Friday, June 24, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Heather Weidner

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Heather Weidner

We are delighted to welcome author Heather Weidner 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.

Heather introduces private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald in Secret Lives and Private Eyes (Koehler Books; May 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we had the opportunity to spend some time with her talking about it.

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Omnimystery News: Secret Lives and Private Eyes is the first in a series featuring PI Delanie Fitzgerald. How do you see her developing over the course of the series?

Heather Weidner
Photo provided courtesy of
Heather Weidner

Heather Weidner: Delanie Fitzgerald is a private investigator who lives in Central Virginia. Delanie's partner, computer guru/hacker, Duncan Reynolds and sidekick, Margaret, the English bulldog, are characters who will continue through the series. Delanie grows as a character throughout this book and into the next one. In this one, she gets into a little trouble by crossing some lines in her investigations. By book two, she's learned from some of her earlier missteps. I like the characters and the adventures that they have.

OMN: Into which genre would you place this book?

HW: Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a traditional mystery with a private investigator. I know it's important to classify books, so readers know what to expect. But this book has some characteristics that readers of other genres would like. Even though this isn't a cozy, it will appeal to readers who like humor and a little romance in their mysteries.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of it?

HW: Sassy PI and computer hacker have to clear strip club owner's name and find missing 80s rock star before somebody else gets murdered.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?

HW: I mix in some real life in my short stories and novels. All of my city settings are actual places. I tend to set my works in Virginia locales. If a crime occurs, I make up that location's name. I wouldn't put a horrific event at a real restaurant or store. But if you've been to the cities, you'll recognize landmarks and street names.

For some of my characters, I blend characteristics of several real people to make a fictional person. And phrases that family and friends say frequently appear in my stories. I have two co-workers who keep asking me to make them villains. I haven't done that yet, but I do hint from time to time that unruly team members will end up in a dumpster in a future story.

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and always jot down names and interesting tidbits that might one day make their way to a story. I use friends and family member's names for minor characters.

And every once in a while, you'll find police, EMTs, or FBI agents named after my favorite authors, rock stars, or actors.

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

HW: I'm a hybrid in the plotter vs. pantser (writers who write by the seat of their pants) discussion. I start out by plotting the storyline. I color-code chapters that have clues, romance, and comedy. Then I write short biographies for all the characters. I keep a master list for the series and record which books each character appears. Then, I start writing. Sometimes, the characters or the story will take me in a different direction, and that's the pantser part of my style. The characters and mystery do expand as a I write.

I am also very fortunate to be a part of a mystery writers' critique group, and they help me along in my writing journey.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

HW: I had the great privilege of growing up as a cop's kid. My dad is a retired police captain, and he's my best resource. We have great discussions (often at the dinner table) about what a meth lab smells like or the best way to dispose of a body.

I also do a lot of internet research. I'm also very lucky to be a member of Sisters in Crime, and our local chapter hosts many workshops with professionals to help us make our writing realistic. Our Central Virginia chapter has had programs with a forensic psychologist, FBI agents, an arson investigator, a terrorism expert, an undertaker, a private eye, and college campus police chiefs. We've also been fortunate enough to also have tours of the FBI's facilities, the state police headquarters, and the state forensics lab. The information from these sessions have been invaluable.

Making crime stories realistic is often a challenge, but I'm very fortunate to have a lot of resources who are so generous with their time and expertise.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?

HW: The best advice that I've received as an author is to not give up. Persistence is key. If you want to be published, it's a lot of hard work. It takes time and energy. If you really want it, don't give up.

It felt like harsh criticism at the time, but it was also valuable information for my writing journey. I worked for years on a manuscript and took it to a critique group. As far as I was concerned, I was done and ready for the royalty checks. I received a lot of good feedback for improving my writing and through rework and revisions, I was able to polish my manuscript. What you think is your final draft, isn't.

I've learned to be persistent, to keep writing, and to keep learning. You can learn something from everyone.

My advice to new authors is to work on your craft and publicity, but remember that your primary job is to write your next book. Social media and other marketing are key for writers. It's expected that you have a key role in this, but just make sure that you balance it with your writing time.

OMN: How involved were you with the cover design?

HW: My publisher's design team created five covers, and we reviewed them. He puts the top two choices on his website for feedback. He and I (and the majority of those who were surveyed) loved the first choice, which is the one that we went to press with. I like it. If you look carefully, you can see part of the city of Richmond in the background.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any subject.

HW: Here's my Top 5 playlist for Secret Lives and Private Eyes:

1. Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun";
2. Robbin Thompson's "Sweet Virginia Breeze";
3. Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally";
4. The Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun"; and, of course,
5. Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes".

OMN: What's next for you?

HW: There are lots of writing things going on. I am currently working on the second in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. I have a short story coming out in a wine-themed anthology next year, and I'm working with my Virginia is for Mysteries friends to promote our second anthology in that series, published in February.

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Heather Weidner Book Tour

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather Weidner has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She currently lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers. She is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Guppies, and Sisters in Crime — Central Virginia. She is currently President of Sisters in Crime — Central Virginia.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Secret Lives and Private Eyes by Heather Weidner

Secret Lives and Private Eyes by Heather Weidner

A Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery

Publisher: Koehler Books Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Business has been slow for Private Investigator Delanie Fitzgerald but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?

And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn't bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor's secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder — possibly her own — takes place?

Secret Lives and Private Eyes by Heather Weidner. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.


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