Wednesday, May 13, 2009


When someone asks you what kind of book do you write? What's your answer?
(The (in) famous elevator speech)

Books that entertain and have no socially redeeming values whatsoever.

When did you know you were going to be a mystery writer?

I didn't. I wrote what I thought was a general fiction book about dieters getting killed off at goal weight. My first agent, who wanted to call my book "The Diet Club Murders," told me it was a mystery. I kept my original title, THROW DARTS AT A CHEESECAKE, but my agent had a point. Many people thought Throw Darts at a Cheesecakee was a cookbook.

Tell us a little bit about your family background.

My father was an artist/photographer. Among other things, he shot a layout for Playboy. His model: Marilyn Monroe. My mother was Beatrice Brooks, an actress. She was also Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were. Among other things, she often marched for civil rights and started the first integrated Girl Scout troop in Queens, NY.

What is your educational background?

Undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. Graduate courses at New Mexico State University. Tutor for the NMSU football team...and let me tell you, that was a dream job.

Talk a bit about your present family situation.

I'm married to the incredibly talented Gordon Aalborg (Dining With Devils). We "met" through an on-line writers' loop, decided to collaborate on a romantic suspense, and fell in love, sight unseen. He was writing Harlequin romances as Victoria Gordon. He wooed me with words, and I can honestly say that you've never been romanced until you've been romanced by a romance author.

What did you read as a child?

I started with Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, then began "borrowing" books from my mother's bookcase, i.e. her first-edition 1935 GWTW, which my third grade teacher confiscated, then Forever Amber. Everything Updike. Howard Fast and John Steinbeck. Since I was very young, I liked books that began with kids, so I wore out a copy of Jane Eyre and An American Tragedy and East of Eden. Then I read William Goldman's Boys & Girls Together and decided I wanted to write books when I grew up.

What's your daily routine when you aren't touring?

Slug down some caffeine and hit the computer. Insert intravenous line from coffee pot. Read what I've written the day before so I can get back into the story. Try to ignore e-mail. Begin writing new paragraph. Take frequent breaks to stretch body. Eye evil exercise equipment parked outside my office and swear to use it during my next break. Remember how my grandmother always said a lady should never swear.

How much touring do you do?

I once asked my first editor what I could do to guarantee a second press run. He said, and I quote, "Take out a second mortgage on your house, fill your car trunk with books, and go on tour." But to get a second mortgage, one must have a first mortgage, so I continued to write during the day and wait tables at night. I'd give out bookmarks with the tab (I worked for The Olive Garden and Red Lobster). That ploy led to my first best-seller status.

What surprised you most about the writing community once you became a part of it?

The generosity of my fellow authors with their time, their advice, and their blurbs. I always try to be a better person after spending time with the writing community.

What's the hardest thing about being an author?

Waiting for reviews! You send your "baby" out into the world and hope someone doesn't say, "What an ugly baby!"

Let's talk about promotion and marketing.

I didn't do any promo for The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter (by Mary Ellen Dennis), a paranormal history-mystery-romance inspired by Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman," and yet it went into 4 printings. I was tempted to let the marketing for STRANGLE A LOAF OF ITALIAN BREAD ride, as well, but caved as the press date sped closer. A friend offered to make a book trailer and within 48 hours I had over 200 hits on YouTube: I was gobsmacked. Who the heck looks at that stuff? I mean, Susan Boyle I can understand, but Denise Dietz?

Do you blog? How frequently? Is your blog a group or single effort?

I used to blog weekly, but since I can't write an email without editing it a minimum of 5 times, I found that it was taking 6 days of editing and re-editing to post one blog. So now I guest blog on Jeff Cohen's There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room. And once or twice a month on NINC (Novelists Inc).

What kind of events or signings do you do?

I do library events. I do indie bookstore events. I love libraries and librarians and indie bookstores. My idea of purgatory is perpetual mall booksignings. My booksigning karma isn't all that great. Here's a poem I
wrote that kind of explains why:

I'm really sorry, Deni dear,
I cannot fathom why no one's here.
We put the date in "Main Event"
And hundreds of invitation were sent;
The wine is chilled, the cookies baked,
Your books are stacked, the yard's been raked!
Oh wait, there's John at the TV;
He's calling us to come and see
A car chase...cops...a celebrity.

True story. My booksigning was in California the night the cops chased OJ.

In a typical year, how many times did you appear for your book?

I'm not being facetious when I say there's no such thing as a typical year. But since I'm a free-lance editor for a major publisher, as well as an author, I often accept guest editor gigs at writers conferences. At one conference I picked up five new authors.

