Conversations Over Coffee: Krista Davis

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.

Connect with her on Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

When Reality & Fiction Collide (as told to Krista Davis)

by Little Miss Sunshine (aka Twinkletoes)

My mom, Krista Davis, thinks she created me. Can you imagine anything more preposterous than imagining that she put the idea of me out into the universe and then I showed up?

I was born in a house where animals were hoarded. Our people left and when the contractors arrived to fix up the house, they were shocked to find us. Being really terrific people, they divided us up, and each one took three of us to find us homes. In my case, a super guy dropped me (and two little brown Chihuahuas) off at his favorite animal hospital. I was there when he said, “Clean ‘em up and find them homes. I’ll pick up the bill.”  Is that a great guy or what?

I was just a baby and covered in fleas. Yuck! It was on the day of my second bath that Mom came along. I was in a cage, sopping wet, and trying desperately to dry my fur. She had a huge dog with her. For the most part I ignored her. I was wet! That was my priority. But I heard the vet say, “It’s a long weekend. Why don’t you take her home for a test drive?”

There was a lot of giggling after that. They knew they’d found a sucker! And just like that, she took me home.

The first night I was there, Mom went outside on an upstairs balcony. She thought she had shut the door behind her, but I snuck through when she wasn’t looking. When she went inside, I jumped and jumped, and went higher and higher until I had the most fabulous view of a world I had never seen before.

An hour later, I heard her calling me. I thought she’d never find my clever spot! But when she went outside in the dark and called me, I mewed to her. The truth was that I wanted to go back inside where it was warm, and I was getting hungry, too.

Have you figured out where I was? On the roof! On top of the world.

She fetched a ladder and climbed up (in the dark!). She reached up to me, and I very slowly and carefully walked down the steep pitch of the roof until she could scoop me up. And then I purred. I figured she’d be a pretty good mom, so I never did that again.

So why does she think she created me? Well, look carefully at the cover of THE DIVA DIGS UP THE DIRT. There I am. It looks just like me! The thing is that she wrote that book before I was born. And then I showed up at her vet’s office. Spooky, huh?

It was meant to be.

Now I have my own series under the pseudonym, Twinkletoes.

My latest escapade is in NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING. That’s me on the cover with Trixie, the Jack Russell Terrier, who likes to think she’s the star of the series.

But I know the truth. Cats never make a fuss about things like that. We know we’re in charge.

Now Mom has written about a dog named Duchess. We expect to see her come trotting down the road any day.

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 5th Paws and Claws Mystery is NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING, which releases on February 7th. Krista also writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her newest series debuts in February with COLOR ME MURDER. 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.

Connect with her on Goodreads  |  Twitter  | Facebook

Conversations Over Coffee: Pre-Orders, Reviews, & More by Daryl Wood Gerber

I asked a few of my author friends to answer a couple of questions about publishing. Hopefully their answers will enlighten those of you who are, or aspire to be, authors. I think you’ll see a trend.

The authors who participated include (Editor’s Note: Links go to each author’s website) :

Why are pre-orders important? 

Jenn: Probably, there is a very specific answer that I’m unaware of, but I think they’re important because publishers track your sales and all pre-orders get counted up the week that the book goes on sale. Big numbers mean your publisher will pay attention and your books will get better placement, bigger print runs, more publicity – basically you’ll stay employed!

Kaye: Because they are sales, and sales mean income. If you’re with a large publisher, they can help to push your visibility for them.

Lucy aka Roberta: Pre-orders demonstrate to the publisher that the book will have an audience, and that is a good thing, as they are more likely to get behind it with their own publicity.

Hannah: I like to say that pre-ordering your book is akin to the importance of sales taken at the box office for the opening weekend of a Hollywood movie. Pre-ordering a book creates buzz and hopefully shows the publisher that readers are eager to buy your book i.e. is the print run big enough for the demand? The other thing, too, is that if the publisher believes your new book is going to be popular, they will want more in the series.

Krista: Most authors dream of making bestseller lists, and pre-orders can give you the boost you need. Pre-orders count as sales during the release week when a book usually has the most sales. Add pre-sales and first week sales together, and that week is your best chance of selling enough books to make a bestseller list. In addition, pre-orders tell bookstores how a book might sell. If there are a lot of pre-orders, it signals an interest in the book to bookstores and book chains. They may even increase the number of books they order to accommodate the interest in the book. And when bookstores increase their orders, it can even kick your book into a second printing, which will make the author and the publisher very happy. It doesn’t stop there. If you have a lot of pre-orders and a second printing is necessary, your publisher will take note and it can have an impact on how your publisher treats your next book.

Some retailers will use a book to draw customers by lowering the price. I see this a lot with Walmart. Retailers have bots that search online prices so they can match or beat them. I’m only guessing, but if your book is getting a lot of pre-orders, it will be a more attractive book to discount, which means more sales.

Daryl: I can’t state it better than what my pals have stated. I believe pre-orders help bookstores know what is hot and what is not. They are all “sales” in the long-run, so they help those first week’s numbers, but the buzz in the industry comes from pre-sales.

