So, let's get to know Dr. Garrett!
What sets your books apart from others?
Strong characterization helps to make my books unique. Because I have a doctorate in psychology and over twenty-six years of experience providing mental health and substance abuse treatment, I'm good at writing. I try to help my readers understand what drives each of my characters. (I know this makes me sound as old as Zombie, cemetery dirt. Not true).
Why do you write in the genres that you do?
I write self-help because I'm still trying to save the world. (I know it's corny, but I can't help myself.) I'm planning a series of short 99-cent eBooks on different topics like confidence and boundaries. I want them to be affordable to the people who need them. I'm writing the gritty, Charlie Stone, crime thriller series because as a therapist, I understand the dark underside of the driving forces of the human psyche. After I write a chapter about the antagonist in this series, I often feel the need to take a break and wash my hands. The Hot Flash series is fun to write, and the four Divas, Phoenix, Gina, Latishia, and Kat practically explode onto the screen while I'm writing them. Any woman who goes through this difficult period of life needs to be able to laugh about the challenges it presents. The interesting thing about Hot Flash Divas is both the guys and gals in my critique groups loved it.
If you could write in any genre what would you write and why?
Interesting that you should ask this question. I completed the first chapter of a cozy mystery that will have a paranormal flavor. That's all I'm revealing at this point.
How many hours a day do you write?
Four to six hours a day.
Most people who run a successful business must learn to manage their time in an effective way. In general, I write daily and to some degree on weekends. If I'm not having lunch with friends, grocery shopping, doing laundry, or attending an art class, I'm writing. I schedule activities each day to get out of the house and away from the computer for a few hours. Unless my husband is busy with a project, I stop when he arrives home and spend quality time with him. Writing is my profession, not a hobby.
Do you have a set place where you write? Can you describe it if you do?
When I closed my four-room therapy office, I compressed my office into an extra bedroom in my house. I have a large double window that faces the front lawn and flowerbeds. I use a MAC desktop with a large monitor, an ergonomic keyboard, and wireless mouse to reduce the strain of long hours of writing. My chair is adjustable and supports my lower back. On the desk area to my left, which is in front of the window sits Pookie's basket. She's my bibliocat and makes sure I take breaks by standing in front of my monitor, purring.
I don't go to coffee shops to write. Hunching over over a laptop while I try to tune out a plethora of sounds and distractions isn't conducive to my writing. I like my comfortable, quiet, ergonomic office, with the great view. I do take an iPad Mini and a small keyboard with me when I travel. I wrote many of the Florida scenes in Hot Flash Divas on location.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing is an energy that excites me. It almost flows like a force, unless I've been at it for too many hours or I've forgotten to eat. Editing is more exhausting. (Personally I agree with Shirley here. I think writing is easier than editing and I often feel exhausted after editing. The only reason way I am tired after writing is if I am emotionally exhausted).
What is the best money you have spent as a writer?
I hired a professional editor. I'd edited my first book so many times; I couldn't have seen a mistake if it had been in bold print. My beta readers caught some problems. After all that, my publisher corrected more mistakes. Even best-selling authors hire editors. Using an editor may give a writer the advantage of catching an agent or publisher's interest. If self-publishing—it's a must. Poorly written self-published books make it hard on the authors who produce quality work to be taken seriously in the world of publishing.
Have you ever had writer's block?
No. There are several reasons why. First, I write almost every day, so I don't stop the creative flow. Second, as I go about I watch people, listen to conversations, and check out places to use in my stories. The third way I avoid this curse is by writing two to four books at one time. (Yep, I know that sounds insane.) When I hit a place where my path isn't clear in one book, I switch to another one. (She is one lucky lady here)
What about reader's block?
I've never had it and pray I never do. I love to read and tend to have a print book and an audiobook going at the same time. I always make sure the books are by different authors, so I don't mingle the plots.
What other writer's are you friends with and how have they helped you become a better writer?
I'm a member of Sister's in Crime—Atlanta Chapter, North Alabama Mystery Writers (NAMW), Huntsville Literary Association (HLA) Critique Group, Coffee and Critique, and Coffee Tree Writers. I learn by doing critiques as well as receiving the feedback from these talented writers. The two most well- known authors who have helped me with their advice are Baron Birtcher, who writes the Mike Travis series and John DeDakis, who writes the Lark Chadwick Mystery series.
What was an early experience where you learned language had power?
As a counselor, I had many patients tell me when they were about to relapse on alcohol or drugs, reenter a bad relationship, or needed to make a major decision, that they would hear my voice in their heads reminding them of something I told them in a therapy session. Some would think, "What would Dr. Garrett do?" That was when I realized the power of words and tried to use them wisely.
How did publishing your first novel change your process of writing? Or did it?