Any specific recommendations?

Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic are, in my opinion, the best fan conferences. [Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers] Colorado Gold and Love is Murder are my favourite writers conferences.

Do you have a web site and/ or other Internet places you routinely participate in, such as Good Books or Face Book or Twitter?

I've had a website - - since 1993. I participate in Face Book.

Do you like to travel?

Yes and no. I hate the hassle of airports, love visiting new places.

What surprised you the most when you became a published author?

The amount of promotion required. I had this dumb idea that, if a publisher contracted a book, paid an advance, paid a copy-editor, and paid to print copies of the book, the next step was promoting the book. Not! I was also surprised that I didn't get rich and famous overnight :-)

Do you think you'll change direction or spread out a bit? Write a different kind of crime novel? If so, what kind?
I've always wanted to write a thriller set at the Kentucky Derby. That way, I could attend the Kentucky Derby. I would have written The Black Stallion's Filly, but Walter Farley beat me to it. Recently I've spread out a bit by writing a "glitzy mystery" called SOAP BUBBLES. Two of the protagonists, both extremely pregnant, search for the killer of a soap opera director. The release date is April, 2010.

Especially since 9/11, how do you respond to the accusation that you are trying to make money on a phenomenon in society we call murder? Or heinous crime?
I've never been asked that question.

If you could be anything else in the world, have any other career, what would it be?

A superstar singer. However, in my next life I want to be a stand-up comedian. Or the first woman to win racing's Triple Crown.

What career would you least like to do, if writing was to become impossible?

Anything that requires wearing pantyhose.

Have you ever collaborated on a novel? Would you consider it?

I collaborated with my husband Gordon on the romantic suspense, FINDING BESS, about a Colorado author who flies to Tasmania to collaborate with an Australian author.

Who are the authors who you feel have had the most influence on your writing career?
William Goldman, John Steinbeck, Susan Isaacs, Dean Koontz, Anya Seton, Ira Levin, Leon Uris, Fred Mustard Stewart, Celeste De Blasis and Rosemary Rogers.

Tell us one or two authors or books you absolutely universally recommend.
Exodus by Leon Uris and Cat Tracks by Gordon Aalborg.

Who is your favorite mystery author?

A tie between Carol O'Connell and Marshall Karp.

Where do you want your career to go?

To the movies! I optioned my first book, Throw Darts at a Cheesecake. Option money is nice. I can live off option money for a long time. Gordon has written a screenplay for my crime fiction novel, Fifty Cents For Your Soul, which PW called "Hollywood noir." I'd love to see it filmed.

To what organizations related to your writing career do you belong?

MWA, Sisters in Crime, CWC, NINC.

Who is your publisher? What's your current book?

My publishers have included Walker, Kensington, Delphi and Harlequin. My current publisher is Five Star, my current book, STRANGLE A LOAF OF ITALIAN BREAD - an Ellie Bernstein/Lt. Peter Miller Mystery - is the fourth in my "diet club" series, but Wildside Press is reissuing new, updated editions of my backlist: Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, Beat Up a Cookie, and Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed.

Are you agented?

What's your take on the rise of electronic publishing?

I think it's great. But since I do so much editing on the computer screen, I prefer to read curled up in a comfy armchair at night. I don't own a laptop and haven't bought a hand-held reader yet, but that's just a matter of time.

What's your favorite word?


What's your least favorite word?

If you could change one thing about the world what would that be?
When I was a kid I'd pretend I had 3 wishes. The first would be for World Peace. The second was more complicated. I'd wish cars had never been invented so everyone would have to ride horses. My third wish? Three more wishes.

Do you have any pithy (or other) words of advice for aspiring authors?

Yes. It's my mantra: "If you drop a dream, it breaks."

Tell us about your upcoming book or other project.

I've recently finished polishing a "doorstop of a novel," circa 1893 to 1923, that encompasses the Cripple Creek gold rush, the Ludlow Massacre, the rise of Denver's KKK, and Colorado's silent film industry. Unfortunately, sagas are a hard sell. Publishers keep telling me readers don't read them. I've also written a 3-book proposal for my "Apothecary series." The first book, EYE OF NEWT, was published by Five Star and did very well. The second in the series, TOE OF FROG (aka "The Da Vinci Toad") has a reincarnated Rottweiler named Matthias. Matthias is afraid of doorbells and songs from the 1970s.

Thanks for an interesting insight into your life and times.

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