Amateur Sleuth Series Starts With Bobby’s Diner

bobbysdiner_4p125x7I recently had the pleasure of reading Susan Wingate’s Bobby’s Diner, the winner of several finalist awards, including the 2010 International Book Awards. The book was first picked up and published by Cambridge Books in Cambridge, Mass., and later, after regaining the rights, Susan released it herself. Book 2 in the amateur sleuth series, Hotter than Helen, was released last week and Book 3, Sacrifice at Sea, will be released later this summer.

Susan, tell us what inspired you to write Bobby’s Diner. Was this your first book?

This was my second novel. It came to me in a dream which started this series. The dream sequence is the one you’ve read where Georgette Carlisle, the main character, hitches a ride with a scoundrel of a trucker to the place where she finds the restaurant Bobby’s Diner and where she ultimately plants her life.

Are the characters or any of the incidents based on real life?

Only the Bobby character but, as you know, when the story begins, Bobby has already died. Bobby was the love of Georgette Carlisle’s life.

What was the insight you gained from writing the book and hope your readers will understand?

That a sense of family can be found with anyone you choose to give love to and from whom you receive love. That’s the greater premise of this book.

HotterThanHelen-FrontOnly-BookCoverWhy did you decide to self-publish?

After being published and realizing how little marketing effort publishers tend to give to their books and being slightly disenchanted by this fact, I went solo. Marketing is the thing that will sell books in a world that is glutted with great books. So, with my business background intact and my living as a writer at stake, I decided to self-publish. And, boy oh boy, am I glad I did. Not only did the book win three separate finalist awards, Bobby’s Diner also reached several Amazon Best Seller spots and has gotten as high in the rankings as number two.

Did you do much rewriting for this reissue?

Of course. Authors are freaky that way. If we get another chance to edit or add or subtract, we will.

How was the process different the second time around?

Well, when your book is with a publishing house, you have little (and sometimes no) control over the finished product. I once had an editor edit out an entire meaning because of “fixing” one word. They destroyed the passage and weakened the story because of their “fix.” But, it’s a trade-off when you get picked up by a publishing house because having someone accept your work adds credibility to you as an author far beyond what a self-publisher will receive. Is the trade-off worth it? Hmm, not sure. When my self-published works sell and I get those royalty checks, I’m pretty darned happy. Conversely, when my work is published by a press I get a sense of approval, readers get a sense of credibility about my work. I suppose that’s good at the outset but if the story isn’t selling because the publisher is not pushing the book, then, is it worth the representation of having a publisher? Ultimately, it’s each writer’s choice.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Well, I’ve written all of my life and my output proliferated around 1995. But late in 1997 is Sacrifice at Seawhen I considered myself a writer, while on my way to my home where I live now. I had to drive nearly 2,000 miles to get here. On that road trip, I developed an outline for my first novel. And, the reason this was the point I considered myself a writer is because I stuck with the story and saw it through to its completion. Only a true writer can finish a novel. Writers who only dabble and don’t finish novels they’ve started are not truly committed to writing. If they were, they would learn how to finish their novel. With any craft an artist must go through the work of learning technique and structure. Writing a short story or a novel means understanding the structure of each.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Well, I actually had a mentor and that was Michael Collins. He’s an international bestselling author and two of his titles are Death of a Writer and Keepers of Truth (which was shortlisted for the 2000 Man-Booker Award).

Your other books include Spider Brains, a quirky Young Adult novel; Drowning, a tale of redemption; and a gritty “Chandleresque” novel, Of the Law. What has motivated you to write in so many different styles?

Isn’t that the million-dollar question! LOL. Stories come to me and not all of them land within one single genre. I love storytelling, therefore I write the story that strikes me most at any given time, one that stays with me, one with a logical flow and the one with a profound ending.

Do you have a favorite genre or book you’ve written?

Not really although I seem to find my list of books falling more toward women’s fiction than other genres. However, my favorite book is always the one I’m currently writing.

What is your current project?

Well, that was a nice segue! The working title of novel number thirteen is called Way of the Wild Wood. This story is about a girl named Meg Nightly whose mother has recently died and who now lives alone with her sad and abusive father. In Meg’s grief she ends up getting lost in the woods near their home. I love this story. I’m also writing to a collaborative novel but for now “Way of the Wild Wood” has me enchanted.


