Posted on 05/15/2018 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Mystery author Nancy G. West has a knack for turning smart decisions into stellar ones.
Exhibit A: She studied business as an undergrad, but received her master’s in English literature.
Exhibit B: Her debut novel Nine Days to Evil won the Blether Gold Award, but its spinoff — starring a classmate of Nine Days’s heroine — has taken off, to the tune of four installments (all of which have either won or been nominated for an award).
West took some time away from writing the fifth installment in the Aggie Mundeen mystery series to look back on that journey.
SADYE: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self? Would you change anything?
NANCY: I wish I had originally majored in English literature with writing fiction as a minor and started writing sooner.
My mother and I wrote simple poems to each other when I was seven, and a poem of mine was published by Pegasus in high school (when I was more interested in cheerleading.)
Being pragmatic, I majored in business administration at UT-Austin. Journalism didn’t pay anything, and friends with BAs in English were selling lingerie.
But after marrying and having our first daughter, I knew I had to study English literature and write. I wrote the biography of an artist, magazine articles, and then, in grad school, my first suspense novel, Nine Days to Evil.
SADYE: What moment or award has made you the proudest?
NANCY: Rather than proud, I felt grateful and validated when Sarah Ann Freed, former famous editor of Mysterious Press, wrote me the following: “I wouldn’t have kept Nine Days to Evil for so long [six months] if it were not so good. Unfortunately…” Unfortunately, they didn’t publish it. But Ms. Freed gave me the courage to persevere. She’s gone now, but I’ll forever be grateful.
A character from that novel, Aggie Mundeen, captivated me and demanded that I write about her. She’s the star of my Aggie Mundeen mystery series.
SADYE: Have you ever heard from the owner of a business in San Antonio, where your novels are set, about how characters have stopped there?
NANCY: I spoke with the manager of a couple hotels on the River Walk. I live here and know the River Walk well, but I wanted authenticity.
The managers were a little skittish. I think they cringed at the thought I would depict murder committed in their hotels. They need not worry; my hotel is fictional.
Several people say that while reading River City Dead, they feel like they’re on the River Walk: “It’s like taking a vacation while reading a mystery.”
SADYE: Who is your favorite fictional sleuth, besides the ones you’ve created?
NANCY: There are many. I love sleuths created by P.D. James, G.M. Malliet, James Ziskin, Robert Crais, Rhys Bowen.
SADYE: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
NANCY: That my goal should be always to get better, to challenge myself as a writer.
One way to do that is to keep reading books on the craft of writing fiction while I continue to write it. Here are some of my favorites.
SADYE: What’s next for you and Aggie?
NANCY: After four books, Aggie and her favorite San Antonio detective, Sam, have reached a new level in their relationship.
They trust one another, finally, despite Aggie’s previous headstrong antics that jeopardized her life and caused Sam considerable angst. She reached age forty and didn't drop dead, so she worries less about aging and about whether Sam loves her. She has grown up, although late, and has come into her own.
The new story, The Plunge, takes them in a different direction. They plan a quiet weekend at a lakeside cottage. They are caught up, not only in a mystery, but in a natural disaster.
Will they survive? Will they view themselves and each other differently? Will catastrophe alter the pattern of their lives? I look forward to readers’ response to The Plunge, to be released October 10, 2018.
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Categories: Author Interview