Enjoy reading our inspirational interview with national bestselling author and Agatha Award winner Daryl Wood Gerber.
In this interview, talented writer Daryl talks about her writing career, how she got started, what inspired her and kept her going, and explains how she transitions between writing mystery and thrillers.
You’ll also learn about Daryl’s upcoming cozy mystery book A Deadly Éclair.
About the Author Daryl Wood Gerber
I’m Daryl Wood Gerber, author of mystery and well as suspense. My first book was published in 2010. To date, I’ve published fourteen books.
Soon I will have a new book coming out, A Deadly Éclair, the first in the French Bistro Mysteries (Nov 2017). The series is set in the fictional town of Nouvelle Vie, California and features amateur sleuth Chef Mimi Rousseau, who with the help of a benefactor, opens her own restaurant and the bed-and-breakfast next door.
I recently released Day of Secrets, a stand-alone suspense, which is set in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the outset of the story, Chase Day responds to an urgent call from his mother—a mother he thought was dead. In her dying breath, she reveals that the father he never knew is in danger. Can he discover what has made his family a target before an unknown enemy destroys him?
I’m often asked what inspired me to become a writer. After graduating college, I became an actress, working in Hollywood. I tried my hand at writing screenplays and found some success (in TV), but then I moved with my family across country, and “taking meetings” in Hollywood became difficult. Because I enjoyed writing long-form, I decided to try writing mysteries. While living on the East Coast, I took writing classes and joined a Sisters in Crime online group called Guppies.
Next, I wrote an entire book—which was vital.
Mark Twain said, “You can’t edit something that isn’t written.”
After that, I found a critique group—also imperative. I worked hard to learn the craft.
The first novel I published was The Long Quiche Goodbye, a Cheese Shop Mystery. It won the Agatha Award for best first novel. There’s a story behind this work. My agent loved my writing, but she was having trouble selling the book she was pitching.
I had been writing novels for nearly six years! She asked if I would be interested in writing what was called a work-for-hire.
At the time, Berkley Prime Crime was coming up with ideas with hooks that they wanted to publish. They wanted talented authors to write them. I said yes. I wanted to be published; I would do what it took. I wrote three chapters as an audition.
Within weeks, Berkley offered me a contract, and the rest is history. For that series, I wrote under a pen name, Avery Aames, because Berkley owned the rights to the work.
Now, I write solely as Daryl Wood Gerber for my mysteries as well as my stand-alone suspense novels. Currently, I write a couple of different series. As mentioned above, I write the French Bistro Mysteries. I also write the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. Both of these series are known as cozy mysteries and they feature recipes.
Why food? After writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries, my fans came to expect food to be part of the platform.
Who knew, as an author, that I would need to cook? Luckily, before becoming an author or even an actress, I worked as a caterer and I managed a restaurant. I’ve always loved to cook.
I’m often asked what I believe the greatest challenge is for authors in today’s society?
Keeping the work fresh, keeping one’s spirits up when the sale doesn’t happen, and finding an agent and publisher who really believe in your work and want to help you promote it.
My motto: “Believe you can.”
My motto for my fans: “Savor the Mystery!”
Q: What inspired you to write the French Bistro Mysteries?
I thought writing about the inner workings of a restaurant might fascinate people. I ran a restaurant for a brief time. I am a cook. And let’s face it, French food enthralls people. I’ve had a blast trying out all the recipes I include in my books.
Q: What were your goals for A Deadly Eclair and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Whenever I write a new series, it is a challenge to create the “world” of the town. I have to come up with the descriptions, the location, the sights, and smells. And then I have to populate it with real people. People who are flawed. People who are loved.
I think my fans will be very pleased with the first in the French Bistro Mysteries, A Deadly Eclair.
There’s murder, but a cozy mystery is also fun.
Q: What was the hardest part of writing A Deadly Eclair?
As it is in any mystery I write, coming up with the motive for murder is difficult. However, making sure that I play fair with the readers as I sprinkle the mystery with clues and red herrings is the most difficult thing.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved “meeting” Mimi Rousseau, my new protagonist. She came alive for me in the first draft. She blossomed in subsequent drafts. She continues to delight me. I learn about her history, her moods, her likes, and dislikes, as I write about her. She is like a new best friend.
Q: Give us an interesting fun fact about a character in your book.
Mimi didn’t like food or cooking until her mother introduced her to the five mother sauces of France. After that, she realized she loved tasting everything. She also enjoyed testing out her creations on her friends. And slicing and dicing? It’s a real turn on.
