In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Diane A.S. Stuckart, writing as Anna Gerard. Her 17th novel, PEACHES AND SCHEMES, comes out May 11, 2021.
In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Diane A.S. Stuckart. Diane A.S. Stuckart began her writing career in the 1990s as the critically acclaimed author of historical romance under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. She later switched to the mystery genre and is the NYT bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries (written as Ali Brandon) and the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries. Her Tarot Cats Mystery series launched in 2018 with FOOL’S MOON. Her Georgia B&B Mystery series (also written as Anna Gerard) debuted in 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED. Kirkus Reviews describes that book as “Filled with Southern charm and enough ditzy characters to keep readers guessing and laughing.” Book 3 in the series, PEACHES AND SCHEMES—her 17th published novel—will be on the shelves May 11, 2021.
Find Diane (aka Ali, aka Anna) at www.DianeStuckart.com.
Get to know Diane - the Tart Words Baker's Dozen:
1. Plotter or Pantser? Combo? PANTS!
2. Tea or Coffee? COFFEE
3. Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? ALL OF THE ABOVE (IN MODERATION!)
4. Snacks: Sweet or Savory? SWEET
5. Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? HYBRID
6. Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No NO
7. Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? COMPUTER ONLY
8. Daily Goal: Yes or No NOPE UNLESS ON DEADLINE
9. Formal Track Progress: Yes or no NO
10. Special Writing Spot? MY MESSY DESK
11. Writer’s Block? HAHAHAHA!
12. File of Ideas: Yes or No YES
13. Favorite Author(s)? TOO MANY TO LIST SO I’LL GO WITH THE CLASSICS: MARY STEWART, BARBARA MICHAELS, JANE AUSTEN, SHAKESPEARE
Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors J
Episode 223 - Diane A.S. Stuckart
Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words. In this episode, I’m talking with Diane A.S. Stuckart.
Diane A.S. Stuckart began her writing career in the 1990s as the critically acclaimed author of historical romance under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. She later switched to the mystery genre and is the NYT bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries (written as Ali Brandon) and the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries. Her Tarot Cats Mystery series launched in 2018 with FOOL’S MOON. Her Georgia B&B Mystery Series (also written as Anna Gerard) debuted in 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED. Kirkus Reviews describes that book as “Filled with Southern charm and enough ditzy characters to keep readers guessing and laughing.” Book 3 in the series, PEACHES AND SCHEMES—her 17th published novel—will be on the shelves May 2021. You can find more information about Diane and her books at www.DianeStuckart.com.
Welcome to the podcast, Diane. I'm looking forward to talking with you today.
Hi, Linda. Thank you so much for having me.
You're welcome. Tell me about your latest book.
My latest coming out in May - May 11, to be exact – is called PEACHES AND SCHEMES. This is the third in the Georgia B&B Mystery Series published by Crooked Lane Books. And if you've missed books one and two, the setting is in a small town in Georgia, a fictional town called Cymbeline, and my protagonist, amateur sleuth/innkeeper, Nina Fleet, and I'm sorry, I just messed that up. Because her name is actually Nina [pronounced Nine-a]. My dog's name is Nina. That's so funny. And I have to be very careful all the time in differentiating the two. In fact, Nina the character is very specific about that; at least once at the beginning of the book, she makes sure to let somebody know that's Nina like the number nine, and that way the reader knows the pronunciation, which is kind of confusing sometimes for people and as a reader, I like to know how does my character's name get pronounced. Nina is kind of an accidental innkeeper, she purchased this lovely Queen Anne home in Cymbeline because she was recently divorced. She had a really nice settlement and needed something new and different to do with her life that also kind of wanted to get out of the rat race. So she purchased the house, turned it into an inn with a little bit of persuasion in book one from the town mayor. And she's decided that she kinda likes dealing with the folks and having this type of a setup. It's something that she can be her own boss. So that is the premise of the series.
I like that. Tell me a little bit more about Nina. You mentioned that she's recently divorced and got a nice settlement so she could purchase the inn. Was this a dream that she's had for a while and what did she do before?
Really not. Nina was married to a golf pro. And I'll just let you know upfront that I put together the series and was working on the premise well before the days of Tiger Woods and you know, his marital difficulties and so forth. She was married to Cameron Fleet who was an up-and-coming star in the golf world. But he didn't make a whole lot of money until probably 20 years into their marriage, at which point he suddenly had a winning streak, so to speak. But he was also something of a drinker or something of a womanizer and Nina had decided, you know, it's not working out. She had been in the corporate world doing your basic corporate world drone type work and she hadn't really thought of something like the innkeeping, but it was one of those impulse things. She went to the town to do a little antiquing because that was something that was a little fun side passion of hers and she just happened to park and check her GPS right in front of the house and saw a brand new For Sale sign on it. And that was all she wrote. Okay, Nina went in made an offer on the house. Oh my god. Darn that dog, actually darn my husband. He's the one who named the dog Nina. And he though did not know that my main character's name was Nina we've had her for a while so I blame him on all this.
