Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It’s my pleasure to have, Deborah Coonts, visiting with us Over Coffee. She describes her writing as “sexy, wry, romantic, and slightly naughty mixed with a little murder and mayhem—shaken, not stirred—then illuminated by the bright lights of Las Vegas.”

She is an overnight success—by way of 15 years of bad writing and learning her craft. Sounds familiar. :-)

So how did she find her voice and style? What made this story worth publishing where her other stories weren’t. Deborah shares a bit about her journey to publication.

For a long time I wanted to be Sandra Brown. Okay, I didn’t actually want to be her, I just wanted to trade jobs with her… and paychecks…and, well, maybe wardrobes, but that’s all, I swear. But, have you seen her husband? He was the sports guy on Channel Eight when I was growing up---serious crush. Sandra was the weather girl. The weather girl and the sports guy, it’s great isn’t it? I couldn’t write it as well.

As it turns out, I can’t write like Sandra Brown either.

Oh I tried. My first romantic suspense effort was an international intrigue mish-mash of long-winded backstory, a plot with more black holes than a Star Trek movie, purple prose and nauseating descriptions. Absolute drivel. I’m pretty sure I’ve destroyed every copy. I’d rather find myself naked on the Internet than have anyone read that thing.

My second effort was a bit better—something about a small town Colorado lawyer, single parent with a small son. Curiously, I was a small town Colorado lawyer on my own with a small son. To say the whole story bored me is a gross understatement. Writing it was like Groundhog Day. Didn’t I just do this? Didn’t my son just say that? My life wasn’t nearly exciting enough to live it over and over.

But, I had no more stories. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. The well was dry.

Briefly I thought of resorting to mind-altering substances to jump-start my muse. We all know about those creative personalities, don’t we? But as a tax lawyer, creativity was a go-straight-to-jail card. And that whole single-parent thing didn’t mesh too well with a life spent in an alcohol-induced haze. So I did what everybody in that position does: I took a job doing something I had absolutely no idea how to do and for which I was peculiarly unqualified.

I became a humor columnist for a national magazine.

I know, what was I thinking? I can’t tell you how many times during those years I asked myself just that. But, I kept churning out columns that were EXACTLY 1100 words. And I learned. I learned to write tight. I learned what was funny. Actually, I learned more from being scolded when readers thought what I wrote WASN’T funny AT ALL. I learned I am way more hambone than I ever imagined. And I rediscovered my infatuation with a good belly laugh. I’d forgotten. But, I still didn’t have a story.

Until I threw everything out the window.

Every rule I’d been told about writing novels, every suggestion, the whole write-what-you-know-thing, the wanting-to-be-Sandra-Brown thing, which was an example of the write-what-you-read thing, all of it, out the window. I opened my heart…and nothing but the wind blew through. Oh, I felt lighter, unfettered, a veritable ball of iconoclastic optimism, a renegade writer waiting to be told what to do. Yup, still hadn’t quite gotten the point.

One summer afternoon, I was sitting on a bench at the Grand Lake Lodge on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The sun balanced on the mountain range to the west. The air was still. I could hear the hummingbirds zinging by. The day had quieted. Even the boats on the lake bobbed at anchor, their engines silenced. I shut my eyes and leaned by head back, luxuriating in the warmth of the fading sun. Softly, a voice whispered through my brain. The voice belonged to a young lady named Lucky O’Toole and she wanted to tell me her story. I smiled as she talked and I imagined her world—a huge resort/casino on the Las Vegas strip. I imagined her history—a mother who ran a brothel, of course. Hey, it’s Sin City, right? And her best friend—a straight female impersonator who just wants to get the girl. Would he have trouble? How would women perceive him? How would Lucky respond to a guy with better legs than hers?

Just like a puppy picks it’s owner, MY story found me.

The minute I began listening and taking notes, I became the author equivalent to the Whoopi Goldberg character in Ghost—listen to one character and all of a sudden there were hundreds shouting to be heard. All of them were like puppies wanting to run in any direction other than the one I wanted, peeing on my foot when I’m not listening, refusing to budge until I give a little and go where they want to take me. They’ve taught me to trust my instincts, go with the flow. Since that day, it’s been my sincere delight to be able to herd them into a novel, then a sequel, and a third. Now, a fourth is coming together.

You know what’s funny about the whole thing? I had written the first line to what became WANNA GET LUCKY? five years before Lucky whispered in my ear. It was there all along, but I hadn’t listened… hadn’t found the courage to listen. I mean, humorous first-person stories are devilishly difficult. What kind of nut tackles that right out of the box?

This kind of nut, as it turns out. It turns out I’m not Sandra Brown; I’m me. Who knew?

Are you trying to be someone else? What story is in your heart, but you are afraid to write?

LUCKY STIFF (Hardcover 368 pages)

Lucky O’Toole—head of Customer Relations at premier megaresort the Babylon—thinks its just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of millions of honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel…The district attorney for Clark County—apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor—is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms…And Numbers Neidermeyer—one of Las Vegas’s less-than-savory oddsmakers—is throwing some major attitude at Las Vegas’ ace private investigator, the beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer had been tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the Tiger shark. When the police show up with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the district attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine.

Amid the chaos of fight weekend, the Babylon’s hiring of a new, eccentric French chef, and her madam mother’s scheme to auction off a young woman’s virginity, Lucky is drawn into a deadly game that will end only when she discovers who made fish food out of Numbers Neidermeyer.

Lucky O’Toole and fabulous Las Vegas—life doesn’t get any better. Excerpt

My mother tells me I was born a long time ago, but I'm not so sure--my mother can't be trusted. I do know that I was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. I currently live in Las Vegas where family and friends tell me I can't get into too much trouble. Silly people. I have owned my own business, been a tax lawyer and a flight instructor, and have survived a teenager. And now, I make stuff up for a living.

Each day I sit in the front window at my favorite Panera and play with my imaginary friends. My SO is a psychologist and he tells me that many of his colleagues would consider me an annuity. I can live with that. Thankfully, he can too.

I write a mystery series set in Las Vegas--funny, sexy and romantic. I've been told they are comedic thrillers--sounds like an oxymoron to me, but you get the drift. The first in the series, WANNA GET LUCKY?, came out May 2010. The second, LUCKY STIFF, will be available February 15th, 2011. With the third, SO DAMN LUCKY, to follow.
You can find Deb: Facebook, Twitter, and her Website