Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Solving Crime Southern Style! Chatting with Alyssa Lyons

Alyssa Lyons, like her character Jordan Davis, lives in Lynchburg, Virginia. The South is her playground. Its eccentricities fuel her stories. She specializes in “Solving Crimes Southern Style.” However unlike Jordan, she is a cat person—rather, she is staff to two cats she rescued. Like most cats, they believe they were the ones doing the saving and therefore she owes them. She taught high school American history and government, worked for the CIA as an Intelligence Analyst, and is a retired attorney. She declines to include a photo, preferring to remain a woman of mystery riding a motorcycle like Jordan, and hopes not be ridden out of town on a rail.

Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today at Starbucks.

BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...

AL: Thank you for inviting me here today, BK. Like my character Jordan Davis, I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. The South’s eccentricities fuel my stories. Unlike Jordan, I am staff to an unherdable herd of rescue cats. Like most cats, they believe they were the ones doing the saving and therefore I owe them. I’ve taught high school, worked for the CIA, and practiced law.

BK: Please tell us a little about your book....

AL: The Jordan Davis Mysteries started as a traditional romantic suspense with a cozy (amateur sleuth) flavor. I wanted a strong heroine who was also out of the ordinary. What could be more unusual than a Jewish, motorcycle-riding free spirit? What stranger business than a funeral boutique that grants its clients’ last wishes, however bizarre they might be?

In book 1, LAST WISHES, Jordan crosses paths, and then hearts, with a gorgeous, uptight judge who got out of Lynchburg—until it pulled him back in—and then found himself involved in Jordan’s murder investigations led me to the idea of a series. The series is sexier and less alcohol-laden than Nick & Nora Charles, while solving murders set against the background of Lynchburg, Virginia, a small southern city. I also wanted the town to be a character, giving the flavor of the New South, still strongly religious, a mite rebellious, but kicking and screaming its way into the Twenty-first Century.

BK: What inspired you to pen this particular novel?

AL: I realized I had a knack for writing mysteries with a strong dose of romance. I dug under the bed for an unfinished mystery I had started several years ago with a former co-writer. After substantial reworking, I molded it into a faster paced, darker, and sexier story, but still with romance and humor elements. Also, the nice part about writing a series is your main characters don’t have to be created from scratch each time, although you get to explore new dimensions of them.

BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

AL: When I started rewriting the endings to unsatisfying movies, TV shows, and books, I realized I had the makings of a writer. When I outlined an idea, plopped myself down with a pad and pen (and later a computer) and began to write a story like the kind I wanted to read but couldn’t find enough of, and got through to “they lived happily ever after,” I knew I had what it took to be a novelist.

BK: How do you keep your story flowing?

AL: Mysteries take more careful pre-planning than other genres. You have to keep the reader guessing, the timeline straight, the red herrings convincing, and the resolution logical. It would be very difficult for a true “pantser” to write a mystery improvisationally. Writing mysteries made changes in my style, voice, and planning method to conform with the unique quality of mysteries. I also needed to hone my romance writing skills. During my five-year hiatus from writing, sex in books has grown hotter, more erotic. So be warned. You may need a fan beside you in places.

BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it?

AL: No so much writer’s block as a general malaise that promotes procrastination. I seldom lose the story itself because the plot is outlined, but I just find reasons not to write. Ironically, deadlines are the best cure for the malaise because it forces me to sit at the computer and write.

BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write?

AL: My favorite place to write is sitting on the couch in my living room. What I need more than anything is my best friend sitting on the other end of the couch batting ideas back and forth. I will admit that a Starbucks nine-pump, venti, soy chai latte, extra hot, no water or foam, helps.

BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?

AL: I’d like to continue the Jordan Davis series. I’ve also done some work on a medical thriller series centered in the CDC that I’d like to pursue at some time.

BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

AL: An interest in reading more of them. I want them to be entertained, to lose themselves in the story, and see that HEA but it requires working through the problems that arise. That’s what’s great about a series with continuing characters. I can show life in all its glory.

BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing?

AL: Write. Nora Roberts says you can always fix a manuscript, but you can’t fix a blank page. Also, never let fear of reject keep you from entering contests or submitting to editors. If you let your fear stop you, then you’ve rejected your own work.

BK: What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?

AL: Finish the frakking book!

BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?

AL: I am laying out the plot for book number four of the Jordan Davis series. No title yet, but a skeleton found in the wall of a Main Street renovation uncovers skeletons buried deep in the closet for several characters in the series, most notably Grayson Trent’s mother, Libby. It should be released by late Summer 2012.

BK: Where can readers find you?

You can read about Jordan’s adventures in solving crime “Southern Style” in LAST WISHES, CLUBBED TO DEATH, and STABBED AND SLABBED.

You can reach me at my website and blog: http://www.alyssalyons.com

My books are available at http://www.blackopalbooks.com and all major e-book retailers.

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been a pleasure having you and I wish you much success in the future.