As an avid reader herself, Becki Willis likes to write about believable characters in believable situations. Many of her books stem from personal experiences. (No worries; she's never actually murdered anyone.) She's won several awards, but the real compliments come from her readers. Becki loves spending time with her family, unraveling a good mystery, traveling, dark chocolate, and strong coffee. As our Author of the Day, Willis tells us all about her book, Christmas in The Sisters.
Please give us a short introduction to what Christmas in The Sisters is about.
Christmas in The Sisters is an amateur sleuth cozy mystery set in a small town. Visions of the perfect Christmas dance in Madison’s head, but the tinsel begins to tangle when someone targets the community for a series of ‘Christmas Crimes.’ Homes are broken into and wrapped gifts are stolen from beneath trees; even vehicles loaded with presents aren’t safe. Finding the common link between cases is like finding the bad bulb on a string of lights. Every lead is a short circuit. Ready or not, Christmas is on its way. Who has time for being kidnapped by men in Santa suits and bad beards?
What inspired you to write about a series of "Christmas crimes"?
Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I’ve always wanted to write a holiday story. Getting into the spirit of the holidays–in July, no less!—was fun, but a bit daunting. I asked readers to share their favorite Christmas tradition with me, and featured the winning entry in the book. That said, this is a mystery series, so there had to be mystery. This is my version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
Why did you pick a small community as the backdrop for your story?
They say write what you know, and I live in a community smaller than the one featured in the series. Juliet and Naomi, TX (aka The Sisters) are based on a true location along the Brazos River. The towns, however, only exist in my imagination.
Tell us more about Madison Reynolds. What makes her so special?
Before she even turned 40, Madison found herself widowed and penniless, with two teenagers who were depending on her to pick up the pieces of their lives. Forced to leave their comfortable life in Dallas, they had no choice but to move in with her eighty-year-old grandmother, the lively Granny Bert. To make ends meet, she opens In a Pinch Temporary Services and takes on odd jobs. In this story, we finally learn the truth about Madison’s fairtytale-turned-tragedy marriage, why she shielded her children from the truth, and how she’s ready to give love and marriage a second chance, this time with her high school crush Brash deCordova.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have a special talent for spoiling my five grandchildren. I also speak fluent pig-Latin.
This book is part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Yes, all books in the series are stand-alone mysteries. However, there’s an underlying thread weaving throughout the lives of the characters and the pages of each book, creating the tapestry of a real community. (To my delight, most readers say reading each book is like visiting with old friends.)
Family plays an important role in this book. Why did you take this approach?
Family plays a major role in my life. Again, I write what I know. All my books have a strong sense of family and community.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
All the time! I never know what one of them will do next, especially Granny Bert.
How much fun do you have coming up with these storylines and characters?
That’s the best part of writing! I like to take a true event (often something ordinary or minute that happened to me or someone I know) and give it a new twist. It’s fun to imagine ‘what if,’ creating drama out of the mundane. As for the characters, some are loosely based on real people, but I’ll never name names.
Any advice to an aspiring writer on how to go about planning a character's traits and quirks, and then sticking to their personality the whole way through?
I advise new authors to create a persona in their mind for each character and write from that perspective. Memorable characters must be believable. That means having flaws and weaknesses, and problems we can all relate to. For Madison, that means worrying about how to pay for the twins’ sports camps and cellphones, and how to honor memories of their late father without her own bitterness seeping through.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I have a bad habit of doing second and third edits during the first draft. I obsess over getting each chapter the way I want it before moving on. That means I start each session reading and tweaking, which isn’t always conducive to word count.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently finishing up the tenth book of the series, A Rose by Any Other Name, available now for pre-order.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love hearing from readers! Drop in for an e-visit anytime by emailing me at [email protected]. It may take a day or two, but I’ll personally respond. You can find me at www.beckiwillis.com (new website coming soon!), Facebook, and Amazon Author pages. I’d love to have you join my mailing list.