star Featured Author
  Melinda Wells
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MLC: What started you writing mysteries?


AUTHOR: A long-time friend, Norman Knight, asked me 9 years ago the question that changed my life. He said, "You've had 7 or 8 careers. What do you REALLY want to do?" Out of my mouth popped an answer that surprised me because it had not been a conscious thought. I said, "Write mystery novels." His response was, "Then do it!" I have known Norman for half of my life and he is dearer to me than I can describe adequately.


MLC: Did you publish the first mystery you wrote?


AUTHOR: Yes. I sat down on April 18, 2002, and typed the words "Chapter 1" of my first mystery novel, LOVE IS MURDER, written under my legal name, Linda Palmer.


MLC: What is your favorite mystery subgenre to read? to write?


AUTHOR: That's a complicated question because my first 8 mystery novels (4 in the first series, the Daytime Mysteries, and 4 completed in the Della Cooks mystery series) are labeled both "cozies" and "soft-boiled." (Soft-boiled because I have more sexuality and physical action than in the typical "cozy"). Yet, the books I most like to read are by what my agent calls "the Big Boys" of crime fiction: Joe Wambaugh, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block (his Scudder novels and his Keller novels), Lee Child, the late and greatly missed by me: Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, Robert B. Parker. My reading taste runs to the harder-edged stories, and that is the kind of book I have just completed: a novel-of-suspense with a male protagonist, told in 3rd person. I hope it will be the first of a new series, but I've just sent it to my agent, so I have no idea what will become of it. While I'm waiting to find out, I'm writing book #5 in the cooking mystery series, which will be published in 2012.


MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?


AUTHOR: Characters, always.

MLC: What is your daily writing schedule?

AUTHOR: I get up every day (7 days a week) at 5 AM. I write 5 days a week and need the other 2 days to critique the work of my students in the UCLA-Extension novel-writing class I teach, 4 quarters a year. However, in the last month or two of writing a book, I will write 7 days a week and stay up late to do the UCLA work.


MLC: Do you outline?


AUTHOR: No. I start by knowing how the book will begin, and then I make a list of the characters who will appear (the "regulars" and some new characters) and make a list of a few events I want to have happen. I know who the victim will be, and who the killer will be, but a lot of details I discover along the way as I write. My characters become, in a sense, my collaborators. Who they are as people dictates what they will do and how they will react.

MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?


AUTHOR: My favorite crime authors (mystery is just one category, along with novels of suspense and thrillers) are Joe Wambaugh, Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman and the wonderful authors who have passed away: Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, Robert B. Parker. There are other authors I like, too, but these are my favorites in the crime genre.


MLC: Are you writing a series or standalone book(s)?


AUTHOR: I've been writing series because I love to spend multiple books with certain characters and develop relationships among the characters over the course of several books. I love to read series and love to write series.


MLC: If you are doing a series, how many more books do you have planned?


AUTHOR: The book I'm writing now is #5 in the Della Cooks series. I don't know if the publisher will want any more, but I have many more stories to tell about Della and the people close to her. Regarding the "spec" manuscript I just finished -- not part of the current series -- I have quite a few more stories I'd like to tell about this new protagonist. Readers are the most important people in an author's life. If readers take a certain character to their hearts (as I do with characters written by my favorite authors) then it is an immense joy to continue to tell stories about those characters.


MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? What do you do?


AUTHOR: I adore it when they start telling me how they feel! For example, in the Della Cooks mystery I'm writing now (#5, titled SEVEN LAYER DEATH, to be published in 2012) I suddenly discovered Nicholas, the man in Della's life, was angry at her about something. She was as surprised as I was! At the end of THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING, he asks her a serious question. Her answer is light, but she intends him to understand she's saying "yes." He's upset she didn't actually say the word "yes," but it only comes out when something else happens that is turning his life upside down. It was a thrill to discover the feelings Nicholas has kept to himself. (Do I sound crazy? If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be locked up somewhere.)


MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know?


AUTHOR: No, I've never patterned my protagonists (sleuths) after myself, or anyone else. However, they do share some of my passionately held feelings: about good care of pets, for example, and about loyalty. In the non-series book, my hero expresses his (and my) anger at California's weak anti-stalking law. (That's one example.) In general, my protagonists are productions of my imagination -- but are given real feelings.


MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you receive? Any suggestions for writers?


AUTHOR: Much to my joy, my first mystery novel (LOVE IS MURDER) was sold pretty quickly by my agent. I don't know how many people might have rejected it before my publisher bought it. There are 2 kind of clients: those who want to know what is happening with their books every step of the way, and those who only want to know when a deal is made -- or when every publisher on earth has refused. I'm the 2nd kind.


MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?


AUTHOR: I've attended Malice Domestic twice (it's my favorite), Bouchercon once (in Chicago) and Left Coast Crime when it came to Los Angeles. Meeting readers is one of the most exciting things for me, but I don't have time to go to conferences right now. If it were possible, I would go only to Malice every year.


MLC: What marketing has worked the best for you?


AUTHOR: Apparently, word-of-mouth, which is often the result of wonderfully positive Internet reviews. I am so grateful to those reviewers! I'm grateful to the people who take time to write to me through my Web site. I answer every letter. (I had a terrible problem with the earlier Della Cooks mysteries. The Web site malfunctioned and I was never able to get mail through it. That was an enormous frustration, as you can imagine. I hope if anyone reading this tried to contact me through the Della Cooks Web site, they will understand I never got the emails. If anyone contacts me through the Web site above, I guarantee they will hear from me!


MLC: Have you won any awards?


AUTHOR: No "official award," but hearing from people who tell me my books entertained them, or helped them forget some of their problems for a few hours is the absolute greatest award -- reward -- I could ever receive.


MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?


AUTHOR: Book #4 in the cooking mystery series, titled PIE A LA MURDER will be published on July 5, 2011. Number 5, SEVEN LAYER DEATH, will be published sometime in 2012.


MLC: If you could write anything at all, what would it be?


AUTHOR: A long series following the novel-of-suspense I just wrote "on spec." I've fallen in love with the hero of this book and want to spend more time with him, and his German Shepherd. I would also love to continue writing the Della cooking mysteries, if the publisher wants more. The first 5 books in this series only cover 18 months in Della's life.


MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?


AUTHOR: Write, write, write. Don't ever give up, but take intelligent criticism and learn from it.


MLC: What one goal would you like to reach?


AUTHOR: Sidney Sheldon wrote until he was 90, when he passed away. I'd like to live even longer and keep writing well until the end.


MMLC: Please give us your Web site url and your e-mail address where people can contact you.


AUTHOR: The Web site is and e-mail:
I love to hear from readers.


MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.