Gretchen Archer  decided to start writing when her two daughters ran off to college. A housewife in Tennessee, she lives with her husband and son on Lookout Mountain. Gretchen also has a Yorkie named Bently. Releasing tomorrow, Double Whammy is her first published novel and stars Davis Way, a smart and funny young woman who is easily lead by her emotions. Double Whammy was awarded the “Stephanie Plum Seal of Approval” by Janet Evanovich and Gretchen is one author to watch. You can read our blog review or check out the star review to find out more. Double Dip, Gretchen’s second Davis Way mystery, is due out in November. You can follow her on twitter, find her on Facebook, or visit her website.

MTAR: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gretchen Archer: I’m a Tennessee housewife and mother of three. I live on a mountain. Yes, we have electricity.

MTAR: What do you do when you are not writing?
Gretchen Archer: We travel as often as our son’s school schedule allows. When I’m not writing, I’m packing or unpacking.

MTAR: You say you started writing once your two girls went off to college–why did you start writing after they left home?
Gretchen Archer: It was the first time I’d heard myself think in years.

MTAR: How did you choose Mississippi as your setting for Double Whammy?
Gretchen Archer: I live on the very edge of Tennessee, so I can see Mississippi from my backyard. In 1990, Mississippi approved dockside gambling, and (from my backyard) I’ve watched the Gulf Coast transform from economic ruin into Little Las Vegas. I was, still am, fascinated by it.

MTAR: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Gretchen Archer: My first book will never be published. Nor my second, third, or fourth. They’re safe and sound on flash drives around here somewhere. Five years, four narrative commercial fiction manuscripts, and one agent later, I stopped everything I was doing and read mysteries for a year. 183 cozies, procedurals, amateur, hard-boiled, capers, series—you name it, I read it. When I sat back down to write, I finished Double Whammy in less than four months, landed my fabulous agent Stephany Evans of FinePrint Literary a few weeks later, but it would be another year before we signed with Henery Press. Challenges? There were six years of challenges. And then the real work began.

MTAR: What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why?
Gretchen Archer: I love, almost to a fault, writing over-the-top characters, and Davis’s hometown of Pine Apple, Alabama, is packed with them. All those scenes are fun. My favorite chapter is Chapter 20, but I can’t tell you why.

MTAR: How did you come up with the title?
Gretchen Archer: I queried Double Whammy as January, planning on writing twelve Davis Way capers, until I realized how old I was. I still have thumbnails for each month. I don’t remember when or how January changed to Lucky Duck and a series of four, but a title conflict surprised (the heck out of) me back to the title drawing board. Double Whammy was always meant to be a series, so when choosing the title, I had to have something that would work three more times, and *double* won. I’ve often wondered if Carl Hiaasen knows or cares. I know, and I care, and I hope if he ever stumbles across my title, he’ll think I’m a copycat trying to be just like him. Because I am. (Trying to be just like him.) (I’d love to live in Florida.)

MTAR: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Gretchen Archer: In 1969, Hurricane Camille devastated the Gulf Coast, and then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina did it again. I’d love to work on a Davis Way Crime Caper project in which Davis is on a Storm Team, on lock-down in the empty casino (solving a mystery) during a hurricane, but I worry about the research because I’m scared to death of big storms. (That’s not it!) The truth is I worry about being able to handle the subject matter respectfully in fiction.

MTAR: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Gretchen Archer: It’s all tough, and sometimes confusing. At one point in the pre-sale process, several industry insiders had Double Whammy at the same time. Their critiques came back all over the map. What one loved, another hated. What one said delete, the next said more, more, more. So while it is personal, and it stings, you go through professional criticism with respect for the opinion being offered, and realizing that if your work didn’t have some manner of merit, it wouldn’t be under a literary microscope in the first place. That. Being. Said. The negative reader/casual reviewer critiques knock me down. I admittedly, and purposefully, don’t write to formula. Nor do I spoon-feed the story to the reader. I’m learning there are readers who have a cow if you move their cozy-mystery cheese. Not only that, casino gambling, as it turns out, is a polarizing theme. If you are opposed, please, understand, it’s just fun fiction and I’m a person. I drive carpool. I have a dog named Bently.

