Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guest Author: Andrea Sisco

Tell us about your novel A Deadly Habit and how it came about.

My novel A Deadly Habit will be released July 17, 2009 from Five Star (an imprint of Gale, part of Cengage Learning). I enjoy reading mysteries and used my background as a former probation officer for a large metropolitan area as the vehicle for solving a murder. For a first time author it seemed less complicated if I wrote what I knew about.

A Deadly Habit is about a young probation officer, Pen Santucci who is looking good for the murder of her estranged husband. The wisecracking, safecracking Pen lures an elderly priest and a young nun into committing felonies on her wild search for the truth. Hardly appropriate behavior for the dedicated officer. But while Pen believes in her job, she has little faith in the justice system. Unfortunately, Pen digs herself deeper into trouble and straight into a muddy grave, dragging her hunky attorney with her. If they ever get out of it alive, he plans to wring her neck himself. That is, if the thugs who are after the money she found don't get her first.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

I've written most of my life, but I haven't always written fiction. Years ago I had an idea for what would be considered a Women's fiction novel. It's a good story, but I didn't know how to write a book and so I over wrote it and made all sorts of beginner mistakes. Unlike a lot of authors who keep those first books under the bed, I may dust it off, clean it up and have a go at it. But only because I feel it's a good story and can be fixed.

It became obvious that I didn't know how to write fiction and a friend who is published in the Romance genre suggested I could learn a lot about writing if I tackled that genre (because of the fast rules and tight structure). The story, again, was interesting and I learned a lot (my query letter was a killer because the full manuscript was requested each time I submitted it) but I hadn't learned enough. Alas, this is a story that will stay under my bed gathering dust. And that's a good thing because the book really isn't worth saving.

I have a large number of children and didn't write much when I was raising them. I also had a career and that took time away from writing (although I could have found a few minutes a day if I'd really thought about it. Several years ago I had an idea (based on a bit of me) for a mystery. I wrote, had readers who helped me focus and kept me honest and I continued to write except for a time when I’d experienced the loss of a number of family members in a short period of time. When I'd rewritten the book about twenty times I decided to send out queries for agents. There were only rejections! I think I queried about 30 agents. Oh, I had requests for partials, full manuscripts, etc. but nothing stuck.

I must admit I was feeling pretty low. Hey, it was starting to feel like it might be easier to get a new husband than an agent. I refused to throw in the towel. I knew the book had merit so I decided to send the manuscript to some houses that didn't require an agent or knew me from my work reviewing books on my site

I sent it to several different houses and was offered a contract by Five Star. A friend, Emyl Jenkins (her newest book The Big Steal published by Algonquin is out in July also) told me I had to have an agent and don't sign anything until she talked to her agent.

I couldn't believe that someone was offering to act as a go between with her agent (frankly I've found authors don't do this much—at least it hasn't happened to me). Her agent said if I could write, she'd work with me. And she is now my agent. She took an orphan author and gave her a home and some feeling of security. It’s a nice place to be in at this time.

I was offered my contract with Five Star in late November of 2007 and A Deadly Habit releases July 17, 2009. That feels like a long time and it is. I can understand why authors decide to publish their own books. At my age I could have died before I saw my book in print.

What advice would you give to yourself if you were just starting to write?

Write! And I would have started writing at an earlier age. So many people have the dream, but don’t put it into action. Right now I’m working on the second book in the Penelope Santucci series and I figure if I write 30 pages a week, I’ll have the book done in a year. If I don’t write, I have nothing. I don’t like that. I think it’s also important to believe in yourself, your ability. If you don’t, it’s too easy to quit.

Publishing is a difficult business, what bothers you the most about it?

New authors are finding it increasingly difficult to break into the business. With the demise of the independent bookstores and the diminishing shelf space, we're being served up the best sellers whether we like them or not. Wonderful writers who are also great storytellers are not getting the publicity they deserve.

What’s your favorite part of being a writer? What is your least favorite part?

Writing is my favorite part of being a writer. My least favorite part is the publicity. It takes away from my writing time and frankly, most writers have no idea how to promote themselves. And even if we knew how to promote our work, we would rather be writing. When you think about it, publishers print books and the authors promote them. While people view me as an extrovert I’m not. I’m an introvert who likes people so promotion drains me.

What has surprised you most about this industry?

The willingness of review sites, bloggers and other authors to help promote my book. So many people are willing to step out and help. It’s also meant that I’m stepping out and taking the time to help other authors in small ways that they say are helpful.

Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Sit butt in chair and write. Don’t stop writing. Join a good writers/critique group, read books (dissect them to see how they are constructed), talk to other writers, notice the world around you, listen to conversations, take notes. Everything has possibilities for a future novel.

You have a popular author interview and review site. Please tell us about Armchair Interviews.

Connie Anderson and I were former television hosts. We interviewed authors (new, emerging and the superstars). When I left television (I was living in AZ and MN and it was impossible to do the job) I missed the author's and the books. Connie had the idea and we started Armchair Interviews over 4 years ago. We've been named for four years by Writer's Digest as one of the best 101 web sites for writers. We're pretty proud of that honor.

How does an author get reviewed on Armchair Interviews?

