I’ve always been a fan of true crime and am delighted to welcome multi-published author Vicki Berger Erwin today. I love that even though Vicki has written thirty books, she continues to be committed to growth as a writer and is currently enrolled in the MFA program on Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. And she even tap dances!
Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her impressive bio, contact info, and buy links.
First off, congratulations on your new release of a true crime book! Can you tell us about Notorious Missouri 200 Years of Historic Crime and what inspired you to write it?
It was an editor request more than an inspiration. He asked if we were interested in doing a book for the Missouri state bicentennial (2021), 200 Years of (you choose). I proposed true crime and he, also loving the genre, jumped on it. It covers crime in the state from the early days of duels and gunfights to the present day. We tried to cover the different geographic areas in the state as well.
I was interested in the fact that for the second time, you co-authored a book with your husband, James. How did you decide to try writing together, and how do you approach co-writing? Who does what?
We’d talked about writing the Steamboat Disaster book for years and after we sold our bookstore, we finally had the time. We’d planned to travel to most of the sites where the disasters occurred, but it was a flood year and the water never went down enough along the river before our deadline. The writing of that first book went well, so we moved on to true crime. What’s more romantic than true crime?
We begin by deciding what to write about, then divide up chapters/sections, write on our own what we’ve chosen, then read and edit each other’s work.
What is involved in researching a book like Notorious Missouri? What did you find were the best sources for information?
We combed newspapers and books about crimes in Missouri to create our initial list of crimes to feature. Then, we did research and, pandemic permitting, visited areas where the crimes occurred, especially local history museums. I wrote to the state highway patrol for information about certain cases but was disappointed that they had nothing.
For Notorious Missouri, the pandemic proved a roadblock to some of the research we planned as many research institutions closed to the public. That left us with online research, including email conversations and blogs, newspapers, and books. Thank heavens for newspapers.com.
You’ve had such an interesting and eclectic writing career, having published numerous books in fiction and nonfiction for both children and adults. Do you have a favorite genre? Has that changed over time?
Mystery/crime/history has been the thread that has run through my writing and continues to be my interest. I love to do research and most of my fiction books have required some type of research. I started out solely writing for children, but after doing adult nonfiction thought I’d try my hand at adult fiction – mystery, of course.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Were there books as a child that particularly inspired you?
I’ve been a reader from the get-go. And that led to writing. My first published middle grade mystery was an outgrowth of a story I wrote in fourth grade. I loved Trixie Belden mysteries, Nancy Drew, of course, and still find mystery/thriller my preferred reading. When I was a child and wondered if I could be a writer, I asked my mom if anybody from Mexico, MO (where I grew up) had ever written a book and had it published. When she said no, it made me doubt that I could be a writer after all. But the dream didn’t die and here I am.
You attend Seton Hill’s graduate program in Writing Popular Fiction. Has the program had an impact on your growth and development as a writer?
Definitely has had a positive impact! I love the program. It’s given me the confidence to try different things as well as improving my skills. I’d never written short stories before and now I love writing them. I had my first flash story published in Flash Fiction Magazine this spring.
Overall, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
My first and the most important advice for aspiring writers is to not give up. Rejection is hard and I can’t imagine that anyone makes it very far without having to face some rejection. Let yourself feel bad for a day, then write some more. So much of success is persistence, finding the right editor, the story only you can tell. And don’t ever think you know it all. After publishing 30 books, I’m still learning.
What is your next project? Something you’re currently working on?
Right now, I’m concentrating on my SHU thesis. It’s a – surprise! — traditional mystery. I also started an historical mystery based on one of the crimes in our book. As I mentioned earlier, short stories have become something that I like to write as well.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
My first and favorite hobby is reading – mysteries, historical fiction, thrillers, true crime, and middle grade fiction. We love to travel and hope that with the world reopening after the pandemic we can do more. I also tap dance. Again, that’s been curtailed because of the pandemic, but classes should resume by summer’s end.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, or wish I’d asked that I didn’t?
Nope, great questions. I hope you can make sense of the answers!
Bio: Vicki Berger Erwin is the author of thirty books ranging from picture books to adult fiction and nonfiction. One of her books was written with her son and two with her husband. Presently a student in the MFA program, Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, Vicki lives in Missouri with her husband and their rescue dog, Luna. They are trying to downsize but have way too many books!
You can purchase the book at:
The History Press at www.arcadiapublishing.com
www.mainstreetbooks.net (the bookstore Vicki used to own)