Cozy mystery writer Pari Noskin Taichert lives in Albuquerque and works as a public relations consultant. She has kindly consented to answer some questions about her writing.
S²KH

The Author
Answers Questions

taichert

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the author's web sites:

Pari Noskin Taichert
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Bad Girl Press

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Ms. Taichert Answers...
...some fluffy, some standard, and some probing inquiries.
updated: February 2, 2009
 

S²KH: Would you be willing to answer a bunch of questions to be posted on the site?
PNT: I'd be delighted to answer questions for the site.

Little did she know how big the bunch is!

Q: array; A: do follow

THE QUESTIONS:


THE ANSWERS:
 
S²KH: For people who haven't read your Sasha Solomon (S²) books yet, please describe your protagonist and series.
PNT:
 
Sasha Solomon is a reality-challenged, whipped cream-dependent Public Relations consultant who helps small New Mexico towns to strengthen their tourist industries. Sasha is a reluctant amateur sleuth who is great at her real profession but lousy with most relationships in her life.
 
Each book takes place in a different small New Mexico town – one that most authors wouldn't even look at – and follows Sasha, as she gets roped into investigating a crime.
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S²KH: Is there a particular demographic that you write to, and do you know if they are buying and reading your books?
PNT:
 
Originally, I thought I was writing for intelligent baby-boomer women who liked to laugh. And yes, they are buying my books. But, I've also received emails and have met many other people who've read my books. They range from middle school students (I think my books are better for at least high school-aged kids) to elderly gentleman. So, that makes me believe that Sasha has a much broader appeal than I realized.

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S²KH: How many books do you see in the S² series; have you thought about other books/series?
PNT:
 
I'm not sure. I think I might take a break after book # 4. While there are several towns in New Mexico that I'd like to feature–and several themes I'd like to explore–I've got other projects in mind too. And I want to pursue some of them. One is the new Darnda series. Darnda is a character I introduced in THE BELEN HITCH. She's a psychic who works on a television show and shoots her segments on location. Her specialty is temporarily clearing homes, events or other kinds of gatherings from natural pests. She's a wonderful, cocky woman with a strong sense of self and ethics. I've also given her a feisty, intelligent granddaughter who lives with her. The first book is set in River Oaks, Houston.

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S²KH: What are you working on now?
PNT:
 
I'm working on Darnda's first book. Its tentative title is STUNG. And I'm working on the next Sasha book which is called THE LAS CRUCES HEAT. I expect to complete both books, as well as a few short stories, in the first half of this year. In addition, I'm still toying with the idea of a standalone caper novel and hope to dive into that before summer.

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S²KH: Do your S² books need to be read in order?
PNT:
 
Nope. I write each one to stand on its own. Though I think you can see a definite change in both my writing and thematic intent as the books go on. I sincerely hope that my writing gets better and better with each enterprise.

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S²KH: What is the provenance of your writing cozies, instead of, for instance, thrillers?
PNT:
 
I think part of the reason I write cozies (a.k.a. traditional mysteries) is because they're mostly what I read. I'm not interested in blood and gore, or seeing all the details of someone getting seriously hurt.
 
I also like the pacing of cozies; at this point in my life, I don't need or want to be breathless.
 
Another reason I write traditional mysteries is that I like to write funny . . . and I can do that more effectively in this subgenre.
 
That said, I get a little irritated when people assume that cozies/traditional mysteries are all fluff.

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S²KH: What makes writing worthwhile; what inspires you?
PNT:
 
Writing is always worthwhile because I need to do it. This is a fundamental need – molecular almost – and I get really irritable if I don't write.
 
Everything is a source of inspiration. I spend a lot of time each day thinking about writing and love putting small life events and interactions into hypothetical manuscripts, short stories or poems. This is true with nonfiction, too. Everyday I come up with one idea or another for an article or nonfiction book. I write letters in my head to people, organizations, corporations and newspapers all the time.
 
However, lately, I think two more things inspire me:
1. Being able to tell a good story – getting it right so that it meets my own harsh demands for quality.
2. Receiving emails/notes from readers. On days when the words don't flow and I want to scream, a nice comment from a reader can mean so much.

