My late mother used to regale me with tales about the squabbles and vitriolic board meetings at her condo association. Author Linda Lovely masterfully mines the dramatic potential of homeowner associations in her new mystery series, and I’m delighted to welcome her today. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her bio, website information, and buy links.
First off, congratulations on your new release, With Neighbors Like These, the first in your HOA Mystery series. Can you tell us about the book and what inspired you to write it?
Having lived in four homeowner associations I had lots of inspiration. More than 40 million U.S. single-family houses, condos and townhomes reside within HOAs. Readers enjoy mysteries set in small towns where residents know each other and their relationships add depth, passion and lots of suspects! In essence, HOAs are small towns/villages. But, since HOA boards control what owners can and can’t do with their property, these communities offer even more potential triggers for feuds. HOA boards are sometimes magnets for power-hungry individuals with personal agendas. When these officers change the rules or how the rules are interpreted, it can strike a match to a very combustible fuel supply. Great material for plots.
In With Neighbors Like These, murder victims in separate Lowcountry homeowner associations appear to have had only two things in common—they antagonized neighbors and their dead bodies were posed to shock. Are HOA feuds provoking these murders? Kylee Kane, a retired Coast Guard investigator, agrees to help her friend’s HOA management company find the answer. After uncovering decades-only links between the murder victims, Kylee IDs the killer’s next target. Can she foil the third act in the killer’s death-as-theater game or will she be the next corpse on display?
Were there books/authors who inspired you as a child? As an adult?
Who were my favorite authors in childhood? That was a LONG time ago. I visited the library frequently, bringing home a steady stream of mysteries and adventure novels. These days my husband and I read for an hour or more every night. I was delighted when I first discovered Sue Grafton’s novels. I loved her take-no-nonsense heroine and the chance to listen in on her thoughts via Grafton’s reliance on the first-person point-of-view.
You’ve had a long, distinguished career as a journalist and freelance writer. What led to your decision to write fiction?
I was hired to write an as-told-to memoir by a couple of individuals I can’t name. I taped hours of interviews, visited locations, created a narrative framework, and wrote several chapters. We signed with an agent in New York City. My clients backed out of the deal. Money was exchanged, though none came my way. The experience taught me I could write a book and enjoy the process. It also convinced me fiction was the way to go. I alone would be making any decisions about publishing.
What advice would you give to nonfiction writers thinking about making the jump to writing fiction?
Learn the craft. After my as-told-to disappointment, I enrolled in a fiction-writing course at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort taught by a published novelist. A great incentive to put pen to paper. It was also a treat to meet other writers, who, for the most part, are very generous. I highly recommend joining writing organizations like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and the South Carolina Writers Association. Join a critique group, too. Just make sure your critique partners understand your genre and offer constructive criticism. Then, make sure you reciprocate. My critique partners are among my best friends.
Are any of your characters and settings drawn from your own life?
Yes. I’ve spent time in 100 percent of my settings. While none of the characters are carbon copies of real people, I often meld personalities as well as admirable and obnoxious traits to create unique characters. Killing off a few fictional bullies and blowhards also serves as a harmless release of pent-up frustration with the real-world jerks we all encounter.
What was the path to publishing your first novel like?
Frustrating. My first literary agent seemed very excited about representing my mysteries. Then she started making big bucks selling vampire/fantasy novels, and let’s say her enthusiasm for promoting my books waned. I should have severed the relationship much sooner than I did. While I’d received encouraging, complimentary rejection letters from big publishing companies, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer and signed with a smaller publishing house.
Tell us about your writing process: Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in-between?
I’m a pantser. When I start, I know my heroine and where she lives (or is visiting). I also have a general concept for the plot. For example, I know the villain’s motive and what s/he wants to accomplish. However, it’s fun when my characters insist on taking major detours as the novel develops. These surprise opportunities for twists keep the writing process fresh.
What’s next for you writing-wise?
I have a three-book contract with Level Best Books for the HOA Mystery series, so I’m writing the second book now.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Reading. I also play tennis, swim, garden, and four times a week I go on six-mile walks with my husband. We’ve been married forty-five years but never run out of things to talk about—including the merits of a plot twist I’m considering. My husband’s an avid mystery/thriller reader and offers excellent suggestions.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books—or questions I didn’t ask that you wish I had?
I love doing research. It’s one of the joys of writing fiction. For this series, I really enjoyed talking with Coast Guard retirees and learning more about the service. My heroine’s a fifty-year-old retired Coast Guard investigator. My research helped me flesh out her background and refine her skill set.
Thanks for visiting today, Linda!
A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction. With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript. Her work has earned nominations for a number of prestigious awards, ranging from RWA’s Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense to Thriller Nashville’s Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery.
To learn more about Linda and her books, please visit her website at:
For buy links, go to: https://www.lindalovely.com/hoa-mysteries