Welcome to author Jen Pitts, author of the fascinating French Quarter Mystery series.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
It used to be Starbucks, but the pandemic hit. I enjoyed grabbing a drink and a slice of lemon loaf and settling down at a table to work. The chattering of others and the sounds of the espresso machine were white noise and helped me concentrate. I like working outside the house since when I’m home I feel the need to multitask — write, do laundry, edit, clean the kitchen, etc.
Describe your current writing spot or space.
Now that I’m home all the time, I generally work in my bedroom. I have a comfy chair in the bay window and I can watch the birds and squirrels run around the yard. I do have an office at home which has the same great view, but the chair isn’t as comfortable at my desk. Now that we’ll be home longer, it’s time to find a good desk chair.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
You’re going to sense a theme here — now that I’m home and everyone is home in my household, my schedule is gone! I used to write in the mornings while my children and husband were at school and work. I do try and write in the mornings, but I’ve learned to write wherever I can. Some days I write in the morning, other times it’s the evening.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first book took about three years or so. I had the idea for a long time, but it took a while to change from corporate writing and personal essay writing to creative writing. My second book I wrote in about nine or ten months, but I worked on it while editing book one.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A bunch! I’m working on book three in my series now. I planned the next three books after that, but I only have notes for each of them. I’ve learned to write any and all ideas down so I won’t forget them. I also have outlines for a few standalone mystery books.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If not, have you ever considered it?
I write under my maiden name, Jen Pitts. It’s short and easy to type in a search engine. My legal name, Jennifer Scheiderman, is long and always misspelled.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
Actually, for me, it’s setting! I write about places I’ve lived in or want to live in. I started my French Quarter series because I love New Orleans. Once I decided to set my books there, I thought about characters and then the plot.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Naming my characters is harder than when I named my children! I pick names that I like, but I do use Google to search for names.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I find it’s hard to write about characters from both sexes! I don’t want my characters to be stereotypes, but I do want them to be relatable.
Can you hear your characters talking?
Yes! I love to write dialogue so I hear them all the time. And after the audiobook for my first book came out, I hear them even more.
Were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? For how long?
Part time! Before I had my children, I worked in the corporate retail world, so my writing consisted of correspondence, newsletters and advertising copy. As a stay at home mom, I blogged for a number of years. It wasn’t until my children were in double-digits, that I began devoting the time to my creative writing.
How much time do you spend on research before starting a book? While writing?
I love researching! Talking with historians and tour guides is one of my favorite ways to learn. And of course, I do as much reading as I can. I try to have as much information on hand before I start a book, but I find that as I write, I do more research.
What kind of research do you do for a book?
My trips to New Orleans are always for pleasure and research. I love visiting museums and taking tours. And when I can’t visit, I use my photos from past trips as well as the books I bought there for help.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
She calls herself more of a coach than mascot, but Edna Mode is my woman! Yes, the character from the movie The Incredibles guides me. I love her motivational speeches. My favorite advice from her is “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.”.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I think it’s the fact I write out of order. I always outline my book so I know what needs to happen when, but I write the scenes that come to me first.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I would say all my trips to New Orleans, but really, those are for pleasure more than business. My second choice would be buying the writing software, Scrivener. It keeps my writing all in one place and it makes it easy to rearrange chapters.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read mysteries and watch mysteries! I do love hanging out with my friends and family. And I love traveling.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Yes. I must admit I still get a thrill seeing my name and books on the web.
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
I loved Nancy Drew books. And then my fifth grade teacher introduced me to Agatha Christie novels, and I was hooked..
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Start earlier! I have so much fun writing mysteries that I wish I had started earlier. But it’s never too late!
What are your favorite New Orleans foods?
Muffalettas, beignets, pralines, and Pimm’s Cups.
Jen Pitts is a lifelong mystery reader who turned her obsession into writing cozy mysteries of her own. When she isn’t plotting fictional murder and mayhem, she’s chugging coffee, traveling, reading, and enjoying life with her children and husband in the Pacific Northwest.