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S²KH: What do you do to relax, to get recharged for writing, to get past a ‘block’ and get back into your ‘flow’?
PNT:
 
That's a good question. Writing isn't linear for me. If I try to force a scene, I'll usually end up dumping it in the edit.
 
What's challenging is creating the mental space – the freedom to just think – in order to write in a fresh way.
 
To break out of a slump, I take walks, do my Tae Kwon Do, spend time reading to my children – and sometimes, I have to simply turn off the computer and stop trying so hard.

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S²KH: What all do you need to do to write a S² book; what's easy and hard, how long does it take?
PNT:
 
When I'm working consistently, I can finish a book in a matter of months.
 
The most difficult things for me are:
1. finding the time to write
2. writing the first draft.
Oh, it's painful to write that first draft because it's so poorly written (by my standards, at least) and I know I'll have to edit the heck out of it to make something worthwhile.
 
What's easy? Not much.
 
I love the editing process though. The first re-write is an incredible pleasure.
 
I know that sounds weird, but it's true.

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S²KH: What is your favorite time to write; is there a place (physical or emotional) you are most comfortable writing?
PNT:
 
I'm a natural night owl and would write very late at night if I could. But with children, that's not a realistic option. So, I write, generally, in the mornings.
 
I have an office. It gets messy very quickly and that affects that mental space to which I referred earlier. I need a moderately uncluttered environment to think and write.

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S²KH: How did the idea develop to have Sasha ‘sooth’ herself by taking hits from a can of whipped cream?
PNT:
 
We all have comfort foods. Chocolate is so common. I wanted to give Sasha something distinctive. Canned whipped cream is not horribly expensive or caloric – and you can find it almost anywhere.

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S²KH: Why does Sasha fret over her mother's health?
PNT:
 
Welcome to the baby boomer generation. Sasha – unlike her sister – lives in the same town as her mother. Their relationship is prickly and complicated. Guilt and concern mix and Sasha feels both of these daily in regard to her mom.

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S²KH: Are you and Sasha alike in any way; if so, do you consider it autobiographical?
PNT:
 
My first two manuscripts – the ones that never were published – had many more similarities between the two of us. Now, Sasha is her own person. Yes, we both live in Albuquerque and feel chauvinistic about our home state. We share other similarities such as liking Guinness and Glenlivet. But Sasha is much larger than life; I'm really quite normal.

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S²KH: Which character, besides Sasha, have you most enjoyed writing about?
PNT:
 
I love all of my characters for different reasons. Right now, I adore Darnda. Shes fun and tough and has such a unique sensibility about the world and the value/lack of value of people in it.
 
For some reason, Im also writing a few much older womenin their 80swhom I just love. Annabelle Parker in STUNG is the epitome of a Southern Lady, the very emblem of grace and strength. In LAS CRUCES, I have a character named Guadalupe Nakamura who is the matriarch of a tremendously successful chile pepper empire. Shes smart, sharp and incredibly practical.
 
Both women exemplify the kind of person I aspire to be, I guess. Thats the wonder of writing fiction; we can write our own stories and aim for them in real life as well.

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S²KH: How do you choose names for characters; do you ever need to change them?
PNT:
 
Most names are fairly arbitrary and, yes, I frequently change them. Some people have bought their names into my books (money donated to charities) and then it's a challenge to give them an interesting character without offending them. Other characters' names come automatically. It's a fun process. I don't worry too much about the names though because I know I'll get them right somewhere in the process of editing.

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S²KH: Are your continuing characters modeled after people you know; do you create villains by giving them characteristics of people you don't like?
PNT:
 
The continuing characters, so far, are not modeled after people I know. As to the villain, no, I don't usually give them characteristics of people I don't like. That said, I do have a couple of digs in my books that refer to people I don't like – but NO ONE else would know. That's a fun way to get revenge without hurting a soul. It's very helpful to mental stability.

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S²KH: Are you part of the process that develops cover art for your books?
PNT:
 
At least with the University of New Mexico Press, the answer is YES. They send me mock-ups and I get to comment. AND they listen.
 
