Cynthia Hamilton - Writing About a Detective with a bad Reputation
Cynthia Hamilton is the author of eight books, which include fiction, mystery and memoir. Her latest book, Spouse Trap, was inspired by a rant and an idea to write a book called "The Slutty Detective." As our Author of the Day, Hamilton tells us all about it.
Please give us a short introduction to what Spouse Trap is about.
Spouse Trap is the end of Madeline Ridley’s charmed life. She panics when she comes to in a hotel room, naked, disoriented and alone. She pieces together a recollection of her husband, Steven, storming out of the fundraiser gala, but not much more. Fearing she’s done something horrible that she can’t even remember, she flees to the safety of her beach house in order to figure out her next move.
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for this book came in the form of a rant. I was feeling the hopelessness of being one voice in millionsvying for chance to captivate readers. The rant went something like this: If I wrote some piece of garbage called “The Slutty Detective”, I’d be a gazillionaire.” I was immediately repulsed by the thought and began back-pedaling. She’s not really slutty—she just got a bad reputation…from…her rotten ex-husband.
Standing there in front of the bathroom mirror, the character started to unfold in my mind’s eye. Scenarios skipped through my head, each one further fleshing out Madeline Dawkins – Mad Dog to old friends.
By the end of that day, I knew I was going to shelve the sequel I was working on for “Alligators in the Trees” in favor of Madeline and her devious soon-to-be ex.
Why "Spouse Trap"? Tell us more about the title.
I was nearly finished with the book when it occurred to me “The Slutty Detective” probably wasn’t such a hot title after all. For one thing, Madeline’s not really slutty; she was set up to make it appear that she’d been unfaithful. She’s actually quite the opposite—dignified, loyal and self-respecting. Without giving it much thought, Spouse Trap came to mind. After a short deliberation on whether I liked it or not, I decided to just sit with it for a while. By the time I finished the book, I realized how perfectly the title fit. Madeline’s in a trap and she must go through a metamorphosis in order to save her life.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’ve very good at cleaning – ha, ha – but it’s true. Before writing came along, I used to design and make mosaic furniture. Prior to that, I dabbled with paints. I constantly forget that I’m not capable of doing something, which has turned out of be a blessing. If you think you can’t, then you don’t even try.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Not having enough time in the day.
Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?
Not in this book, but there are two people I admire who I wrote into the second book in the series, “A High Price to Pay.” After what I did to Madeline in the first book, I realized she needed to have some self-defense skills. I ended up taking Korean Karate classes from Teri Coffee-McDuffie. I loved every minute of it our private sessions. Writing her into the story just came naturally.
When I realized I had an over-the-top lavish, three-day event on my hands, I wrote a friend of ours, Philippe Sautot, into the role of chef extraordinaire.
Did you plan from the start to make this into a series? How do the other books tie in with this one?
Since there was too much backstory behind how Madeline came to be what she is, I knew the first book would be just about that. In California, it is required that new private investigators must apprentice for three years before they can become licensed. I catch up with Madeline and Mike after they break out on their own and form MDPI (short for Madeline Dawkins, Mike Delaney, and Mad Dog Private Investigators) in “A High Price to Pay”.
The books in this series are sequential but can be read as stand alones. I give just enough backstory in the second and third books so that readers who haven’t read the first two books can still understand the history and enjoy the story without feeling left in the dark.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
Yep. I discovered early on that if you write a character well, you cannot force them to do something that runs against their nature. If you try to, it will just backfire on you. That’s become a barometer for me; when they start calling their moves, then I know I’m heading in the right direction.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Do it. Now.
Do reviews and reader feedback shape your work? Or do you feel like it's better to avoid the feedback—both positive and negative—so that it won't interfere with your vision?
When I first started publishing, I used to swoon when I got great reviews and doubt myself when I got less than favorable comments. I’ve since learned to accept all opinions, because really, that’s all they are and everyone is entitled to have their own. (I still do a happy dance every time I get a five-star review:)
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
Writing is at the top of my priority list and it usually comes in dead last by the time all the other stuff eats away at my day. Sometimes I marvel that I ever get anything written. Most days I scold myself for being a slacker. Somehow or another, I manage to get books finished. “Girl Trap”, the third book in the Madeline Dawkins Series, is my eighth published book.
What are you working on right now?
Now that “Girl Trap” has completed the publishing process, I will start entertaining ideas for the next Madeline and Mike adventure. I’m getting excited just thinking about that!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I can be found on Goodreads, Twitter (AuthorCynthiaH), Facebook (Cynthia Hamilton Books), and my own website: http://cynthiahamiltonbooks.com
I’d like to thank Manybooks for this opportunity to share Madeline’s story with readers. Really enjoyed your questions!