Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Visit with Beth Solheim

Beth Solheim works in the human resources department at a hospital. At night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries. In her fictional world she's lived the life of a sheriff’s deputy, a funeral director, a child, a death coach, an embezzler, a ghost and a chef who’s been banned from cooking at the Witt’s End resort. With all those characters traipsing through her mind, there are still numerous stories yet untold.

Beth, you have a unique senior sleuth mystery series. How did you come up with the idea of Sadie Witt helping the newly departed into the hereafter?

Hearing a casual mention of crossing over to the other side as I channel surfed the television is how the idea developed. I chuckled and hoped the recently departed wouldn’t take a wrong turn on their journey. That silly thought grew into a notion, moved on to character development, and ended up as my Sadie Witt mystery series.

Tell us about the Witt sisters.

Sadie Witt is an eccentric, fun-loving resort proprietor who sees the dead. She’s not thrilled with her death coach responsibilities, but that doesn’t deter the fashion-challenged senior sleuth from welcoming a steady stream of deceased guests from the mortuary next door. Will Sadie’s guests cringe when they realize she was assigned to lead them on their final journey? Yes!

Jane, Sadie’s twin sister, is the polar opposite in both appearance and attitude. Prim and proper, and insistent on following old-fashioned protocol, Jane struggles to keep Sadie in line. Plus, Jane can’t see Sadie’s dead guests. This leads to trouble and shenanigans.

How long was it between sitting down to write that first chapter and publication? And what obstacles did you encounter along the way?
 Approximately three years from concept to signing a two-book contract. Then about six more months to publication. The biggest obstacle was losing my agent. Illness and other issues lead her to release her clients. It was back to square one. I wrote the second book in the series before I decided to approach smaller publishers on my own. That resulted in an offer for the series.

What’s the worst part of writing for you and the aspect you enjoy most?

Finding time to devote to writing is the most challenging. I work full time in human resources at a hospital and work on my books evenings and weekends.

The most enjoyable is completing an outline. I determine what goes into each chapter before I actually start writing. I need a roadmap. I wish I could write by the seat of my pants, but I’m not one who can do that. That road map keeps me on course and guides which characters appear and in what order. I do take liberties on making changes as new possibilities blossom.

How do you publicize your mystery novels?

I mail to a combination of 2500 bookstores and libraries around the country as well as participate in blogs and on-line groups. Facebook and Twitter are also good marketing avenues. Speaking at libraries, civic clubs, church, and women’s groups is an excellent source to spread the word.

Tell us about your soon-to-be released book, Outwitted.

The Witt’s End Resort in Northern Minnesota will never be the same when Sadie Witt assumes the role of funeral director’s helper after the untimely murder of the previous assistant. Shenanigans abound when the resort manager unwittingly rents Cabin 12 to the funeral director’s ex-husband, a raucous character who causes one outrageous funeral mishap after another.

Flamboyant Sadie isn’t your typical sixty-four year old senior citizen. She also functions as a conduit to the hereafter for those who failed to cross over. The recently departed arrive with issues, and she must help them unravel the puzzle.

After skeletal remains are discovered under Cabin 12, Sadie and her sister set out to solve a murder and reveal a secret that ties a prominent community member to a notorious crime operation.

BE WARNED…If you think Cabin 12 harbors a mystery, don’t check into Cabin 14, because no guest ever leaves alive!

Who influenced your own work and whose novels do you read most?

I believe Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series influenced me the most. I love her light humor and great characters.

I most enjoy reading Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben. Readers can pick up one of their books, even without a cover indicating the name of the author, and immediately know who wrote it because of style, pacing and intrigue. Great writers!

How important is online social networking and have you used the various sites successfully?

If you know how to inform without over selling, yes, social networking is excellent. Knowing how to reach your audience is the most challenging. Facebook and Twitter are the two sources I use. Luckily, my posts have generated sales and I have met many great on-line readers.

I also have two blogs. One features Minnesota authors, illustrators, bookstores, etc., and that has opened up invitations to speak or blog on other blogs.

Advice to aspiring writers?

Never give up. There were times I was embarrassed by terse rejections and gave in to self doubt, but after a few days I put my writer’s armor back on and tried again. If you give up, it will NEVER happen. You also have to believe in your work.

Your web and blog site urls?

Thanks, Beth.

Beth's website: http://www.bsolheim.com/
And her blogsites: http://readingminnesota.blogspot.com/http://mysteriesandchitchat.blogspot.com/

8 comments:

david said...

an excellent interview. looking forward to the sequel.

Earl Staggs said...

Sadie sounds like a fun character. I'll have to check her out.

Laura Breck said...

Congrats on the upcoming release, Beth. I'm impressed with your marketing strategy - especially working full time. Wishing you lots of sales!

Ana Morgan said...

Sadie Witt is definitely a character. I've loved cozies ever since Murder She Wrote. Congratulations on another great story, Beth.

J. R. said...

I enjoyed reading At Witt's End and look foward to your new book, Beth.

bsolheim said...

Thanks for the great comments. Sadie is indeed a fun character. She's up to even more shenanigans in Outwitted. Lordy, Lordy, even the mortuary is hopping, but not with the living. Will funerals ever be the same?

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