My guest today is none other than Heather Redmond, who also writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Heather Hiestand. But today we’ll focus on what Heather Redmond enjoys writing. What is that, you may ask? Let’s meet her and then dive into the interview to find out!
Longtime Washington State resident Heather Redmond is a committed anglophile, Dickens devotee, and lover of all things nineteenth century. She writes two mystery series, A Dickens of A Crime, featuring young Charles Dickens in the 1830s, and a new cozy mystery series, the Journaling mysteries, set in Seattle which debuts Halloween 2019 in the UK and Feb 1, 2020 in the US. Her latest Dickens title is Grave Expectations, book 2 in the series, and Journaled to Death is book 1 of her cozy series. She also writes as Heather Hiestand.
Betty: How many books have you written and published?
Heather: As Heather Redmond, I have two books published, but five under contract at the moment. Heather Hiestand has been around for fifteen years so the publication list is in the dozens.
Betty: What genre(s) do you write in and why?
Heather: That changes from year to year! Right now, I’m writing two genres of crime fiction as Heather Redmond, historical mystery and cozy mystery. As Heather Hiestand, I’m writing romantic suspense.
Betty: What themes or motifs did you use in your recent release and why were they important to your story?
Heather: My A Dickens of a Crime series is based on both author Charles Dickens’s life as a young man in London and much more loosely on his novels. My current release, Grave Expectations, is set in the summer of 1835 when he lived in Selwood Terrace and worked at the Morning and Evening Chronicle. I took themes and motifs from his novel Great Expectations. Themes like “the dead don’t stay dead” and “the tug of past life on the present” and motifs like “spiderwebs.” I also wanted to look at the Jewish experience in London because of my own family history so some of my characters are coming from different aspects of Jewish society in London at the time.
this clever reimagining of Charles Dickens’s life, he and fiancée Kate Hogarth
must solve the murder of a spinster wearing a wedding gown . . .
London, June 1835: In the interest of being a good neighbor, Charles checks in on Miss Haverstock, the elderly spinster who resides in the flat above his. But as the young journalist and his fiancée Kate ascend the stairs, they are assaulted by the unmistakable smell of death. Upon entering the woman’s quarters, they find her decomposing corpse propped up, adorned in a faded gown that looks like it could have been her wedding dress, had she been married. A murderer has set the stage. But to what purpose?
As news of an escaped convict from Coldbath Fields reaches the couple, Charles reasonably expects the prisoner, Ned Blood, may be responsible. But Kate suspects more personal motives, given the time and effort in dressing the victim. When a local blacksmith is found with cut manacles in his shop and arrested, his distraught wife begs Charles and Kate to help. At the inquest, they are surprised to meet Miss Haverstock’s cold and haughty foster daughter, shadowed by her miserably besotted companion. Secrets shrouded by the old woman’s past may hold the answers to this web of mystery. But Charles and Kate will have to risk their lives to unveil the truth . . .
Betty: Do you have a specific place that you write? Revise?
Heather: I have an office in my house and I write there or on a chair in the living room. I mostly write at home.
Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?
Heather: I mostly write when my house is empty. School hours or child sleeping hours.
Betty: What helped you move from unpublished to published? A mentor or organization or something else?
Heather: I sold my first mystery short story to Sisters in Crime for an anthology, Murder Across the Map. That first experience was instrumental in my career as it gave me hope during a long road to publication. I had a couple more years to wait before I sold my first novel.
Betty: What do you think is your greatest strength in your writing?
Heather: I think plotting was always my strength. That lends itself well to the mystery genre where twisty, ever changing paths of investigation is key to reader enjoyment.
Betty: What comes first when you’re brainstorming a new story: setting, situation, characters?
Heather: I’m writing series-based mysteries, so I’m always thinking about what the characters that already exist are doing. I have casts of friends and family to keep in touch with. For the A Dickens of a Crime series, I also pick one of Dickens’s novels to concentrate on. I reread it and take a look at the themes and motifs and use them to lead me into a plot. For my new cozy series, the heroine owns her own journaling business and is also a hospital barista, so my plots are grounded in those experiences.
Betty: Do you have a structured time to write or is more fluid/flexible? Do you have to write between family obligations or do you set aside a block of time?
Heather: During school days, my focus is on the writing. During the summer, it’s stolen moments.
Betty: What is one recent struggle you’ve experienced in your writing?
Heather: I always struggle in the summer because of having a child underfoot all day. I war between keeping up the obligations of a job and mom time.
Betty: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Why or why not?
Heather: I have participated and even “won.” However, I’m not always in a drafting phase exactly on November first and if I have to tend to other obligations, I don’t have enough time to write 50K and do other things like edits, plotting and so forth.
Betty: What are you reading right now?
Heather: I am giving a library presentation on “Writing Exciting Mysteries” on August 3rd, so I’m prepping for it by rereading the fantastic novels I preselected for the presentation, so the library could have them on hand. I’m also listening to A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George on audio.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Heather: My guilty pleasure long before I wrote it was cozy mystery. Current favorites are authors like Marty Wingate, Kellye Garret, Vivien Chien, Krista Davis, and Ellie Alexander.
Betty: What are your keeper books? How often might you reread them?
Heather: Because of this presentation, I’m delighting in my keeper shelf right now. Authors on it include Agatha Christie, Lindsey Davis, Rhys Bowen, Elizabeth Peters, and Margaret Maron. But I rarely read a book more than once. I can go twenty-five years between rereads.
Betty: When you’re writing, do you read in the same genre as your work in progress or something else?
Heather: I’m actually a very eclectic reader, so I doubt too much sticks from my reading, even if I’m writing in the same genre. I always have multiple books going at once, including tons of middle grade fiction that I’m reading with my child.
Betty: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?
Heather: Writing is my day job.
Betty: What do you wish readers knew about the publishing industry?
Heather: I wish they knew that very few of us are even making minimum wage. We can’t afford to hand out a lot of free books and tchotchkes that are far from free to us.
Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?
Heather: The first thing is to finish your first book before you worry about anything in the industry. The second is to make sure you’re getting some kind of professional feedback before you publish it, whatever your path might be.
Betty: Any hints of what you’re next writing project might be?
Heather: I am pitching the next Dickens book, drafting the third book in my Kent Confidential romantic suspense series (as Heather Hiestand), and drafting my second cozy mystery.
Betty: What kind of writing would you like to experiment with? Or what’s a different genre you’ve considered writing but haven’t yet?
Heather: Cozy is my newest endeavor, and was actually started one hundred percent just for fun during some down time in the spring of 2018. So that’s my latest experiment. My agent didn’t expect it to sell so easily, so experiment became a new career path for me very recently! It’s great to try new things.
Thanks, Heather, for sharing about your stories in all your genres and pen names!
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