Staci McLaughlin, Author of Going Organic Can Kill You, Talks Writing & Offers #Giveaway

My guest today is Staci McLaughlin. Staci holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University, East Bay and was a technical writer for a number of years before turning to mystery writing. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two young boys, two cats, and a goldfish. When she’s not writing or reading, she and her family love to visit amusement parks or take hikes near their home.

Anne – Welcome to the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, Staci. Let’s get right down to business and talk writing! Tell us about your book.

Staci - Going Organic Can Kill You takes place in the fictional Northern California town of Blossom Valley, where 28-year-old Dana Lewis must move back home with her mom and sister after being laid off from her marketing job at a San Jose software company.

She gets hired at the new O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa for what is supposed to be a marketing position, but her job soon transforms into a hodgepodge of chores that include collecting chicken eggs, mucking out the pigsty, and taste testing the healthy yet often unappetizing dishes created by the spa’s cook. While she’s helping the maid clean the cabins, Dana finds the body of a spa guest, a B-movie producer who has been stabbed to death. The police move in, reporters from the entertainment industry start hanging around, and the spa’s reputation is in tatters. Dana decides she’d better solve the murder before the spa shuts down for good and she’s out of a job, again. 

Anne – Super premise. This sounds like my kind of mystery and it’s going on my TBR list. Of the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?

Staci - I love the main character’s sister, Ashlee. She’s essentially a good person, but she’s also immature and a bit of a brat. I really have fun writing her scenes where she constantly talks about herself and how every man is attracted to her. She’s always trying to get Dana to wear more makeup and flirt with guys, and Dana isn’t interested. It makes for an entertaining relationship. I swear the character is not based on anyone from my own life, but I’m still expecting an angry call from my sister.

Anne – LOL! What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself from writing?

Staci - That I can write anywhere. Before I actually started writing, I thought about what a writer’s life would be like. I had visions of a quiet study with a desk by the window. The window either looked out on a serene lake or perhaps a butterfly-filled yard. I’d sit at this desk each morning, sunlight streaming into the room, and write beautiful prose. Of course, the reality is that I have two small children who are with me all the time and love my attention. I tend to write while sitting on the floor with one kid talking nonstop and the other one trying to sit in my lap.

Anne – That certainly paints a chaotic picture in my mind. I'm unsure I'd be as successful. Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished authors?

Staci - Keep going. It took me several years and many, many rejections before I landed an agent. Even then, she wasn’t able to sell my first book. I wrote another book that had many of the same characters but they were in a completely different situation, and that’s the book that ultimately sold. I just had to keep reminding myself that this is a business. Agents and publishers are looking for a certain book at a certain time, and I was lucky enough to have my manuscript ready.

Anne - Have you experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you work through it?

Staci - I do suffer from occasional writer’s block. When I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I only plan out two or three chapters at a time. I’m not working off an outline for the entire book. Sometimes I’ll get caught up in writing a big scene, and I won’t be looking ahead at all. I’ll end that scene and discover that I have absolutely no idea where the story is going next. When that happens, I know to stop right there for the day and go do something unrelated to writing. I’ll take the kids to the park or clean the kitchen or anything that keeps me busy but still allows my mind to work on the problem in the background. If I don’t have an idea for the next scene by the time I go to bed, I’ll almost always have one when I get up the next morning.

Anne – Our process is very similar. I’m always writing myself into a corner! Where can readers find you online? 

Staci - Readers can find me on Facebook and at my website. I’m also a member of a wonderful group of writers. We take turns blogging at The LadyKillers

Anne - You’re offering a giveaway copy of Going Organic Can Kill You to one lucky reader. What question would you like them to address in a comment to be eligible for the draw?

Staci - I’m giving away a print copy to a US resident. I’d like to know: When you’re reading a mystery, what are some of the things the main character does that drive you crazy?

Anne –Readers, please include your email addy <yourname AT gmail DOT com> with your answer. The winner of Going Organic Can Kill You will be selected at random, and announced here on August 14. Good luck!

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Patricia Gligor said...

Your book is going on my TBR list. It sounds like one I'd enjoy reading.
Now, to address your question. Let's see. When I'm reading a mystery, what are some of the things the main character does that drive me crazy?
One thing in particular stands out. When a main character uses the same word or phrase every time she gets excited, nervous, upset, whatever. It's usually an unusual word, something like "Creepers" or "Zowie." For some reason, that gets on my last nerve. I stopped reading a book once because I couldn't get past the repetitive use of a particular word. It made the character sound like an idiot.

Staci McLaughlin said...

Patricia, I've noticed that before in books, too, and it can be really distracting. As you mention, it's most often an unusual word, which makes it even more noticeable.
Thanks for your comment!

danielle said...

What drives me crazy is when the main character accomplishes so many things in a short period of time that it becomes totally unrealistic....a book I read recently had the person leaving the house, running about 6 time consuming errands (each errand resulting in lengthy conversations), working.....and still accomplishing all of this between common business opening hours (i.e. 0900 - 1000) and typical lunchtime otherwise called noon in the book. Really???? I do prefer reading mysteries with female 'detectives' but even most superwoman (AKA mothers!! LOL) could not keep up with this particular superwoman!

Cant wait to read your book!


Staci McLaughlin said...

Ha! I like my main characters to be efficient with their time, but I don't think anyone could be that efficient. And have you ever noticed that they seem to forget all about driving time and such? Thanks for your comment, Danielle!

Jake said...

what are some of the things the main character does that drive you crazy? Agree with Patricia over use of words or gestures. Also super human accomplishments by character you know is unbelievable. Added your book TBR list with hopes of a win.

Anne K. Albert said...

Congratulations, Patricia, you're the winner of Staci's giveaway draw. She'll be in touch soon.

Happy reading!