Friday, May 20, 2011

Interview With Alice Duncan: Author/Editor

Interview with Author/Editor Alice Duncan

by Jacqueline Seewald

Alice Duncan is a much published, award-winning author who also happens to edit romance and mystery novels for Tekno, the book packager for Five Star/Gale. I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with Alice who has edited all five of my Five Star/Gale novels.

Like me, Alice has a new mystery coming out from Five Star/Gale this month called
Fallen Angels. You can check it out in the book catalog on the Five Star site:

You can also find ordering information on Amazon:
as well as Barnes and Noble online and Borders Books.

Hi, Alice, thanks so much for joining us today at the Author Expressions blog. Congratulations on your many excellent reviews of Fallen Angels!

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about Mercy Allcutt, the heroine of Fallen Angels?

Mercy Allcutt was actually a consolation prize for me. I’d written two stories in a series set in the 1920s, featuring a phony spiritualist named Daisy Gumm Majesty. When I thought the Daisy books were dead, I decided to write a historical cozy mystery series set in the 1920s, and gave the books another heroine, Mercy. Mercy’s a privileged young woman from Boston who moves to Los Angeles, lives with her sister Chloe and Chloe’s movie-mogul husband. She gets a job (which horrifies her Brahmin mother) as secretary to a private investigator, Ernie Templeton. She loves her job! You see, Mercy wants to become a writer of gritty detective fiction, and she figures she can’t do that since she’s always lived in an ivory tower. Her Boston relations are horrified, but Mercy doesn’t care. Much.

Question: I know that this novel is part of a mystery series because I’ve read and very much enjoyed the previous Angel novels. Could you tell us about the series? How did it originate? What inspired the series?

Whoops! I guess I already answered this question. I was so bummed about not writing Daisy books any longer, I decided to write another series set in the Roaring Twenties and set in Southern California. So I moved from Pasadena (the Daisy books) to Los Angeles (the Angels books) and gave Mercy a P.I. for a boss.

Here’s a blurb for FALLEN ANGELS:

“Transplanted Boston Brahmin, Mercy Allcutt, has had some very exciting times as secretary to private investigator, Ernie Templeton. While it’s true she’s been in what she considers a wee bit of trouble (and Ernie considers out-and-out danger) a time or two, she’s determined to continue learning the ways of the “real” world.

However, when she sets out to find her wandering boss, Ernie, one hot September afternoon, she not only discovers a corpse, but she also finds Ernie, bound and gagged. Worse, when the police arrive to investigate the crime, they peg Ernie as the killer.

Well, Mercy isn’t about to let them get away with that, no matter how many times Ernie tells her to butt out of the police inquiry. The only question is whether she’ll survive her investigatorial efforts once again, or if she’ll become one more “Fallen Angel.”

Question: How does the relationship between Mercy and her private investigator boss Ernie Templeton change through the novels? Is there a glimmer of romance?

There’s a glimmer. I don’t want to pull a “Moonlighting” (if anyone remembers that TV series. Once Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis got together, all the tension died). However, Mercy and Ernie are clearly attracted to each other, even though neither one will admit it. They pretty much always drive each other nuts.

Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels? I know there are quite a few and that many are now available as e-books at a reasonable price.

Oh, my goodness. There are, literally, dozens of them. I’ve written historical romances under my name (Alice Duncan), Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson and Anne Robins. I also wrote a couple of westerns in the “Trailsman” series under the pseudonym Jon Sharpe, but the less said about them, the better. My very first book, ONE BRIGHT MORNING, came about because I used to get migraine headaches. They were terrible. I got to wondering what a young widow woman with a baby and a ghastly migraine would do if she lived in the 1880s in New Mexico Territory, and a gunshot stranger showed up at her door. My second book, TEXAS LONESOME, contains dachshunds. I attract dachshunds kind of like a magnet attracts steel shavings. I think it’s a curse. Daisy Majesty gave her husband a dachshund named Spike, and Mercy Allcutt has an apricot toy poodle named Buttercup. I love dogs J Anyhow, I’ve had something over forty books published under a whole bunch of names, and nobody’s ever heard of any of them. Well, that might be a bit of an understatement, but not by much.

Anyhow, all my out-of-print backlist, and some of my in-print books, and a short story, which is part of my Pecos Valley series (another cozy mystery series set in the twenties, only this one in New Mexico in 1923) are available on Kindle and Smashwords. You can read all about them here:

Question: Did you always want to be a writer? What made you start writing?

Yes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. From the time I could listen to stories, I knew I wanted to write them. Life got in the way (as it has a habit of doing), and I didn’t begin writing books until the nineteen-nineties. I tell you, life was *hard*. Sometimes I hear people say (generally disparagingly about those people who say they want to write but don’t have time) that “writers write.” That may well be true, but writers also have to live, rear children, and earn livings.

Question: As an acquisitions editor for Tekno Books, the book packager for Five Star/Gale, how do you suggest writers contact your company?

Actually, I don’t acquire for Tekno. I only recommend books I like J. Here’s the web site for Five Star, which will show you what kinds of books they like:

Question: What advice would you offer to those who have novels they would like to submit for consideration?

Here are the specific submission guidelines for people who want to submit to Five Star:

For previously published Five Star authors, please submit your queries directly to:

Rosalind Greenberg, Senior Acquisitions EditorTekno

For authors new to Five Star, published or unpublished, please submit your queries directly to:

Deni Dietz, Associate Editor
Tekno Books

Please send a query email letter requesting the Five Star submission guidelines.
*Remember to include your name, address, and sub-genre
*Rosalind Greenberg or Deni Dietz will send you all the information and forms that you will need to submit your manuscript properly.
*Please be aware that the volume of submissions we receive is enormous. Because of this, we do not accept simultaneous submissions, hardcopy submissions, or partial manuscripts, but we will respond to you as quickly as possible.

