Welcome to author Daryl Wood Gerber, author of the Fairy Garden mystery series as well as the Cookbook Nook and French Bistro mystery series. We’re glad she found a little time to chat with us.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
I write in my office, but I’ve also been known to write in my kitchen, my den, and outside. I like to do edits in my dining room with the pages spread wide and far.
Describe your current writing spot or space.
My office is pretty organized. I have a big monitor/screen to which I connect my laptop. It’s easier on the eyes. I created a pull-out drawer at the desk to lower it to the proper writing height so my back stays straighter. I have my printer and paper tray to the right; backup external hard drives to the left. I’ve taped all my research info on the wall beyond my monitor, like the street map for Carmel, California as well as my design of the fictional Open Your Imagination, the fairy garden shop found in my newest series. In addition, I have inspirational quotes taped to the walls. I have a bunch of bookshelves filled with my books and giveaway items for readers. My office closet is packed with envelopes for those giveaways. And I have dedicated one book shelf to fairy gardening, which includes a couple of gardens, a fairy jewel box, fairy flower books, and more.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to get to my desk by 9 a.m. and I write or do public relations until 4:30 or 5:00. I walk Sparky in the morning and evening. I take an hour for lunch, which lately entails doing a jigsaw puzzle while I eat and listen to the news.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
That varies. I like to outline and write a synopsis, so it takes about a month to write those. Then I write a first draft in about three to four months. I reread it and make tweaks, and then I like to set the book aside for a month so I can detach and come back to it fresh. The next rewrite is more intense. I print the manuscript and read it out loud, making tweaks by hand. I retype those and then do a word-check, crosscheck kind of read-through. After I send it to the editor, it might take another three to six months to finalize the book, thanks to the editor’s insightful comments.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
When I first started as an author, I was writing thrillers and suspense. Because my first contract was for a cozy mystery, I set those aside. However, in recent years, I reviewed four and rewrote them from page one and have published them. So I now have about six remaining that will never see the light of day. As for half-finished books – none. I started a number of books, for which I wrote three chapters, but if my agent and/or publisher didn’t like those new ideas, then I set them aside and didn’t try to write more. I have about twenty of those.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If not, have you ever considered it?
I started under a pseudonym as Avery Aames. Why? Because the first contract I landed was a “work for hire” for Penguin Random House publishing. They had come up with the idea for a cheese shop mystery. I auditioned for the job and got it. I was lucky enough to write seven books in the series before the publisher decided to end the series, as they were cutting back on a number of series at the time. Luckily, in the meantime, I’d landed two other contracts, all written under my real name: Daryl Wood Gerber.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
In my series, it’s usually the plot because the characters are already established. However, when I’m starting a new series or stand-alone, I like to consider the main character and what would happen IF. So how the character would respond to the “what if,” determines the plot.
How do you select the names of your characters?
This is funny. I come up with a name I love and research it to make sure I’m not duplicating some celebrity or well-known person’s name. In addition, I like to use different letters of the alphabet for most of my characters. It’s easier for the reader to see different letters. I remember reading a book that included a Johnny, Joe, Jim, and Judd in a matter of four pages. I couldn’t keep the guys straight and gave up.
To organize, I keep a list from A to Z. I will allow some duplicate starting letters for names in the same family or couples having the same first letter. I.e. Meredith and Matthew can be a couple. I also will allow for names using the same beginning letter but sounding completely different from another with that letter, for example: Bettina and Brad. A reader won’t confuse the two.
Last but not least, I make sure I don’t come up with any names that rhyme with the word said. It looks funny reading “Fred said” or “Ned said.” Kid you not, but I had a character named Simon and when I was reading the book out loud and saw how many times I’d written Simon said, I groaned. I loved the name Simon, so I went back through the book and changed every “Simon said” to some different action.
Can you hear your characters talking?
My characters are like good friends. Even the evil ones. They talk to me all the time. Having been an actress before a writer, I’ve often brought characters to life in my mind. I love to hear their voices, their thoughts. Sometimes, a minor character will scream for more page time, and often he/she is right, so I tweak the story to include more scenes for that character. What I love is when one character talks to another character and acts as if I’m not in the room.
Were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? For how long?
I was an actress and screenwriter before I became a full-time writer. When my husband needed to move across the country for his career, I gave up the acting (in Los Angeles), and focused 100% on my writing.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t believe your seventh grade teacher, or any teacher, when he/she says you can’t write. Writing is a craft and takes time to learn. Taking classes and joining critique groups will help refine the craft. Believe you can. And maybe you will.
Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the new Fairy Garden Mysteries. She also pens the French Bistro Mysteries, and as Avery Aames, the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. In addition, Daryl writes the Aspen Adams novels of suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Daryl loves to cook, fairy garden, and read, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle who keeps her in line!