Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meet Deborah Sharp

I am thrilled that Deborah Sharp agreed to an interview for our blog.  As a reporter for USA Today for nearly two decades, she wrote about killer sharks, rampaging alligators, and human evil-doers.  Now, she entertains her readers with the ''Mace Bauer Mystery'' series, set in a sweet-tea-and-barbecue slice of her native Florida. The series debuted with ''Mama Does Time'' (Midnight Ink, 2008). Mama's out of the slammer and into the saddle in ''Mama Rides Shotgun''(July 2009.) In 2010's ''Mama Gets Hitched,'' Mama ties the sacred knot of matrimony . . . for the fifth time.

You can check out her website or become a fan of Mama on Facebook.

Who is your heroine, Mace Bauer?

Mace is an outdoorsy, independent Florida native who works at a nature park and traps nuisance critters on the side. She's a middle sister, and Mama's last unmarried daughter. Mama never misses a chance to remind Mace of that particular fact.  Mace is tough enough to rescue Mama from an alligator, but she can't manage to wrestle her love life into submission.

Who is Mama?

Mama is the much-married Rosalee Deveraux (soon to be Mrs. Sal Provenza), a Southern belle with a taste for sherbet-colored pantsuits, sweet pink wine, and gambling with the Seminoles. 

In your first book, Mama Does Time, we first meet Mace and Mama.  What sort of troubles do they encounter?

The first book really sets the tone for the whole series: Mama has a penchant for landing in trouble; Mace will always have to to haul her butt out of it. 

Mama's on the way home from gambling at the Seminole casino, when she gets a hankering for a butterscotch dipped ice cream cone. She pulls into the Dairy Queen in little Himmarshee, Fla, where a fender-bender reveals a body stuffed into the trunk of her turquoise convertible. The police wind up thinking she's the killer. It's up to Mace and her sisters to find the real culprit. If they can't, Mama goes to prison-- just like an embarrassing lyric in a country western song. 

In your second book, Mama Rides Shotgun, Mama convinces Mace to hit the Florida Cracker Trail.   How do they fare on this trip?

Badly, as you might expect. The week-long horseback ride across Florida gets off to a nice start, despite Mama trying to lasso every available cowboy she sees for the still-single Mace. The trail soon turns to murder, though, when one of the wealthy cattle ranchers hosting the riders keels over dead in his Cowhunter Chili. Threatened by everything from rattlesnakes to runaway horses, Mace must corral a killer before the low-down varmint can strike again.
 Your third book, Mama Gets Hitched, was just released on July 1.  Publishers Weekly described the book in its review as ''charming.'' The review said: “Sibling rivalry, steamy romance, a surprising killer, and plenty of catfish and hush puppies make this Southern cozy a winner.”  What can you tell us about Mace’s newest mystery?

Who doesn't love a wedding? Mama loves them so much, she's fixin' to tie the sacred knot for the fifth time. Just because she's a serial bride, she sees no reason to tastefully scale back. She’s planning the Wedding of the Century – complete with a “Gone With the Wind’’ theme, her daughters in Scarlett O'Hara dresses, and a ring-bearing Pomeranian sporting a satin vest and top hat. What’s a Bridezilla to do, though, when her caterer turns up dead in the kitchen at the VFW, even before the first pig-in-a-blanket is passed? Mace must find the killer, or Mama’s Special Day could turn especially deadly. 

What is your writing process?

Not as disciplined as I wish it was! I do slack off a bit, but in my defense, I was tied to daily deadlines for 20-some years as a news reporter. When I left the news biz to pursue mystery-writing, I welcomed the chance to have a little more freedom. I was thrilled I wouldn't be a prisoner of the ticking clock, like I used to be. I do try to write a little bit every day. The upside is that I write quickly, so if I fall behind I can usually catch up.

I also write my first draft in long-hand (dinosaur-like!). I love the fact I can stick my cheapo spiral notebook in my backpack and go for a walk or a bike ride to the beach, to a coffee shop, to a bench along the New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and get some writing done.

Today, I wrote while sitting on a marble bench in a cemetery, one of my favorite spots. Great atmosphere for a mystery writer, and very quiet!

What is the worst writing advice that you received?

This bit of advice was actually good for newspaper writing, but very bad for mystery writing. I learned to write in the style of the inverted pyramid, which basically means you load the top of your story with all the pertinent facts (the broad base of the pyramid). That way, the newspaper copy desk can cut the story from the bottom if space is tight, and only miss the less important stuff (the narrow point of the pyramid).

Because of the inverted pyramid, it took me a long time to learn how NOT to reveal my whole mystery in the first paragraph. 
What is the best writing advice you received?

Another newspaper habit I had was telling readers what I was going to tell them, then telling them, then summing up what I'd just told them. A great writing coach in Ft. Lauderdale, Joyce Sweeney,  told me that mystery readers are very smart. They don't need to be hit over the head by the author. The pace of my fiction-writing improved a lot once I learned not to repeat myself. 

