Today I have the privilege of having as my guest author Diane A S Stuckart. Diane’s newest success is the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries, written under the name of Ali Brandon.
I’d like to get right into the interview, so we’ll ask Diane to fill us in on some background.
Welcome, Diane! I am so pleased that you agreed to visit us today. This blog is primarily of and about romance writers, but you are one yourself. Will you tell us a bit about your experiences as a romance writer?
Thanks for having me here. Yes, I started my career in the 1990s writing historical romances published by Pinnacle Books and Zebra Books under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. Though, actually, my novels were more what I termed “women’s historical action-adventure.” Romance—okay, sex—yes, but also sword fights and treasure hunts and chases on horseback. Unfortunately, I was still trying to carve out a name in romance when the market shifted from historicals over to contemporary romance.
Since I was more interested in writing a rollicking good story than examining fe-e-e-e-lings, that meant contemporaries were not my cuppa. And so I quit writing for awhile. When I came back to it, it was to write short fiction and then move into mystery (which was a good fit, considering my romances were pretty well littered with bodies). But I’m currently reissuing my vintage historical romances as Kindle ebooks, so if you’d like to try out one of my stories you can find me on Amazon under the name Diane A.S. Stuckart.
I see romance blossoming in the Black Cat Bookshop and I think by far most, if not all, romance stories have mysteries within them.
Can you explain the differences between why a story would have a “romance” label or a “mystery” label?
While a romance can contain mystery elements (mine always did) and mystery novels can veer off into the occasional romance, the ultimate story goal determines in which genre your book belongs. If your story features a dead body, and the protagonist’s prime motivation is to uncover said corpse’s killer, you’ve got a mystery. If the (usually female) protagonist’s ultimate goal is a “happily ever after” with a hunky guy, it doesn’t matter if she stumbles over a dead body in the process; we’re still definitely talking romance.
There are a number of books out where cats are inspirational/helpful in solving mysteries. Are you surprised that there seems to be an endless market for them? (FYI: I am a real cat lover. There are four living with me right now.) Is “Hamlet”, the Black Cat of the bookstore, based on any one pet of yours?
Cat mystery aficionados just can’t seem to get enough of their fictional felines, can they? I have to say, when I first started writing the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, I was a bit concerned that the market might be glutted. Obviously, I was wrong, since plenty of new cat series have popped up since. And the readers I associate with are thrilled every time they find a new feline sleuth. As for Hamlet, he’s the namesake of my original editor’s dearly departed kitty. But, even though the real and fictional Hamlets are both male, large, and inky black, their personalities are completely different.
Have you wanted to own a bookstore? (I think most book lovers, let alone writers, would.)
Owning a bookstore is a fun fantasy, isn’t it? But I put in my time in retail back in college, and I don’t think I could make it a career. I’d rather be the customer!
Do you transfer your own interests into your subjects? (For instance, are you interested in martial arts, as Darla, the bookstore owner?)
Darla has borrowed a lot from me. We’re both native Texans, no children (though she’s divorced and I’ve been married for a good many years). She likes the same sort of food I do and has a similar outlook on life. I sent Darla off to take martial arts lessons mostly because it always irritates me as a reader when characters don’t seem impacted by their brushes with murder. But it happens that I was involved in martial arts for a few years, though I was several years older than Darla when I took it up. I made it to red belt in Taekwondo, though I finally switched over to yoga after a few too many injuries. I do miss it, though.
How do you do your research? Which subject has been the most difficult to add within your stories?
Depending on the book (mystery, romance, contemporary, historical) I might travel to the location in question for research. Otherwise, I depend on lots of research books and internet searches, as well as friends with the specialized knowledge I might need. I haven’t found any subject too difficult yet, as my mysteries are a bit lighter, but I do definitely keep the blood and gore off-stage.
Does the name “Ali Brandon” have anything to do with your new kitty Brandon…and was he an alley cat?
My husband decided that our Italian greyhound, Rylee (who is a model for Robert’s Iggy, Roma), needed a buddy, since she stays indoors while we’re at work during the day. (We already had two orange tabby boys, Butch and Sundance, but they don’t care much about hanging with a dog!) We checked out the local rescue and immediately decided we must have the cute little black kitten with half a tail. While the hubby originally thought we should name the little guy Hamlet, I told him there’s only one Hammy. His second choice was Brandon, named after my alter ego, of course. Brandon was saved from the local animal shelter by the rescue group, but I’m not sure where he was before that.
[Oh, so I had it backwards; the cat is named after YOU!]
How can our readers learn more about you and your books?
My Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries are available at your local bookstore or the usual online sources. You can find my vintage historical romances on Amazon as Kindle ebooks…just search for my author page. My most recent, DESERT HEARTS, is part of the WESTERN WENCHES box set.
Of course, you can go to my website http://www.dianestuckart.com
or http://www.alibrandon.com for the basic info.
And check out Hamlet’s page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blackcatbookshopmysteries .(Hamlet also is on Twitter…check out hashtag #HamletBlackCat.)
Thank you so ,Diane, for being my guest.
I hope visitors will stop by and say Hello, or ask a question.