After last week's military life discussion that stemmed from my reading The Yokota Officers Club, would you believe that this week's Girlfriends Cyber Circuit book is also about military life? My guest this time around is Sara Rosett, author of the new momlit mystery, Moving is Murder.
Air Force wife Ellie Avery is an ace at moving. A professional organizer, she plans ahead, packs efficiently, and even color-codes the boxes. But her ordered world is thrown into chaos when she finds a dead body at the squadron barbeque and suspects the death wasn’t an accident.
(And here's where my mom would say that moving really is murder, and could possibly result in murder that would probably be declared justifiable homicide if you managed to get a jury of military wives.)
Now, here's the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
I’d finally decided I was going to get serious and try to achieve a dream I’d had since I was a kid. I wanted to be a writer. I was a really good reader and I’d been doing some research on the publishing aspect of writing. I found out I had to have a hook, something that would interest agents and editors. Lots of books I loved had hooks: Diana Mott Davidson (cooking), Carolyn Hart (mystery bookseller) and Rett MacPherson (genealogy). I could go on here with authors all day, but I’ll stop at three. I thought about my life and tried to come up with a compelling hook. I found out I was a boring person. No rock climbing or knitting or even an interesting hobby on my resume! Then one day a friend asked me all sorts of questions about what it’s like to be a military wife. (Did I worry when my husband flew? How often did we move, etc.) I realized that I did have a new angle, a hook, for a mystery: the life of a military family. I love writing about the military lifestyle. I get to take the ridiculous things (arrows on the floor of the grocery store!!) and the great things (the friends you make in the military) and blend them into my stories.
Describe your creative process.
I have to plot. If I try to write by the seat of my pants I’m petrified and can’t even get a few lines down. I have to know who the main characters are, what the mystery is, and who did it. I usually have a general theme, too, but it can change. In the first book I thought my theme was moving, but it turned out to be about change. I write some brief character sketches and then I use a storyboard to jot down ideas and play around with plot lines. Then I start writing and go from “Chapter One” to “The End” without looking back. After I’ve got a complete draft I go back and do a big picture revision for themes, plotlines, and check for clues and red herrings. Then I do the detailed spelling and grammar revision. That’s the plan anyway!
Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I write in the afternoon. It’s a ritual leftover from when I began writing. I’d take my daughter to afternoon kindergarten, put my son down for his nap, and sit down and write for an hour. I don’t listen to music, it just distracts me and I’m always up for caffeine (Diet Coke) and chocolate (M&Ms).
How much, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
I’m a military spouse and a mom, but I didn’t want Ellie to be exactly like me, so I made her a professional organizer. I’m not organized. I’d love to be as organized as Ellie is. Maybe that’s why I write about a professional organizer, so I can experience it vicariously? Ellie is also very persistent and nosy. I’d die before I’d ask some of the questions she asks. She also pushes the boundaries, which is not me either. I’m a follow-the-rules-kind of person. But Ellie’s traits make for a good amateur sleuth.
What's your best tip for an organized move?
Pack an Open First Box. Put in sheets, towels, a shower curtain, an alarm clock, a phone, tools to hook up your washer and dryer and anything else you might need for basic survival. Mark with “Open First!!!” so it will be easy to find in the mess of boxes and you’ll have a much easier first day in your new home.
Can you list the bases where you've lived? (I seem to get the "where all have you lived?" question a lot -- and since we ended up spending a lot of time around air bases, we may have a place or two in common)
We’ve been stationed at March AFB (Riverside, CA), Fairchild AFB (Spokane WA), Tinker AFB (Oklahoma City OK), and Robins AFB (Warner Robins GA). We’ve just moved back to March in Southern California. Kind of like Monopoly, you just keep going around the board again and again! We’ve also spent several months at various training bases, so we’ve lived for a short time at Reese AFB (Lubbock TX), Altus AFB (Altus OK), Castle AFB (Merced CA), and Maxwell AFB (Montgomery AL). And, of course, in some of those places we moved there, then moved again within the city while we were there. We’re gluttons for punishment, aren’t we?
(Hmm, no actual overlaps, but Tinker is close to Fort Sill, which was our "home base" and my birthplace. The air bases I've lived around include Barksdale (Bossier City, LA), Dyess (Abilene, TX) and Ramstein (Germany). You might also count Bergstrom in Austin, TX, but it just happened to be the base in the city where I went to college and we weren't actually stationed near there for military reasons. I just went to the BX there. And now it's closed.)
Chocolate: dark or milk?
I’d never turn down ANY chocolate, but I like milk chocolate the best.
(I haven't done a count in a while, but I think dark may still be the primary choice of writers. Maybe I should also try sorting it out by genre.)
What are you working on now?
I’ve just turned in Ellie’s second adventure, STAYING HOME IS A KILLER. Mitch (Ellie’s husband) is unexpectedly deployed and Ellie has to deal with her two-year-old daughter’s separation anxiety. Then the suicide of a military wife rocks the squadron, but Ellie isn’t sure her friend’s death was suicide. I’m about to start the draft of the third book in the Mom Zone series, GETTING AWAY IS DEADLY.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
I’m so excited and amazed that my book has actually been published. Thanks to all the readers out there who are reading it and thanks to all the writers who have encouraged me along the way!
Sara has also contributed to Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul. For more info on her and her books, visit her web site.