Why are reviews important? 

Kaye: Because many readers rely on reviews. This is more important if your books are not in bookstores since browsers can’t pick up the novel and leaf through it.

Lucy aka Roberta: Reviews help potential readers and librarians and bookstores decide to give the book a try!

Hannah: To be honest, I have mixed feelings about reviews.  Five star reviews (especially on Amazon) do something exciting with the algorithms meaning that your book pops up as a must-read. Starred reviews in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal are highly coveted. But others … well … so much depends on the source.

Jenn: This I have to answer as a librarian. Bottom line: reviews tell readers whether they’ll like the book or not. Even a bad review will get me to buy. For example, if the reviewer hates something – quirky characters or a small town setting – that I love, their review will likely make me buy the book. Also, the more reviews a book gets, the more attention people will pay to it. Win-win.

Krista: I do a lot of shopping online (don’t we all?). And I put a lot of weight on reviews. This isn’t rocket science. If I’m interested in a dress and everyone has given it one star, I’m going to think there’s something wrong with the fit or the fabric. When I order cat food, I look for five-star reviews. Everyone knows how finicky cats are. If everyone’s cats like it, maybe my picky puss will, too. Of course, everything is subjective. I may love a book that someone else dislikes. I think it’s trickier to rely on reviews of books because tastes in books vary widely. Having said the obvious, I’ll now go into the rocket science part of the importance of reviews. Amazon sells more books than anyone. Their algorithms are not a mystery. There are plenty of articles about them and most mention that the number of reviews impact ranking. I’m told (and my experience seems to be consistent with this), that the more reviews a book has, the more advertising the book gets from Amazon. I assume the number of stars plays a role here.

Daryl: I think reviews help readers know what is good and what isn’t. I think some reviewers can be petty, but savvy readers can discern that. My big belief regarding reviews is that the publisher is excited to see what readers are saying about a book – it helps them get excited about a book, especially a new series. In addition, I agree with Krista, that the algorithm that works on many of the online sites, due to reviews, really drives up how that site will promote the book. You know those little suggestions that, for example, Amazon comes up with when you buy a book and you see “people who ordered this book might like this book”  (and then you see a string of mini book covers)? I believe reviews drive those types of marketing tools.

What’s your next project?

Kaye: The Vintage Sweets cozy series set in Fredericksburg TX, from Lyrical Press, 2018

Jenn:  Currently, I’m working on the 9th Library Lover’s Mystery, A FINE DAY FOR MURDER, coming Nov 2018!  DEATH IN THE STACKS comes out this November. And my romance, BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE, is just out.

Krista: I have three projects in progress. For dog and cat lovers, NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING will be released in November. COLOR ME MURDER, the first book in my new Pen & Ink Mystery series comes out in February. And you can color the cover! Finally, the Domestic Divas will be back in June with THE DIVA COOKS UP A STORM.

Lucy aka Roberta: Next project is the eighth book in the Key West Food Critic mystery series featuring Hayley Snow, 2018.

Hannah: I’m excited about a new series that is set in the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish mainland (Poldark fans will know where this is). I’m also thrilled that the Vicky Hill Mysteries (four books) will be re-released in the USA  by Hatchette in 2018.

Daryl: Next up for me is the first in the French Bistro Mysteries, A Deadly Éclair, which debuts November 7.  In 2018, I will have two new books coming out. The second in the French Bistro Mysteries, Soufflé of Suspicion (July) and the sixth in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, Pressing the Issue (May).

Wishing you all good writing and great reviews!

About the Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the brand new French Bistro Mysteries as well as the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries.

A Deadly Êclair, the first French Bistro Mystery, comes out November 2017.

Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: Day of Secrets and Girl on the Run. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Connect with Daryl (and her alter ego Avery): Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Daryl on Twitter | Avery on Twitter

The Magic of Attraction by Krista Davis

Ahh, the first days of a new romance. The flushed face. The inability to think about anything else. The sheer excitement! It seems magical.

You probably recall some of your dating failures. I confess that I am not great at romance. I’m not putting myself down. I can bake a pretty decent cake. I can roast a turkey without taking a valium first. But finding the right guy? Oof!

There was the oh-so-memorable date with a guy who excused himself a little too long and when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, he all but shouted no! Fine with me. We had been set up by his mother. No kidding. She loved me! He loved the waitress with the top down to there and the skirt up to you-know-where. To this day I am convinced that he went back to the restaurant to pick her up. For all I know, they have thirteen kids, are happily married, and they always laugh about how he met her during a terrible date.

In Mission Impawsible, a matchmaking event is going on. Since the town of Wagtail is all about dogs and cats, it made perfect sense that singles would bring their furry friends to help them meet the right person. There’s some logic to that. If you’re a cat person with half a dozen cats, wouldn’t you want to meet another cat person who understands and shares your devotion to felines?

But since I’m not an expert at romance (cough, cough) I needed to do some research. What exactly attracts us to one person but not to another?