My first book was a self-help book titled Stop the Craziness: Simple Life Solutions. I used a conversational style similar to the way I spoke to people during therapy sessions. Remembering my patient's frustrations with self-help books that go on and on about the problems, I made mine a solution-oriented book that got to the point. I used call-out boxes to emphasize the most important points and cartoons to give a visual of each chapter topic. Also, I provided a simple intervention at the end of each chapter to help the reader improve his or her life.
Fiction is entirely different. My writing style in Deadly Compulsion, a crime thriller, is graphic and intense. In Hot Flash Divas, a chick lit novel, my style is poignant and humorous.
For aspiring writers what information or advice would you give them?
Write first, edit second. Some folks are plotters and write a detailed outline. Others write by the seat of their pants and let the story take them where it will. I'm a bit of both. I do a loose plot to make sure I hit the correct story arc to avoid a saggy middle, but I still let the story and the characters take me where they choose.
In your opinion, what are the most important magazines for aspiring writers to subscribe to?
Writer's Digest and Poets and Writers.
What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Dollface, a thriller written by J.D. Frost, which was published by Ardent Writer Press. James is a member of North Alabama Mystery Writers, and he can write a chase scene that puts you in the vehicle.
If you could tell your younger aspiring writer self anything, what would it be?
The same things I told myself when I closed my private counseling practice in 2014 and started writing full-time. I was a neophyte. I knew how to run my business and how to use my knowledge and skills to help people get better. I knew nothing about the publishing business. Here's the plan that I used.
Commit to go to my home office and write every day.
Learn my craft. Read books and attend webinars about my new profession.
Take an online college course on writing fiction.
I used three different critique groups, and eventually started my own, North Alabama Mystery Writers (NAMW) to hone my skills and to give and receive valuable feedback.
Visit writer's conferences and book fairs to learn more about writing, meet authors, agents, and publishers. Pitch my books.
Attend Toastmasters to become a proficient speaker. I needed to communicate well while pitching a book, speaking on a panel, doing an interview, or giving a keynote address.
Never give up.
Accept rejection as part of the process.
Keep writing while querying agents, especially if it's a series. Don't let the momentum stop.
About Dr. Garrett's books:
Stop the Craziness: Simple Life Solutions is a fun to read toolbox of 50 simple solutions to help you improve your life.
Deadly Compulsion is the first in the Charlie Stone crime thriller series.
Dr. Charlene Stone, Ph.D., is called in for her first psychological profile consultation for the Huntsville, Alabama Police Department. Middle-aged, alcoholic men are being seduced in nightclubs and lured to their deaths. They are found naked, beaten, and mutilated in their beds. The crime scenes are neat and organized. Within weeks, the police discover a second and then a third victim. The killer's time between murders is shortening. To complicate matters, Charlie is suffering from insomnia, nightmares and sleepwalking episodes. Her attraction to Detective Ryan Roberts adds to her emotional turmoil.
Due to mounting circumstantial evidence, Charlie finds she is a suspect and banned from the investigation. She puts her life in danger during an unsanctioned attempt to clear her name and to stop the brutal murders. Will Charlie catch the killer or discover her worst fear?
Hot Flash Divas is the first in the Hot Flash Series.
Phoenix O'Leary faces the worst year of her life as a psychologist. Her father dies of cancer in September. On Christmas Day, her funeral director husband, Todd, asks for a divorce. She knew he was a buffet-loving, recliner slug, but didn't suspect that he was a liar and cheater. Her friends, the Divas sweep in to help Phoenix cope with her grief, reconstruct her life, and learn to have fun as a single lady. Gina Borgiano is her best friend and a single, Italian, Catholic, divorce attorney. She represents Phoenix when Todd files for divorce. Latishia Snide, built like a five-foot basketball with braids, navigates life on three-inch designer heels. A successful loan officer, she helps Phoenix finance a new home in Huntsville. Kat Wang, a Chinese-American nurse, helps Phoenix's see to her medical needs. The mishaps and adventures the Divas encounter along the way produce tears of sadness, hot flashes, laughter that stresses the limits of their cranky bladders and a sprinkling of zesty adult romance.
Upcoming news: Thunderchild Publishing has signed a contract to publish the next books in each series: Deadly Lesson and Hot Flash Romance. They will be released in 2017.
Where you can find Dr. Garrett's books:
You too can follow Dr. Garrett on these platforms:
Author page on goodreads.com
Dr. Garrett is available for interviews, book signings, review copies of her books, and speaking engagements. Check out Dr. Garrett's blog on her website for more insight into her characters.
Upcoming events where you can meet Dr. Garrett:
Dr. Garrett will be one of the panelists at the Decatur book fair on Labor Day weekend. Location: The Decatur Library , 215 Sycamore Street, Decatur, Georgia. Her books will be available in the Sisters in Crime Bookstore.
Hopefully, I have introduced you to a new author, and if you already knew about Dr. Garrett, hopefully she gave you some helpful and interesting information.
A big thanks to Dr. Shirley Garrett for answering these questions!