Q: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I was always a creative soul. I wanted to be a writer at one point, but I had a seventh-grade teacher who told me I shouldn’t consider that, and I gave up. I also always wanted to be an actress. I was performing in plays and doing summer theater. I put on plays, too–that I wrote. But I had no idea how to go about making it a profession. So I settled for becoming an English teacher until I got the opportunity to audition for the Civic Light Opera in Los Angeles.
That changed my life.
Q: At what age did you start writing stories or books?
I wrote a Nancy Drew at the age of nine. That never saw the light of day. I started writing screenplays at thirty. Mysteries came after that.
Q: What was your first book writing experience like?
Well, I loved writing Nancy Drew. But the real first book? It was hard work.
And the first independent editor I contacted trashed it and tore it to pieces.
I was ready to give up. But I tried again and took classes and read books about writing. Don’t give up.
Q: What kept you going..?
My family is my great support. My husband believed in what I was doing and constantly bolstered me. My critique group was also a great source of strength. We were all trying to become published. We kept up to date on publishing information and trends.
Q: How has your environment, family & upbringing influenced your writing?
My parents always encouraged me to be creative. When I met my husband, he did the same. All of my family, as well as my husband, actually loved reading mysteries and thrillers, so that shaped my reading habits, too. As a girl, I was never a quitter. That trait followed me into my adulthood. Believing you “can” is vital. Perseverance is just as vital. Don’t give up.
Q: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
I am lucky enough to be a full-time writer.
Q: How many books have you written so far?
I have 14 published books and 2 more in contract for my French Bistro Mysteries as well as 3 more in contract for my Cookbook Nook Mysteries.
Q: What genres do you write in?
I write in mystery as well as suspense/thriller. My mysteries are considered “cozy” mysteries. My suspense novels are stand-alone.
Q: What are the titles of your other books?
Here we go:
CHEESE SHOP MYSTERIES (written as Avery Aames); The Long Quiche Goodbye, Lost and Fondue, Clobbered by Camembert, To Brie or not To Brie, Days of Wine and Roquefort, As Gouda as Dead, For Cheddar or Worse. Written as Daryl Wood Gerber: COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERIES: Final Sentence, Inherit the Word, Stirring the Plot, Fudging the Books, Grilling the Subject. STAND ALONE SUSPENSE: Day of Secrets; Girl on the Run. FRENCH BISTRO MYSTERIES: A Deadly Eclair.
Q: Which 3 of your books are you most proud of?
The Long Quiche Goodbye. Final Sentence. Day of Secrets.
Q: What makes your writing special?
Heart. Pace. Dialogue. Environment. Playing fair with the reader.
Q: What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Q: What are your current projects?
I am getting ready to release A Deadly Éclair, the first French Bistro Mystery. I am turning in the manuscript for the second in the series, Soufflé of Suspicion. Then I will start in on book #6 for the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. Also, I intend to publish my third stand-alone suspense, Accidental Murder.
Q: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online or do for your book?
It’s not strange, but I did a lot of research for my Cheese Shop Mysteries (I tasted over 1000 kinds of cheese), and I did a lot of research for my Cookbook Nook Mysteries (browsing hundreds of cookbooks).
For the French Bistro Mysteries, I’ve tried my hand at least 100 new-to-me recipes. For my stand-alone suspense, I’ve researched a lot about Lake Tahoe as well as some science projects that I discovered in The Stanford Magazine.
Q: Do you ever suffer a writers-block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I don’t because I don’t believe in it. “Rear in chair” is one of my mottos and taped to my computer. Write. Even if you write a poem or a thank you note or a grocery list. Get the fingers and mind working. Rewrite what you have written to jump-start new ideas. Just write dialogue if you have nothing else. Write the last chapter in the book if you’re stuck at chapter 10. Write. Believe you can!
Q: What’s your process of writing a story?
I start with the murder and why. Then I write the suspects and motives. I jot down what each suspect’s alibi is and whether there is a lie involved. I then create an outline. My outline is fluid and can change after I’ve written the manuscript. It often does because I realize I need to add more to my A, B, C, and D stories.
But this is how I wrote a screenplay. Three to five acts (the second act is usually divided into three parts). I figure out the turning points and when things are discovered.
Q: What’s your favorite environment for creativity and productivity?
I love my office with my dog lying nearby on his pillow. I also like going to the coffee shop, putting in my earbuds, listening to relaxing music, and writing without any thought to doing dishes at home.
Q: Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.
My office has a clear spot for my computer and notes to my right and left. My dog is on the floor behind me. I have a view of a pretty floral nook outside my office.
Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I wake early, walk my dog, exercise, and eat. Then I set to work by 8 or 9 a.m. and write for 3 hours. I eat lunch and return to writing. I’ll take an hour or two for email and PR efforts, and return to writing until 5:30. I rarely write at night. If I have a deadline, I will.
Q: Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
I’m not sure they’re are unique or even quirky, but I like my notes spread out around me (like a storyboard) so I can reference them often. I do like to read my work OUT LOUD when it’s in its final stage. Hearing the words read out loud helps me hear the voice as well as catch typos and stupid, stupid errors.
Q: Where do you sell your books?
Amazon & Barnes and Noble & other online sites, plus brick-and-mortar independent stores, particularly mystery stories like Poisoned Pen and Mysterious Galaxy and Murder by the Book.
Q: Do You Have and Agent/Publisher or Do You Self-Publish?
I have an agent and a publisher.
Q: How is your experience working with an agent/publisher?
My current publisher is Crooked Lane Books, for the French Bistro Mysteries. I’m enjoying that experience. As for agents, it is always difficult to land an agent.You need that agent to fall in love with your work. I have changed agents a couple of times simply because my agent wasn’t able to find the market for my work, or my agent fell out of love with my work.
When I was looking for an agent (I was a member of the Guppies, the online group of Sisters in Crime), we had a contest to see who could be the “Queen of Rejection.” That meant you had to put your work on the line and submit, submit!
I did, and I got the most rejections in a three-month period.
But 9 months after I received that “award,” an agent contacted me. She loved my work. She loved my writing. She wanted to represent me. It was a start. She was the agent who got me the work-for-hire deal with Berkley Prime Crime. Rejections are hard. There are no two ways about it. They hit you in the gut. But as a former actress, I was used to rejection and weathered it well.
Thankfully, I had a supportive husband who gave me hugs when I was crushed.
As for working with a publisher? I love the experience. I love the interaction; their input; their wise and clear-sighted vision. As writers, we can get consumed with a project and can be too close to the story. Fresh eyes are so important.
Q: Do you also self-publish other books or only work with your agent/publisher?
I have self-published two suspense novels. I am excited about the prospect. I’ve learned so much. It was a way for me to cross genres. My fans were used to me being a cozy mystery author. But before I earned my first cozy mystery contract, most of my manuscripts tended to be suspense or thriller in nature. I returned to my roots and decided to try self-publishing. The upside is some of my male friends and family members are now reading my books and love them.
Q: Have you won any book awards or writing contests?
I won the Agatha Award for best first novel for The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first Cheese Shop Mystery.
Additionally, I have had short stories published in magazines.
Q: How do you promote and market your books?
Through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and through book signings and such.
Q: What is your advice to Indie Authors?
Write, write, write. Finish what you write. Rewrite. Have an independent editor or critique group read and review your material. Read. Read. Read. Read outside your genre. Know your brand. Set up your website to reflect that brand.
Do PR that you’re excited about doing, otherwise, it won’t resonate. Make sure all your contacts and materials are current. When you write a query letter, make sure it’s personalized, that there are no typos, and that the agent or publisher you are querying is actually looking for your type material.
And don’t give up! Believe you can.
Q: What are you really good at and love doing asides from writing?
I love acting and singing. I’m good at it. I made a good living at it. My acting has helped me at speaking engagements. It has also helped me craft my dialogue when writing. I’m also an awesome mother, dog owner, cook, and friend.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to swim, exercise, golf, and read. I also garden, though I’m really struggling with the heat and how it’s affecting my garden.
Q: What are your favorite books? What authors do you admire?
As a girl, I loved Rebecca, The Three Musketeers, Don Quixote, and Gone with the Wind. Now I really enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers. I have enjoyed the work of Lisa Gardner, Michael Connelly, William Kent Krueger, Tess Gerritsen, and so much more.
Q: If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why?
I’ve love to spend time with Jenna Hart, from my Cookbook Nook Mysteries. She and I have a lot in common. I would love to spend time with Sherlock Holmes. Oh, my, the mind! Wow. I wouldn’t mind a chat with Hugh Jackman – just saying. I would love to spend time with Mother Teresa, Audrey Hepburn, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and Jesus. What a great dinner party this would be!
Q: What would you do if you weren’t a writer?
Return to my acting roots.
Q: What do you love best about an author’s lifestyle and being an author?
I like living in a creative state and spending time with my characters. It is like “play time” for adults. I also love my interaction with other authors who understand this lifestyle.
Thank you, Daryl, for taking part in our interview!
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