Name: Victoria Gilbert
Author of: The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series
Book One: A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS (out now) Book Two: SHELVED UNDER MURDER (July 2018), Book Three: PAST DUE FOR MURDER (early 2019)
From: Crooked Lane Books
Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?
As soon as I realized that those marks on paper made words, I was writing little stories and poems. I don’t really remember the first one, but a short story about a girl who gets a black kitten as a Halloween gift sticks in my mind.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?
Even though I continued to write poetry and stories throughout my life – and I always wanted to complete a novel, although not necessarily for publication – I didn’t decide to pursue writing professionally until about six years ago.
I actually had a long career as a librarian before pursuing writing professionally.
Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?
I can’t list one person, but I will acknowledge my two wonderful critique partners, who have offered friendship and support along with advice. Both are published (or soon to be published) authors: Richard Taylor Pearson and Lindsey Duga.
I also received a lot of information and support from the other authors over on the writing website, Agent Query Connect. http://agentqueryconnect.com/
Do you exclusively write mystery or have you written in other genres?
As Victoria Gilbert I write only mysteries. However, under my other penname (Vicki L. Weavil) I have also written and published YA and adult Fantasy and Scifi
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?
It was definitely difficult while I was still working full-time as a library director at a small university. However, I have been fortunate enough to retire a little early so now I am writing full-time.
I write for several hours a day. The rest of the day is devoted to maintaining my author social media presence and undertaking writerly promotional activities, as well as walking, cooking, and keeping up my house and garden. Once I meet my current deadline (on book three of my series) I hope to also add in some volunteer work at my local food bank.
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?
Although I prefer a six month window, I can write a 80,000 to 85,000 draft in approximately four months – sometimes I’ve done it in three! I then spend about a month on revisions, although for my current book I’ll need to cram that into two weeks. (Life got in the way and put me behind schedule this time).
Of course, that’s just my original revisions. My publisher is great about doing extensive editing passes, so I often do much more revision later, based on my (very talented) editor’s suggestions. Then there are copy edits, proofing, etc. So the book undergoes a lot more editing and revision than just my initial pass.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?
It depends upon the book. As a former librarian, I am pretty well versed in research (and actually enjoy it). I do some preliminary research before I begin writing the first draft, but there’s always stuff that crops up while I’m writing so I never say my research is done until the book is complete.
I use a mix of resources – library books, online sources, and even original source material in archives.
I am a planner – I create character lists, family trees, age charts, and so on, and I outline each book fairly extensively. (However, I do adjust the outline as I write the actual book).
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?
Not really. (But then, if I don’t want anyone to know them, why would I share them here, ha-ha?)
Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?
My current series is based in the area where I spent a large portion of my life – rural northern Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have gathered some information when visiting family in that area to add to what I already know.
As for a dream destination – I have planned a future book in this series that (partially) takes place in the Tuscany region of Italy…
Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?
Yes, but for most of them it was just one little thing I saw or heard or read that formed the kernel of an idea. I tend to do a lot “what if?” thinking and that’s often how I take the kernel and grow it into a book.
Now, there was a very specific situation that inspired an important component of A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS but I can’t tell you what that was, because that would actually be a spoiler!
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?
I love mysteries and thrillers – I enjoy everything in that genre, from hard-boiled detective novels to psychological thrillers, to cozies. I also enjoy some fantasy and science fiction, and literary fiction. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll basically read anything if it is well-written!
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?
Yes. There is a word I include in every book at least once. Only my husband and I know what it is. It’s our private joke. (And no, I’m not telling).
Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?
Not really. I do draw inspiration for characteristics, appearance, and behavior from people I know or have known. They are not necessarily people I’ve known well, though. I also collect information from simply “people watching” or other observations of strangers.
But none of my characters are ever specifically based on a real person. They are always their own unique selves!
Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.
Anything by John Crowley, but especially LITTLE, BIG and his latest, KA: DAR OAKLEY IN THE RUINS OF YMR. I mean, he IS acknowledged as a master by many people in the writing world, but I think he should be more well known by the general public too.
Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Anne Rice. I really am not much into vampire stories (and don’t enjoy some of the later books in that series) but I do love that one.
Be honest: Do you Google yourself?
Rarely. I did that more when I started out, but I have learned (the hard way) that sometimes, especially when it comes to online comments and/or reviews, ignorance truly is bliss!
As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?
It would have to be a wolf. First – because I admire them and believe they are majestic, wonderful, but often misunderstood creatures. And second – in honor of Luki, my snow queen’s beloved wolf companion in my first published book (written as Vicki L. Weavil) – CROWN OF ICE
Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?
Promotion, promotion, promotion. I really dislike dealing with the “advertising” side of publishing, which is why – although I have tried it – I have not been very successful with self-publishing. Honestly, I do NOT look down on self-publishing and truly admire people who do it. Well. But I’ve found that I am happier – and more successful — when I’m simply assisting my publisher with their publicity efforts rather than doing it all myself.
Also – waiting. There is a LOT of waiting in this business, and sometimes I really struggle with my need for patience!
What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
Experiment – don’t close your mind to other genres, ideas, age categories, or opportunities. Maybe you love speculative fiction and want to write in that genre, but for some reason your work keeps being rejected or ignored. Well, maybe it’s time to try something different. Write that picture book or middle grade contemporary idea that you think is just something you doodle on “for fun.” Jump into a new genre, or switch from YA to adult (or vice versa). Don’t think you’re funny? Try to write a humorous story anyway. Think you’re too cynical to write Romance? Throw aside all those doubts and spin the most romantic yarn possible. There is no penalty for experimenting with new things, and you never have to show your creations to anyone if you don’t want to.
But you know what? You may find that your true niche is quite different than you imagined. Your humorous middle grade contemporary may garner you the agent and incredible deal you couldn’t get with another genre. Expand your horizons and allow yourself the freedom to “play” a little. You may be pleasantly surprised!
I say this because it definitely happened to me. When I seriously started writing, I never thought I would end up as a cozy and light mystery author. But here I am, and very happy too!
What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?
Persevere – there are a lot of ups and downs in this business, and things can change in the blink of an eye. You may think you’re headed down one path but encounter a roadblock that propels you onto another road. It’s okay – change is okay. Being up one day and down the next is normal. Go with the flow and plan to be in it for the long game. Your career isn’t over if your first book (or books) don’t do that well. Neither is it guaranteed if you have one “hit.” Continue to write, to experiment, to hone your craft, and to expand your horizons. Over time you will find YOUR way, and that is the career you want.
In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
I am a mentor for the Sun vs Snow writing contest; I offer presentations on query writing and finding the right agent to local writing groups; I beta read and critique manuscripts for a few people, including my critique partners; I share writing advice and support on social media; and I sometimes critique queries and first pages for aspiring authors who I’ve met via social media or in person at conferences and other events.
Where can people find more about you?
Find out more about Victoria on her website
Like Victoria and connect on her Facebook page
Follow Victoria on Twitter
Find out what Victoria is reading–and writing!– on her Goodreads page
See what has caught Victoria’s interest on her Pinterest page
A Murder For The Books
Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain
town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.
Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.
When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.
Shelved Under Murder
October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of
tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.
The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.
That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder in Shelved Under Murder, the charming second installment in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries, perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James.
Available July 10, 2018. Buy (preorder) Links for SHELVED UNDER MURDER