Today we are visiting with cozy mystery author, Diane Weiner. Diane is a veteran public school teacher and mother of four children. She has enjoyed reading for as long as she can remember and, like many of her fans, has fond memories of Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark. Reading on snowy weekend afternoons in upstate New York she yearned to write books that would bring that kind of enjoyment to her readers. Being an animal lover, she is a vegetarian and shares her home with two adorable cats and a little white dog. In her free time, she enjoys running, attending community theater productions, and spending time with her family (especially going to the mall with her teenage daughter and getting Dairy Queen afterwards). Murder in the Middle is the third book in her Susan Wiles School House Mystery series and she has plans for many more.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Diane. My blog is read by writers as well as their fans. I know many of them would love to learn the process you went through to find your publisher, Cozy Cat Press. What services does this publisher provide to the author?
Diane: I think finding Cozy Cat Press was one of those “meant to be” situations. Believe it or not, while my students were taking their final just before Christmas break, I googled “cozy mystery publishers” and found Cozy Cat Press. I loved the name! I sent a query letter to Patricia Rockwell as well as the actual manuscript for Murder is Elementary. I heard back from her within a short time and was offered a contract. I was ecstatic. I never would have made it as a self-published author because I would have gotten frustrated right away trying to format it myself. Cozy Cat hires a cover designer, who presents several options. I pick the one I like best, then work with her to tweak it. It’s a collaborative effort and I’ve been extremely pleased with each cover. Cozy Cat also edits. Book promotion is done as a whole rather than for individual authors. For example, we wrote a collaborative mystery called Chasing the Codex (I wrote chapter 17) which was promoted both by Cozy Cat and by each of us. Patricia also takes out ads for the company, which benefits all of us.
How did you come up with this clever series title?
Diane: I have to thank my husband, Bob, for coming up with Murder is Elementary as a title for the first book. The others follow the pattern. As far as the series title, I wanted to mention the sleuth as well as make it obvious that the mysteries were centered on schools. My younger daughter, Laura, came up with the “Susan Wiles School House Mysteries” series title.
Your early years were spent in upstate New York. Have you lived in New York all your life?
Diane – I grew up in Highland, NY, a small town in the Hudson Valley, about 90 minutes north of New York City. There were 180 kids in my graduating class. I now teach that many freshman in my section of Earth Science alone! I went to UNC Chapel Hill for college, and haven’t lived in NY since. I lived in Athens, Ohio following college graduation, then married my husband, who I met at a music camp in Northern Michigan. Together, we lived in Norman, Oklahoma, Mexico City, Mexico, and finally settled in South Florida where both of our families live.
How long have you been a vegetarian? What prompted you to make this lifestyle choice? Can you share a favorite recipe?
Diane: I have been a vegetarian for about seven years now. I’ve always been an animal lover, but after my daughter and I watched the movie Food Inc., we both swore off meat forever. There are so many alternative meal choices, that I can’t condone slaughtering and mistreating animals for food. It was an easy transition. Anyone who knows me knows I’m an awful cook, so I can’t say I have any great recipes to share! My children won’t let me live down the time I ran out of butter and substituted mayonnaise in their Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Your first book, Murder is Elementary has been followed by others in the series all focused on education, do you have any plans to begin a different series in the future?
Diane: I’ve wanted to start a second series for a while, but didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do. I got my inspiration while writing Murder is Legal, my latest in the series (Book 6). Susan and Mike were invited to visit their friends who recently inherited a family cabin in Vermont. The book I’m writing now, Murder is Collegiate, introduces the new characters, Emily and Henry Fox. Susan and Mike visit Sugarbury Falls and, of course, are confronted right away with a murder involving their old friends. The new series, The Sugarbury Falls Mysteries, will feature Emily and Henry as the sleuthing couple. I plan to start that series over the summer when I have the luxury of being off school and writing all day long.
While writing your books, who is your target reader?
Diane: My target reader is anyone who enjoys a good, clean mystery. I think it especially appeals to teachers, grandparents, and retirees.
How do reader reviews influence your writing?
Diane: The positive ones give me bursts of energy to keep writing. I have modified my writing a bit thanks to more critical ones. I have made Susan a bit less impulsive and more sensitive to stepping on her detective daughter’s toes. And never again will I happen to make the murderer a minority. Thanks for sharing with us today, Diane. I know my readers will want to dip into one of your books, soon, and we’re all excited to be the first to know about the publication this week of your latest, Murder is Legal.
Diane Weiner dianeweinerauthor.com The Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries: Retired teacher turns amateur sleuth
At the school where I worked, one of the teachers, an aspiring administrator, was always trying to brown nose the principal by bringing her home baked goods. One day I wondered “what if he poisoned that cupcake he’s bringing her so he can take over her job?”
In my series, Susan Wiles is the character I want to be: a retired teacher, and a grandmother! She’s much more gutsy and outspoken than I am. I am pretty shy and cautious as a person. Our similarities are that we are both educators, and we both have close families. Our husbands and children are the center of our worlds.
The hardest part of writing is having limited time during the school year, as I am still working full time. I often write in the mornings before school and have to stop right in the middle of what I’m doing to get in the shower and get to work on time!
I am inspired to keep writing because my characters and the town of Westbrook are alive to me and I want to be in that world. I also value the joy reading brings to me and there’s nothing more satisfying than reading a review or hearing from a reader that they enjoyed my book and can’t wait to read the next one. It’s like I’m passing on the joy reading brings.
To a would be writer, I’d say to just write. Brainstorm ideas—don’t get caught up in trying to make things perfect from the get go. If you love to write, write. Go to writing conferences if you can, read about writing, and try a critique group. Reading your work to others can give you the confidence to keep going.
My latest book, Murder is Homework, is now available. It is book 9 in the series. I am currently working on the second book in my Sugarbury Falls series. A Deadly Course, set in Vermont with a married couple as he amateur sleuths, is available on Amazon.