Friday, June 8, 2018

Sleuthing Women Authors: Meet Carolyn Haines

Hello Black Words-White Pages fans and thank you for stopping by!! Ready to meet another Sleuthing Woman Author? Today we are featuring Carolyn Haines!! Click on her name to follow her on Facebook!! 

Now to get on with the interview!!

Carolyn Haynes

What is the first book that made you cry?
Bambi. It made me hysterical. My grandmother was reading it to me and I think it scarred her as much as me.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. If I’m in a scene—firmly there—it is energizing. If I’m off-track and struggling to find my way, it is exhausting.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Plot issues. I do outline, but I write intuitively. Sometimes I write myself into a corner and my subconscious knows I’ve made a mistake. Then I just flounder until I go back to the “scene of the crime” and figure out where I took a wrong turn. It is highly frustrating.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I taught graduate and undergraduate fiction writing for 14 years, which included students working on their Master’s thesis. I had incredibly talented students, but it is a long road to learn POV, immediate scene, the balance of narrative summary against action, methods of character development. When I quit teaching, I found that I had difficulty reading for pleasure. I’d trained myself to read as an editor—but now I am regaining my love of reading as a reader.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am lucky to have a lot of writer friends. I’ve been in the business a long time, so I know writers from all areas of the publishing world. So many writers have been generous to me—helping me learn new skills or new trends in publishing. There’s a lot to learn. I have a handful of writer friends who act as a critique group—we help each other. And there are friends who are much smarter about the business than I am. I can always ask a question and get a solid answer. I am lucky in my friends.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

The first word I learned to say was “horse.” I found out several years ago that my mother’s maiden name, McEachern, went back in Scottish history. The McEacherns were the horse lords for the Clan Donald. I have two horses now, both rescues, and a third horse who is old and lives here so I can take care of him. So as much as I love cats and dogs, I’d have to say my spirit animal is a horse.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
My characters are a hodge-podge of traits and eccentricities that really have nothing to do with real people. In the Pluto’s Snitch mystery series, I write about the 1920s, so in a way the characters are based on stories my grandmother told me. Ghost stories. Trouble, the black cat detective, is loosely based on E.A. Poe and Coal Shaft Haines, two black cats I rescued and loved for many years. Sarah Booth and the people of Zinnia are quirky and fun—a snip here and a pinch there from me and my friends. But they are their own people now, all of them.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Only two. One is my first novel. The second is a story in the vein of the books I wrote as R.B. Chesterton. I haven’t tried to publish either one—they are incomplete. But I also haven’t given up on them. I’ve published over 80 books in a number of genres, and when I have time to really think those through, maybe they will be published too.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I believe the story is a gift. It comes to me, often unbidden, and with the “movies” or “conversations” I see and hear in my mind’s eye, I’m given setting and character. Then it’s up to me to discover what the story is about. In that sense it is spiritual. But it never gets done without the hard work of sitting in that chair and pushing to find the story. When I was teaching I told my students I could give them all the technical skills—what I could never give them was a story or a voice. Those must come from the individual.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’m not certain male characters are always so invested in the emotional side of things. I don’t want to make a male character too soft or overly emotional. It’s a balance, isn’t it?
How many hours a day do you write?
Six hours a day, every day. Some days longer.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Fiction has always been my escape, but I also believe that you can tell more truth in fiction than you can in fact. I was a journalist for a number of years. News stories seldom get into the why of motive. A person is charged, tried, sentenced. Those are the facts. Sometimes the motive, though, tells an entirely different story.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I grew up in a rural, very Anglo-Protestant community, and those are the names I know and tend to subconsciously use. I also do research and seek different or foreign names. (Thank goodness for Louisiana, which is next door and has some terrific names!) It’s easy to get into a rut with names, and certain genres tend to populate with a particular type of name. I try not to fall into that.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’ve been a journalist and a teacher—both honorable professions. I run an animal rescue, but if I didn’t write I might have a doggy day care or something of that nature. I love theater but have no talent. I do like to sew so maybe a costumer? And I love to make people laugh—I would enjoy being a stand-up comedian, but I truthfully don’t like to be on stage, so that’s a drawback.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read them. The good ones can put a smile on my face for a week! And many of the reader/reviewers are fabulous and smart and well worth learning from. I try to take criticism constructively. There’s help there if a writer can get past the edge of pain. Sadly there are people who take pleasure in writing mean reviews. Not just for me but for a lot of writers. Those I ignore. I do have a pet peeve. Please don’t give a writer a 1 star review because a story is “too short” when it is labeled as a short story. I hate buying a book only to discover it isn’t a book at all, but a short. I’ve learned to check the page length before I buy. Then I don’t feel gipped. And don’t bash a writer over the price of a book. Many writers have no control over what the publisher charges.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. People who know me well find clues. Nothing that changes the meaning of the story, but perhaps a little extra layer. It’s not done deliberately, but I just think a writer often reveals more than he/she intends.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In a book called TOUCHED, I killed a character who was a local storyteller. A young man who was a little slow. His death can still upset me and it’s been twenty years.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I have fat cells that are begging to be used as stem cells for someone in need. Seriously, I’ve given up a lot. Writers spent a lot of time in this solitary pursuit. I have to be alone to write. I can’t have anyone else in the house. I spend days on the farm with just the critters and my fictional characters. Some days I’d rather be lunching with friends or planning a party instead of a scene. I work hard, every day. Writing is a demanding profession, and with my indie books, I am having to learn a whole new set of skills. I’m not complaining because I am very lucky.
What is your favorite childhood book?
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Forcing myself to push forward when I am frustrated or tired. I work very hard on my plots and the structure of my stories. Characters and dialogue are easier for me.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
About 9 months, for drafting, re-writing, and edits. But I can work on more than one book at once, thank goodness.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I’m a big fan of Larissa Reinhart, Ritter Ames, Miranda James, Carolyn Hart. These writers are so clever and fun! I love darker writers too. James Lee Burke and Stephen King, for example. I’m also a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid, Barbara Michaels, Shirley Jackson, Jonathan Carroll. I love many Southern short fiction writers—mostly females who were writing in the 1940s-80s.
Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you?
See above.
What are some great books you’ve read recently?
One of my former students has finished a YA book, set in rural Alabama, about a young black girl who is sent to a boarding school for misbehaved youth. The character gets into fights all the time, and through the story we learn why she is so combative, and she learns to accept responsibility for her actions. It’s a Middle Grade book, which I don’t normally read, but this is such an excellent book. It’s with a publisher—fingers crossed. I just read Rebecca Barrett’s TROUBLE IN PARADISE, which features Trouble the black cat detective from our multi-author venture. It is excellent fun.
What types of books do you enjoy in your downtime?