SUSAN WINGATE’s poem “The Dance of Wind in Trees” was published in the April 2013 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Susan’s award-winning, Amazon best seller, Drowning, is now available in audio book version. Susan’s three-Book “Susie Speider” YA Fiction Series is available through her publisher Astraea Press, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In 2012, two of Susan’s books made it onto the Top 10 Amazon Best Seller list twice. Drowning, (Susan’s contemporary women’s fiction) won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for the category of Drama. Drowning also won a finalist award for the category of Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit in the 2011 International Book Awards and reached #1 on the Amazon’s Best Seller list.

A vibrant public speaker, Susan offers inspiring, motivational talks about the craft of writing, publishing and marketing, and how to survive this extremely volatile ePublishing industry. She presents lectures and workshops at writing conferences, libraries and book stores around the country. She also loves to visit with book clubs for more intimate chats.

Meet the Co-Authors, Who’s Got the Money? Part II

Who’s Got the Money is an amateur sleuth mystery, spiced with humor. Where did the idea come from?

Morgan: You would not believe how many funny things happen in real life, particularly with the type of marketing position both of us held for four years. We’ve been inside the prison factories, military warehouses and “fought the battle” to get orders as high as millions of dollars. It was a zoo! Most people think of prison manufacturing as making license plates. They are shocked to find it’s almost a billion dollar a year business.

Which situations are based on things that have happened to you?

Meredith: The actual scam is fiction but many of the things the trio of sleuths experience were based in things that actually happened to us.

Morgan: For example, the scene with the sleazy guy offering sex in return for a big order really happened to me. Not in that particular job, but in another. He was the purchasing agent for a major aerospace company. Meredith and I also ran down the street in Anchorage, Alaska pushing a cart loaded with thousands of brochures looking for a place to dump them (A scene in the book) because the prison factory sent us thousands, not hundreds as requested for a trade show. The warehouses filled with merchandise stacked to the ceiling–that’s real. Some of our scenes are truly exaggerations, but others will sound familiar to our former co-workers if they buy the book.

How did each of you come to follow the path of a writer?

Meredith: This is my first book, collaborating with Morgan St. James.

Morgan: I began to write years ago with published magazine and newspaper articles. In the late 1990s my sister, Phyllice Bradner, also a published writer, and I developed the Silver Sisters Mysteries series. The first book in the series, A Corpse in the Soup, was released in 2006 and won an award in 2007. We followed it with two more and the fourth currently is in development. Meredith knew about my books and approached me with her idea for Who’s Got the Money? I knew it was great, and jumped at the opportunity.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Morgan: It is really simple. Do your homework, learn your craft and don’t give up. Always put out a quality, well-edited product even if you self publish. I once read a Facebook rant that showed how important this is. The author was upset by poor reviews of a self-published book that lambasted spelling and grammar errors, information dumps, poor formatting and more. The rant was, “It should be about the story, not the mechanics.” No. That is not correct. When a reader pays for a book they deserve a professional product.

Meredith: I believe it’s important to network with other writers for encouragement, help, and promotion. Joining a local writer’s organization and writers conference will help you develop friendships and give you support as you develop your craft of writing.

Getting Even, A prequel to Who’s Got the Money is available on Kindle only. This book tells how our heroine, Jennifer Hayes, gets even after the loss of her job and her money.

Morgan St. James bio: Award-winning Author/Speaker/Columnist Morgan St. James’ says her just-released books, Confessions of a Cougar, and Who’s Got the Money? are stories that begged to be told.

Her short stories appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, other anthologies. The recently released The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories collection covers everything from true stories to fiction, mystery to romance and some genres in-between.  She has written over 500 published articles relative to the craft of writing and people in the industry, as well as the book Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction.

Meredith Holland bio:

This is Meredith Holland’s debut novel. She graduated college armed with a degree in Interior Design and designed environments including commercial spaces from healthcare and educational facilities to hospitality.  Her diverse background and passion for problem solving combined with her interior design education easily qualified Meredith for the position of sales executive, marketing products manufactured by The Department of Corrections.

As a marketing representative she supported the programs, products, inmate rehabilitation mission, and government policies. Meredith says she appreciated her time spent growing her region’s Federal customer base and interacting with contracting agents and clients.

St. James and Holland met while they were both part of the marketing team for prison-manufactured furniture and conceived the idea for this comical crime caper.   Meredith resides in Seattle, Washington with her husband and son.

You can find Meredith blogging at

Morgan’s websites:

You also can connect with Morgan on Twitter: @MorganStJames, and Facebook:

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