Turns out it’s much more complex than I would have suspected.

Most people know if another person is a potential mate in thirty seconds to two minutes! Kind of puts a fresh spin on meeting someone in a bar, doesn’t it? Don’t be insulted the next time someone spurns your interest because there’s a lot more going on than you realize.

That quick judgment would lead one to imagine that attraction is all about appearances. Not so. It turns out that when we meet someone who might be a potential mate for us, all kinds of things are happening in our brains that we don’t even realize.

We’re smelling them.

We may not sniff each other quite as brazenly as dogs do, but apparently, women are attracted to men who smell like their fathers! That seemed a little weird to me at first but maybe it makes sense. It’s a smell that evokes comfort and security for us.

The most mind-bending thing I learned is that women are attracted to the scent of men who have a different immune system than their own. Clearly, we are not conscious of this. It’s a very primal kind of thing that results in stronger offspring because they benefit from more immunities.

So, in a way, there’s actually a kind of magic going on in the background. It has a scientific basis, but we’re not aware of all the amazing things our noses and brains are figuring out for us.

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Paws and Claws Mysteries. Her 4th  Paws and Claws Mystery is Mission Impawsible, which releases on February 7th. Krista also writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries with a new book due out in June 2018.
Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.
Connect with Krista: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

PS. You can see how my research on the magical power of love and attraction plays out in my latest, Mission Impawsible, which will be in bookstores on February 7th and is available for pre-order. I’m not telling how the matchmaking turns out!


Dear Diary by Krista Davis

berry scones 10Dear Diary,

Made mixed blueberry and strawberry scones for yesterday. Dough worried me because it seemed so dry. OMG. Best things in the world. So flaky. Ate one for breakfast without cream but didn’t share with dogs. They didn’t appear to notice that I gave them dog cookies instead. Except maybe for Baron who sniffed my street crew 1fingers. I fear that he’s onto me. Must eat treats in the bathroom. Who am I kidding? He follows me there, too.

Fully intended to start diet this morning. Scone is not a setback. Won’t eat lunch. It will all equal out.

Wrote two blogs this morning. Have finally come to understand why they’re so hard for me to write. They’re supposed to be about me! Ugh. Maybe I should take on an interesting persona. Aha. Am CIA spy. Why would a CIA spy live in a rural area? Aha. Have suspicious neighbors. That won’t work. What kind of CIA spy would admit to being CIA spy on blogs? Interviewed once with CIA. No one would believe that! When asked how I felt about being undercover in covert operations, I asked if they had a nice desk job. Interview terminated. Might have made persistent detective but would have been lousy spy.

Cooked lunch for dogs. Leftover hamburger, steak, and chicken fingers with rice and green beans. I ate salad without dressing. Good for me! Now hungry.

Outline due for next book in two days. Must concentrate on that. No, must finish writing blogs first. Why am I so boring? Oh look! The first review of The Diva Serves High Tea is in. Holding breath while I read it. Aww. Lisa Kelley Tea high res largesaid, “an excellent plot!” Yay! I have earned the remaining scone, with cream.

Sound of fridge opening woke Baron. Forced to share with him. Other dogs still sleeping. Back at computer, I check GoodReads for early reviews. None. That’s okay. Am riding high on Lisa’s kind words. But someone gave it one star. Oh no! Now afraid of reviews. Wait a minute!!! Book isn’t out yet. Only a few people have copies, and I’m pretty sure she’s not one of them. Bang head on desk. Ow. Mistake. Head now matches leg with bruise of unknown origin. Need another scone but have eaten all. Chocolate. There must be chocolate.

Found chocolate in pantry. Diet officially starts tomorrow. Baron looked at me with those eyes again. Gave him an Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuit. It smells like bacon. Maybe he doesn’t care that I didn’t share chocolate?

Am now obsessed with one-star rating. Complained to author friends about one star. Has happened to them, too. Sigh. Thankful for writer friends. Feel better. Why would anyone do that? Has person developed dislike of me? Don’t recognize name. First name only. Is probably undercover in covert operation.

Walked Baron to clear head. Watched tiny sparrow chase crow from nest. Even in world of birds, there’s murder. Checked veggie garden planted yesterday. Weeds have grown nicely. No veggie sprouts yet. Red pepper plants happy. Came up with fun idea for new book while walking. No ideas for blog. Potatoes and ribs cooking for dinner. Glad I postponed diet.

Looked up murder of crows. Hmm, origin of phrase appears to be lost. Maybe sparrows invented it.

Ribs and skin-on mashed potatoes big success. All dogs behaved but settled around the table in case anyone shared. Worked for two hours on outline for new book. Still blocked on blog.

PS – Hope folks like the Virtual Tea Party to celebrate the new book!

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her 10th Domestic Diva Mystery is The Diva Serves High Tea, which releases on June 7th. Krista also writes the Paws & Claws Mysteries for animal lovers that debuted with Murder, She Barked.
Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.
Connect with Krista:  Facebook | Twitter  | Goodreads