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Interview with Deb Richardson-Moore

Deb Richardson-Moore has two published mysteries, yet it was the publication of The Weight of Mercy, a memoir based on her experience working as a pastor of the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina, that sends her to speaking and teaching engagements in academic institutions beyond her home state.


Deb, how do you find time to write when your job is dependent on the needs of your parishioners, and the people who seek to gain wisdom from your work with them?
Because I am writing sermons every week, I’m not able to write fiction on a regular basis. Mostly I write when I can set aside large blocks of time, such as a weekend or a vacation. My board of directors at Triune has given me three sabbaticals of six to nine weeks, which allowed me to finish each book. Without those, I wouldn’t be published.

Your novels thus far have drawn upon your experiences as a pastor to the homeless. Do you see this as a natural extension of your calling?
Absolutely. I was looking for a way to talk about this national issue in a way that would reach people who would never pick up my memoir on ministering among the homeless.

Early in my time at Triune, a homeless man said to me, “Pastor, do you know the worst thing about being homeless? It’s not being cold or wet or hungry. The worst thing about being homeless is being looked right through.”

That has framed a lot of what we do at Triune, as we try to bring people into community, lift them up with art and music and drama and service to each other. But the comment resonated as I contemplated a murder mystery. What might it mean if an entire group of people were unseen, ignored, invisible? What might they hear? What might they know? From those musings came The Cantaloupe Thief and The Cover Story.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Probably by 10th grade when I joined the staff of the high school newspaper. Though I probably would have killed to be a published author, I thought that was not for “real” people. “Real” people had jobs, so I headed into journalism. And while I imagine every journalist secretly wants to write a book, I could not write newspaper stories all day and go home and write at night. And so I never attempted a book until I left the newspaper. It was so much harder than any other writing I’d ever done.

When did you write your first story and will it ever see the light of day?
I honestly don’t know. It might have been a middle school newspaper article that did see the light of day, no matter how dismal it was.

Why do you write mysteries?
I write what I like most to read, which are mysteries. I want my next novel to be a darker psychological thriller, which is more what I currently read.

When describing your mysteries, do you compare them to another body of work, such as the Nancy Drew Mysteries, Agatha Christie’s mysteries, or even the TV show, Murder She Wrote?
I am a huge fan of all those and would be proud to be compared to any of them. The sense of place is important to me -- in my case, the changing South. I’d like for it to be as much a part of my books as Cabot Cove, Maine, or the small villages of England are to those bodies of work.

What part of writing a novel do you struggle with the most?
I have a tendency to get stuck in the middle. I have literally gone to my writers’ group and said, “I’m stuck. What characters are you most interested in?” And then I’ve taken off from what they’ve suggested.

Do you find it easier to write fiction or non-fiction?
These days, I find it easier to write fiction. Writing The Weight of Mercy was painful. I had to re-live some bad times.

When I first tried fiction, I found there were too many choices, and I was paralyzed. But once I got accustomed to making a choice and going with it, fiction became easier.

Where do you write?
My desk and bookshelves are in a sunroom with uncovered windows facing my wooded back yard. On the walls are paintings from Key West and Turks and Caicos, and caricatures and photographs of my family. It’s a bright and happy place.

What atmosphere helps you write?
I’m okay anywhere I can get hot coffee and bright daylight and quiet. I wrote a good bit of The Cantaloupe Thief during a trip to Scotland with my husband. He played golf all day, and I wrote in a condo, then a hotel room.

Also, I like to have something to look forward to at the end of the day – dinner or a concert out, or simply curling up on the couch with the TV remote and a bowl of coffee ice cream.

What is the take-away value of The Cover Story?
My editors in England recognized immediately that I was trying to say something about homelessness and picked up this quote for the back cover: “Most days, as a homeless man, invisibility came Malachi’s way unwanted, unsought. Today he was counting on it.”

I want readers to take away the same thing they did from The Cantaloupe Thief – to look at homeless people as human beings, no different from the rest of us. I don’t want them to avert their eyes.

What are you working on now?
I have just handed in the third book in the Branigan Powers series, tentatively titled Death of a Jester.

Any parting words?
When people come to me about writing, I tell them the most important thing is to silence their “inner critic.” That’s from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I think there’s a voice inside all of us that says, This is boring. Why do you think anyone wants to read this? Why are you wasting your time?

And that first rejection can give power to that voice.

Every writer, I believe, has to silence that voice in whatever way works for her. That takes discipline and a willingness to fail.

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Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at www.anitamaedraper.com and www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper/






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