We are thrilled that Sharon Daynard stopped by to talk about her writing career, short stories v. novels, and Sisters in Crime.
Wicked Cozy Authors (WCA): Sharon, you have two anthologies with your short stories that came out this fall. It is hard to pinpoint a specific genre for your work. They are funny, twisted, dark. Sometimes all three! Is there a specific genre you are drawn to?
Sharon Daynard (SD): A friend once referred to my writing as “bipolar.”
Maybe she was right. One side of me likes to write cute crime capers featuring fuzzy little cottontail bunnies, while the other side is just dying to feed them through a wood chipper. But seriously, the best thing about writing short stories is that I’m not pinned down to any one specific genre.
When I start a short story, I never know what direction it will take. About all I know is how it starts and how it ends. Everything in between is a surprise for me. “Cheese It, The Cops” is a humorous story while “Malarkey” is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
It’s the “never knowing” part that keeps writing fun for me.
WCA: Give us the background of the two stories this fall. How did you come up with the idea for your story in Level Best Books’ Stone Cold?
SD: I really didn’t have a particular idea or theme in mind when I sat down to write “Malarkey.” I wanted it to be a fun story about two sweet old ladies with a secret knack for hitting the lottery. I knew the names of my two main characters, elderly sisters Cadelia and Lila Malarkey, and to a very small extent what their secret was.
When I started the story, it quickly became apparent that “Malarkey” was going to be dark. The more I wrote, the darker it got. It wasn’t until the end of the story that Cadelia and Lila gave up their secrets to me.
Even though “Malarkey” is dark, it has a line here and there that makes me laugh.
WCA: And how about “Cheese It, The Cops” in The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room for Thirds?
SD: I originally wrote the story a few years ago as “Cletus Harper and the Great Mouse Heist.” Told though an unreliable narrator the truth is hidden in the lies of a squabbling elderly couple, Cletus and Flo Harper. It had always been one of my favorite short stories, but I’d never found a publication for it until a member of my critique group, Ruth McCarty, told me about the Untreed Reads call for submissions. The story had to be humorous, feature a typical Thanksgiving dish as a vital part of the story and have a great mystery or crime at the heart of the story.
Cletus Harper immediately came to mind. It was humorous, involved a crime and cheese—lots of cheese. All I had to do was figure out how to work that cheese into a Thanksgiving dish. I settled on a broccoli and cheese casserole, tacked on few words to work in the Thanksgiving holiday and ta-da! “Cletus Harper and the Great Mouse Heist” became “Cheese It, The Cops.”
WCA: Do you write novels? Is that similiar or different? Do you have a preference?
SD: I’ve completed a few manuscripts. Much like my short stories, they run the gambit from quirky cozy to dark suspense.
I prefer writing novel length fiction, but short stories offer a welcomed break from the time- consuming research that goes into writing crime fiction.
The manuscript I’m currently working on is dark—very dark, but a few chuckles still manage to creep into it every so often.
WCA: We know each other via Sisters in Crime. What does that organization mean to you?
SD: I joined Sisters in Crime in September of 2001. The first meeting I attended was on the weekend after 9/11. I remember during the long ride from New Hampshire to Leominster, MA, thinking I should turn around and go home, that having a few short stories published didn’t make me a “real” writer, and I was just going to embarrass myself there. For whatever reason, I kept driving.
Any doubts I had about myself or my writing vanished the minute I walked into the meeting. I can’t tell you how welcome the Sisters made me feel.
The speaker for that day was stranded at the airport in Paris, unable to find a flight to the US. So instead, the group held an informal meeting over coffee, introducing themselves to me and discussing what they were currently working on.
I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to be surrounded by people just like me. People who didn’t snicker or roll their eyes when I said I’d just finished the first draft of a novel. They actually clapped for me. They asked what the novel was about. They asked about my characters. They asked about me and my hopes and dreams for that manuscript. And they inspired me.
Twelve years ago, I never envisioned I’d someday be vice-president of the Chapter. And everyday, I’m grateful that I didn’t give in to the naysayers in my head, and head home on the way to that first meeting.
WCA: And so are we! Thanks for coming by Sharon.
Sharon Daynard has crossed paths with a serial killer, testified before grand juries, and taken lie detector tests. She’s been scrutinized in bank fraud and county retirement fund scandals, labeled “a person of interest” in a major drug find, and offered the services of a professional hit man. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in both the US and Canada. Her 51-word flash, “Widow’s Peak”, received a Derringer nomination for Best Flash of 2004 and has been used to teach minimalist writing in college classrooms. She is a member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime.