Young. Gay. Teaches High School. Solves Crimes. What’s Up With That?
Can out-and-proud high school teacher Skyler Foxe find the Redlands firebug before he falls prey to a killer?
High school English teacher Skyler Foxe is now out and proud, even though a few months ago he had no intention of being so. But since the cat is now out of the bag, he embraces it as well as his boyfriend, head football coach, Keith Fletcher. But who is that good-looking gay parent hanging around Keith, causing mischief at the school as well as in Skyler’s private life? And then someone from Skyler’s past returns, stirring up trouble. Add to that a firebug and suddenly everyone seems up to no good, especially when a smoldering corpse is found outside of the local gay bar. Skyler can’t help himself and he gets up to his old sleuthing tricks once more.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I’m an L.A. gal, born and bred. In fact I’ve lived all my life in southern California, inhaling smog and enduring earthquakes. I moved to the Inland Empire—an inland portion of socal that lacks a coastline and therefore seems to encourage the more religious and redneckky individuals. It’s part of the reason I write the Skyler Foxe series, to comment on the less tolerant in an otherwise fairly liberal state.
What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 30 or less words, what would you say?
FOXE FIRE: Out-and-proud high school teacher Skyler Foxe worries about that good-looking gay parent hanging around his boyfriend. Add to that a firebug and a smoldering corpse and Skyler gets up to his old sleuthing tricks.
I love reading the warnings on the blurbs for many books. If you could write a warning label for yourself as a person or an author, what would it say?
Prickly when rubbed the wrong way. Caution: Snark Ahead.
If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
That’s a good question. Perhaps my protagonist Skyler would ask me why I make him do such stupid things, and I would counter that I used to be a twenty-five-year old and I well remember the stupid things I did. But I think he’d thank me for his love life. J
What does your protagonist think about you? Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author?
Since he’s a lot of me he would probably like hanging out with me, though I was never a party person like he is. But we would crack jokes back and forth, and I do approve of his reading list.
Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
Skyler, of course. As I said, he’s me in many ways, but I think he’s a lot braver than I am. He stands up for himself in ways I can’t even imagine doing, facing murderers and homophobes. And I have taught kids, and you really must love it to try to get through to those little bas— I mean eager young minds, because high school kids are the worst!
Do your characters try to make like bunnies and create ever more convoluted plots for you? Or do you have to coax them out of your characters?
I outline my plots ahead of time so I pretty much know what’s going to happen. But as with any organic experience, the writing of it can veer you off of the outline. More things occur and you make a left turn here and there. That’s the fun part of writing; when a character you never heard of before walks in the door and suddenly you have to find a name for him and a backstory.
Have you based any of your characters on someone you know, or real events in your own life?
Well, as I said, I based a lot of Skyler’s personality traits on myself, though I’m not a man and I’m not gay. But the first three books are based on real events—no matter how outlandish they may seem—that happened at my son’s high school. Really!
How did you come up with the title?
All the titles are based on something to do with foxes. And the quotations in the front of the book, too. It’s fun coming up with them. I hope I don’t run out!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message is always love, trust, acceptance, friendship will win the day. Bad things might happen in the books but I always want to leave the reader laughing and happier that they spent time with Skyler and friends.
This is the newest book, FOXE FIRE. The next book in the series has Skyler and friends heading off to the White Party in Palm Springs and is called DESERT FOXE. And after that another novella of short vignettes about summer vacation, with one of the stories to feature his high school students. Then the series will just go on until I find a good place to end it.
Where do you see yourself in five (5) years?
Finally a successful author, making a living at what I do. So many authors can’t do that. And with eleven books in two different genres, you’d think I’d be making a living by now, but I’m not. So I hope my hard work will finally pay off.
Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I prefer print. It’s hard to read a digital book, even though I do it all the time while editing my own work. I don’t enjoy it. I enjoy the tactile nature of a book. And it’s funny, but I always print out the manuscript to edit it. I’ve read studies that prove that you retain more information by reading print rather than digital, so that comes as no surprise to me.
