Kindle Author Interview: Debra Lee

Debra Lee, author of A Dangerous Woman, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about A Dangerous Woman?

DEBRA LEE: A Dangerous Woman is the first book in the Fay Cunningham Mystery Series.

Fay Cunningham, publisher of a small-town Pennsylvania newspaper, is having a well-deserved midlife crisis. Both nicotine-and calorie-deprived, she stays busy delivering the paper she publishes in order to get closer to her customer base, craving inspiration, a smoke, and a cheeseburger. But she discovers something odd going on behind the closed doors of her trusted friend Joe Wise. Like, where is he and who is the mysterious blonde rudely blocking Fay’s entry to his house?

Adding to the puzzle, Fay learns that Joe’s brother and biggest rival, Thomas, has just died under strange circumstances. Joe was Fay’s professional benefactor and her journalistic instincts kick into overdrive. But first, she has to get past Angel, Joe’s hostile and secretive new companion. And when Fay’s questions get too personal, a killer makes lethal plans to send Fay into permanent retirement….

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

DEBRA LEE: Before I sat down to write about Fay I had a good idea who she was. Actually, she was a lot like me. She had some of my flaws and positives. But to make her more real to me I began going through magazines and found a photograph of a woman who looked like I had imagined Fay. I used that photo as I wrote. I did the same with a few other characters. Sometimes when I’m writing I’ll picture a famous movie star and have one of my characters look like them. Then I can go from there.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

DEBRA LEE: Anyone can read my books. You won’t find much on-screen violence, nasty words or sex. There is one exception though. My book Dangerous Bedfellows might be better suited for adults, but not necessarily. Women would probably be more my target audience. For the Fay Cunningham Series I think women in the age range of 30 and up enjoy it the most. But then, I just received a five star review from a man for A Dangerous Woman. My book Taken crosses all age groups, from young adults to grandmothers.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

DEBRA LEE: Long. I began writing after my first son was born some thirty years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom. I started out writing romance stories. Something strange began happening in those stories though. A murder always seemed to slip into the book I was trying to write. I think this had something to do with the books I started reading. Sidney Sheldon, Mary Higgins Clark, and the list goes on. Oh wait, I forgot about a biggie. James Patterson. His book, Along Came A Spider convinced me when I grew up as a writer, I wanted to write like the man. He sure can spin one heck of a tale.

Back in the day I was also learning how to write screenplays. I even managed to snag an agent on the west coast, who peddled my scripts. One of the problems, according to him, was where I lived. I needed to move to the west coast so I could take meetings, etc. Well, that didn’t happen. I was raising a family here in Pennsylvania.

So I got another agent. This one was in New York. He liked my books, but couldn’t get me a sale. To make a very long story short, I eventually sold to a small ebook publisher without the help of an agent. This was before ebooks became popular. Ten-twelve years ago we were the ebook pioneers. If we were lucky we might sell a dozen books a year. I could almost go out for a fast food meal on my earnings for the year.

One of my ebook publishers put my book, A Dangerous Woman out as a POD trade paperback. Hurray! I was a real print author. I had some sales, too. The book was nominated for a Deadly Dagger Award, which made it possible to send the book to Harlequin for the possibility of a reprint for their Worldwide mystery library. And guess what, a year after I sent them the book, I got the call. They wanted to reprint the book.

In October, 2009, A Dangerous Woman was published as a mass-market paperback. In January of this year, I ask my ebook publisher to release my published books back to me. Since we had a good working relationship, the publisher released the titles and wished me well. So as my ebook publisher began pulling down my books from Internet sites, I began putting them back up at a much lower price.

I now have five titles available for all the ereaders out there, which includes the Kindle and Nook. A sixth book, Heartbeat, should be available soon.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

DEBRA LEE: When an idea for a book comes, I sometimes think about it for weeks or months before I actually begin writing. Most times before I ever put anything to paper I have a good idea how the book will end. I find if I have a good idea how the book will end I can keep moving toward that ending. I will say there have been times my characters made me change that ending in a big way.

I usually have two or three books going at the same time. I’m working on three now. When I get stuck on one I work on one of the other ones. Then when I go back to the first one I was working on things seem to go much smoother.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

DEBRA LEE: I already named a few above, but there are many more. Too many to list. I will say I am finding some fantastic new self-published authors. I read very little print books anymore. So if a book isn’t available as an ebook, chances are I won’t be reading it.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

DEBRA LEE: To Kill A Mockingbird.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

DEBRA LEE: Social networking, facebook, twitter, interviews like this one.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

DEBRA LEE: Why not? Ebooks are here to stay and the market is growing daily. Like I said, I rarely read a print book anymore and I think that will become the norm for most readers in the near future.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

DEBRA LEE: Do your homework. Check out the books that are selling well in the genre you’re writing in. Take a look at the covers, download samples, checkout the formatting. A book poorly formatted isn’t going to sell well. If you can’t afford a professional editor, get good critique partners to help you make it the best book it can be. First impressions count. So don’t rush getting the book on Kindle before it’s ready. Again, do your homework. 

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Debra Lee writes, "If I'm in a murderous mood, I might write a murder mystery or chilling thriller. When there's romance in the air, I've been known to pen a love story.

"On a more personal note, I've been married to the same guy for thirty-five years. I'm the mother of two grown sons and grandmother to one grandson. I share my home in Pennsylvania with my husband and five felines. It's an interesting life."

Visit her website.

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