Interview with Cheryl St. James - Author of Lucy Pinkston mysteries

1. Can you tell us a little about your books and yourself?
Hello, my name is Cheryl St. James, and I'm the author of the Lucy Pinkston mysteries. Lucy is a gilded-age detective working in Boston, Massachusetts. Lucy solves cases with the support of her Indian-born adviser, Mr. Farouk, and her brother, Jack Pinkston.

2. What inspired you to write your books?
I was lamenting the lack of a female Sherlock Holmes, and the idea of Lucy came to me. But of course, she didn't turn out as planned. Lucy is a great detective, but she is also a young woman growing up in a very restrictive environment. The way she handles this is similar to the struggles of modern day women. Even though we aren't wearing corsets and taking afternoon tea, we can connect with Lucy's struggles on a very basic level.

3. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned to let your characters be themselves. Like I said, I wanted Lucy to have more of a bite. Shrewd like Sherlock, but with a feminine twist. Once I started writing, she made her quirky personality known. I learned to let your characters be themselves--don't force them to act a certain way. The result might be more entertaining that you initially imagined--Lucy certainly is!

4. What are some challenges that you faced while writing?
My eternal challenge is the seemingly endless rounds of editing. It is so frustrating getting your manuscript back from the editor, riddled with red marks. It's a challenge, but a necessary one. I like to think of it as an evolution.

5. Who or what in your life would you say influenced you the most?
I'm influenced by creative people. I feed off their vibe, and it sustains my passion for writing. I love hearing about other people's creative processes, and I really love studio tours. It's like taking a walk in someone else's daydream.

6. What are your hobbies and interests away from the desk?
I'm an avid walker, and I love music. So I steal parts of my day for strolling and listening to internet radio. Beyond that, I am an unabashed Murder She Wrote super-fan. I recap episodes on my blog, and I have a ridiculous amount of fun doing it.
7. What do you get passionate about?
I'm super passionate about art. We should find time for the creative process and encourage it within ourselves and other artists. If you have even the tiniest inkling to create, transition time-wasting habits into ones that sustain your creative spirit.

8. What does "success" mean to you?
Success is one person reading the Lucy books and forgetting the stresses of their day. I don't write books for myself, I want people to join Lucy's world and forget their own struggles. If I take your mind off a horrible boss for a few minutes each day, I feel like a million bucks.

9. What are your current projects?
I'm currently writing the third Lucy book, "Lucy Pinkston and the Centennial Case." Lucy has been hired to protect a fossil exhibit at the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, and she runs into some familiar faces during the case.

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Kick the "aspiring" out and just write. Figure out how you work best and stay committed. Don't write the first book if you don't want to write the 15th. Stay the course, it's the only way you'll get better at your craft. Start a writer's group in your area for support. Don't critique, encourage each other and celebrate your group successes. You'll look back in a few years, amazed at what you've accomplished.

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