In 1990, Cindy Sample was a 39-year-old mortgage broker, single and the mother of two, much like the main character, Laurel McKay, in Sample’s first book “Dying to Date.” But what Sample really wanted to be was a mystery writer.
After the fourth merge in her company in as many years, Sample decided to wrap up her career in banking and become the writer of her dreams.
“I had the character and the idea. In the ’90s there weren’t any mysteries with single moms as the main character,” said Sample. “Moms always feel guilty and I wanted to let them know that it’s okay not to be perfect.
“The night I quit my job, I sat down at the keyboard and wrote 18 pages in six hours. I had no writing experience except for business letters, but I wanted to write something with a little depth, a little humor and a lot of dead bodies.”
She finished the entire first draft of “Dying to Date” in 18 months and sent it out to agents.
“That’s when I found I’d done everything wrong,” said Sample. “The agents’ favorite way of telling you ‘no’ is ‘I didn’t love this.’”
“My friends read my book and said all kinds of complimentary things, but they also said they couldn’t figure out the killer,” said Sample, “That was because I had no clues in the book. It was clueless, literally.”
Sample found out there are actually rules for mystery writing. She joined the local chapter of “Sisters in Crime,” an organization promoting women mystery writers, began attending writing seminars and workshops, bought and read numerous books about writing and editing, and joined a critique group.
“It was a four year process, but I’m very tenacious and it was very helpful.
My mother told me to self-publish because she and her friends were dying to read the book,” said Sample, “but I didn’t think it was good enough yet.”
She put the book aside for a few months. In April 2008, a fellow mystery writer in her critique group suggested Sample send the book to an agent who was looking for books in Sample’s style.
“The agent asked for 50 pages and then a week later asked for the whole manuscript and then I got the phone call — the one where an agent wants to represent you,” said Sample.
The book was published by L&L Dreamspell in June 2010 and Sample is already working on the next book in the series, “Dying for a Dance,” set in a dance competition in Lake Tahoe and scheduled for release in August 2011.
“Dying for a Date” reflects Sample’s irrepressible sense of humor and lust for chocolate as single mom, Laurel McKay, launches herself into the dating scene in El Dorado Hills.
Laurel’s dates keep dying and she fits in sleuthing between working as a mortgage underwriter, soccer games, laundry, chocolate bingeing and being the main suspect in an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department murder investigation.
Laurel is a lovable, klutzy main character, backed by a team of quirky, humorous characters who are going to be a continuing hit with readers.
“I was sick of reading books about tall willowy blondes,” said Sample. “ Twenty years ago I was Laurel and just as naive about dating.
“I want to say that my children and ex-husband are nothing like the characters in the book,” said Sample.
Her daughter, 30, lives in Montana and her son, 27, lives in San Francisco and her ex-husband thinks the book is hilarious. The ex-husband is right, the book is funny, fast paced and a kick to read.
Sample says her writing style is stream of consciousness, seat of her pants.
“I’m a binge writer and plot ideas come to me all the time.”
Now that she knows the rules of mystery writing, she sometimes chooses to break them just to keep the reader reading. And she writes standing up, having hurt her hip doing the cha-cha. She offered some advice to would-be authors: “If you have a dream of writing, just let the words out. Most people think they have a book in them and they shouldn’t let anything stop them from writing.
“My life is so interesting with this new adventure,” said Sample. “I’m not going for fame and fortune — I just want to write something people will like.”
“Dying for a Date” can be purchased locally for $16.95 at Placerville News Company and El Dorado Arts Council in Placerville, and the Cornerstone Café in Cameron Park.
To contact her go to cindysamplebooks.com.