Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in Scottsdale, Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package. When their heads aren’t together over a manuscript, you’ll probably find them at a movie or play, a hockey game or the mall, or at one of the hundreds of places to find a great meal in the Valley of the Sun.
Who are your influences?
When we first started writing together, we were both big fans of Robert B. Parker and Janet Evanovich. Jean is a faithful fan of Lorna Barrett and Simon Wood. Sally edits these days and seldom gets to read for pleasure, but when she does, she generally goes outside the genre to Stephen King or Rick Riordan, or any one of a hundred other authors.
Is there anyone in the writing world that you aspire to be like?
Aspire to? Not really. But we’re both inspired by our publisher and mentor, Gemma Halliday. Her work ethic and talent are admirable.
Was there an author who encouraged you or guided you along with the writing process?
We sort of mentor each other.
What type of support system did you have when you started penning Mystic Mayhem?
As team writers, we are our own support system. It’s one of the many benefits of writing with a partner.
We are professionals who keep a writing schedule 3 days a week, rain or shine, you see, and our families sometimes pay the price of our commitment in terms of home cooked meals, clean T-shirts, and dust bunnies in the corners. They’re our heroes, eating take-out without complaint and even doing their own laundry. We’re stumped by how a writer could manage the discipline required for our chosen profession without a backup team like we have.
What sparked the idea for the Mystic Isle Mysteries?
In the Hollywood hills, there’s an awesome private club called the Magic Castle. It’s housed in a spooky Victorian mansion and is one of the most interesting places in the country, maybe even in the world. Magicians are mentored and perform there. It’s creepy and charming and a little hokey all at the same time. Mystic Isle Mysteries is the offspring of our wish to write the equivalent of Scooby-Doo cartoons for grown-ups and our fascination with the Magic Castle. One of those “what ifs” writers come up with all the time—what if there were a hotel that catered to fans of the supernatural as a setting for a cozy series?
What are you hoping that readers will come away with when reading Mystic Isle Mysteries?
As we said earlier, it’s a cartoon for grown-ups. We want them to laugh and go on a vicarious trip to the bayou. It’s all about entertainment.
Please describe your writing space.
Jean and Sally work side-by-side at a big table with 3 monitors set up and attached to our two laptops. Papers, coffee cups, dog treats, and the occasional snacks fill up any clean spots that aren’t already taken up with notes and research.
Please share what you’re writing day is like.
We work 3 days a week from 9am to 2pm. After fifteen or so minutes of hey-what’s-new, we take care of the business end of our partnership, then work on our project or projects. We’re currently writing four series: Mystic Isle Mysteries, Danger Cove Pet Sitter Mysteries (coming in April), Aloha Lagoon Gabby LeClair Mysteries (coming in August), and Digby Sloan Mysteries (coming later this year). It takes a lot of great organization to keep things straight. And while Sally is more right-brained, Jean is awesomely left-brained and about the most organized person in the state.
How much does social media come into play when writing? Does it help or hinder your writing process? Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on a project and getting lost in social media to escape what you need to get done?
Our social media presence is something we take care of on a daily basis. We’re as supportive as time allows of sister (and brother) authors, and also try to respond personally to every comment or e-mail from readers. That said, we don’t allow it to get in the way of our writing schedule.
Do you outline?
Religiously. Our outlines are fluid, always changing as we move forward in a book, but we have a hard beginning, middle, and end when we start.
Did you know the ending of Mystic Mayhem before you started writing it?
Yes—because we outline.
How did the writing process for the Danger Cove Pet Sitter Mysteries start out? Did you start with the characters or research?
Because the Danger Cove Mysteries is a multi-author series with sub-series (of which our Pet Sitter Mysteries is one), it definitely started with the character. Our publisher invited us to be part of the series after a few books had already been published, so the research was pretty much done.
Are any of the characters in your novels based on real people in your life?
Are you happy with the way Mystic Mayhem turned out, Sally? Jean?
Yes. We both love it.
What is the best part of writing and worse part of writing for you?
It’s a job. For Jean, it’s the feeling of accomplishment when the words “The End” are finally typed, and the feedback we get from readers. Sally has been a book addict since the third grade when she discovered Walter Farley and the Black Stallion series. She wrote stories even that long ago. It’s in her DNA. The bad part for both of us is we’re currently committed to deadlines that press down when we’re tired or blocked or just wanting a break.
Do you have a spiritual philosophy or a way of viewing life that guides you?
Let go. Let God—and sometimes let Sally—and sometimes let Jean.
How do you feel when you shut down the computer or put away your pen at the end of the day?
Tired. We work hard.
Which of your books are you most proud of?
That’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves most. We love them all.
Do you read on a device or old school books?
E-books for Sally. Paper for Jean.
Again, thank you so much, Jean and Sally.
Visit Sally and Jean’s website for the latest news.
Click here to read my eBook Review of Passion, Poison & Puppy Dogs.