So there you have the complete submission guidelines. Read ‘em, and follow ‘em, if you want anybody to pay attention to your submission (not that I want to sound harsh or anything, but it really is important to follow directions). As for me, don’t forget to visit my own web site:

Alice, thanks so much for being our guest today. I’m looking forward to reading Fallen Angels. I love your unique, original style of writing and clever sense of humor.

Those of you who have comments, please know that they are very welcome. So feel free to join the conversation!


Joyce Elson Moore said...

Jacqueline: Thanks so much for hosting Alice today. I love the cover of her new book, Fallen Angels. (Sigh, another for my TBR pile.). It's always nice to know a bit about the background of our editors.

June Shaw said...

Alice, so good to hear from you about your terrific book. Can't wait to read it!

Stacey said...

I have a question for Alice. Alice, what is it about the 1920s and California that has you setting many of your novels in that time period and that part of the country?

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Jacqueline! And thank you, Alice, for sharing your background and obviously very successful writing life. I'll look forward to reading your book.

Maryann Miller said...

Enjoyed getting to know more about Alice and her books. I knew she had published a lot, but never knew how many. WOW!

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, everyone!

Stacey, the twenties were a really turbulent time all over the world, and the era fascinates me. We hear about the Roaring Twenties all the time, and about flaming youth, F. Scott Fitzgerald and all that. However, so much more was going on. The world had just endured the Great War, which was supposed to be bad enough that we'd learn from our errors and never go to war again (which just goes to show you that humans are mere animals and behave the way human animals behave--we don't learn a danged thing from history). Along with the ghastly war, towards its end, a gigantic influenza pandemic broke out, killing a quarter of what was left of the world's population. A whole bunch of people decided there was no point to anything (hence, the F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway thing). Most of the world was plunged into an economic depression, there were shell-shocked soldiers all over the place, women had just got the vote in 1920, Prohibition had just started, and pretty much everything was up in the air. I could go on and on, but basically, it's a fascinating period in history!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Alice I knew you had more books and under more names but what a lot and good ones too I'm sure since I've read some of them. I'm really impressed, thanks for sharing.
Jackie Griffey

Pauline B Jones said...

A fun interview! Okay, as far as Moonlighting and other shows, I think they just did the ST wrong. My opinion, but I think writers forget that married/in love couples can still have ST, just in a different way. My opinion, of course. LOL!

I had no idea Deni was acquiring for Tekno. That's very cool.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Jackie! Lotta good all those books have done me. No, not really. I'm glad to have written them, even if I'm still poor and struggling :-)

Alice Duncan said...

I think you're right, Pauline. I just don't quite know what to do with Ernie and Mercy :-)

Pauline B Jones said...

You'll figure it out, just don't do a Janet E on the readers. She SO lost me. I do NOT like to feel jerked around. Look at all the successful couple/sleuths in the movies, etc. Its funny, tv writers can start out with a married couple and make it fun, but if asked to take singles and put them together? They can't seem to manage it very well. IMHO of course. LOL!

Alice Duncan said...

That's true, Pauline! Maybe Mercy and Ernie could be kind of like Nick & Nora Charles.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

We can all learn from Nick and Nora Charles. But remember, Dashiell Hammett only wrote one slim volume. It was Hollywood that turned The Thin Man into a series.

Alice Duncan said...

That's true. One book and a bunch of movies. They were fun movies, but if Mercy and Ernie ever marry and have a joint career, they aren't going to drink as much as Nick and Nora!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I understand Dashielle Hammett was a heavy drinker in real life.

Alice Duncan said...

I've read that, too, Jacquie. He and -- who the heck was it? Lillian Hellman -- both.

Earl Staggs said...

Hi, Alice. I enjoyed your revealing yourself here. Mercy sounds like a heroine I'd like. I'll have to check her out. Best regards.

Elizabeth C. Main said...

Hi, Alice. I admire people who write convincingly of another era. You have the knack. Thanks for sharing some of your background. Liz

Elizabeth said...

I have to admit, I have not read any of your books yet, but I do like to start with series that are established, so in the future. Is there a connection between the two series? Does Daisy carry over to the Mercy series?

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Earl! As soon as I get paid next week, I aim to get your short stories that Kaye raved about. Wait. I ended that sentence with . . . oh, never mind.

Alice Duncan said...

Thank you very much, Liz! I do my best.

Alice Duncan said...

At this point, there's no connection between the Daisy series and the Mercy series, Elizabeth. I actually would suggest starting with the first Daisy (Strong Spirits). As I said before, I wrote the Mercy books because I thought Daisy was dead (did that make any sense?) Anyhow, Daisy continues with Fine Spirits, High Spirits, Hungry Spirits, and this August's Genteel Spirits. Ancient Spirits will be out in January of 2012. They take place in Pasadena, CA.

The Mercy books are Lost Among the Angels, Angel's Flight, and next month's Fallen Angels. They take place in Los Angeles.

Daisy and Mercy might meet in the future. I haven't decided about that yet.

jennymilch said...

Nice interview, Alice! Great to learn more about your work. I didn't realize you (and Deni) are with Five Star--they publish a mentor of mine, Charles Salzberg. I love finding blog posts like yours, Jacquie--they make all these neat connections.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks for dropping by, Jenny! Yup, Deni & I are both with Five Star, as authors and editors (but we don't get any breaks. Our works have to be vetted, too).