or coffee?
Tea, hot or cold, sweet or unsweet, any flavour. I don’t care for coffee at all.
● Would you rather have a dog or a cat? Why?
A dog. I’ve had both but I prefer dogs. I like taking them outside and doing stuff with them. Plus, my wife is allergic to cat dander. She tolerates dogs because she loves them but, deep down, their dander gets to her too.
● What’s the funniest prank ever played on you?
I played a lot of great pranks back in my military days in the regular Army, as full-time National Guard and as a traditional one weekend a month drilling Guard member. Very rarely did I get payback because I almost never got caught or the pranks involved multiple pranksters. One time though, when I worked in Human Resources full time for the National Guard, while my Lt. Colonel was away at a conference, I filled his office with balloons with hole punches in them up to waist deep. I had a co-conspirator who ratted me out. The Colonel vowed to get even with both of us. I can’t for the life of me remember what he did to him, but I remember vividly what he did to me.
I walked into the office I shared with my co-conspirator and two other sergeants one morning. All three of them were already there. They just looked at me and laughed. I was all like, “What? Is there something on my chair? Is there a snake under my desk?” They all just shook their heads.
My desk faced out toward the door from the back wall of the office. It was a standard large government desk in gun metal grey steel with a long return arm down the left side that my computer sat on. There was a big knee hole between two sets of drawers of the desk part and then the end of the return closest to the back wall had another set of drawers but it was otherwise open. Everything had backing so you couldn’t see under it. I had to walk all the way across the room and around it to get back there.
The Colonel had gone to every single person in the department – more than thirty people – and offered to take all of their recycle and shred paper from them. Everything! He mixed it all up and piled it all under my desk and my return. There was more than 500lbs of paper under there. Every bit of it had to be resorted. Recycle went into one kind of bin and shred – anything with a social security number or personal information on it – went into another kind, and then all of the latter had to be shredded. Normally, each person in the department was responsible for emptying and dealing with their own shred bin when it was full. It took me most of an 8-hour day to sort everything and nearly two full days to shred all of the stuff that had to be shredded.
Did that stop me from pranking him? No, it did not!
● You have to wear a t-shirt with one word on it for the rest of your life. Which word do you choose?
● You are chosen to make dinner for a very special guest. What will you cook?
I love Italian food and I love to cook it. I’d make my stuffed shells with homemade meatballs, garlic bread and a nice salad full of fresh greens and garden vegetables. There would be something totally chocolate and decadent for dessert like chocolate cheesecake or a multi-layer triple chocolate cake.
● What book do you wish you could have written?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
● What is your least favourite part of the writing-publishing process?
● Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
The racy ones – sex scenes, but I’m getting better at it. I admit, I used a ghostwriter’s help the first time I included a couple of scenes in a book. She wrote some unique scenes based on the setups that I gave her but I still had to rework them some more. It was obvious lesbian sex wasn’t necessarily something she’d written much of and one or two things were just physically impossible.
● What are some of your best book marketing tips?
Claim your author profile on Goodreads and visit there for a couple of minutes a few times a week. Your readers are there. Besides there, find the things that work best for you that don’t take too much time away from writing. Writing always needs to be first. Pick one or two social media sites you like to be social on that you can commit a few minutes a day or so to and be social on them but don’t do it at the expense of writing. Be willing to spend $10-15 a month to use programmes that post to your chosen sites for you so maintain a presence all day and share useful and entertaining information and sales information in about an 80/20 mix. You need a basic website too, as soon as possible. You can get a domain (in the US) for about $10 a year and site hosting with WordPress (self-hosted with WordPress.org software, not hosted by WordPress.com) for under $5 a month. It will be your home on the web where you can post your contact information, links to your social media accounts and, most importantly, links to your books.
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