Q&A with J.C. Eaton

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Q&A With J.C. Eaton 

Vicki Delany who I recently did a Q&A with was kind enough to connect me to J.C. Eaton. J.C. Eaton is the pen name for two authors who are Ann I Goldfarb and James E. Clapp. Ann and James are also husband and wife. They both write several mysteries that are who done it which are laugh out loud funny. 


Q: What fascinates you both about writing who done it mysteries?


A:  We love developing the premise, finding a secondary plot and creating quirky, interesting characters. Whodunit mysteries are all about sleuthing! Not the gory, graphic imagery, but the fun of figuring out a puzzle. And although we read all sorts of mysteries and other genres, we are enthralled with cozy mysteries that offer readers humor, suspense, and problem solving. 


Q: When did you both realize that writing was what you wanted to do?


A:  As a former teacher and school principal, Ann always enjoyed writing. In fact, she wrote for a number of trade magazines while teaching. When we retired, she finally got to do what she wanted – write YA time travel mysteries. Jim was never a writer, although he did write technical information as a tasting room manager for a winery. When we moved to Arizona, Jim got the idea about co-authoring a cozy mystery series that would be laugh-out-loud entertainment for readers. So, that’s how the Sophie Kimball Mysteries began. We were so fortunate that Kensington Publishing gave us a contract! 


Q: Where do you get your ideas for your mystery series? Is it also fair to say that some of the characters you both created in your novels are based off of people you know? I love it when authors can create characters and places based off of people they know and places they’ve been. 


A:  Our ideas come from everyday life – all the funny and not-so-funny things that happen to us and our friends. And yes, our characters are composites of the people we know. Mostly, Ann’s aunts! As far as setting, we definitely used the places we were familiar with, including Sun City West, Arizona, (The Sophie Kimball Mysteries) and the Finger Lakes Region in upstate New York. (The Wine Trail Mysteries). We have a new series, The Charcuterie Shop Mysteries, set in Cave Creek, Arizona, a unique artist community. 

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your novels?


A:  Only in our dreams! We would love it if any of our mysteries were selected for film rights. 

 Q: If you two are writing a new novel now, can you reveal any details?


A:  We have just finished the first draft of Caught in the Traminette, the latest edition in our Wine Trail Mysteries. There are two unique plot lines going that weave in and out with a premise that begins with a developer who bought land across from the wineries to build a high-rise condo and thus, rob the wineries of their spectacular view of Seneca Lake. Needless to say, he is found dead! In addition, someone is sabotaging the traminette vats at the local wineries and if our sleuth, Norrie, doesn’t crack the case, this off-shoot of Gewurztraminer wine, may never see the light of day! 


Q: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to write good cozy who done it mysteries? What’s your advice to anyone dealing with writer’s block?


A:  First and foremost, he or she must become familiar with the genre. Cozy mysteries have amateur sleuths, no graphic sex or violence, and no children or pets are ever harmed. Usually there’s a cast of familiar likeable characters in a warm, comfortable setting. 


As far as writer’s block – Best advice is to step away for a day or so and let the book “marinate.” Do something completely different and don’t force anything. Give your brain a chance to re-charge.

Q: Since you two co-write novels together, what is your advice to anyone wanting to co-write a novel with someone else whether it’s a friend or a family member?


A:  Be clear on the expectations and who does what! Be clear on the process. Many co-authors divvy up the chapters but we do it differently. Jim designs the plot and Ann does the descriptions. Both of us do the dialogue together. We also work in different parts of the house or we’d murder each other! We get together and review our process as we move along. Also, be clear on point of view (POV). When we started, Jim wanted third person and Ann wanted first. Ann won!!


Q: What’s your advice to new writers on how to deal with negative feedback whether its negative reviews, online trolls or friends and family members unsupportive of their writing goals?

 A:  As much as we tell ourselves to “let it go,” it’s very difficult dealing with negative feedback. And by negative, we mean comments that are truly hurtful, not sound advice to help us improve our craft. We welcome the kind of feedback that enables us to move forward with our writing. Unfortunately, there are those folks who can be vindictive, nasty, and mean with their comments. For new authors (actually any of us), it’s a matter of developing a thick skin and not letting those kinds of comments undermine your writing process. Weigh the good feedback with the negative and get a sense of how your writing is being received by readers. Look at the big picture.