That’s funny. Where did the idea for your latest book come from?
The third one in the series actually takes place at a bridal fair. And I don't know if you had ever gone to one of those, I know when I was engaged and this was back way in the dark ages of the 70s/80s. My mom did take me to one because I was the oldest daughter and there'd never been anybody obviously married then in the family. I knew Jack about wedding expos and things to do. And I would say that mine was not the dream wedding that every girl supposedly dreams of. But I was okay with that. But it was kind of an interesting thing. And I like expos, I've gone there to many types of expos in my day job. As an author, I've just gone there as a person going to look at the boat show or the Home Show. They're interesting places with an interesting energy to them. And that's why I decided to have my murder happen there at an expo.
That really gives you a lot of suspects to draw from because there's so many people at those expos.
Certainly, and so many witnesses to everybody sees things in a slightly different way. Nina, of course happened to not be that close to where it happened. She saw it from a distance. So she's got her own perspective. But there were other people right up front telling their stories, unfortunately, and Nina had, I would say an encounter, but it wasn't really that; she accidentally overheard a fight between the ultimate murder victim and the person who gets arrested for the murder. And she feels kind of guilty about that, because she gave the police a statement and mentioning that argument. And so of course, that's why they zeroed in on the other business partner as the likely killer.
Is that why Nina gets involved in solving the mystery, because she feels responsible?
That's part of it. But also the person who is killed is a new friend of hers. She's still fairly new to the town. She's been there for less than a year and she doesn't have a lot of girlfriend type buddies and the victim was one of those. They also did doggy play dates with their dogs because Nina has an Australian Shepherd, her friend had a golden doodle. Oh, nice. That was a combination of things that made them friendly together.
I like the idea of setting a murder mystery in a venue like an expo because it really does give you such a good opportunity for red herrings, for physical clues, for suspects, for the real killer to slip in and out and be lost in the crowd.
Right. And it was a great opportunity to introduce a lot of new people. Since this is a series and this is the third book in it there are several recurring characters beyond Nina. But you always want to keep the pool of potentials open. This is a good way to do this. I didn't want it to happen – did have actually a murder in book two happen at the B&B but I would not do that again. I'm trying to avoid the infamous small version of the Cabot Cove syndrome by having people dropping dead at her inn. That's not a good look for a business person, so the expo was ideal for this.
What about your recurring series characters? How many and what are their names?
The main recurring character is Nina’s BFF. And I say that that's her best frenemy forever, Harry Wescott. Harry is quite the character. He is an out-of-work actor. He's a couple years younger than Nina so he's about 39-ish. He's very talented. He's been in several movies, but not really in starring roles. In Book Two he actually directed the stage play of Hamlet during the town's Shakespeare Festival. The main reason that they don't quite get along is because the house that Nina bought actually belonged to Harry's great aunt. And that was his go-to place when he was young because he and his father did not get along. Well, his mother died early and his great aunt, who had no children of her own, took a lot of interest in him. So even during the summertime, he would actually stay with her and he lived up in the tower room of the house. So he still feels a little proprietary towards that. And in Book One, he actually had the whole impression that when his great aunt passed, she was gonna leave that house to him but unfortunately his father who is estate executor just went ahead and sold it right out from under him because there was nothing in writing so that kind of started the pair of them out obviously not on the best of terms, but over the series they have a lot of interests in common and again Harris is very charming guy so it's easy enough to somewhat fall under his spell but Nina tries very hard not to do that.
Having already been involved with a charming person.
Exactly – too much memories of her ex-husband. Another group of recurring characters is the Tanaka family. This is Gemma, the wife; she's African-American. Husband is Daniel, he’s Japanese-American; and their daughter, Jasmine, she's a teenager. They all work at the – we had to change the name because we moved [the series] to Georgia. They work at the local diner, or actually they own the local diner, Peaches and Java, and they cater to Nina’s B&B. So in addition to being friends, there's something business associates and they show up in every single one of the books. I like to kind of do is each book introduce a new character, who then I kind of pull over into the subsequent book, and that again, there'll be a new character in the book after that will keep pulling in. So I'm trying to build the community without just dumping it all on you at one time, because that’s confusing for the reader.
