The Poetry of Murder – Author Interview

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The Poetry of Murder

Paperback Writer welcomes Mystery Novelist, Bernadette Steele with her first mystery novel, The Poetry of Murder.  On her first virtual book tour she is here to tell us about how she approaches her writing in a systematic manner that involves developing detailed outline and character descriptions. The Poetry of Murder is the first in a continuing series of mysteries featuring the protagonist, Geneva Anderson
The Poetry of Murder Synopsis:

During her time at the International House of Chicago, aspiring African American poet, Geneva Anderson has met people from around the globe, listened to debates about world issues and celebrated the arts. But with the arrival of a new year, Geneva will also discover that an inheritance can be a blessing and a curse.

After her aunt, Victoria Franklin, the director of the International House of Chicago is murdered; Geneva’s life is unraveled by a mysterious inheritance and a murder charge. With the help of her best friend, Zain Valdez, Geneva decides to investigate her aunt’s murder.

Geneva’s investigation leads her to the revelation that her beloved aunt led a secret life and that the list of suspects even includes her academically accomplished neighbors.

To clear herself, she must navigate through a web of lies, secrets, and revenge until she learns The Poetry of Murder.


Hi Bernadette,

Welcome to Paperback Writer,
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book? 

For the past four years, I have lived at the International House at the University of Chicago.  International House is located in Chicago in the south-side community of Hyde Park. International House is a graduate residence for students from around the world and it hosts many cultural and educational events. The gothic architecture of International House and the University of Chicago campus and the cozy atmosphere of Hyde Park with its Victorian homes, Gothic Revival mansions and tree-lined streets made it a natural setting for a cozy murder mystery with an amateur sleuth.  I was attracted to the idea of contrasting the majestic architecture and academic persona of Hyde Park with the bad behavior of characters who live there. During my many walks around Hyde Park, I often wondered what went on behind the limestone walls of the university and the hand carved doors of the large homes that adorn the community.

I decided to have my amateur sleuth, Geneva Anderson, be an aspiring poet because to my knowledge poets are not typically portrayed as a sleuth or as being a hero.  I admire poets for their ability to turn words into verse that can speak to the soul and comfort the heart.

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

I plan my novels by writing a detailed scene-by-scene outline that includes the location of the scenes, the day and time that the scenes take place and how each scene should start.  I need to have a holistic view of the story before I start writing.  As I write the novel, I will make changes but my outline is my road map.  With a cozy murder mystery, I believe that an outline is an invaluable tool.  An outline helps me to keep track of the clues, the timing of events and the various twists and turns in the story.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

Yes, I always know the ending of the story.  I may change aspects of the ending, but I believe in knowing the ending at the beginning.  I use the ending and work backwards with the story. 

Do you have a process for developing your characters?

Yes, I try to create characters who will play a part in the story in at least two ways.  Because The Poetry of Murder is the first book in a series of mysteries, I had to think very carefully about which characters I created because some of them would be reoccurring characters so their development had to be set up in such way that they could continue in future novels.  You never want to have too many characters in a novel.  It is a fine balancing act.
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

Yes, I have written some of myself into the protagonist, Geneva Anderson. I have issues regarding loneliness and my interaction with the opposite sex.  I am one of those people who can be in a crowded room and still be lonely.  I don’t do very well when it comes to attracting the opposite sex.  In the novel, I included these items in the storyline by having Geneva attend therapy sessions where she works through her issues of loneliness.  I touched upon her problems with the opposite sex by having her be secretly in love with the leader of her poetry workshop.

What is your most favorite part about this book?

I don’t have a favorite part of the book. There are several aspects of the novel that stand out for me and they include the therapy sessions with Geneva and Dr. Zimmerman; Geneva’s sidekick, Zain Valdez’s involvement with an underground fencing ring; and murder suspect, Margaret Kirkwood’s worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

I started looking for a publisher after I finished my novel.  I read a book about how to submit your novel to agents and publishers entitled, Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract by Blythe Cameson and Marshall I. Cook.  Their book describes the process of creating a query letter, synopsis and the format for the manuscript.  The authors tell you exactly what the agents and publishers expect to see from you when you submit your novel to them. The book provided good examples of what the submission documents should look like.

I also used the 2006 edition of Jeff Herman’s book, Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents to develop my submission list.  This book was invaluable because it details what types of books the publishers and agents are interested in and their submission guidelines.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

Getting published was the first struggle.  It took a year and a half.  Now, the big struggle is promoting my novel with very limited resources in a very competitive market.  Therefore, I am always on the look out for affordable promotion ideas. 

What has been the best part about being published?

The best part about being published is simply being published.  I know that I can do it and thus, I can repeat the activity.

What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

I want readers to remember and carry with them the idea that money does not always bring happiness, revenge is not the solution to dealing with pain and loss, and we should never under estimated anyone.

Do you have plans to write another book?

Yes, I am currently working on an historical romance about the first African Emperor of Rome, Septimius Severus and the next Geneva Anderson mystery novel.

Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?

Thus far, my virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been great.  My tour coordinator, Cheryl is doing a great job at arranging everything.  The services provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion are excellent.  I will definitely do this again for my future novels. 

In addition, the tasks of writing the articles and interviews have really helped me to think through things that I never really thought much about before with respect to the characters, my inspiration for the book and etc.  I think that virtual book tours really give readers a lot more information about a book and an author than they would ever get from a newspaper or magazine article because all of the information is comes directly from the author.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

The Poetry of Murder is available at bookstores and most online booksellers including, and others.

Do you have a website for readers to go to?

Yes, it is

Thank you, Bernadette for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.


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One thought on “The Poetry of Murder – Author Interview”

  1. Hello,

    I would like to thank the host of Paperback Writer for being a stop on my virtual tour. Also I would like to invite readers to post comments or questions. I will be checking the site throughout the month, and I would be happy to answer any questions.

    Bernadette Steele

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