Author spotlights (like this one with Tessa Wegert, author of Death in the Family from Berkley) are a great way to learn how other authors are finding success.
Tessa Wegert is the debut author of Death in the Family (Berkley) and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist.
She grew up in Quebec near the border of Vermont and now lives with her family in Connecticut.
Tessa writes mysteries set in Upstate New York while studying martial arts and dance.
In this post, she shares her experience writing and publishing Death in the Family with Berkley, including what prompted the book, her thoughts on using outlines, and more.
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Name: Tessa Wegert
Literary agent: Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Literary Agency
Book title: Death in the Family
Release Date: February 18, 2020 (Hardcover)
Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural
Elevator pitch for the book: Traumatized detective Shana Merchant hopes to start her career anew by taking a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown — but when a wealthy young man vanishes from a privately-owned island leaving behind a houseful of suspects, Shana must unravel the family's dark secrets while keeping her own demons at bay.
What prompted you to write this book?
I started out writing thrillers in the vein of Michael Crichton, but there wasn't much of a market for them at the time. When I decided to write a mystery, I had just reread Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and introduced my kids to the board game Clue. I love classic mystery tropes, so I figured I'd try my hand at a traditional murder mystery with a contemporary twist.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
It took three and a half years for Death in the Family to go from a concept to a published book. It was the fifth book I wrote, but my first attempt at a mystery, so I made quite a few changes to tighten up the plot and pacing along the way.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
After so many years of querying other books and getting rejections, I had no idea how this one would be received. I was lucky enough to be submitting at a time when locked-room mysteries and classic whodunits were making a comeback – something I think we're still seeing now with books like Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key and the film Knives Out. Watching this style of mystery grow in popularity again, and getting to be part of the action, is well outside the realm of what I could have imagined.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Before Death in the Family, I didn't work with outlines, and thought I never would. I was worried that plotting in advance would take the fun out of writing. It only took a few months of working on a mystery, with its clues and bluffs and braided backstories, for me to change my tune. I'll be a plotter from here on in.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
If readers are excited and entertained by this book, I'll be happy. I hope it contributes to the renewed interest in this type of mystery novel.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
The best advice I can offer aspiring authors is to be flexible. Be willing to experiment with new genres. You might find your niche somewhere unexpected.
If you're an author who would like to be featured in a future post, send an email to Robert Lee Brewer with the subject line "Author Spotlight" at firstname.lastname@example.org.