Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shades of Murder: An Interview with Author Lauren Carr

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming author and publishing guru, Lauren Carr as she tours with her book, Shades of Murder. Welcome Lauren!

·         If you had to sum it up Shades of Murder in 30 or less words, what would you say?

What do you get the man with everything? When that man is the heir of the late mystery writer Robin Spencer, retired homicide detective Mac Faraday, you get him cold case to solve.

·         What inspired the idea behind your book?

I had been asked by fans of the Joshua Thornton Mysteries to bring back Joshua. So I decided to include him into this Mac Faraday mystery. Since Joshua and Mac don’t know each other, I had to come up with two murder mysteries that, on the surface, don’t appear to be connected, and then bring them together. Coming up with this puzzle was not only a challenge, but a lot of fun.

Mac is a homicide detective whose wife leaves him and takes everything. On the day his divorce becomes final, he inherits $270 million dollars and an estate on Deep Creek Lake.
In Shades of Murder, he inherits a stolen painting that had disappeared the night its artist was murdered. So he starts investigating that case on Deep Creek Lake. Meanwhile, Joshua is working on a cold case of a Jane Doe murdered in Pittsburgh. They come together in the middle of the book.

Shades of Murder actually introduces two characters that I will use in my next book, Dead on Ice, which will come out this fall: Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates.

·         Do you have a favorite character in Shades of Murder? Who and why?

For all of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, readers have loved Gnarly, Mac’s German Shepherd. Gnarly was dishonorably discharged from the United States Army. Let’s just say, he has issues. He is incredibly intelligent and has a mind of his own. He’s also a hopeless kleptomaniac.

However, for Shades of Murder, my favorite character is Cameron Gates. She’s a Pennsylvania State homicide detective and my first female detective. I put a lot of thought into her character and she went through several transformations before she came to life for me.

There are so many women detectives in books and on television now. Years ago, when female detectives first emerged in mysteries, writers set out to break the stereotype by making female detective tough. Almost every female detective you see on television is able to single-handedly take down male opponents. Now, the tough woman detective has become the stereotype.

I wanted to get away from that. Cameron is unique and quirky. She’s only as tough as she needs to be to make it believable for her to hold a position of a homicide detective. She’s not super woman. She was turned down for a promotion because her superiors think she’s crazy. Co-workers betray her for purely political reasons; but, instead of whining and crying about it, she shrugs it off and even expects it. She refuses to forget the victims who she works for. But she also has a vulnerable side that Joshua sees in her that makes them a good team. She’s unique and quirky.

·         What do you have in store next for your readers? Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series?

I’m starting a new series called the Lovers in Crime mysteries. (Don’t worry! I haven’t quit the Mac Faraday Mysteries! The next installment in that series will be next spring!) Coming this fall, Dead on Ice introduces a new series featuring Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates. In Dead on Ice, Pennsylvania State homicide detective Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of a porn star whose mummified remains are found in an abandoned freezer in Joshua’s cousin’s basement.

For this book tour, I am holding a contest for readers to name the female porn star found in the freezer. Not only are they to supply the stage name the star used in her films, but her real name from her childhood in the Chester, West Virginia/Pittsburgh area. The winner will receive all three Deep Creek Lake mysteries, plus a print edition of Dead on Ice upon its release, as well as a Lovers in Crime coffee mug. Contest is running from June 1-July 31.

Readers are to submit their entries to me via e-mail: writerlaurencarr@ comcast.net. Subject line is to read Name the Porn Star. Be sure to include your name, e-mail address, and mailing address. The winner will be decided by me and my muses (my two dogs).

·         What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?  

Being able to pass it forward by helping other authors achieve their dreams. Through our local adult community education I teach a couple of classes and teach workshops and speaking engagement about writing and publishing. I love these opportunities and having the respect of writers wanting to learn from me. It’s great. It’s like a dream come true as a writer.

·         When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?

I’ve been writing my whole life. I wrote my first book, which is in my mother’s basement, when I was eighteen. I was a journalist and then when I worked for the government, but then I was editing more than writing. I wrote a humor column for a metropolitan newspaper shortly after I was married. Then I was writing screenplays.