This wasn't really the case with the mass market paperback of THE CLOVIS INCIDENT that Worldwide published in July. It's got saguaros on the cover and saguaros don't grow in NM. I pointed that out to the editor and it didn't matter.

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S²KH: When you are ‘finished’ with a book, is it hard to let go and start the next one?
PNT:
 
Not one iota.

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S²KH: What was the biggest disappointment on the road to becoming published; what was the luckiest 'break'?
PNT:
 
The biggest disappointment was probably the accumulation of all those rejections – especially in the beginning – and the fact that Sasha hasn't yet taken those big New York publishing houses by storm. Not yet.
 
The luckiest break? Ev Schlatter, the editor at UNM Press, who read THE CLOVIS INCIDENT and loved it. Her marvelous sense of humor and faith in my work were the reasons I was published.

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S²KH: If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?
PNT:
 
I wouldn't have fought the mystery genre so much. At first, I had a kind of snobbery about mysteries – I didn't think they were good literature. That came from tremendous ignorance. If I'd bothered to learn more about my genre, I could have saved myself a lot of time.

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S²KH: Has anything ever happened that made you want to stop writing?
PNT:
 
Here's a wonderful story:
I'd already written and gotten rejections on two completely different manuscripts before I wrote and put CLOVIS out into the world. Well, things limped along for months. Then within a week's span, my second agent sent CLOVIS back to me saying that she loved it but just couldn't sell it AND an author I really liked sent me a three-page, single spaced letter telling me how much she hated it.
 
I have to admit, after that, I thought seriously about giving up on Sasha. I moped around the house for two days – crying and very sad. I'd already spent nearly seven years with Sasha. The idea of giving her up and giving up my dream of being a novelist felt like such a defeat.
 
But something happened inside me. A kind of defiance was born. I decided I didn't care what anyone said about Sasha – or my ideas/writing – and I committed to continue the series no matter what. The morning after making that decision, I received the email from Ev at UNM Press telling me she wanted to publish the book.
 
Coincidence? I think not.

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S²KH: What interests you in addition to writing?
PNT:
 
Just about everything – except the fatuousness of American movie star/fame worship. (Okay, that interests me, too – not the movie stars and famous folks – but the U.S. obsession with both.)
 
Part of the reason I like working in public relations and writing nonfiction is that I get to learn so much.
 
One thing in particular that interests me is how people communicate. This can be through how they decide to convey their attitudes nonverbally – such as how they dress – as well as how they use words. Since I've studied several languages, I'm convinced that it affects communication in dramatic ways. I'd go as far as to say that many of the problems in the Middle East stem from two very different linguistic constructs in addition to spiritual disagreements.
 
I look at each person as a culture unto herself. So, from my perspective, all communication is cross-cultural and fraught with mental/emotional landmines. It's astounding that any of us understand each other at all.
 
I'm also fascinated by advertisements and study them to see what the real and subtle messages are.

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S²KH: Would you like to have your S² books optioned for movies or television?
PNT:
 
My first response is “yes” – that's because it would be fun to have Sasha reach a much wider audience. But, I've spoken to too many authors whose works have been totally changed in the translation from page to screen. That makes me pause.

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S²KH: As a PR consultant, are you concerned about ‘giving recommendations away’ in your books?
PNT:
 
Not at all. As a matter of fact, I give all kinds of information away on my Bad Girls Press website and in other places. Frankly, I'd like to see people be smarter about public relations, period. A lot of people/businesses shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to building and maintaining their reputations.

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S²KH: From your web site: “College began ... graduated in 1975” and from the copyright page in your books: “Taichert, Pari Noskin, 1958-”. If you were born in 1958, that would indicate graduation from high school about 1975. Can you explain this apparent inconsistency?
PNT:
 
Yep. Thanks for catching this.
 
It's wrong on the website. I'll have to change it one of these days. It should read “1979” – for graduation from college.

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S²KH: How is your being an author affecting your family?
PNT:
 
Well, my family doesn't like it when I travel, but everyone is happy when I'm writing because I'm a lot nicer.
 
My children think it's cool to have a mother who is a writer, though they're not old enough to read my books yet. My husband is pleased that my work is finally paying off in real terms. He'll be even happier when I make more money writing than I spend on marketing.
 
