Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Secret Behind Mystery Writer Heather Haven

I love a good murder mystery, but I love them even more when they have an element of humor to them. My guest today, Heather Haven, blends these two elements beautifully in her new book "Death Runs in the Family." Welcome, Heather!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

The first book I can remember reading was Uncle Remus. That’s when I was six or seven. At age nine, I went to the public library and checked out Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock. My life was changed forever. I not only fell in love with reading, big time, I fell in love with mysteries. It’s a love affair that has never waned. I went to college on a costume scholarship and studied drama. Ultimately, I went to NYC to become an actress, but I hated it. I hated the life of an actor. It wasn’t for me. All that traveling! Living out of a suitcase! Who needs it? However, I loved writing. I could sit in a room and write for hours, send characters to the far corners of the earth and not have to leave my chair. To make money, I worked in advertising for a while, wrote short stories, one-act plays, and ad copy for humorous ads, and acts for performers. I loved it. I didn’t tackle writing a book until I came to California.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

Right Ho, Jeeves! P.G. by Wodehouse. No matter how many times I read it, it makes me laugh. I have read every book of his I can get my hands on and he wrote over 90! His writing can make me laugh like no one else’s. He’s most famous for the Jeeves and Bertie Wooster collection of short stories and books but he was a prolific writer of screenplays, plays, novels, short stories, pretty much anything. I’m a big fan. Agatha Christie, the queen of the mystery, the plot maker, is the one who made crime writing all warm and fuzzy. Janet Evanovitz, who turned it all into a wonderfully, funny game. Then there’s Earnest Hemmingway, who was a terse writer, if there ever was one. He is credited with writing a 6-word short story, “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.” I mean, come on. The man was a wonder. And he loved cats. He was surrounded by dozens of 6-toed cats when he lived in Key West; many feline descendents still call his estate home. Have I left anyone out? Of course!

What inspired you to write this book series?

I wanted to write something about a quirky, loving family, who do their darnedest to stay together and be supportive and loving, despite whatever gets thrown at them. I wanted the protagonist to be a flawed person, but not so much she couldn’t learn and grow. Mainly, she’s happy to be in the world. She loves life. She wants to be a better person. Although, she is the first to spill coffee on herself, she’s a very with it, loving person. I adore Lee Alvarez. Also, and this is important to me, I love blended people. The Italian half of my family came to the States at a time when it was difficult to be Italian. But my family worked hard to integrate and become useful members of our society. I decided to write about new immigrants working hard and succeeding. The series revolves around a half-Latino, half Palo Alto blueblood family who have managed to capture the American dream through perseverance, hard work and familial love.

How would you describe your writing process?

Who knows? I get an idea from articles in the newspapers, on TV, listening to people in the checkout line of the supermarket and I’m off and away. Truth is stranger than fiction.
But the writing process itself, you need to WRITE. YOU CAN’T BE A WRITER IF YOU DON’T WRITE. Yes, I am yelling that message. You’d be surprised how many people say they want to be a writer but don’t find the time to sit down and do it. Steal time. Commandeer it, borrow it, beg it but take it and use it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time but it needs to be every day. Writing for only a ½ hour to an hour every day will give you a lot more than you think! When I was still working at a nine to five job, sometimes I would get up at four in the morning to get some writing done. I didn’t do it every day, but if I was on a roll and needed to write, that’s what I still do.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

Constant bombardment. Never letting up. It’s a drag, but if you don’t have a lot of bucks to pay someone, you need to saturate the market yourself.

What advice would you give to other authors?

WRITE! Take classes, get into writing groups, listen to critiques from people you trust, who know what they’re talking about. Big, important caveat here: It should be from people you trust, but don’t blindly love it. Try to leave your family or close friends out of this. They often have a biased take on things. And unless they are a professional editor, you might not get the best feedback, anyway. Read good authors, who write what you want to write or are writing. Learn from the masters.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

Chapter Seven
I Don’t Know Who’s the Bigger Idiot
Without much conversation, we jostled Nick out of the room and down the stairs. As a precaution, we used the back exit, Flint flinging boxes of DVDs every which way so fast, the clerk only managed one “hey” before we were out the door. The exit led to a narrow back alley filled with garbage, trash, and more small scurrying animals that should be calling the SPCA to complain about the conditions under which they’re forced to live.
While Flint went to bring the car to the side of the alley, I waited in the shadows next to Nick and pulled out the Glock. The irony of the situation hit me like a double charge on a credit card bill for shoes not only too tight to wear but last year’s style.
On the left, a disgusting dumpster; on the right, an even more disgusting ex-husband. And me stuck in the middle as usual—a reluctant PI if ever there was one.
Rather than inhaling the stench of fly-ridden garbage, I’d really rather be sniffing out dastardly doings of computer sabotage or thievery, in particular, long after said dastardly deeds have gone down. It’s my idea of a good job, especially when I get to zip off whenever I want and have a great lunch.
The part I like best—besides the food—is sitting at a highly polished, recently vacated mahogany desk in an air-conditioned office, sifting through the rubble of high-tech deceit and betrayal. I like gathering enough evidence to point a manicured fingernail at the culprit and shout j'accuse! Backlit by enough briefs, memos, emails, and other telltale papers, the culprit is mine. That is a real high.
This was a real low. But I had to think about Stephen. My cousin was dead, and Nick knew something about it. Hell, maybe he even had something to do with it. And, of course, there were the cats. If Nick was in any way responsible, I might do him in myself and save whatever goons there may be the trouble.
All these things were flitting through my mind when Nick—the stupid idiot—made a lunge for my gun, muttering he could take better care of himself than I could. Sometimes an ex-marine, like an ex-husband, needs to get over himself.
One of the first lessons you learn as a PI is to not to carry a gun if you’re going to let anybody take it away from you. All the years I’ve been carrying, ten to be exact, people have taken all sorts of things from me—including my virtue—but never my gun.
So when Nick came at me, my knee went up fast, strong, and accurate. Ex dropped to the ground in a fetal position. God only knows what else was lying there with him, but I left him on the dirt, anyway. He was busy moaning while I cocked the Glock and gave a 360-degree spin, prepared to do whatever was necessary to keep the jerk safe. At least, for the moment.
Fortunately, no one showed up except a passing rat or two, excluding the one I stood over. After what felt like a lifetime, I saw Flint’s headlights, although I’m sure it didn’t take him more than three minutes to get there. I helped Nick up. He limped to the car, and Flint, bless him, raised an eyebrow over Nick’s condition but didn’t say a word. What a guy.

Where can readers find you and your book?

At the moment, it can be found at MuseItUp.
In a few days, it should be at Amazon, B&N, and all those other nifty stores!

I LOVE this excerpt and the humor in your main character. It's going on my "to read" list! Thanks for joining me today, Heather!

--KSR Writer


  1. I remember reading Uncle Remus, too. And loved Nancy Drew. Love this great excerpt, Heather. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Kathy, what a great blogsite! Thanks so much for featuring me today. It is so much appreciated.

  3. Wouldn't surprise any of y'all to know I've got a copy of Uncle Remus purchased from the actual Uncle Remus Museum in Joel Chandler Harris's hometown of Eatonton, Georgia ('bout 40 miles from my stomping ground, on the way to Lake Sinclair) when I was 12, I don't suppose? Can't do that anymore, you have to order them. Hey Heather!!! Hey Kathy!!! I always tell people who say they want to write a book "Not real bad, apparently".