It is. Do you have a writing routine or schedule?
I'm one of those really bad, bad writers. I so envy those who have their outlines. And they have their storyboards. I mean, I've done the whole thing with buying the whiteboards and the colored sticky notes. And you know, that lasts about two days, and then it goes away. I work under pressure only. And if I have a deadline, I'll say, Oh, yeah, I got six months until my deadline, maybe I'll binge-watch a TV show. I write under pressure. Also, I do have a full-time day job. So that means that my writing hours are somewhat limited. I'm not a morning person. So I'm not one of those brilliant people who can get up at four, dash off a chapter, and then go to work. So it's when I get home I do probably the most of my writing between about eight and midnight and go to bed and start all over again the next morning at six.
Do you try to write a certain amount of pages or words in each writing session, or you just write until you feel like you've done enough for that day?
I pretty much write until I can't write anymore within that time period. I do keep, especially as I get closer and closer to deadline, a page calendar showing how many pages left which equals to how many pages I need to write a day to hit the deadline. And that's a good little crop on me to keep that writing going.
That's the stick you use.
Exactly. I wish I were more disciplined. But alas, I am not. I don't think after all these years I can change
Do you outline?
Did I just tell you I was not disciplined?
I've tried that, too. My main issue I had back in the olden days, you always had to turn in a synopsis in advance of writing the book. And I do not like that at all. Because once I write a synopsis, I feel like I've told the story. And it's really hard for me to be interested in writing the book again. And I'm very fortunate, now that I've published long enough, that I just get a contract. And all I have to do is if it's a brand new publisher, just turn in first three chapters and a vague outline of the first book and then concepts of the next one or two after that. For myself, then I will make some notes. I've had the problem in the past. In fact, it just showed up on the current arc for this book, I may write a concept for the book, but I'm constantly changing it. So the original blurb that they stuck on the art copy that was sent out to a few people is totally different from the actual story that we ended up with. Just how it is always for me again, if I could be better and more disciplined, I would but it's worked for me for 17 books. So you know what, I'm just gonna go with it.
Yeah, I think your writing process is your writing process. And if it's working for you, I don't see a need to change it. What works for other writers doesn't necessarily work for me. So I don't feel obligated to take in any other writer’s way of doing things. If I try it, and it works terrific. If I try it and it doesn't work, I don't do it anymore.
Right. And I always tell people don't necessarily listen to my way of doing it. And I tried if a brand new writer asked for advice or options, I'll give them the gamut. You know, I'll say this is what I do. But I know a lot of people who do it x y way, give it a shot.
Do you have any creative outlet that helps you keep your writing fresh or keeps your mind creatively engaged?
Well, my day job involves an awful lot of work on the computer, when I'm working on the computer at night writing, it's a different focus, because it's not a creative job that I have. But I need something that's totally not writing or that kind of creating. So my current thing that I enjoy doing is I'm an avid thrifter. I love going to the secondhand shops and garage sales and such and finding really cool things for really, really cheap. Then I have an Etsy store and I have an eBay store and I love selling collectibles. It's a good way to be able to spend money without spending too much money. And it's kind of satisfies that. And it's interesting too, because I started out as a writer of historical romance. So I'm kind of a history buff and I like researching some of the older pieces and learning about things right now. My passion is more mid-century modern, but that changes all the time.
And then the change gives you a new avenue to explore
Exactly. There was a book that came out a few years ago about people who are Renaissance people. And that's a very kind way of saying that we don't hold our attention on anything for very long, where you don't jump from here to there. And I see that in myself. I like to learn something new. And when I'm finished with it, I'll enjoy doing it. But I'll move on to the next thing.
And I think on that note, we'll say goodbye until next time. I'll have the links to your books and your social media in the show notes. People can find you at www.DianeStuckart.com. I look forward to reading your books and finding out more about you. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Diane.
Linda, thank you. You were just a lovely hostess.
Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart223. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast, or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for bakers, readers and writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.
DIANE A.S. STUCKART began her writing career in the 1990s as the critically acclaimed author of historical romance under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. She later switched to the mystery genre and is the NYT bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries (written as Ali Brandon) and the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries. Her Tarot Cats Mystery series launched in 2018 with FOOL’S MOON. Her Georgia B&B Mystery series (also written as Anna Gerard) debuted in 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED. Kirkus Reviews describes that book as “Filled with Southern charm and enough ditzy characters to keep readers guessing and laughing.” Book 3 in the series, PEACHES AND SCHEMES—her 17th published novel—will be on the shelves May 11, 2021.