If an author wants a review they should go to and click on the FAQ for submission requirements. We are one of the few sites that review self-published books. We have found some gems.

What’s been the most exciting thing about seeing your book published?

I loved when the ARC’s (Advanced Reading Copy) arrived. I haven’t seen the finished book yet so I imagine that will be really exciting. I received great reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. Both reviews likened me to Janet Evanovich (and that’s a good thing). I was so excited I could hardly breathe.

Is there another Penelope book being written?

Yes, I took some time off from writing after I sold A Deadly Habit. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write another one. Having a book published is part of my bucket list and I’d accomplished the task. But Pen grabbed a hold of me and challenged me to write more about her. I like her. She has potential so I’m writing now. The working title is A Bad Habit.

Andrea Sisco has had an eclectic career as a probation officer, television host, flight attendant, book reviewer, and adoption activist. The charge that the character of Penelope Santucci is autobiographical is only partially true. It is true, however, that her husband consented to his murder, but only if it took place of the pages of a book. She has kept her promise. Andrea is the co-founder of, a web site that reviews books and interviews authors. A Deadly Habit is her first mystery. She is currently coauthoring a Young Adult Fantasy series. Her website is


Shawn said...

Great interview!

Kylie said...

Welcome, Andrea! You're book sounds so intriguing! Wishing you the best of luck with it!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Andrea and welcome to the convertible.
Wonderful interview. All the best luck with your new book!

andrea sisco said...

I lurk on riding with the top down and enjoy it so much and now I'm a guest. Thank you all so much. I'm in such good company.

alia said...

Your book sounds so interesting. I checked it out on Amazon and it's a preorder? Can I get it now?

andrea sisco said...

Alia, there is a glitch on Amazon and my publisher is dealing with it. You can order it, however.

Michele Hauf said...

Hey, Andrea, great to see you here in the convertible! So cool that your first book is now out! Major congrats!

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Andrea! Thanks for coming to visit today and welcome! And what Michele said. Congrats!

Helen Brenna said...

BTW - you look GORGEOUS in hot pink!

andrea sisco said...

Oh, thank you. It draws away from the fact that I am now, officially, a senior citizen! The shock and awe of turning 62 this month was interesting to live, not so much for hubby who had to endure the questions, you know, the ones that you can't win: Do I look fat? Do I look old? Well, do I look my age. Then I recovered and asked him to disregard. I had just "lost" it for a moment.

Julie said...

I love your cover, do you like it? I always here that authors often don't like their covers.

Terry Odell said...

Good luck with the book, Andi -- and that 'old' thing isn't worth thinking about.

andrea sisco said...

Julie I love my cover. However, it is the second cover. The first was a disaster and didn't reflect the content of the book. A Deadly Habit is a humorous mystery (Kirkus and Booklist compared me to Janet Evanovich and I'm thrilled) and the cover was serious and frankly scary. I actually cried. It took three months of wrangling and then I gave my editor an article on the six second rule (people pick up a book, look at the cover and decide to buy or not in six seconds). The next day the cover was changed and they took my friend Kat Baldwin's (she writes romantic comedies for Kensington) cover and tweaked it. I'm thrilled I have a Kat Baldwin cover.

lois greiman said...

Hey Andrea, thanks for joining us. And thanks for all the support you gave me when my first mystery came out.

I'm soooo thrilled you got Habit published. Can't wait to read it.

Chris Christensen said...

We are anxiously awaiting the delivery of your book, Andrea. We are so happy for you - we know it has been a long road, but you made it. We could not be happier for you. Congrats! Now get to work on the next one.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Andrea! Congratulations on penning Pen, getting the book published, getting such great reviews--such great news!

I'm with you on the pain of promotion. I think most writers are basically shy, and promoting ourselves is so hard.

Terrific cover!

andrea sisco said...

I am working on the next one, Chris. Thanks for dropping by. Chris is my big brother and I'm so proud of him. He is a retired Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corp and has received the Bronze Star, purple heart and other medals from other branches of the military for his valor and bravery during war time. He is my hero and every sister should have a hero like him.

Debra Dixon said...

Andrea-- What a great interview for our writer-readers at RWTTD!

Thanks for stopping by today.

andrea sisco said...

You are most welcome. I'm honored to be on a blog with such wonderful writers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Andrea,

You certainly have an interesting background! Like you, I found Five Star myself since I don't have an agent. Your novel sounds like a great read. I love humorous mysteries and I believe most readers enjoy them as well.

Best of luck,

Jacqueline Seewald
romantic mystery 2009
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print

Maria said...

Wonderful interview! There's quite of bit of fresh honesty that tells me you are a "real" person. That's a big motivator for me to read a book from a new author. Looking forward to picking this one up soon!

andrea sisco said...

Thank you so much Maria. I think being who I am has become more important to me as I get older. I'm certainly not perfect and make mistakes, but I strive to be a good person and honor my family, friends, people I meet on the way.

Betina Krahn said...

Andrea, Welcome! It's wonderful to hear the publishing stories of other writers. And even more fun to learn something about their backgrounds. I can only imagine how many ideas are churning in your head after years in that job.

Much success!