Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
As Peg Herring I have 15 books available, ranging from historicals (Tudor Era and medieval Scotland) to traditional mysteries with interesting, usually female protagonists. One is homeless (KILLING SILENCE), one is dead (THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY), and they’re all stronger than they thought they could be. My books have won awards and garnered great reviews from the likes of BookList and Library Journal.
I’m a former educator with a long-time husband and one very old cat left in the house. We love to travel and believe it makes a person wiser to see how other folks live.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
SOMEBODY DOESN’T LIKE SARAH LEIGH is a stand-alone mystery inspired by stories I heard about small-town women who’ve been friends since childhood and then suddenly aren’t anymore.
“What would cause that?” I asked myself, and the answer was “I don’t know, but here’s one possibility.” This book is about friends who part ways over lies that result in murder and mayhem. It’s on the cozy side of traditional, and I hope your best friend never turns on you like Sarah Leigh does!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Well, the cat does. While I’m writing she has to be on a chair beside me, on a particular blanket.
I have been known to act out action scenes in my cramped and cluttered little office. Since I’ve never been in a fight, I have trouble imagining how things go, so I get up and do it in pantomime. Of course I have to do both parts. I tried getting my husband to participate, but he just thinks I’m silly.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Since I was an English teacher, many of the great authors taught me about writing. Reading their works over and over each year with my students ingrained in me a sense of storytelling.
Styles change, so one shouldn’t write like Dickens or Hardy these days if she wants to sell books. I study the great modern writers of mystery. Harlen Coben, Laura Lippman, William Kent Krueger, Michael Connelly, and Sara Paretsky are a few of my favorites.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing a series called The Dead Detective Mysteries, a four-book series. The premise is when a person is murdered and doesn’t know why or by whom, he or she can send a detective from the Afterlife to find the answers, allowing the victim to truly “rest in peace.”
In this book, the detective himself decides it’s time to find out the truth of his own murder. Seamus remembers what happened in Chicago in 1953. He remembers getting dumped in Lake Michigan. And sadly, he remembers that his wife and his best friend were present at his murder.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve had great success with BookBub, when they choose my work, but that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Otherwise I use Facebook and Goodreads a lot for announcing new releases, sales, and such. I also like sites such as Awesome Gang, Book Goodies, and Great Books, Great Deals.
I send out a newsletter, but I don’t like “hustling” people into signing up for it. I prefer to talk to readers who really want to know what I’m up to.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Persist. We need to keep writing to write better. We need to promote even when it doesn’t seem to be working. We need to believe in what we produce. Like a lot of things, writing doesn’t fall into Good and Bad. People will tell you your stuff is great because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. People will tell you your stuff is terrible because they like making judgments. Remember there’s a spectrum of what readers like and buy, and someone is liable to like what you write. You need to find those readers, which is the hard part in today’s world where everyone is screaming “My book is the best!”
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
When I was struggling to find a publisher, I heard an editor say that the month before, she’d had 40 manuscripts on her desk, all worthy of being published. She was allowed to choose one.
Her comment did two things for me: first, I realized that I wasn’t being rejected because I was a bad writer. It’s a business decision, and publishers and agents are looking for books that will make them a ton of money. Most authors don’t care if they make a ton, as long as they make a little and get positive feedback. It’s all about being appreciated.
The second conclusion came much later, after I’d been traditionally published for years. Reminded what the woman had said about editors not being able to publish everything that’s good (and having learned that I didn’t get paid all that well for what they do find marketable), I became a hybrid writer. I give my traditional publishers what they want and publish the others myself.
What are you reading now?
I just started Molly MacRae’s LAWN & ORDER, a cozy mystery recommended by a friend. So far it’s very entertaining.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m waiting for a cover for a medieval historical romance called DOUBLE TOIL & TROUBLE about two of Macbeth’s nieces in Scotland. Once it’s done, I’ll get that one out, sometime in January, 2016.
After that I will start on the final Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) mystery, tentatively titled HER ROYAL HIGHNESS PLOTS.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I’m sure you know that’s an impossible question! I think a book that changed the way I see writing is A TALE OF TWO CITIES. The intricacy of the plot pleases me. Everything the reader is told matters, even when you’re furious with Dickens for spending so much time telling you about something that seems irrelevant. It will matter later, and it will all contribute to the enjoyment of the story. That makes me happy.