Your books are humorous while delivering great tension and mystery.  How do you manage to balance the elements to deliver such an entertaining read while keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat?

Well, thanks for saying that. I'm flattered! I attempt to take the advice of the great Elmore Leonard, who said: ''Try to leave out the part that readers skip.''

Not only was Deborah gracious enough to share time to be interviewed for our blog, but also the fabulous Rosalee Deveraux Provenza (aka Mama) of Himmarshee, Florida, also agreed to answer a few questions for us.  She has her own blog, Ask Mama, and would love for you to visit and read Deborah's books following the adventure's of Rosalee's daughter, Mace.

What role do you play in assisting Ms. Sharp in documenting the mysteries encountered by your daughter, Mace?
Assisting??? Honey, those stories are all mine. That's my life. All that gal does is write it down the way I tell her it happened.  You'll notice all the books have ''Mama'' right there in the titles, right? Mama Does Time; Mama Rides Shotgun; Mama Gets Hitched. Next year, in 2011, we'll have Mama Sees Stars.

She may take the credit for being the author, but  the titles don't say DEBORAH did any of those things, do they? 
What are your views on romance and romance novels?

Oh, honey, I love romance! (Now, I can just picture Mace and her sisters rolling their eyes over my multiple marriages, saying maybe I love romance a little too much!) I also love a nice romance novel, but not those ones with the heavy breathing and graphic sex scenes. You do know I teach Sunday School in Himmarshee, Fla., right? All I need is for some of my little lambs to spot me reading one of those heaving-bosomed, hoochie-coochie books. It 'd be a bigger scandal than when the choir's soprano ran off with the church organist.

What is your favorite book?

You mean after ''Gone With the Wind,'' right? Well, I hope I don't sound like I'm bragging, but I have to pick one of the MAMA books. Don't ask me which one though. That's like asking me which one of my three daughters I love the best. 

Thanks again to both Deborah and Mama for taking the time to share a little of their magic with us!  


Deborah Sharp said...

Hi, there ... I'm honored that Heather asked me to be a guest of Southern Magic Romance Writers. Since a glaring flaw of my main character, Mace Bauer, is that she CANNOT commit to falling in love, I have a lot to learn from romance writers! (Mace's mama, on the other hand, loves falling in love just a little too much!)
I love Birmingham, and have been so pleased to be compared to the late Anne George, so I feel right at home here. Thanks!

Dru said...

That was a fun interview.

Jeanie said...

So cool, Deborah. Love the humor and the Southernisms. Mama sounds like some people I know. And also good to know about your struggles as a fiction writer. Makes the rest of us feel better while wrestling with our own bugaboos!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Thanks for a great interview Heather and Deborah, and Mama! The books sound like a lot of fun.

Cari Hislop said...

Loved the interview! I hadn't heard of the series (I live in la la land) but it sounds really good. I'll have to start with the first one.

Having worked at Dairy Queen I can easily imagine bodies found in trunks at the drive through window!

Peggy Webb said...

Hi, Deborah! It's good to hear from you again. Your Mama mysteries are delightful, and it was such fun to be on a panel with you in the B'ham Sisters in Crime event a couple of years ago. Great interview!

RK said...

Thanks Heather for introducing me to a new author. Must read these Mama books!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Sounds like a fun, fun series.

Chris Bailey said...

Thanks so much for your Mama series! I can so relate to the inverted pyramid. And how about going from objectivity to all that attitude? Congratulations on making the transition. You're an inspiration.

Christine said...

This was a fun blog! Thanks for sharing the Mama Series with us. I want to read them all :-)

Heather said...

Thanks to everyone for such great comments. If you haven't read the Mama books, you are in for a treat. They are fantastic!

Deborah Sharp said...

Oh, my ... I'm so pleased that y'all took time to comment.
To Dru: I see you followed the bread crumbs to find my ''blog tour'' again ... you're the best!
Jeanie: Oh, yes ... lots and LOTS of struggles. Every author has them.
Gwen and Debbie K: Thanks for saying the series sounds fun ... that's all I really set out to do when I left reporting, have a little fun.
Cari: I LOVE Dairy Queen. Like Mama, there is little I wouldn't do for a DQ butterscotch dipped cone.
Hey, Peggy! What a pleasure to hear from you. I've told about a million people how wonderful your Elvis series is ... and now, a Nascar Novella? Honey, you ROCK!
RK and Christine: Hope you do get a chance to read one of the books. I even love to hear if you check them out of the library, or do shared reads ;-)
Chris: Sounds like you've been through the same transition, inverted pyramid and all. Was harder than I thought it'd be to become a fiction-writer!
Again, thanks to Heather and all for inviting me here.

Carla Swafford said...

Love those titles and book covers. I for sure need to check them out.