Monday, June 23, 2008

Suspicious Minds by Christy Barritt

Today The Writer’s Tool is part of Christy Barritt’s blog tour for the release of her second book, Suspicious Minds, in the Squeaky Clean Mystery Series. I enjoyed the first book in this series, Hazardous Duty, very much, and I’m looking forward to reading Suspicious Minds (when I get home later this week *smile*). Since I haven’t had time to read the book yet, I asked Christy to join us today with an interview.

First, here’s a brief summary of the story:

Rock and roll may never die, but the King is definitely dead . . . again.

In this smart and suspenseful sequel to Hazardous Duty, crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire finds herself stuck doing mold remediation to pay the bills. But her first day on the job, she uncovers a surprise in the crawlspace of a dilapidated home: Elvis, dead as a doornail and still wearing his blue suede shoes. How could she possibly keep her nose out of a case like this?

Elvis turns out to be Darnell Evans, a down-on-his-luck impersonator whose luck just got a lot worse, and there is no shortage of suspects. When his widow begs her to help, Gabby takes on the case of who-killed-the-King. In the meantime her would-be rival, Chad Davis, is turning into one hunka hunka burnin’ love and starting to dish out some serious TLC, which is the last thing Gabby needs right now.

Realizing the futility of running from God and from her responsibilities, Gabby decides to reconsider her priorities her life. But when the ersatz Elvis killer catches on to her investigation, will she survive long enough to be able to?

“Suspicious Minds plays havoc on the nerves and the funny bone as crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire wisecracks her way between dead bodies and flying bullets. A treat not to be missed!”
—Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Author, To Catch a Thief series

Christy Barritt is a freelance writer, author and speaker.

Her newest book, Suspicious Minds (Kregel, 2008) is a lighthearted mystery about a sassy crime-scene cleaner who likes to stick her nose into police business. The first book in the series was Hazardous Duty, a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year contest. She’s also the coauthor of Changed: True Stories of Finding God in Christian Music (Standard, 2005).

When she’s not working on books, Christy writes articles for various publications. She’s been published with The Lookout, Brio, Campus Life, The Plain Truth, Marriage Partnership, Evangel, The Secret Place, Devozine, Encounter, Kidz Chat, and more. She writes a weekly feature article called "Thumbs Up," which salutes someone doing something positive in the community, for the Chesapeake Clipper, part of the Virginian-Pilot.

Christy enjoys teaching and speaking at various functions, from writers groups to women’s luncheons. She has a passion for sharing the truths and lessons that she’s learned throughout her life.

For two years, she was an assistant editor at Standard Publishing. When her father became ill, she moved home to be closer to him. The move propelled her back to her first love—writing—and she hasn’t stopped since.

She’s married to Scott, a teacher and funny man extraordinaire. They have one son, Eli Samuel, and two dogs, Duchess and Benji.

When Christy’s not writing, she enjoys having coffee with friends, taking crazy road trips that usually involve no maps and flipping coins, and making her 24-month-old son giggle.

Thank you for joining us today, Christy. How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?
I’ve always wanted to write. I wrote two or three books before I graduated high school (note: these books will never see the light of day!). I went to college specifically to study communications and land a job at a Christian publisher afterward. I did just that. Unfortunately, I put my own writing on hold when I worked as assistant editor. When my father became ill, I moved twelve hours back home. The move propelled me to begin writing again. I’ve been doing it ever since. The journey has taken me a lot of places—both physically and emotionally—that I would not have expected. It’s been fun and heartbreaking at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

How do you balance family life with writing?
This is always challenging and something I’m constantly re-evaluating to see how I’m doing. I have a two-year-old son who keeps me very busy! My goal is to finish working by four p.m. every day and to save evenings and weekends for my family. That doesn’t always work, but it’s a good guideline for me. Communication is key!

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?
My walk with the Lord greatly influences my writing. I try to be very sensitive to where the Lord is pointing me with my writing. Sometimes, I feel him telling me to stop one project and work on another. Some projects I’ve worked on only to discover later that the prose was meant for me and me alone. I try to be in constant communion with God, talking to him throughout the day. In America, we seem to think our relationship with God is good if we read our Bible and pray for fifteen minutes a day, as well as attending church. These things are important but I feel that being a Christ follower is a 24-7 thing. That said, I still have a long way to go! Thank goodness God loves me anyway. :)

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?
I tend to see my novels like scenes from a movie. I usually start out with a hook. I spend a good chunk of time writing the first two or three chapters, trying to develop my opening so that it’s interesting and catchy. The idea for the rest of the book grows from that opening. From there, I’ll research whatever needs to be researched. I’m a seat of the pantser so I try to let the characters lead me on their journey. My best books, IMHO, are the ones I can’t get out of my mind. They’re the ones that I think about at night as I’m trying to fall asleep, in which scenes keep flashing in my head. I want my stories to entertain ME as I’m writing them. I figure that’s a good start to entertaining others after the book is published. :)

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?
Sometimes themes or characters need to be developed more. Sometimes there may be a flaw in logic or in the sequence of events. Other times you may need to add more details to a scene so readers can visualize it better. My manuscript is always stronger after the editorial process. I’m so thankful for it!

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?
I’m working on a cozy mystery called The Death of the Couch Potato’s Wife. It’s a fun little book that pokes fun at Homeowners’ Associations in suburbia. I’m also working on book number three in the Squeaky Clean Series, tentatively titled Organized Grime. Crime scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire takes on the world of being green when her best friend, an animal right’s activist, is accused of eco-terrorism.

Finally, would you discuss Suspicious Minds? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?
The idea for Suspicious Minds was sparked after I did an interview for the newspaper with an Elvis impersonator. Talking to him was so eye-opening! People literally treated him like a celebrity and even setting up the interview was a challenge because he was so “in demand.” That’s why I decided to pursue a plot about a dead Elvis impersonator. I also wanted to explore the theme of loneliness. I just think that as each generation becomes even more tied to the computer, the lonelier we’re becoming. We can do everything from home without ever having to leave our computer or interacting with anyone. In some ways, this is nice and convenient. But we all need people in our lives to keep up sane and healthy. I think this issue will only grow in the coming years. I know it’s something I’ve struggled with myself. So, with those two thoughts in mind, I started the book and decided to see where crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire and the gang took me. I’m not a big plotter—I like the story to grow organically. It’s more fun to write that way, also. There’s more revision involved, but it’s worth it, IMHO.

Thank you so much, Christy! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

Daily Bible reading: Tuesday, June 24—Jeremiah 50; Philippians 2
Wednesday, June 25—Jeremiah 51–52; Philippians 3
Thursday, June 26—Joel; Philippians 4
Friday, June 27—Deuteronomy 1–3; Acts 1
Saturday, June 28—Deuteronomy 4–6; Acts 2:1–21
Sunday, June 29—Deuteronomy 7–9; Acts 2:22–47
Monday, June 30—Deuteronomy 10–12; Acts 3

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