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Evil At Shore Haven, Alice Zogg, Aventine Press, 2016, 209 pp
Alice Zogg is a longtime friend of mine. She has written 11 mysteries. I met her when she had just published her second one. We have a deal: she gives me a signed copy of each book as it comes out, I read it and post a review on this blog.
Alice made the decision when she wrote the first one, to skip all the machinery of finding an agent, trying to get her book sold to a publisher, and still after all that probably having to do her own promotion and marketing. Thus she has always self-published.
She loves to write. While her books are more in the vein of the cozy mysteries of Agatha Christie or PD James than of the thriller type, all but one have a female private investigator named R A Huber. Later ones include a female assistant, Andi. They also deal with current issues.
Evil At Shore Haven is set in a senior facility in Southern California with the usual tiers of independent, assisted, and full care living. Residents have been dying under suspicious circumstances. Despite rumors, no wrongdoing has been found by law enforcement officers or coroners.
R A Huber started her private investigator services after retiring from her lifetime job. In this, the tenth and final book of the R A Huber series, she had also retired from private investigator work and turned the business over to her much younger assistant Andi. Andi convinces R A to come out of retirement just a but and go undercover as a patient at Shore Haven. Together they uncover a scam whose perpetrators almost get R A and Andi killed as well.
As in all her books, the plotting is intricate though the characters are somewhat thinly drawn. It kept me turning the pages and I finished the book in two sittings.
I admire Alice for continuing to write on her own terms for the pure enjoyment she gets from doing it. We differ in that I love to read more than I enjoy writing (meaning I have not finished a book yet!) Alice loves to write more than she likes to read. She is working on the first of what may become a new series or may be a stand alone. So we bid goodbye to R A Huber.
In 2006, after reading her fourth book, I conducted an interview with Alice. Nine years later on the momentous occasion of the retirement of R A Huber, I decided it was time to catch up with the author. Here is our latest interview/discussion:
KTW: You made the decisions to self-publish from the beginning of your writing career. Are you still happy with that decision?
My answer to that question is yes. I self-published my first book in 2003, way before it became popular to do so. I had valid reasons for not trying to get published the traditional way. One was that, with my female private investigator protagonist being an older woman, there wasn't much chance I could capture the interest of a publisher. My own age also played a role in my decision. At the time I was 60 and couldn't afford to wait years before an agent might convince a publisher to take a look at my manuscript. Now that I'm well into my seventies, my time is even more limited.
KTW: Are there any lessons you have learned from self-publishing 11 mysteries that you might like to share with other authors?
I have self-published 10 mystery novels in the R. A. Huber series and a stand-alone mystery. The stand-alone is from the point of view of a man, which was a bit of a challenge but fun to write. So far, my books have not been profitable, due to my reluctance to do extensive self-promotion. Still, I have no regrets. I write first and foremost for my own pleasure. If readers enjoy my stories, I consider that an extra bonus.
There are pros and cons to self-publishing. The biggest issue is that you are the sole person responsible for the content and appearance of your book. You don’t have a slew of professionals helping its creation along. The same goes for marketing. Traditionally published authors have it easier in that respect. On the other hand, it is truly your own work. Nobody is asking you to do major plot changes or additions. Naturally, you need to hire a good proofreader, as well as an editor.
KTW: Do you ever read books about the craft of mystery writing? If so, what have you found helpful? If not, or in addition, what have learned in the process of writing all these books?
No, I have not read any “how to” books about mystery writing. However, I have learned a lot about the craft from speakers at our monthly Sisters in Crime meetings. One thing that comes to mind: “Write about what you know, and if you don’t, do extensive research.”
KTW: Have you discovered insights about writing or about yourself as a writer over the years?
Every now and then I ask myself, how could I have lived my first 60 years without writing? I cannot imagine my life without it now.
KTW: I know you have been a member of the local Sisters In Crime chapter for many years. How has your membership been of assistance to you?
Sisters in Crime is an exceptionally worthy organization. As I mentioned already, I’ve learned a great deal from speakers at the chapter’s monthly meetings. Sisters in Crime also organizes events at local libraries, such as author readings and panel discussions. Member authors can also get a book signing spot in their booth at the annual L. A. Times Festival of Books at the USC campus every April.
This year, I will be signing at the Sisters in Crime booth Sunday, April 23, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
On Monday, May 1, from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m., I will also be one of the authors reading and signing at the Glendale Central Library for their grand opening event.
KTW: How does it feel to have brought the R A Huber series to an end?
After 10 books in the series, I feel it is time to permanently retire R. A. Huber. I had fun with her while it lasted.
KTW: You have told me you are deep into writing your next book. Would you care to share any tidbits about it? Will you still have a female protagonist? Will it also be a mystery?
The book I am working on, Accidental Eyewitness, is definitely a mystery. It is another stand-alone and has no particular protagonist, just various characters, all suspects, of course. The location is on a tropical island of my imagination (The place does not exist.) And that is about all I am ready to reveal at this point.
KTW: Thank you Alice and best wishes to you!
(My apologies for the formatting. I remember Alice telling me how much she had to learn about formatting when she first began submitting her manuscripts to Aventine Press. Perhaps I should get some pointers from her!)
(Evil At Shore Haven is available in hardcover and paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)