Thank you so much for taking the time, Ms. Collins, to
grant me this online interview. I will be posting your Flower Shop
Mystery Series in chronological order at the end of this interview, but
I am sure that your current (and future!) fans would love to hear more about
-- What did you do before you became an author?
Straight out of college I taught elementary school for six years, then
stopped to raise a family. Needing something to occupy my creative mind, I
tried various crafts – tole painting, rug hooking, needlepoint, macrame,
sewing, you name it, I tried it – and happened to spot an ad for a
correspondence course to write children’s stories. I took the course and
started selling short funny stories to children’s magazines. Eventually, I
moved into historical romance, and then into suspense and finally into my
true love, mystery. Along the way, I worked for a law firm as a legal
secretary, and in true storybook fashion, fell in love with my boss. We have
been very happily married for many years.
-- Why did you decide to write mysteries, rather
than another type of book?
I’ve always loved the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie,
Rex Stout, and of course, the Nancy Drew mysteries. I love to solve puzzles
and, as I’ve learned, to construct them, as well. Planting clues and red
herrings, building suspense, seeing justice done, and adding laughter to the
mix – I LOVE doing that. I write what I like to read, which includes
throwing in a bit of romance. You can’t create real characters without some
-- What mystery subgenre (i.e. cozy, hard-boiled,
do you consider your Flower Shop Mystery Series to be? AND Why did you
decide to write in this subgenre?
I write a traditional mystery a la Agatha Christie, also known as cozies. I
don’t like to write violent or gory scenes, or read them, and in the
traditional format, the gore and murders take place off the page. The cozy
genre is all about solving the murder, finding the killer, ferreting out the
clues, not watching the crime happen.
-- Who are your favorite authors?
I read in a variety of genres, so off the top of my head, I’d have to say my
favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver. I’m also a big fan of John Grisham,
Jodi Picoult, Christina Dodd, Nancy Martin, Madelyn Alt, and Sue Monk Kidd.
-- What is your educational background?
I have a masters degree in education from Purdue
-- What do you enjoy doing - other than writing mysteries?
I love to garden (go figure.) I love to travel, especially to the
Mediterranean/Greek Isles. I love to decorate (much to my husband’s chagrin)
and I still enjoy tole painting, though I rarely have time.
-- Are there any "real life crimes" that have caught your attention?
My husband is the chief public defender of our county, and has defended some
pretty bad people, which is a goldmine for my stories. Lately, however, the
stories that have intrigued me are the bride/groom-gone missing on a cruise
stories. I see all kinds of potential there.
-- What is your typical day like?
After a breakfast of egg white omelet and a fruit protein smoothie with my
husband, he heads off to his office and I head to mine – but I don’t have to
leave home. I usually do my promotional work - myspace, facebook, twitter,
email – until eleven a.m., then edit what I wrote the day before until noon,
take a lunch break, then write until time to fix supper. When I’m close to
my deadline, I do that seven days a week. I hate to miss deadlines.
-- When you are writing your Flower Shop Mysteries, do you write your
manuscripts long-hand or do you use the computer? AND Where do you write?
I use the computer. I can’t write fast or neat enough to keep up with my
thoughts. The words seem to flow out of my fingertips onto the screen.
I have a home office that I decorated in bright, cheerful colors because I
write colorful, upbeat stories. I use a bi-level ergonomic desk and chair to
avoid neck/back strain. I also write on a laptop when we’re in Key West. And
I take a walk nearly every day. It helps loosen those tight hamstrings after
sitting all day, and it helps organize my thoughts, so when I finally sit
down at the computer, I’m primed to dive into the story.
-- When you start a new Abby Knight mystery, do you plot it out in
its entirety or do you let the plot advance as you write it? AND If
you do plot it out, do you use a blackboard/bulletin board approach with
index cards or do you make an outline?
I write a loose synopsis that my editor approves before I start the book. I
can’t outline in detail because there is no way for me to predict all the
twists and turns that come up in the course of writing a story. But I always
know these things in advance: who the victim is, who the killer is, who the
suspects are, why each has a reason to kill the victim, how it will end.
Then, after I figure out a good opening hook, I let the characters lead the
way. They have been known to change the course of a story and once, one
suspect even stepped up to confess a murder when I thought it was going to
be someone else. By using that technique, even I get to be surprised. It
keeps writing fun.
-- Do you ever get writer's block, and if so, what do you do to shake it?
I’ve found that when I’m blocked, it’s because I didn’t plot something out
well. I have to step back, take a day off, then print out what I have
written and read it fresh, as a reader. That will usually show me where I
need to go. I’ve never had writer’s block for a lack of ideas. Mostly it’s
just a case of the wrong perspective.
-- Are your characters based on real people or are they solely
products of your imagination? (Especially Abby!)
