Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Changing Lanes by Dorothy Howell

Some people think I’m crazy.


They’re probably right.


Since I sold HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE, the first of a new mystery series, one of the questions I’m often asked is, “Why did you change genres?” Everyone asks in a nice way but, occasionally, I see that have-you-lost-your-mind look in their eyes.


I can’t blame them. I’ve been blessed with astounding good fortune writing historical romances. I’ve sold 23 books, most of them to Harlequin Silhouette, the largest publisher of romantic fiction in the world, under the pen name Judith Stacy. My books are sold in dozens of countries to a wonderful readership who have, thankfully, remained loyal for years, and I’ve been fortunate to garner some industry recognition.


So why give that up? Why start over in a new genre – writing under a different name to boot?


As with a lot of things, my decision to try my hand at writing mysteries didn’t hit me like a bolt out of the blue one day. It was several things, building slowly over time.


My career had been going great with Harlequin Historicals for several years, and when I finished my last contract with them I decided I needed a break. No deadlines, no pressure for a while. Just lots of lunches with friends, shopping trips, and afternoon naps. That lasted for about three weeks and I was bored.


At the same time my daughter, a college student, took a part-time job at a retail store. She came home with stories about how terrible the working conditions were at times. Problems with customers, management, co-workers – you name it. It was so awful, I thought, “This would make a great book!”


While the idea of a murder taking place in a department store brewed in my brain, along with a sales clerk who considered her job The Dark Side of retail, I knew I needed a little something more. This time, I did get a bolt out of the blue – handbags! I’m an absolute nut about purses so I decided that my main character should be passionate about them, as well. Thus, the character of Haley Randolph, reluctant sales clerk and self-professed handbag whore, was born.


My mysteries and romances have a lot in common. I love writing quirky characters. I love humor too. So there’re a lot of both those things in all the books I write.


I didn’t stray from romance for long. I love my editor and all the talented people at Harlequin Historicals, so when they invited me to contribute a novella to their spring brides anthology, I quickly agreed. It will be released in 2009.


The adventures of Haley Randolph continue with the next book in the series, tentatively titled PURSES AND POISON, set for release in 2009. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful editor and a team of creative people at Kensington Publishing.


I’m doubly blessed to be writing in two great genres, and yeah, a little bit crazy too.



Learn more about Dorothy and her debut mystery Handbags and Homicide right here!