After my son was born, I decided to give up my writing career and be a stay-at-home mom. That lasted six months. I started writing my first mystery while my son was watching Blue’s Clues. After completing the first draft of that, I went on to the next book. A year later, I found A Small Case of Murder on my hard drive, read it, and thought, “Hey, this is a good book. Maybe I should clean it up and get it published.” That’s how I started writing books.

·         How do you unwind after a long writing session?

A long hot bath in my whirlpool tub and a big bowl of ice cream with hot fudge sauce.

·         Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?

My second book, A Reunion to Die For, was picked up by a traditional publisher after A Small Case of Murder, my first book, was named a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. I was honored that it was released in hardback, but quickly discovered that it’s very hard to sell a $26 book when you’re an unknown. I knew that my next book would have to come out in paperback. Yet, my traditional publisher had done away with their paperback division. They were willing to pick up It’s Murder, My Son, but I declined.

By the time I had found another traditional publisher who could publish It’s Murder, My Son in trade paperback, I was already looking at CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company. Since I had self-published my first book, A Small Case of Murder, with iUniverse, I had the experience of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. So I was fortunate enough to be able to compare my experiences when making my decision.

With A Small Case of Murder, I had hired a publicist with money out of my own pocket, (not surprising because I was self-publishing) to send out review copies, set up book signings, arrange television and radio interviews; and design display materials, which I printed. I paid the fees and all of the expenses for conferences and begged and pleaded for bookstores to order my book.

With A Reunion to Die For (the traditionally published book), I sent out review copies, set up book signings, arranged television and radio interviews, and designed display materials, which I paid to have printed. I paid all the fees and all of the expenses for conferences and begged and pleaded for bookstores to order my book. The publisher had sent out a total of 40 books to reviewers and listed my title in their catalogue. In marketing, I went several times over the advance they had paid me to go beyond that.

It was plain to see that I would end up with all the same responsibilities for making my book a success no matter which way I went. When I found myself asking what the traditional publisher would do for me to earn their share of my royalties, the answer was plain.

CreateSpace ended up being the best choice for me because I have all the experience and resources to do it on my own. CreateSpace is a Do-It-Yourself publisher. The author can do everything on their own. With years of editing and interior layout design experience, I am able to lay out the interior of my books on my own. I outsource the editing (because I believe you are your own worst editor) and cover design. Once I have everything ready, I simply upload the files to CreateSpace.

I was so pleased with them when I published It’s Murder, My Son, that I went back for Old Loves Die Hard and Shades of Murder. I also used CreateSpace for the re-release of A Small Case of Murder and A Reunion to Die For. I use Amazon’s DPT for the Kindles.

My publishing process has become so streamlined that other independent authors have come to me for advice. What started out as mentoring has turned into a publishing company called Acorn Book Services, which offers affordable editing and publishing services, including limited marketing, for independent authors.

·         Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work?

Most definitely. I’m a small town girl and my mysteries take place in small towns. It’s in small towns where the whisper of murder can be carried far and wide like a lakeside breeze. In small town mysteries, the characters and suspects have more space to come to life. As a writer, I’m able to delve into the mysteries and take my readers further into the lives of intriguing characters and suspects. It’s not that way in the big city homicides where the murders are literally crimes of opportunities committed by complete strangers.

·         Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?

It was. But now that I have become a publishing manager and publisher, I spend my day helping other authors. Not that I’m complaining. I love working with authors.

My day will start out about seven o’clock with answering e-mails and social media. After a couple of hours and two pots of coffee, I have to turn off the e-mail, which is very distracting, and work on my clients’ books. This can be anything from editing to layout design to proofing. Some days it is marketing with writing press releases or sending out queries to reviewers. At about four o’clock, it is time to get dinner started for my family. By eight o’clock, it is time to start working on my books. I will write until about eleven o’clock.

Between all of that, we squeeze in taking dogs out, bringing them in, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, taking out the garbage, and nagging my son to do his chores.

