Friday, November 08, 2013

A Conversation with Mystery Author W. A. Tyson

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with W. A. Tyson
with W. A. Tyson

We are delighted to welcome mystery author W. A. Tyson to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Wendy begins a new mystery series with The Seduction of Miriam Cross (E-Lit Books; October 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats), which introduces detective agency owner Delilah Percy Powers.

We recently had a chance to catch up with the author to talk about the book.

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Omnimystery News: We've read the synopsis of The Seduction of Miriam Cross; how you would tweet it?

W. A. Tyson
Photo provided courtesy of
W. A. Tyson

W. A. Tyson: A dead author. A sex tape. A venture capital firm. A nun. Delilah must uncover their connection before she becomes the killer's next victim.

OMN: Tell us how the book came to be titled. And more about the cover art!

WAT: The title came before the book. A few years back, while writing an unrelated short story, the title popped into my head. At the time, I envisioned Miriam to be an intellectual literary author. Someone with strong beliefs, who wasn't afraid of a little controversy. Someone who'd been seduced into doing something dangerous. I didn't have a story to go along with the title, though, so I tucked it away in my idea file for another time. Later, when I created Delilah and her team, I was going through my old notes, thinking about the plot, when I came across the title and my thoughts on Miriam. It felt right to have Miriam's downfall be at the center of Delilah's quest, and I liked juxtaposing down-to-earth, laid back, independent Delilah against eccentric, driven Miriam. Voila — The Seduction of Miriam Cross was born.

The cover art was the brain child of my agent and her client, Frank Montagna. Frank is an illustrator and he designed the artwork. I love it! The characters on the front are Delilah and her team of female detectives — Margot, Barb and Natasha. Creating the cover for this book was a challenge, in part because the title refers to the victim rather than the protagonists. But I think Fran and Frank did a wonderful job of capturing the detective team in a way that's fun and fresh.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

WAT: I know some writers have a very detailed writing process and won't begin the actual draft until they have a solid outline. While I admire that degree of organization, that's not how I work. I start with the thread of an idea – sometimes it's a title or a character or a vaguely-defined storyline. With pen to paper, I start to flesh out what that story might be. Often I will do a rough synopsis of the overall story, just a few pages, so that I have a clear concept in mind. Then I start writing on the computer. As I go along, I stop periodically to print and review what I've written so far, making notes in the margins. This is especially helpful if I get stuck on a scene or have a plot crisis. During this initial draft, I keep a notebook of ideas – anything from plot details I need to follow up on later to character traits/histories to thematic elements. I review the notebook periodically, too, to see if anything clicks or needs to be addressed.

For me, the revision process is crucial. After I have a full manuscript, parts of which will have already been edited multiple times, I print the entire book out (sorry trees!) and place it in a three-ring binder. I read the book from start to finish, again making notes in the margins or on tabs. At this stage, I will revise for language, but my primary focus is on plot, character, etc. – the big-ticket items. I rewrite based on my notes, and then I print it out and do the same thing again. With each revision, my focus changes, becoming more granular, until by the end I am purely looking for typos. When I can read the manuscript and forget that it's mine, I know it's ready.

OMN: How do you go about fact-checking the plot points in your book?

WAT: I have some base knowledge on many of the topics presented in The Seduction of Miriam Cross, but I still needed to do a great deal of additional research on a variety of subjects, from geography to horses to guns. I started with the Internet, and then, where needed, spoke with experts. The most challenging topic to research was also the most intriguing (and upsetting) — human trafficking. I want to avoid spoilers, so I will just say that the more I delved into this topic, the more I came to understand how widespread and absolutely devastating a problem it is.

OMN: Tell us about the settings for the book. Do they play an integral part of the story?

WAT: The Seduction of Miriam Cross takes place primarily in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia, Jenkintown and in Bucks County, a neighboring area that boasts some beautiful old farms and historic properties. Because these are real locales, I wanted to be true to the local environment. That said, I did take a few liberties, and most of the businesses are products of my imagination.

The scenes in New York City and in Hawley, Pennsylvania (the Poconos) were harder to portray accurately. I visited New York City several times to get the geography right, but it's such a big town, and each neighborhood has its own feel. Ultimately, I sent the New York City sections to a friend who lives there. He was very good about providing feedback like, "That street doesn't have a subway entrance, so you need your character to walk a few blocks down." Small stuff, but details like that will ring true to a reader familiar with the location. Likewise, I asked my husband, who is from the Poconos, to fact check my section on Hawley. I'm glad I did. He picked up a few inconsistencies that I might not have noticed, even after visiting.

Overall, setting is an important aspect of The Seduction of Miriam Cross. Delilah is a displaced cowgirl, originally from Wyoming and later forced to move to Virginia. She feels out of place in urban Philadelphia and tries to create a safe haven of sorts on an old farmstead in Bucks County. It was critical to the storyline to have Delilah in an environment that isn't always comfortable for her. I wanted her off-balance, vulnerable. And from a practical standpoint, several of the plot threads require access to large metropolitan locations and the mountains. Philadelphia, with its proximity to wealthy suburbs, New York City, Baltimore and more rural areas like the Poconos, was perfect.

OMN: What's next for you?

WAT: My novel Killer Image was recently published by Henery Press (October 1, 2013). This was the first in the Allison Campbell mystery series, and I'm currently finishing up the second novel in that series, Murderous Looks, which will be published in the summer of 2014. Then it's on to the second Delilah Percy Powers novel, The Initiation of Carolyn Wu.

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W. A. (Wendy) Tyson's background in law and psychology has provided
inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons and two muses, Labs Molly and Driggs. For more information about the author and her work, visit her website at WATyson.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Seduction of Miriam Cross by W. A. Tyson

The Seduction of Miriam Cross
W. A. Tyson
A Delilah Percy Powers Mystery

Can Delilah figure out who killed Miriam Cross … before she becomes the killer's next target?

Miriam Cross, author, feminist and philanthropist, disappears from her Philadelphia home. A year later, a lonely recluse named Emily Cray is brutally murdered in her bed in a small Pennsylvania town. Miriam and Emily are one and the same.

As Delilah and her staff of female detectives — a militant homemaker, an ex-headmistress and a former stripper — delve into Miriam's life, they become submerged in an underworld of unfathomable cruelty and greed with implications that go far beyond the gruesome death of one woman or the boundaries of one country.

Eventually Miriam's fight for justice becomes Delilah's own … until Delilah's obsession with finding the truth may prove just as deadly.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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