Friday, January 17, 2014

Interview with Author Catherine Dilts by Jaqueline Seewald

To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery is an amateur sleuth murder mystery. I hope using “stone” in the title reinforces the setting of the novel, a rock shop filled with minerals and fossils. I wrote an amateur sleuth novel because one bit of advice given to beginning writers is to write what you love to read. I have an eclectic reading taste, but by far my favorite books are cozies and amateur sleuth mysteries. 

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: On a trip to Moab, Utah, the idea for a novel germinated at the same time that we visited a shop owned by a rockhound of international renown. I hadn’t run across any mysteries set in a rock shop. I wondered whether anyone would be interested in a mystery set in that rugged, dusty environment, and learned that I’m not the only reader who loves rock shops. 

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Another bit of writing advice is to write what you know. I don’t know much about geology, and neither does my protagonist, Morgan Iverson. I do know about empty nest syndrome and dramatic mid-life changes. As a widow in her forties with grown children, Morgan finds herself alone and far from home at a point in life when she thought her future was secure. It can be difficult to switch gears from the wife and mother role. Morgan has lost her sense of purpose, and needs to blaze a new trail in life.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  Stone Cold Dead is my debut novel. My short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. “The Jolly Fat Man” was in the April 2013 issue, and “Tweens” will appear in the May issue, on sale February 15, 2014.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I am writing book two in my rock shop mystery series.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: Boredom. My childhood summers were spent with relatives in rural South Dakota. This was the era before cable TV and personal computers. We played in the lake or explored the cornfields on nice days. When it rained, we had to come up with our own entertainment. My siblings and I created illustrated stories on sheets of typing paper, taped them together to form rolls, then cut up cereal boxes to scroll the paper through, making our own movies.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Number One - finish. I have seen too many writers fuss over the first three chapters and never reach “the end.” If you have trouble shutting off your internal editor in order to get that first rough draft completed, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo - ) is a great exercise.

Number Two – let it rest. Once you think you are finished, set your writing project aside for as long as you possibly can. If you do this for even a week or two, and then go back to reread and edit, you’ll discover all kinds of things to improve. Every time I have done this, the story has benefited.

Number Three – let your baby go. I have also seen writers labor over the same manuscript for years, never actually reaching the “done” moment. I believe many writers who have worked for newspapers or as technical writers understand there’s a point where you have to be done enough. 

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Stone Cold Dead is available now in hardcover at independent bookstore The Tattered Cover, as well as through Barnes & Noble. It is on Kindle and in hardcover through Amazon.

Tattered Cover Book Store: 
Barnes and Noble:

Comments and/or questions for Catherine are welcome here!


Susan Oleksiw said...

Good interview, Catherine and Jacquie. I think your three points of advice are probably the most important also. Finish the story, let it rest, and let it go. But those steps seem to be the hardest for a lot of writers. Good luck with your debut.

Catherine Dilts said...

Susan, those three bits of writing advice are what I've observed over the years, in myself and others. The first takes perseverance, the second takes patience, and the third takes courage.

Janis Patterson said...

Great interview with a very wise author. I wish Catherine many books and many sales.

Betty Gordon said...

I join other comments -- good interview and good advice. I love 'rock' shops and will now look at them a little bit differently .

I wish you success with your new ovel.

Catherine Dilts said...

Thank you, Janis and Betty. I don't know about wise, but I have been down a convoluted writing path. I hope I've gained some wisdom on this journey!

Bonnie Tharp said...

Very nice interview. I love rock shops, by the way. Sounds like Catherine had summers like we did. Inventive. Much good luck on your debut novel, I'm certainly going to check it out!