·         When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Thirty-four years ago, I wrote my first book on an electric typewriter. Determined to be a novelist, I devoted all of my spare time to banging away on my IBM Selectra. The television was off. Meals consisted of peanut butter sandwiches that were quick and easy to make. Hours that I used to sunbathe for a golden tan were spent composing my masterpiece. I stopped going out with my friends. Not a minute that could be devoted to literary creation was wasted. At the end of the summer, I proudly emerged from my bachelorette apartment pale, thin, and socially bankrupt. In three months, I had written the Great American Catastrophe, all 846 pages of it in hardcopy. The only thing is, at eighteen years old, I had no idea what to do with it. This was before Internet. I lived in a small town in Ohio. I couldn’t e-mail it to an agent and do you know how expensive it is to copy 846 pages? It’s now boxed up in my mother’s basement and I hope no one ever reads it. 

·         Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?

Laptop. I carry my laptop everywhere and I’m on it all day long.

·         Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?

I was asked that question once at a speaking engagement. I laughed and said, “Nope, never had it.” Then I got it. Writer’s block is not just noting knowing where to go in a plot. It is when you sit down and stare at the computer screen. Your mind is frozen. You literally cannot write.

It happened between drafts of It’s Murder, My Son, my third book. My father-in-law had passed away. I was looking for a new publisher because my traditional publisher for A Reunion to Die For did not do paperback at that time. They were willing to take It’s Murder, My Son, but I knew my next book had to come out in paperback. It is very hard to sell a $26 hardback when you’re an unknown.
After a year of penning nothing, I decided to quit writing. I walked away. I did volunteer work. I cooked. I exercised. Within a month, I was back at the computer. Then, I had an uh-huh moment and realized with all of my professional experience editing, layout design, journalism, why could I not independently publish my own books? I decided to publish my own books and forget about making best sellers lists or impressing literary agents or publishers. I was going to write what I want and if others want to read it, fine. If not, so what? I started writing for myself.

One month later, I received an offer from a traditional publisher for It’s Murder, My Son. I turned them down.

What was the secret to getting over my writers block? American poet William Stafford offers this advice to poets who suffer from Writer's Block: "There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough." This sounds terrible at first. "What? I'm supposed to write junk? I need to write the great American Novel! I'm better than that!" No, Stafford is not encouraging writers to produce garbage. He is suggesting, however, that it's easy to take yourself too seriously. When I walked away, when I stopped trying to find the next great publisher, when I stopped trying to impress literary agents and publishers and decided to write what I want for myself, my writers block went away and I am now the happiest writer in the world.

·         Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written?

It was more so earlier in my writing that I would actually finish the first draft of a book knowing that it was not going to work. Now, I will think on a story line months, and have everything worked out before I would even sit down to start writing it. That being the case, I will not start writing a book without already knowing at that point if it will work.

Don’t get me wrong. I have written books that I have not published, but I don’t throw them away. I’m a book hoarder. I’ll hold onto it on my hard drive. Sometimes I will figure out what is wrong, or maybe there will be a scene or subplot in it that will work later on in another book.

Dead on Ice is a book that I had set aside after finishing. I wrote that first draft over five years ago. The mystery was there, but something had to be done with the characters. Something about it did not click for me. After completing Shades of Murder, it suddenly hit me that it was the perfect project for Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates, a Lovers in Crime mystery. The very same day I sent Shades of Murder to the editor, I sat down to rewrite the draft of Dead on Ice. I worked all night. When the sun came up the next morning, I had finished my next book, less than twenty-four hours after sending Shades of Murder off to begin pre-publication.

Of course, I was a mess that whole day after writing all night ... but I was a happy mess. 

·      Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers today?

Buy Shades of Murder, available in both print and e-book!

Lauren Carr, the author
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. A Reunion to Die For was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of these books are in re-release.

Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The next book in this series, Shades of Murder, will be released May 2012. This will be Lauren’s fifth mystery.

Lauren’s sixth book, Dead on Ice, will be released in Fall 2012. Dead on Ice will introduce a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, in which Joshua Thornton will join forces with homicide detective Cameron Gates.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
 She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren!

Is your book in Print, ebook or both?