Abby is who I’d like to be – bold, sassy, fearless, and a florist -- not
that I’d want to flunk out of law school like she did, but still, she gets
to work with flowers and have a very hot guy as a boyfriend. I’ve never used
a real person as one of my characters. They are amalgams of people I’ve
known or met or seen on TV. If I had to cast my characters for a TV series,
I wouldn’t know who to cast because my vision of them is totally unique. I
do incorporate bits of personalities from my family and friends. And of the
cast – Abby, her mom who thinks she’s an artist, her tactless fashionista
cousin Jillian, her assistants Lottie, from Kentucky, and Grace, from the UK
– each has little bits of my personality in them. Marco, on the other hand,
is my ideal of a man, flaws and all. Sometimes I feel like Sybil – having to
deal with all these distinct personalities in my head. What other profession
can claim to hear voices and not be thought insane? Gotta love writing!
-- Do you get input from friends and/or family when you are writing your
Flower Shop Mysteries?
I do. They love to suggest things Abby or one of the other characters might
say or do (as they’ve become very real people to my family). My son has a
writing degree and is terrific at coming up with plot ideas. He’s the one
who thought of Abby having an identity theft/evil twin in “Shoots to Kill.”
That was hugely fun to write, and also creepy.
-- How long does it take you to write one of your mysteries?
Ideally, I like to have nine months. I’ve written one in five and suffered
from it. The story doesn’t usually take off until I’ve written the first six
chapters. Then it seems to roar into life. At that point, I sit back and let
it happen. Before that point, I do a lot of banging my head against the
wall, playing Free Cell or Spider Solitaire, or finding reasons to drive out
to Pier 1 or Bed, Bath and Beyond and wander their aisles.
-- Once you turn a manuscript in to your publisher, what types of
revisions take place and how much time elapses before the novel is
My editor usually sends me her ding list, aka “the revision letter”, within
two weeks of receiving the manuscript. Then I have about four weeks to
revise. Mostly, it’s small changes. Only one time did I have to make a major
change a third of the way into the story, which of course caused a ripple
effect through to the end. That wasn’t fun. I don’t mind the revision period
at all. It allows me to read the story fresh and add more humor or suspense.
-- How are your books' delightful covers chosen?
I wish I could take credit for them, but they are
totally the creation of one of NAL’s artists. I get to suggest themes or if
there is some background that is important, I’ll submit that. I love those
covers. They are very stylistic and fit with the personality of the series.
-- Do you have a favorite place or activity that inspires you to write?
Yes. Paying bills is a huge inspiration. I also get recharged at writing
conferences. For many reasons, they stimulate all kinds of new ideas.
Usually, I can’t wait to get back home and try them. My best creative time
is when I first wake up in the morning, before all the other things crowd in
– appointments, etc. I’ll lay in bed for up to half an hour thinking up the
next scene in the book, or imagining that all important climactic scene at
-- I am sure you love writing mysteries, but if you weren't doing
that, what do you think you would enjoy doing?
Number one: become a florist. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and become
friends with several florists and hang out in their shops. It’s truly the
most serene, enjoyable setting I’ve ever encountered. Those fresh scents and
colorful blooms, the exotic atmosphere, the happiness that comes from making
a lovely arrangement for someone and then delivering it to them – it’s
indescribable. Number two: teaching a writing class at college level or
beyond. I’m a born teacher. That will never get out of my system. (My
friends just call it “bossiness.”) Shhh!
-- Do you have pets, and if so, what types and how many?
I’ve always had cats. My sweet little calico that I had for fourteen years
died a few years back, and it tore my heart into little pieces. Now, we
travel a lot and live in Key West for a few months during the year, so I
chose not to get another pet. I won’t subject them to air travel, and I
won’t board for that long. But boy, do I miss the companionship. I mean,
husbands just don’t fit on laps all that well, or chase strings. Usually.
-- Can you think of any questions I haven't asked that you would like
included in this interview?
Maybe about my titles? I’m immensely proud of them all (because they’re all
mine!) I spend a lot of time thinking them up. The next book in the series,
due out February 2010, makes everyone laugh: “Sleeping with Anemone.”
Also, I’ll be launching a new website on May 1, 2009. I’m not sure of the
URL yet, but there’s going to be a spectacular contest with great prizes – a
pair of “Abby Knight” signature earrings, a floor plan of Bloomers Flower
Shop so readers can tour the shop, see where all the fun and mystery
happens, and many other features. It’s still in design. I can’t wait. Anyone
who wants to be notified of the URL to enter the contest can drop me an
email at email@example.com to get on the newsletter list.
Thanks for inviting me to be your first interviewee, Danna. It’s been fun.
Again, thank you for indulging us and taking the time to answer these
questions. I have truly enjoyed this new experience, and just hope that I
haven't made any major blunders!