Teresa LaRue has held many professions, but currently she works as the author of cozy mysteries. Her first novel with Cozy Cat Press, Fatal Fall, explores an unexpected death in a small town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, scenery with which she is intimately familiar from her upbringing. I sat down to ask her how she got into writing, what influences her, and what she’s working on now.
Q: What inspired you to start writing cozy mystery novels?
A: I started writing cozy mysteries mainly because I love to read them. I love the small-town atmosphere and all the quirky characters. Plus, the sleuth has to piece together who the killer is using her knowledge of the town and its inhabitants.
Q: What books and other authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?
A: I fell in love with reading in the fourth grade, so I’ve consumed a lot of books. Each author has strengths and weakness that I try to learn from. But my biggest inspiration came from Phyllis A. Whitney. I’ve read her books since I was a kid. I even wrote her a fan letter once and received a hand-written reply.
Q: Your website says that you’ve worked in a variety of fields over the years. Has interacting with people from different backgrounds in different settings helped you better understand how to develop your characters?
A: I’ve run into all types of people working with the public and I find them endlessly fascinating. I enjoy hearing about their lives and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Of course, the downside is I’ve also had to deal with a few nasty characters, which helps me understand why someone might want to murder them.
Q: How do your writing ideas come to you? Do you get an idea for a character first, then the plot, or visa versa?
A: I usually start with a character. What they like, and dislike. What caused them to be the way they are. Only then do I tackle plot. After I figure out who gets killed, I work out who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime.
Q: What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule?
A: I usually devote mornings to housework and errands, then write in the afternoons. After I lay out the plot, I take one scene at a time, close my eyes, and imagine what’s going on. At some point, inspiration hits and I sit down and begin to write.
Q: Has your writing process changed for Fatal Fall versus your first book, A Talent for Murder?
A: Actually, I wrote Fatal Fall before I wrote A Talent for Murder, but my process has remained consistent. I keep a notebook with all my character sketches, plot notes, etc. Unlike some, I enjoy the rewriting process. Once I have something to work with, it’s so much easier to add details that make the scene come alive.
Q: The scenery of Fatal Fall is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where you yourself are from. Did having a personal connection to the setting of the story making writing easier?
A: Since I knew the landscape and history of the area, it definitely made the writing easier. While some people are at home in the mountains, others, in the desert, I feel most at home near the water. I love the tang of salty sea air, the warm sand beneath my feet, and the sound of waves rolling into shore.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished the second book in the Flower Patch series and have sketched out characters and the basic plot for another book about a woman who has to solve the murder of the business partner of her best friend’s boyfriend, while also dealing with the grief of losing her husband.
Q: What do you want to communicate to your readers?
A: That family and community are important, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to get along with difficult people.