Gary Fenris believes it should be easy to kill. The motive is revenge – the woman he loved died on his watch. As a former bodyguard, he has all the skills and knowledge that he needs to commit the perfect crime. But Gary soon realizes that it’s a mistake to assume that vengeance can bring peace.
When bookstore owner Kate Rowan finds the body, her sleuthing takes them down a trail of blackmail, obsession and death. Despite the risk – or maybe because of it - Gary finds himself drawn to Kate. When danger strikes, he has to face the fact that he used love as an excuse for murder.
When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing?
I’ve always loved reading and writing, especially crime fiction. There’s something magical about escaping into another world between the pages of a book. When I was eleven, I told my mom as we were browsing a bookstore together that one day, my book would be on the shelves. Sometimes wishes do come true!
What was your inspiration for An Excuse For Murder?
I wanted to write a murder mystery that included the sort of wit and banter that I loved about classic British crime novels, such as those written by Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I wanted to write a traditional village mystery, with its puzzles and quirky characters, but include the suspense of a thriller. In order to accomplish this, the story is told from two points of view: from the perspective of Gary, a haunted former bodyguard who commits murder and then has to live with the crime, and from the point of view of Kate, a bookstore owner turned amateur sleuth who discovers the body.
Tell us about your experience with the publishing process.
An Excuse For Murder is my debut novel, but the third manuscript I wrote. It took six years from the time I finished writing the last sentence to signing a publishing contract with the Wild Rose Press. Getting published took a lot of hard work, perseverance and a lot of editing.
I was eighteen when I submitted my first manuscript to agents and publishers. It would have been easy to take rejection to heart. However, there was one literary agent who took the time to write a personal email, sharing advice with me. She recommended that I read as many books in the genre as possible and to consider which plot elements are fresh, less predictable and leave the reader wanting more.
I hope she won’t mind that I’m quoting her here, but these words resonated with me: “It's rarely the first novel a writer crafts that sells. 90% of writers will never write book #2. 95% will never write a book #3. You'll get better with each book, so be the writer who keeps on writing no matter what.“
Without receiving that encouragement, I might not have continued. I can’t thank her enough for taking the time to send a personal reply to a young writer.
Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:
I would have to share the same piece of advice I received: Be the writer who keeps writing, no matter what.
Any new projects on the horizon?
I’m currently working on a stand-alone crime novel that features another strong female protagonist as sleuth, a chocolate shop and a dark secret in the past.
But I’m also drafting some ideas for a sequel to Kate and Gary’s story, as I’m sure it won’t be long before Kate stumbles across another mystery…
Favorite Places: by the lake, London, and her desk…
Coffee or tea or wine?
Tea - but I can never resist a good café au lait.
What does your desk look like? See Above. :-)
Ok, I have to admit that I did clean my desk up for the photograph. It’s normally a lot messier and covered in stacks of paper. As you can probably tell, I love collecting pens and pencils… I have a slightly the worse for wear Penguin Reference Pocket Thesaurus within reach. I know there’s a thesaurus on the computer too, but this little book has never failed me yet. I recently purchased a copy of Forensics For Dummies from a bargain books sale – it might come in handy when I’m plotting my next fictitious crime. I also have a hand-written letter from Carolyn Hart beside my computer, in which she congratulated me on the publication of An Excuse For Murder.
Where is your favorite place you've visited?
London, England. I love the ready access to tea, Fortnum & Mason (which also involves tea), and the Victoria & Albert museum.
Beach, lake, or mountains?
Lake. I live near a lake and love the sounds of the loons in the summer.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
“Laser Lemon”, because yellow is my favorite color and, well, quite frankly that is a fantastic name for a crayon color.
What comes first, character or plot (or other)?
Favorite childhood book?
The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman, but I also loved I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith.
Favorite book of all time?
If I have to pick just one book, I would probably say, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers.
Vanessa Westermann is the author of An Excuse For Murder. Vanessa is a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge, and has given a talk on the evolution of women’s crime writing, at the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and Crime Writers of Canada. Visit Vanessa online at www.vanessa-westermann.info, and find her on Twitter: @VanessasPicks.