Interview with Dorothy Howell, Shoulder Bags and Shootings

My guest today is Dorothy Howell.

Marilyn: Tell me about your background.

Dorothy: I’ve sold 26 books to three major New York publishing houses, with sales approaching 3 million copies worldwide. Currently I write for two houses, in two genres, under two names.

I write mystery under the name Dorothy Howell. SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, a Haley Randolph mystery will be released in July (Kensington/hardcover). HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE, which launched the series, was a Publishers Weekly starred review. PURSES AND POISON will have its paperback release in June. The series has sold in the U.K., France and Thailand, and is available in Large Print and e-book formats.

I write romance under the name Judith Stacy. My titles include a No. 1 on the Barnes & Noble Historical List, Harlequin Historicals Top Seller of the Year, and a RITA Award Finalist.

Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Dorothy: I knew in the 8th grade that I wanted to be a writer. My English teacher introduced us to journalism and suddenly – finally – something in school was interesting!

Marilyn: Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

Dorothy: My first manuscript was a historical romance. I wrote it in long hand and typed it on an electric typewriter my husband gave me for Christmas. After nine rejections it sold to Kensington. I was thrilled! I didn’t know at the time that my next sale would be seven long years away.

When my next manuscript – and the next – didn’t sell, I knew I had to learn the craft of writing. I joined writers organizations, critique groups, attended writing workshops and conferences. I sold my second book to Berkley at an editor critique session at a conference in San Diego. Berkley bought another book from me, then rejected a third. Harlequin Historicals bought it – thank goodness – and that began a long, rewarding relationship with them. I’ve sold them 21 historical romances – so far.

From romance, I moved to mystery. I was very fortunate that Kensington bought my proposal for HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE in a 3-book, hardcover deal in only four days. I was stunned!

Marilyn: What was your biggest disappointment?

Dorothy: I’m always disappointed when a proposal doesn’t sell. Yes, after all these books I still get rejected and it still hurts. I allow myself to be sad for a while, then move on and try to figure out what I can do better next time.

Marilyn: Biggest thrill?

Dorothy: Every one of my sales has been a huge thrill. I never take anything in this business for granted.

Marilyn: What prompted you to write this particular book or series?

Dorothy: A wash load of my husband’s black socks! Really!

A few years ago when I finished a Harlequin Historicals romance, I was between contracts and decided to take a much needed break. I shopped, had lunch with friends, shopped, cleaned my house, shopped, slept late and, well I shopped some more.

After about two weeks of all this leisure time, I found myself facing a laundry basket of my husband’s black socks. I couldn’t even pick it up. My life had suddenly become so boring, so uninteresting I couldn’t bring myself to carry those socks to the washing machine.

I knew I had to do something, and I knew it had to be challenging. I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. I’d always been a mystery reader and loved the genre.

My daughter, a college student working part time at a retail store, came home with horror stories about customers, co-workers, management. It was so awful I thought it would make a great book! I wrote a proposal, found an agent immediately, and the series sold in only four days.

And, by the way, I am able once again to wash black socks!

Marilyn: Where can we buy your book?

Dorothy: The mystery series is in chain and indie bookstores. It’s also available in Large Print and e-book formats.

If you happen to read French, the first two books have been released in France. If you’re traveling in England, it’s on the shelves there. Going to Thailand next year? You’ll find it there also.

Marilyn: Anything else you'd like my readers to know?

I recently signed another 3-book deal with Kensington to continue the mystery series in hardcover. Harlequin Historicals offered me an opportunity to contribute a novella to an anthology. It will be released next spring.

I am eternally grateful and thankful for all my good fortune. I certainly could have quit writing during that long seven year stretch when I could hardly get an agent or editor to read my query letter, let alone a proposal or manuscript. To all the aspiring authors out there, please don’t give up. You never know what’s in your future.

I love hearing from readers. Please visit my Web sites at and, or Dorothy Howell Novels at

Dorothy Howell's Bio:

Dorothy Howell has sold 26 novels to three major New York publishing houses. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, with sales reaching 3 million copies worldwide.

She currently writes for two houses, in two genres, under two names.

Dorothy writes the fashion sleuth Haley Randolph mysteries series, published in hardcover from Kensington Books. Foreign rights to the series have sold in the U.K., France and Thailand. The books are available in Large Print and e-book format.

She also writes historical romance novels for Harlequin Silhouette, most under the pen name Judith Stacy. Her titles include a No.1 on the Barnes & Noble Historical List, Harlequin Historicals Top Seller of the Year, and a RITA Award Finalist.

Dorothy is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America.

Join Dorothy’s fans on Facebook.

Visit her Web site at

Book blurb:

SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, a July, 2010, hardcover release from Kensington.

Life is beyond fabulous for Haley Randolph. She just spent two amazing weeks in Europe with her boyfriend Ty Cameron, owner of Holt’s Department Store where Haley works. And now Ty’s grandmother, Ada, is letting Haley drive her way-cool Mercedes. Plus, Haley’s closing in on the season’s must-have handbag.
But when Haley finds the body of her nemesis in the trunk of Ada’s Mercedes, things aren’t so fabulous anymore. Topping the list of suspects, Haley must solve this murder quickly – and find that hot handbag – before she becomes a killer’s next fashion fatality!

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Dorothy! What a great writing career.


M.M. Gornell said…
Love hearing about Dorothy. I've met Dorothy, and besides being a wonderful writer, she's a very nice lady! Sometimes, someone says something that hits you just right, and at the right time. On a panel once, Dorothy advised, (paraphrasing!) be sure to take the time to enjoy the process! Her thought has stuck with me ever since, and I constantly remind myself of her advice! Dorothy, your success is well deserved.

Oh, Madeline, you are so good about visiting my blog and posting. Thank you.

I've not met Dorothy, but hope I will one day. I enjoyed interviewing her.

Jacqueline Vick said…
I second Madeline's comments. Dorothy was just at Burbank for an author's panel and the audience loved her. Congrats to Dorothy for the additional book deal. And thanks for sharing.

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