Last fall I read Murder on Nob Hill and The Russian Hill Murders and fell in love with the independent and spirited Sarah Woolson. The next book in this historical mystery series is on its way to me as I type :) So, I was very excited when I contacted author Shirley Tallman and she agreed to answer a few questions.
I recommend visiting her website where you will find access to her blog, books, and contests. This month she’s giving away an Amazon gift card and next month she’ll be giving away signed hardcover copy of one of her books EVERY DAY!
On to the questions…
1. I love Sarah Woolson. She’s smart, independent, and brave. What or who was the inspiration for this wonderful character or did she just show up on your screen one day?
Actually, Sarah’s character had been growing and developing in my mind for quite some time before I started MURDER ON NOB HILL, the first book in the Sarah Woolson Historical Mystery Series. To me Sarah embodies all the qualities I most admire in a heroine: intelligence, determination, fair-mindedness, empathy, honesty and, above all, courage. In order for a woman to square up against the chauvinism rampant in 1880’s society, she would have had to possess all of these virtues — in spades! Yet despite her feisty independence, she also possesses a quiet vulnerability and sensitivity that makes us sympathize with the many obstacles she must face, and root for her to come out victorious in the end.
2. Historic San Francisco is such a wonderful setting for this series. What was it about San Francisco that made you want to explore its history in a series?
Several things led me to choose San Francisco as the setting for my novels. Of course the fact that I was raised in San Francisco was largely responsible. Fortunately, at the time I was growing up it was still fairly safe for a young girl to travel practically anywhere in the city by bus or cable car. My friends and I loved to ride our bikes through Golden Gate Park, visiting museums and the California Academy of Sciences, then continue riding down to the beach where we’d go ice skating, to Playland at the Beach, or to the Cliff House (the setting for book number four in the series). With my family I attended live theater and plays downtown, shopped along brightly decorated Maiden Lane at Christmas, and window shopped on Market Street. I think I fell in love with San Francisco before I even learned to read, and once I could, I would literally bury myself in books to learn more about its fascinating history. I don’t remember considering any other locale for my mysteries.
3. You also write screenplays. How is that experience different than writing novels?
It’s completely different! For one thing, writing a novel is usually a solitary effort; for better or for worse, the author pretty much controls her story and her characters. Writing a screenplay is anything but a solitary endeavor. In Hollywood everyone seems to want a piece of the pie, and to satisfy their own egos. Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say everyone from the producer(s) (often there’s more than just one producer), director and even the actors want to have a say in the final product — which frequently forces the screenwriter to veer off into vastly different directions. Of course when the writer attempts to please one of the producers/directors/actors, she’s sure to offend the rest of the players. To put it in a nutshell, the finished screenplay sometimes bears little resemblance to the writer’s first draft!
4. Can you tell us a little about how you were first published?
Once upon a time, my best friend and I (both mothers of small children) decided to write a book. Today we look back on the experience as having proven the old saying that, “Ignorance is bliss!” Having absolutely no idea as to the impossibility of the task, we blithely sent out the completed manuscript to at least fifty publishing houses, papering our laundry-room walls (yes, that’s where we did a good portion of our writing!) with rejection slips. Finally, one brilliant and perceptive publisher (at least that’s how we like to remember him), bought our book, PLEASE STAND BY — YOUR MOTHER’S MISSING, and released it in hardcover to an unsuspecting public. To his surprise, I’m sure, the book sold rather better than he suspected, and our careers were launched. Okay, maybe they weren’t launched right away, but we were certain we were on the right tract. As it turned out, my friend went on to write award-winning stage plays, while I helped feed my growing family by penning Harlequin/Silhouette contemporary romances. Later on, we joined up again to successfully write and sell movies to ABC, NBC and CBS.
5. Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?
There are so many it’s hard to list them. Certainly Agatha Christie introduced me to the magic of mysteries as a child. As a teen, I added science fiction to my favorites, then mystery masters such as Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Robert Bernard and Ellis Peters.
6. What’s the last book you read?
I just finished reading Maeve Binchey’s novel, HEART AND SOUL, and Dean Koontz’s FOREVER ODD. Plus, of course, a steady stream of research books for my own novels, but I don’t necessarily count those as leisure reading.
7. What is your favorite non-reading and writing hobby?
I’m a Gemini, so I have a lot of hobbies. I love to bike ride and snow ski, do yoga, knit and crochet, and go to the movies. I admit I’m addicted to several TV series, including TRUE BLOOD, THE CLOSER, MONK, CSI (all three), HEROES, PBS MYSTERIES, HOUSE and THE BIG BANG THEORY.
8. I love quotes. Do you have a favorite?
I think my favorite quote is: “All things are possible to one who believes.” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – letters)
9. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?
I know I’m prejudiced, but actually I’d choose the life of my own heroine, Sarah Woolson. As I said earlier, she embodies so many qualities that I admire in a woman. Beyond that, her life is never dull!
10. And finally, what are you working on now?
I’m working on book #5 in the Sarah Woolson series, tentatively titled, DEATH ON TELEGRAPH HILL.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Shirley!