My sister is very supportive. I do wish my parents were alive to see this realization of my dreams.

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S²KH: When and where did you make your first public appearance as an author?
PNT:
 
I was on a panel at Left Coast Crime in Pasadena – a year before I had my book in hand. Technically, I was a published author at that point, though I felt like an imposter.
 
My first appearance once the book was published was at my daughter's preschool; the owner had a tea party and book sale for me. It was lovely. One funny thing that happened was that my daughter tried to sell my bookmarks to her little classmates' parents.

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S²KH: What is the most interesting panel discussion group or topic you have been a part of?
PNT:
 
This question becomes more and more difficult as time passes. I now believe that the topics of panels don't matter nearly as much as the chemistry between the participants. If it's good, the panel will be fun for absolutely everyone. If it's stilted, the panel can be lethal. This past year, I had the pleasure of being on some wonderful panels - and on some real duds. Heaven save us from the latter.
 
One thing I can say – is that I absolutely love going to book clubs that have read my work. The readers always have observations and questions that just astound me.

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S²KH: What're the most fun and the hardest parts about touring and making appearances for book signings?
PNT:
 
I love traveling. Many booksellers have become friends and it's a delight to see them again. The same is true for some of my readers. I make a point of trying to see people who've contacted me when I'm in their town.
 
It's fun to wax eloquent in front of an audience, too. I've got a big enough ego that I like that public appearance aspect.
 
The most difficult thing is wondering if anyone is going to show up. I don't know if authors ever lose that worry. I do know that audience attendance doesn't always have much bearing on sales.

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S²KH: What question is most often asked?
PNT:
 
Often people ask about the mechanics of being an author. These questions range from: “How do you get an agent?” to “How do you write a whole book?”
 
Other common questions are: “How do you come up with your ideas?” “Do you outline?”

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S²KH: What question was the most interesting; the hardest to answer?
PNT:
 
I don't have a specific answer here. What I find the most interesting – and often most difficult to answer – are those questions that go to Sasha's motivation or a plot point. Often, readers come up with better ideas than I had in my book. The questions that begin with, “Why did Sasha do ...?” or “Why did you decide to have ...?” always are the most challenging and interesting.

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S²KH: What authors do you most admire; what kind of book do you most enjoy reading?
PNT:
 
I promise I'm not being coy when I say that there are so many authors I admire that I can't come up with just a few names. In the fiction realm, I tend to read a lot of mysteries – especially “traditional/cozy” works. I like some police procedurals and some hard-boiled detective works. I'm not terribly fond of thrillers or violent books.
 
Besides mysteries, I read all kinds of literature though – especially science fiction and fantasy. Some “mainstream” or literary authors have become favorites over the years. Alice Hoffman and Anne Tyler are two that come to mind.
 
I adore a lot of young adult fiction, too. Works by Philip Pullman, Louis Sachar, Madeleine L'Engle and others are tremendously satisfying and beautifully written.
 
I'm not a fan of most chick-lit. And I have a definite problem with literary fiction that becomes too self-congratulatory, self-involved or obtuse.

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S²KH: Who is your favorite fictional character?
PNT:
 
Oh, heavens. I have to pick just one? Well, I could say, “Sasha Solomon,” but I don't think that's what you mean.
 
I think if I had to pick just one – over all others – oh, darn it! I can't do it! Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? Corporal Carrot from Terry Pratchett's works? The cherubim in Madeleine L'Engle's work? EEEEEEEEEE!
 
I'm sorry, I just can't do it. There are too many who speak to too many of my moods.

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S²KH: Do you have a cat?
PNT:
 
No, and that makes me very sad. I used to have three. However, one of my children is allergic to cats and I don't dare have one while she still lives with us.
 
Now, once she goes off to college, well, um, things might just change.

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Purchase Pari's Pickles
... you know: pickles, as in difficult situations –
like what always happens in mysteries!


Author's photo by permission of Aldo Calcagno of Mystery Dawg.

Page URL: http://www.sashasolomon.com/a_qanda.shtml

Answers copyright © 2005–2009 by Pari Noskin Taichert. All rights reserved worldwide.
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