Agatha Best First Novel Nominees Reveal…

What piece of advice do you wish you had before you started writing? Nadine Nettmann, author of Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)While there are many gems I’ve learned along the way that I wish I had known before, I think the most pertinent one is how fast things move once the contract is signed. You can take years to write a book but suddenly it’s edits, then more edits, then the cover arrives, then the ARCs go out, and the next thing you know, the book that you wrote is now out in the world. During which time, if you’re writing a series, the next one is already due. It’s a wonderful journey, but a very fast one after waiting for so many years. Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan), author of Design for Dying (Forge)Rosemarie here, answering this question solo. I wish someone had told me how tempting it would be to edit as I wrote the first draft. When I sat down each evening I had to battle the overwhelming urge to polish and tweak–make that heavily revise–the work I’d done the previous day. All I could see were my mistakes. Saggy similes, obvious jokes, and so, so many adverbs lazily standing in for powerful dialogue. I almost talked myself nightly into fixing those flaws, because it seemed easier than pressing on and writing something new. Here’s where having a more experienced co-author gave me a big advantage. Vince told me everyone’s first drafts were the same: they might seem terrible, but when considered rationally always had good bits and passages that could be salvaged. To gain that perspective, though, I had to keep going. When you’re editing you’re not writing, and writing is the only way to finish a novel. Hard as that may be to believe. Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur Books)I wish someone had told me to relish every moment of writing my first novel. It would have helped to have had a fairy godmother come whisper in my ear that everything would be fine and it would get published and I would someday have the overwhelming good fortune to be writing a group post with my fellow Best First Novel nominees. (!!!!) But here’s the thing: when you write your first book, you have the freedom to do whatever you want with the characters and the setting, and you can take your time figuring out the tricky bits. But when you’re writing a series, suddenly there are deadlines and expectations, and you’ve already committed to your characters so you can’t go in a wildly different direction. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good problem to have. But there is a certain magic to writing your first book… even if you don’t exactly realize it at the time. Cynthia Kuhn, author of The Semester of Our Discontent (Henery Press)Oh, so many things! But mostly, I wish someone had said, “Just do it. Start today.” I waited a long time—years—to begin after I’d had the idea for the book. Sure, there were things happening that made it difficult to carve out the time, but that’s always the case. Mostly what gave me pause was the sense that I needed to take more classes and go to more workshops [or insert other activities here] until I was somehow “ready.” Yet the truth is, until you begin putting words on the page, nothing else can happen—the feedback, the revision, and so on. It does require a rather large leap of faith, that first step. But it launches the journey. Alexia Gordon, author of Murder in G Major (Henery Press)I wish I’d known how different publishing is from writing. I thought once you wrote your book you were done and could relax. Really, the work begins once you finish writing. There’s the search for a publisher and an agent, the contracts, the marketing, advertising, social media. Being an author is a job. An exciting, wonderful, joyful, awesome job, but definitely, a job. Author Bios:Marla Cooper is the author of Terror in Taffeta, an Agatha and Lefty nominee for Best First Mystery and book one in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. Her second book, Dying on the Vine, is set in the California wine country and comes out April 4. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. Learn more at
Alexia Gordon has been a writer since childhood. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiers July 2017. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas, she listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at

 Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches English at MSU Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world, from France to Chile to South Africa, but chose Napa Valley as the setting for her debut novel, Decanting a Murder. The next book in the Sommelier Mystery Series, Uncorking a Lie, releases in May 2017. Chapters are paired with wine recommendations.
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

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