Want to know what I love more than a new book from a favorite author? The first book in a new series from a favorite author, which promises more books to come! When Krista Davis – author of The Domestic Diva series and the Paws and Claws Mysteries – announced her new book, Color Me Murder, was the first in a new series set in Washington DC, I was thrilled.
And I was right to be excited about it: I’ve read the ARC and it’s an awesome book. Set in a bookstore in the Georgetown neighborhood, the main character, Florrie, likes to bake, creates adult coloring books, and manages the bookstore. (So, as a bonus: the cover of the book is color-able!) It got me thinking about characters, so I asked Krista if we could have a little chat about that. A great insight into writing, characters, and more – a perfect fit for our Selfie issue.
We call this series Conversations Over Coffee because it’s the things I’d ask you if we were sitting across the table from each other over a casual cup of coffee….. so, let’s set the stage: where would you suggest we meet near your current home….and what is your go-to beverage and/or snack were we to meet?
I live out in the country so I’d suggest meeting in my kitchen. I’ll put on a carafe of French Press coffee, or English Breakfast tea if you prefer. It’s too cold right now to sit on the terrace, so we’ll just meet at the kitchen table. If we’re talking in the morning, we might indulge in some home baked cinnamon rolls. If it’s afternoon, we’ll nosh on cupcakes or a slice of chocolate cake.
Color Me Murder is the first book in a new series for you. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it seems it also takes a village of characters to create a book (and series). How do you go about creating your main character – choosing their names, traits, personalities? And all the supporting cast? Do you include traits of YOU and folks you know in them?
Some characters seem to jump fully blown into my head. I knew everything about Florrie’s boss, John Maxwell, immediately. Florrie herself was a little bit more complicated. But I love writing about someone who isn’t a bold superwoman. Florrie is a calm sort, who loves reading and drawing. She’s smart, but hesitant—not the type to boldly jump in unless it’s necessary. She’s very compassionate, though, which will probably get her involved with other murders.
I’m sure I include some of my own traits. For instance, Florrie likes to bake. We’re all multi-faceted, so while I’m not as shy as Florrie, I have my moments, and draw on those.
I suspect all authors are people watchers. We can’t help but include traits of people we know or observe. Haven’t you ever heard a news story and wondered how someone could have done some crazy thing? For instance, I heard recently that some genius burglar got stuck in a chimney. Did he really believe he could fit through a chimney? What possessed him to think that was a good idea? You see where I’m going with this. I might not know the person, but I start to wonder about his or her motivation and what kind of situation might have led the person to do something peculiar.
As for names, I’ve been known to change a name midstream because it just didn’t suit a character. Let’s face it, a Delbert is quite different from a David or a Dallas. They all conjure up different types. Lately I have been meeting a lot of people with unusual names. Florrie stuck with me and seemed just right for an artist.
And do you consider the settings – for example in Color Me Murder – Georgetown, the Bookshop, the mansion, and the carriage house – their own characters in a way?
I think all authors must be picky about settings. I considered a small university town, but Georgetown won because I love the diverse population there. The professors and diplomats might not be in every book, but they attracted me because they offered so many intriguing plot ideas. The bookshop went without saying. It was such a perfect place for Florrie to work. The mansion suited her boss and the carriage house soon developed as I was thinking about the story. I suppose they are characters in a way. The story wouldn’t have been the same if the human characters had been lifted out of those locations and plopped down somewhere else.
Of course, we can’t forget all the animal characters in each of your series. Why do you include pets and how to you write them so delightfully?
Since you’re in my kitchen, you have probably noticed that two cats and two dogs have checked you out. Well, maybe not Sunny, my calico kitty. She waits a few hours before making a special appearance. Cats and dogs are a big part of my life, so my protagonists usually feel the same way. Thanks for saying that I write them delightfully. My furry gang offers me a lot of inspiration—even when they don’t behave as they should!
You write three amazing series now – the Domestic Diva series with Sophie Winston and the Gang, the Paws & Claws series with Holly Miller and friends, and now the Pen & Ink Series with Florrie Fox and Crew. How do you keep ‘em all straight and consistent – from book to book? What tips can you share? And is any one character your favorite?
Each series has distinct differences. It’s almost like going to different places on vacation. You’re still on vacation, but everything is different at the beach than it is in the mountains or in the desert. Maybe it sounds strange, but each of the protagonists seems real to me. They all have their own quirks. For instance, Florrie is young and not yet worried about her waistline, while Sophie is a little older and often succumbs to elastic waist trousers because of her fondness for good food. They are all sufficiently different that it’s not a problem to slide right back into their lives. I have to say though, that I don’t write more than one book at a time. That would confuse me!
Are you asking to pick my favorite child? <gasp!> I truly do love them all. Even the obnoxious characters are fun to write. People are so different. We’re all products of our experiences. Characters are the same. They may not always act the way you think they should, but people don’t do that, either. We see things differently depending on what we’ve been through in our lives.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 42?
Oof! That’s a really difficult question. In terms of writing, the world has changed enormously. I think it’s a good thing that we don’t have crystal balls. They might stop us from moving forward while we wait for certain things to happen. That said, it’s always good to know that a writing career is in grasp for anyone who perseveres. It rarely happens overnight.
There were two big things that I learned. By nature, I am a helper and a problem solver. My first reaction is always to help. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but there are times to shove over and let someone else do it. I had to learn to tell myself that it wasn’t my problem. I had to learn to step aside.
The other thing is that people are what they are. Accept them on their own terms or move on. People don’t change unless they want to. It has to come from within.
About the Author: Krista Davis
New York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Paws and Claws Mysteries set on fictional Wagtail Mountain, a resort where people vacation with their pets. Her 1st Pen & Ink Mystery: Color Me Murder debuts February 27th. Don’t forget about her 5th Paws and Claws Mystery is NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING, which came out earlier this month. Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with two dogs and two cats.