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Steamboat Magazine

Author Mandy Miller on Writing a Series, Plotting her Books and Tips for Readers

04/18/2024 11:35AM ● By Sophie Dingle
(Photo: Mandy Miller released her third Grace Locke novel in February.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - Local author Mandy Miller recently released “Grace Period,” the third novel in the Grace Locke series that she created in 2021. Steamboat Magazine caught up with Mandy to learn more about book three, how her writing process has changed over the course of the series and what her plans are for future books.

Steamboat Magazine: To begin with, tell us a little bit about the series.
Mandy Miller: It’s a crime fiction series; the first book is more of a mystery and the other two are more thrillers. The protagonist is Grace Locke. She’s a blue-blooded Yankee-type, but after 9/11, she decides to forgo being a lawyer and she enlists in the Army. There, she loses a leg in an explosion. Life is very different when she returns and she’s down on her luck, professionally and personally. When she starts practicing law again, her first big case is to represent a 13 year old girl accused of murdering a high school guidance counselor. In the second book, she finds herself entangled in the world of high school football and high-stakes sports.

SM: What is Grace up to in this third iteration? 
MM: In the third book, she’s doing very well. She’s on the up and up – and of course, that can only go down. She has a high paying job for a hedge fund and then realizes that things might not be as they seem.

SM: How has your writing process changed from book one to book three? 
MM: It’s still sort of haphazard. I’m definitely not a plotter, which is odd for someone who writes crime stories. Personally when I’m reading, the plot is less important to me than the characters. I usually have an idea of subject matter or trajectory and then once I’m convinced I know enough about the subject, I start writing. But I never write an outline…I think so much changes as you’re going along, writing. Now I have more confidence; even when I think things are going awfully, I just keep going because I have more faith that in the revisions, things will get better. It’s like peeling an onion. So now I go with more ease than I used to.

( “Grace Period,” the third novel in the Grace Locke series that Mandy Miller created in 2021.)


SM: In writing a series, what are some things that you've noticed with three books under your belt? Especially in terms of character development -- are you more easily able to get inside Grace's mind after three books? 
MM: In my life, she’s actually real. There’s times I find myself thinking ‘what would Grace do?’ It’s easier over time because once you’ve built the character, it’s easier to have her do things that seemed less acceptable at the beginning. She can sort of misbehave with a little more ease than when you’re trying to get people to empathize with the character, so I think there’s a broader canvas for action.

SM: What’s next?
MM: The next book is a draft right now, with Vinnie (another character in the series) as the protagonist. It has a totally different tone – it’s a little more lighthearted, probably funnier. In the next Grace Locke book, she’ll be taking a trip – hopefully to Colorado – and it will be different from the first three. I like to pick a social issue or an environmental issue that the story can take off from. The first book was the opioid crisis, the second was misuse and abuse of kids in high school sports. The third was about financial shenanigans. I like something that the reader can sink their teeth into.

SM: Could you share a tip for writers or readers?
MM: For writers – it’s always the same thing: get a draft down no matter how awful you think it might be and then make your judgements and decisions after. Even the most accomplished writers say that it’s a continual learning process. Keep reading books, keep going to conferences, keep taking seminars because there’s always something to be learned. You don’t come out fully formed as a writer. I think people forget that it’s a craft.

For readers – try to read outside of the things that you think you like. Don’t keep reading cozy mysteries because you’ve always liked them; try something different and you’ll realize there’s a whole other world out there.