MTAR: What has been the best compliment?
Gretchen Archer: There have been two. I’ll never forget my agent, Stephany Evans, saying, “I love your writing,” the first time we spoke. And I’ll never forget waking up one morning to find an email from Michael Lee West, author of one of my all-time favorite books, American Pie, who said she couldn’t put Double Whammy down, and that I had a brilliant career ahead of me.

MTAR: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Gretchen Archer: Know, going in, that it is a long process in a tough industry. Know you have to teach yourself to write well; you can only be taught to write clean. Understand that the writing process is one thing, but past your desk, it’s a for-profit business.

MTAR: You’ve said you’re a private person who had to learn how to use social media to promote Double Whammy. What’s been the biggest struggle in having to let go of some of your privacy?
Gretchen Archer: A year ago, my name through a search engine yielded zero results. I’m floored, stunned, and frightened when I perform that same exercise today. I can’t believe, with the quiet life I’ve always led, that so much is out there about me. In the blink of an eye, not only did I have to marathon post, tweet, blog, pin, link, and see pictures of myself all over the www, I had to rigidly sensor what I posted, tweeted, pinned, linked, and blogged. And pray that my brother doesn’t start throwing random twenty-year-old family-reunion pictures of me on my Facebook author page. I had to get a P.O. Box. My husband is tired of people talking about me instead of him. I still struggle with wondering why I can’t sit here quietly and write.

MTAR: What book are you reading now?
Gretchen Archer: Still Life In Brunswick Stew, by Larissa Reinhart.

MTAR: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Gretchen Archer: If I have to name just one, I’m going with Brian Rouff. Brian lives and writes in Las Vegas. He’s been my go-to guy for so many years. I could send my grocery list to Brian and he’d make time to read it. I’ve never needed Brian—shoulder to cry on, technical advisor, beta reader—that he hasn’t been there.

MTAR: Do you see writing as a career?
Gretchen Archer: This is what I do. So, yes. This is a career.

MTAR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Gretchen Archer: I wanted to be Carolyn Keene when I grew up. I hatched a plan to marry someone whose surname was Keene so I could be Gretchen Keene and slide right in. I wrote several. The Secret at Six Flags. The Mystery of the Haunted Locker. The Clue in the Volkswagen.

MTAR: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Gretchen Archer: Timelines are tough for me. (Wait. Did I skip Wednesday?) Remembering minor character details from one work to the next– characters’ exact ages, when they were married to Ray, what make and model of car they drove in the last book. Really tough for me? Dialogue tags! Double Dip is a go, go, go book, with very little narrative, and a whole lot of three and four-character scenes. “He said, she said, then I said, then together, we all said.”

 MTAR: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Gretchen Archer: No fair! My favorite? I could easily go Harper Lee here. Or Tolstoy. Or the Brontës. (Safe, sophisticated answers.) If forced to choose a contemporary author who embodies all I like in a read, I’m going to say Carl Hiaasen. He’s hilarious, like Janet Evanovich, and you generally learn something about human nature, like reading John Grisham, and he tells a compelling, action-packed story, like Richard Castle. In the end, I like to read what everyone else likes to read.

MTAR: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Gretchen Archer: I can’t honestly say that any part of actual book writing is hard. I love everything about it. It’s the business end of writing that’s hard for me, not the writing.

MTAR: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Gretchen Archer: I write with several scams going on at once, not just one dead body or one crime to solve. I start a new project knowing the scams and characters, I build from there, but no outline.

MTAR: Anything else, Gretchen?
Gretchen Archer: Why, yes! Thank you SO much for having me as your guest on More Than a Review! And I’d like to give away some DW swag to a random commenter.

You heard the feisty author! Leave a comment telling us about the biggest gamble you’ve won (ours is doubling our money on a horse named Lasting Bubbles). The giveaway is open to US residents and will run until Midnight on Sunday, May 19th, 2013.