All of the above! Print: $14.99/ebook: $2.99

Praise for Lauren Carr
It’s Murder, My Son
“To say this novel is a page-turner is an understatement.”  Edie Dykeman, BelleOnline Mystery Book Editor

It's Murder, My Son is not a read that should be missed for mystery fans.”  Midwest Book Reviews

Old Loves Die Hard
“Carr keeps the plot twisting and turning so guessing the bad guy is quite a challenge. Mac's wry humor adds just the right seasoning to make a well-rounded mystery.” Maria Waddell, To Read, Perchance to Dream

A Small Case of Murder
A Small Case of Murder is a GRAND case of murder.” New Mystery Reader.

Shades of Murder
Question: What do you get the man with everything?

Answer: When that man is the heir of the late mystery writer Robin Spencer, retired homicide detective Mac Faraday, you get him cold case to solve.
In Shades of Murder, Mac Faraday is once again the heir to an unbelievable fortune. This time the benefactor is a stolen art collector. But this isn’t just any stolen work-of-art—it’s a masterpiece with a murder attached to it.
Ilysa Ramsay was in the midst of taking the art world by storm with her artistic genius. Hours after unveiling her latest masterpiece—she is found dead in her Deep Creek Lake studio—and her painting is nowhere to be found.
Almost a decade later, the long lost Ilysa Ramsay masterpiece has found its way into Mac Faraday’s hands and he can’t resist the urge to delve into the case.
A world away, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; former JAG lawyer Joshua Thornton agrees to do a favor for the last person he would ever expect to do a favor—a convicted serial killer. 

The Favor: Solve the one murder wrongly attributed to him.
 Joshua finds an unexpected ally in Cameron Gates, a spunky detective who has reason to believe the young woman known to the media only as Jane Doe, Victim Number Four, was the victim of a copycat. Together, Joshua and Cameron set out to light a flame under the cold case only to find that someone behind the scenes wants the case to remain cold, and is willing to kill to keep it that way.
Little do these detectives know that the paths of their respective cases are on a collision course when they follow the clues to bring them together in a showdown with a killer who’s got a talent for murder!

Name the Porn Star in Dead on Ice. The Winner must come up with both the Stage Name and her Real Name. Send an e-mail to Lauren Carr (writerlaurencarr@comcast.net). Put: Dead on Ice Porn Star in the Subject Line of the e-mail. You must supply your contact information in the e-mail. The contest will run from June 1-July 30. Lauren will select the winning names and winner. The Winner will receive a gift basket with print copies of all the Deep Creek Lake Mysteries (autographed), Deep Creek Lake Mug, and an autographed copy of Dead on Ice when it is released in the Fall.


  1. Thank you for joining us today Lauren! The book sounds great and I like the idea of a JAG lawyer in there. I used to watch the television show and always thought what they did was interesting. I'm also usually up for a good mystery!

  2. Thank you so much for inviting me today, MK! It's great being here!

  3. MK, thanks for hosting Lauren. I haven't read her books but they seem like good reads.

    Lauren has provided so much information that is so timely for me as I'm in the process of publishing - but not quite sure which way to go.

    I'll certainly bookmark this page.

    Congrats to Lauren and her many writing and publishing accomplishments.

    I haven't read her books, but they sound interesting.

  4. Thank you for stopping by, Peaches. I love that name.

    If you're looking into publishing, feel free to stop by Acorn Book Services,


    Or stop by my website and read an excerpt from one of my books. A Mac Faraday Short story, Lucky Dog is available on my website to download free.

    It's great meeting you, Peaches!

    Best Regards,

  5. Great post...I loved the book.

    I have a review up for the tour on June 29. Stop by if you can.


    Silver's Reviews

  6. I'll certainly be there, Elizabeth. Stop by Facebook to see the slippers I'll be wearing for that stop! I picked out something special!


  7. On my way, Lauren. Can't wait to see your slippers. :)


  8. I'm reading Shades of Murder at this time--great read!

    Cindy Mc.

  9. Thanks, Cindy! It's great to hear when readers like my books. It keeps me writing.

    Thank you, MK, for inviting me! This has been a great visit!

  10. Thanks again for visiting Lauren and I agree that the book sounds great. I look forward to reading Elizabeth's review!

  11. THANKS, MK. I will love to have you stop by.