I generally read dark. And I go to horror movies (not torture porn but scary movies). I like to play pranks on people in horror movies, which is not really very smart. Thank goodness, so far, my “victims” have all had a good sense of humor.
What sort of research did you do to write this book?
For CHARMED BONES, I read up and interviewed people about Wicca. I’m interested in a lot of different spiritual pursuits or religions. For SPECTER OF SEDUCTION, I went to Waverley Mansion with a psychic/medium to contact some of the ghosts there, and I do a lot of research for the 1920 time period in which these books are set. Thank goodness for the Internet! For Trouble the black cat detective—well, I love cats. I have 8. It’s not really work to watch my kitties and see how smart they are!
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Book ideas are never a problem. It’s finding the time to write an entire book. I am not as fast as some writers, and my books are generally longer. Sometimes I see the characters in particular circumstances. Sometimes I hear them. Then I have to tell the story to figure out what they’re up to.

What does a typical workday look like for you?
Because I do run a small animal refuge, it’s a crazy day. I feed the horses early, then do any necessary farm work like repairing fences or my very limited gardening. (I also have deer and they eat everything I plant, so I’m not a great gardener.) I work at writing until noon, unless I have a vet appointment for one of the animals. Then I try to do editing or reading books for friends as a kind of swap-off critique. Then I write again. Then I feed the horses again before I quit for the day. Now I’m swimming before lunch, but I also like to hike. It’s very hot here in the summer, so staying inside from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. is a good idea. It’s reversed in the winter because it’s easier to be outside when it’s warmer. In between I care for my animals, run errands, etc.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
In the Sarah Booth books, I want the reader to have fun and feel that the Zinnia gang is part of their family. They are my family. So I want the books to be like welcoming visitors up on the front porch for a libation and some gossip—and also a very solid mystery to solve. With the Pluto’s Snitch books, I want readers to consider the possibilities of what could be beyond death. And I hope I give them a pulse pounding read, a complex mystery, and a few chills. With the Trouble books, I want folks to enjoy interacting with a very smart and smart-alecky black cat. Trouble is just fun. The books have a little romance and a lot of mystery. Mostly I want readers to have fun.
If your novel were being made into a movie, whom would you pick to play the lead roles?
Let’s stick with Sarah Booth for this. When I first started writing the series, it was Sandra Bullock or Ashley Judd. Now I think it would require a younger actress. There are a number of talented young women who could fit the bill. Vera Farmiga, Rose McGowin, or Rachel McAdams are two examples. But it might be smart to go with a lesser known actress.
Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
I do outline—but it doesn’t keep me from going off the rails. The benefit is that it gives me a general direction that helps me stay on the story I started out writing. I’m a sucker for rabbit trails that lead nowhere.
What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?
I ride horses or take walks in the woods. I like to go to movies with my friends (the ones who still go with me even if I have played a prank on them) or play games.
Do you put yourself in your books/characters at all?
Each character—the good and bad—has something of me in them.
What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
I’ve received a number of writing wards, and it is always incredible to be honored by other writers or writing organizations and state art councils. But probably the most rewarding is to get a letter from a reader who tells me my books have helped them through cancer treatment or through a bad patch. I grew up in a small town with not much for a kid to do. Books were the road to adventure for me—and that’s what I want to give my readers. That same joy in becoming an amateur sleuth or a person who see spirits or even a black cat prowling the mean streets to help his “bipeds” solve a mystery.
Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite?
My favorite is always the one I’m working on right now. But there are two older books, kind of my first published novels, that are close to me emotionally. TOUCHED and SUMMER OF THE REDEEMERS. I am bringing both of them back into print over the summer.
What are your top three favorite books of all time?
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Shadow of the Wind


From award-winning author Carolyn Haines comes Shorty Bones, a charming story starring feisty Southern belle and private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney.

Sarah Booth just wants to help her fiancé recover from a leg wound in peace...until, that is, an ex-porn star declares that she's being stalked, and Sarah Booth suddenly finds herself in the midst of a wild case with no idea what to believe or whom to trust.


Thank you so much, Carolyn, for stopping by and letting us get to know you!! This has been a lot of fun!! To know more about this author and her books starting starting on June 12, 2018, join the Facebook group HERE!!! There will be takeovers and lots of fun things to come!!


  1. Great interview, Carolyn! Thanks so much, Jenny, for all these wonderful interviews!

  2. Terrific interview! More fascinating things to learn about one of my favorite authors!

  3. I love your books, so nice to read your thoughts as well. Your animals, and readers, are fortunate.

  4. Carolyn your books are always entertaining and fun! I am happy to be able to interact with you on facebook. I like getting other people's take on things and you are always honest!