Are you a self published (Indie) Author or big trade published?
I think it’s pretty tough trying to get noticed as a self-published author without having the ready audience from traditionally published books. I don’t recommend it to authors. I was traditionally published first with a big New York house for my medieval mysteries (www.JeriWesterson.com), and then traditionally published by MLR Press for the Skyler books. Once I established a fan base, I self-published a novella to go along with the Skyler books. And that was fun and interesting, but I still prefer that the mundane tasks (editing, formatting, proofreading, cover design) be handled by someone else. After all, I still have the lionshare of promotion to do myself.
With my medieval mysteries, they do it all, too, but I am self-pubbing a prequel in the spring just to see how that goes. I am also writing a new urban fantasy series (http://www.jeriwesterson.com/booke-of-the-hidden) that my agent is shopping now. This is a very tough business, and these genres (gay mysteries, historical mysteries) are very difficult to make a living with, so I really don’t recommend going it on your own until you are established. It’s so much harder to do. It took me over a decade to get published and I learned a lot about writing and the industry along the way. Writers who rush to publish are not learning what they need to learn, and I fear they are wasting their time and money.
What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
If I knew the secret to that…
Have you ever suffered from a “writer’s block”? What did you do to get past the “block”?
I outline. It’s the only sure-fire method. I have three books to write a year in three different genres. I haven’t got time for writer’s block. But if you outline, even very loosely in a chapter by chapter outline, you at least know where you are headed each day. My minimum is writing 10 pages a day and that can take all day.
What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
And no, it’s not the sex scenes. It’s the comedy scenes. When I make myself laugh out loud, I know I’ve got something.
Have you ever read a book more than once?
I used to all the time, but there are so many books on my TBR pile that I feel obligated to jump in with new stuff. But I used to never put down a book once I started, and now I fling them away. I’m a lot pickier. If you can’t interest me in the first few pages it isn’t worth my time. After all, as a writer, I have to do the same thing. I have to grab your interest in the first few pages. If I have to do the work, I expect other authors to do it too.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes, don’t do it! Don’t do it expecting to make a lot of money. Don’t do it if you can’t take rejection. Rejection is your friend. It makes you work hard, discovering where you’ve failed. Don’t do it if you don’t want to put the time in. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write. I wrote part time, working part time, and raising a toddler. If I had the time, you have the time. Writers write and they read. If you don’t like reading books, what makes you think what you write will be what others want to read? Writers read EVERYTHING. Not just books in the genres they write, but everything. Be curious. Write a lot. Edit out a lot. Kill your darlings. Read what’s successful and write what you love.
What is the best advice that you have ever been given when it comes to writing?
Don’t give up.
Do you write under a pen name?
Haley Walsh is my pen name.
Cats or dogs?
Cats. They take care of themselves and they smell good.
White wine or red?
White with fish, red with meat.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.
Toss up between lobster drenched in butter and a really good T-bone.
Vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
My keys, a pen, money, and gum.
Laptop or desktop for writing?
Laptop. Desktop for designing.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
My home office. Hubby built the desk and shelves just for me.
One of your favourite quotes
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
List 3 of your all time favourite books?
Just three? Because they are all series. The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, Lord Peter Wimsey series.
Haley Walsh tried acting, but decided the actor’s life was not for her. Instead, she became a successful graphic designer in Los Angeles, her hometown. After twelve years of burning money in the ’80s and early ’90s, she retired from the graphics industry and turned her interests toward writing novels. She became a freelance newspaper reporter, wrote articles for quirky magazines, published award-winning short stories, and writes an acclaimed series of medieval mysteries (www.JeriWesterson.com). FOXE TAIL is her first m/m mystery, followed by FOXE HUNT and OUT-FOXED. FOXE DEN, a novella of Skyler and Friends holiday stories, was released last year. Be on the lookout for the next Skyler Foxe Mystery, FOXE FIRE, to be released soon. For more, see her website at www.SkylerFoxeMysteries.com. And don’t forget to friend her on Facebook.