Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing MJ LaBeff, author of ‘Last Summer’s Evil’, book 1 of the Last Cold Case series.
Hi, MJ, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
This question always makes me laugh because I’m never sure how to answer it. And for some reason I hear the voice of a pageant show announcer saying, “MJ LaBeff hails from the great state of Arizona. She grew up in northeastern Ohio and then went to college in northwestern Pennsylvania where she received a bachelor-of-arts degree in Communications-English.” Ha-ha, but seriously, I worked in marketing and advertising for many years. One of the most interesting positions I held was as the marketing coordinator for a mall. I was the gal responsible for booking guests such local musicians and entertainers and also collaborated on grand productions to host Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Writing and editing had always been part of my professional life until about twelve years ago, when I made a big career change to the financial services industry. Now I play with numbers by day and words by night.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I signed the Last Cold Case thriller series with MuseItUp Publishing in early 2016. The four books in the series are completed, and I’m excited about the release schedule.
In today’s publishing environment it’s quite common for an author to publish using a variety of platforms, whether it’s self publishing or working with multiple publishing houses. As long as my editors at Muse are interested in my books I will continue working with them.
I’m also interested in landing a literary agent and working with a larger publisher. It had been my original goal ten years ago, and I’d like to pursue it again. Those early writing years when I was submitting query letters were tough. I’m proud to say between my novels Mind Games and Haunting Lyric I’ve garnered over eighty agent rejection letters. The later book has not been published.
Which writers inspire you?
Good writing inspires me regardless of genre. I’m a fan of mystery/suspense/thrillers and horror reads. A writer who has influenced me the most is Mary Higgins Clark. I’ve read her books for many years and bow down to the Queen of Suspense.
So, what have you written?
Only full length novels so far, I wrote my first book, Kiss Me Good Bye in 2007 and since then I’ve completed eight others. There is a partial manuscript on my desktop, and I’m not sure if or when I’ll finish it, maybe never. My debut novel, Mind Games was released in 2015.
The four books in the Last Cold Case thriller series are complete and will release with MuseItUp Publishing this year and next. Last Summer’s Evil book 1 was released February 7th. The next book in the series, Last Fall’s Hunted is due out later this year and Last Winter’s Taken and Last Spring’s Stranger will release in 2018.
The editing process for each book is different and may take longer for one versus another which can change tentative release dates.
Here’s a great place for me to mention that this series can be read out of order. Each case is different, and I’ve worked really hard to avoid spoilers! So if you read book 3, you’ll pick up information from previous cases but nothing to hinder you from going back and starting the series.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The main character in Last Summer’s Evil is Homicide Detective Rachel Hood. She is a skilled investigator and works between two departments, homicide and cyber crimes. What she comes to discover in Last Summer’s Evil is that she is also a psychic empath. Rachel can feel every ounce a victim’s pain but is powerless to save her. However, her gift requires her to have a connection to that person. The connection isn’t always a direct or clear path, making it difficult for her to solve the crime and catch the killer.
Because of the multiple victims in each story, Rachel is paired with FBI Agent, Nick Draven. Nick specializes in occult crimes. He also has a well kept psychic secret. Nick’s psychic gift is that he has hypersensitive hearing and can read a person’s energy.
I’m fascinated with the human mind and enjoyed giving these characters special senses and an awareness to the world around them that I hope reads as plausible and possible. My intention was to keep within the suspense/thriller genre with the paranormal being more understated.
What are you working on at the minute?
I’m writing a fish-out-of-water tale piece of nonfiction. My plan after the release of Last Summer’s Evil was to write a single title thriller. However, the muse hit me hard with this story that truly came out of nowhere, and I was compelled to start it. It’s been an interesting departure because it’s out of my genre comfort zone and I’m writing in first person point of view; I prefer to write in third person.
What’s it about?
The work is so new and being only four chapters into it I’m not quite ready to share that yet. Let’s just say I’m writing a piece of nonfiction in the vein of Mitch Albom’s,for one more day crossed with Mark Levine’s, Rescuing Sprite.
What genre are your books?
What draws you to this genre?
I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, not that I was always good at solving them! Gradually, my love for mysteries turned into a love for gritty suspense and thriller reads. I also like horror novels. I’m drawn to these genres because I like that edgy feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next, but having enough information to know things will not fare well for a character or characters in a story. It’s that feeling you get when you’re riding a rollercoaster, which is funny, because I haven’t been on one in years! It’s that gradual, scary climb to the top of the hill and the sudden drop you know is coming but takes your breath away!
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
Social media is a great place to network with other writers and many other creative artists from musicians and actors to painters and photographers. The philosophy of “we’re all in this together” exists and people want to help and support each other. I’ve met such nice, kind and amazing people on social media, including you, Lawrence. It’s also an easy, effective and inexpensive way to promote my books and share more about myself and other things I do besides write.
Which social network worked best for you?
Twitter. It’s a quick news feed, and I love the brevity of 140 characters. Twitter really makes you focus and hone in on the message you want to get out. It forces a call to action. I think its genius. As a matter of fact, it has quite possibly made me an even better writer. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any copy writing for print ads, radio or TV so Twitter has forced me to think about the importance of seven words or six seconds to get a message out.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
I’m still a debut author myself, but I think when it comes to social media just be yourself and like minded people will follow and become interested in you and your books. Be sincere, kind, genuine and professional.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
Book trailers add a nice visual and much like a movie trailer can inspire someone to buy your book and give it a read.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
Last Summer’s Evil has a book trailer created by fellow author Kevin Hopson. I was fascinated with how he was able to nail down the video with very little information from me. He’s such a talented writer and creative genius. I’m so grateful Kevin has agreed to create trailers for the three other books in the Last Cold Case series- so please stay tuned to Youtube!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Trust yourself more and go for it!
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The easiest way is by visiting my website www.mjlabeff.com. There are links for my social media- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads, and you can also sign up for my monthly newsletter. Newsletter readers get exclusive sneak peeks about my books and chances to win signed books and gift cards, but truly I like to keep it fun and share things about myself that I don’t always post on social media, including photos.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The same advice bestselling romance author Vicki Lewis Thompson gave me, “Just write.” She also encouraged me to join a professional writers group like Romance Writers of America (RWA). I’m a national member of RWA and Sisters In Crime (SinC), if you can join your local chapters I highly recommend it. You will meet so many kind, caring and generous authors. It’s inspiring and intimidating all at the same time, especially when you have the chance to meet an author you’re a fan of- amazing!! If I had one single piece of advice to offer, it would be this: set a word count or page goal and make the commitment to write every single day.