Meet Connie Berry
- May 7, 2019
- Susan Breen
Our second-to-newest Miss Demeanor just returned from the Malice Domestic conference and took some time to answer my questions about antiques, Scotland, and cute little dogs. This is how it all went:
Your protagonist, Kate Hamilton, is an antiques dealer. Do you collect antiques? Do you have a favorite piece? (And perhaps a picture of it?)
I’m not so much a collector of antiques as an inheritor of them. My parents were avid antiques fanatics. Our house looked a bit like a museum. A crowded museum in serious need of a curator. My parents eventually opened an antiques shop—mostly, I suspect, to free up space in the house for further purchases. Seriously, though, they were amazing parents. I learned so much from them about spontaneity, the joy of learning, a passion for history, the gift of kindness and unconditional love. My favorite antiques are those I remember from childhood, like the two oil paintings of Loch Lomond that hang on either side of the stone fireplace dividing my kitchen from the living room. One is a finer painting, and I love it; but the other is my favorite. For me it conjures the Scotland of dreams and memories. Can you tell them apart? Which is your favorite?
Your series is set in Scotland. What drew you to set your novels there?
Perhaps you can tell that Scotland is part of my heritage. My father’s parents were born in Scotland and emigrated to the U.S. as adults. My grandmother was housekeeper for a wealthy family in Buffalo, New York. My grandfather was a landscape gardener and later, in retirement, the lawn-bowling pro at a local country club. When I planned A Dream of Death, I wanted to place my protagonist, Kate, in an unfamiliar setting where she would have to rely on her ability to notice details and discern patterns. Scotland, with its incredible beauty and glorious, tragic past, was a natural choice. A small island appealed to me because (à la Agatha Christie) the murder suspects would be limited, and—thanks to an unexpected snowstorm—the police would be initially unavailable.
I love stories about the road to publication. What is your story?
My road to publication was a long, slow slog up the steep learning curve of craft followed by a roller-coaster plunge, ready or not, into the world of mystery writing. I had one thing going for me during those years (ten all-told). I knew my manuscript wasn’t ready, so I avoided the inevitable avalanche of rejections by not submitting. Clever. Finally, after countless revisions and not a few well-meaning suggestions to put that poor manuscript in a drawer and start something new, I completed a final, massive revision in January of 2018. Multiple POVs became first-person narration. Five characters were axed, along with two entire sub plots. A major story line was rewritten from scratch, and a brand-new story line was added. In February of 2018, with my completed manuscript in hand along with several chapters of a second, I attended Sleuthfest in Florida and met Faith Black Ross, my editor at Crooked Lane Books. She offered me a two-book contract. I contacted my agent, Paula Munier, and signed on the dotted line. Suddenly I was an author.
Your second book comes out in early October. What did you learn along the way?
A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series, will be out October 8, 2019. [see photo of cover] The most important thing I learned along the way was story structure—serious stuff. “Men die,” said Alcmaeon of Croton, the fifth-century Greek philosopher and teacher, “because they cannot join the beginning to the end.” I wasted years because I refused to stop writing long enough to learn about story structure.
You have a very cute dog named Millie. Tell us about her.
Awww. One of my favorite topics. Millie is an eight-year-old Shih Tzu, a breed with no other task in life but adoring their humans. [see photo] She’s a natural therapy dog—calm, sweet tempered, loving. She wouldn’t dream of biting. I’ve never even heard her growl. By the way, did you know Shih Tzus are one of the top five domestic breeds with DNA most closely related to wolves? True! And just so you know, one of my top five pet peeves in life is hearing the breed name pronounced Shit-Zu. For your information, the correct pronunciation is Shee T’zu. You’re welcome.
I’m beyond thrilled to join Miss Demeanors and, going on the theory that jumping in all-at-once is braver than wading in from the shallows, I’m hosting the blog next week.Tags:
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