Sunday 7 December 2008
This week on Amberkatze's Book Blog my guest is author Shirley Damsgaard! Shirley writes the wonderful Ophelia & Abby mystery series that has a lovely witchy theme! Book #6 called The Witch's Grave in the series is due out in a few weeks and I can't wait to catch up with the lovely Ophelia, Abby & Tink!

So get to know the author, her books and her characters and enter the contest at the end of the interview to win some cool prizes!


Amber – Shirley! Thank you so much for being a guest here on Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here! Maybe you can start things off by telling my readers a bit about your Ophelia and Abby series?

Shirley – Thank you for inviting me, Amber!! It’s my pleasure to be here!

Hmm, about the series? Well, Ophelia Jensen is a thirty-something librarian in the small town of Summerset Iowa, and at the beginning of the series (WITCH WAY TO MURDER) all she wants is a normal life and to be basically left alone. Unfortunately for Ophelia, she’s anything but normal! She’s one of the chosen—she comes from a line of women, originating in the mountains of Appalachia, who have varying gifts—healers, granny women, psychics...witches!

Her grandmother, Abigail Campbell McDonald, is the opposite. She revels in her psychic gift and in her practice of folk magick. It’s up to her to steer Ophelia into accepting her gift and fulfilling her destiny. Fate helps Abby along—Ophelia seems to develop a real talent for tripping over bodies!! And, as they say, there in hangs the tale! 8)

Amber - So far there are 5 books in the Ophelia and Abby series but the sixth book The Witch's Grave is out soon. Can you tell us a little about the new book? What trouble do Ophelia and Abby get into this time?

Shirley -Life seems to be going well for Ophelia—she’s coming out of her shell, she has new people in her life, and she’s more accepting of her gift. There’s even a potential romance on the horizon, or at least she thinks there might be. She’s been having dreams, (very nice dreams, I might add!! 8) ) about a mysterious man! And when she meets him, the sparks fly! But before she really has time to get to know him, shots ring out and, with Abby’s help, she’s set on a course to discover who and why. Preferably before she winds up as the next victim!

THE WITCH’S GRAVE is a little different than the rest of the series. In the first five, Ophelia has always been reluctant to get involved, but in this one, she’s on the offensive from the beginning. And even though everyone is encouraging her to stay out of it, she’s determined to find the truth. And not only about the shooting, but why she’s having dreams about Paris circa 1941!

Sounds complicated doesn’t it??? LOL! But trust me—all questions are answered in the end!!

Amber - Where did you get the idea for the Ophelia and Abby series?

Shirley –When I began writing, I first tried a romance—not good!! I discovered I have a bit of a problem writing love scenes!! And one really can’t have a romance with out them! 8) My late husband was the one who suggested that I give mysteries a try. But the problem was what kind?? I don’t have any experience in professional crime solving, so I knew I’d need an amateur sleuth, but again, what kind? That’s when my life-long interest in the paranormal came into play and I thought of using a psychic. And it was a terrific terrific that several other authors had already thought of it! I needed a twist. I’ve also always been interested in folk remedies, so it wasn’t much of a leap to go from folk medicine to folk magick. As a result, Ophelia and Abby were born!

Amber - Did you have to do alot of research on spells, magic, murders etc for the series?

Shirley –Amber, you should see my bookcase!! Nestled next to books about moon magick, mountain magick, Pow-Wow, animal guides, spirit guides, crystals, and herbs are books on abnormal psychology, a writer’s guide to poisons, body trauma, and once, a borrowed book on autopsies!! (the last one was really gross, btw!)

I also do a lot of research on the Internet, and I’ve been lucky to meet people along the way who can answer whatever questions I might have. In fact, writing has always been rather serendipitous for me!! I seem to meet who I need to meet, when I need to meet them!

A quick story—case in point about the above statement. When I was writing THE WITCH’S GRAVE, I was spending a lot of time trying to learn about Paris in 1941. It may sound silly, but if you’re going to re-create an atmosphere, one needs to know stuff like—Was the city blacked out during the war? (can’t very well have your character walking down lighted streets at night if the street lights weren’t on!) What were the fashions like? Were there food shortages? Was there garbage? How did someone get into the Catacombs? It was driving me nuts!!

Then one day I received an email from a reader, Barbara Grasset. She told me how much she and her daughter, Fiona, were enjoying the series and if I were ever in Paris, to please let them know...wait a second...Paris???? 8) Needless to say, I shot an email right back asking if they would mind answering some questions! And they very graciously did!! In fact, Barbara even called City Hall to find out what kind of garbage collection they had during the war, and Fiona found out a lot of information about the Catacombs for me. And best of all, her husband, Luc-Olivier, happens to love history and knew all about what Paris was like during the Nazi occupation! So talk about serendipity!!! 8)

Amber - How many more Ophelia and Abby books can we expect?  Do you see an end in sight?

Shirley – Book 7 is the last book on the contract with Avon, but is the series finished? To be honest, Amber, that really depends on its popularity. If sales go well, then another contract might be offered. I don’t know—it truly is in the hands of the readers. Each time someone buys a book, they’re increasing the chances that the publisher will want more.

For me personally, Ophelia and Abby have been such an important part of my life for several years now, and it would be hard to walk away from them permanently. But for now, I am taking a little break and have plans to do a stand alone, and maybe begin a new series. My mind seems to be a busy place, so I’ve lots of ideas!! I just need to get them on paper!!!

Amber - Who is your favourite character in the series?

Shirley – Oh, Amber, that’s like asking a mother which kid she loves best! LOL! All kidding aside, there are things that I enjoy and identify with in each of the characters (well, not my villains! 8) ) I enjoy Abby’s balance and I like Ophelia’s journey to discover herself. And Darci??? She’s a fun character to write! There is much more to her than what appears on the surface and that’s fun to explore. Having raised two daughters myself and going through all the drama of the teenage years, I love doing scenes between Ophelia and Tink. And Aunt Dot? That character is loosely based on my own Aunt Dot who passed away a few years ago, so it’s been a pleasure writing that character.

Oh, and cool story (yes, another story!! 8) ) My Aunt Dot, like Ophelia’s, had never married and was devoted to her brother, sisters, and nieces. She spent her life doing things for her family. A couple of years before she passed away, she gave me an afghan that she had crochet. She said she wanted me to have something she’d made so I’d always remember her. Anyway here’s the cool part—the fictional Aunt Dot has turned into a very popular character with the readers and it kind of makes me feel that others will remember the real Aunt Dot now, too!

Amber - Are you working on any other projects you would like to tell us about?

Shirley – As I said earlier, I’m starting on a stand alone. And, of course, it’ll have elements of the paranormal. It’s going to be about a woman who was the golden girl—everything had come easy for her, and she thought she had this perfect life. But suddenly that life is stripped away by a vicious attack and when she wakes up from a coma...her life isn’t the same...she’s not the same. Where does she go from there? She’s never faced trying times, so where does she get the strength to recreate her life? And what about all those weird dreams that she’s having? And her black out spells? Are they due to the head injury she suffered? Or is it something else? I don’t know—I guess I’ll have to write the story to find out! 8)

Amber - Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had any interesting jobs? Worked in a library like Ophelia?

Shirley –I’ve always thought about writing—one of my aunts, Maggie Damsgaard (Aunt Dot’s sister) was a writer, and I always admired that. And I’ve always like telling stories (as you can tell by some of my answers!! 8) )But I’d always heard one should write what they know, and I’ve never seen my life as being exciting enough that someone would spend hard earned cash in order to read about it! 8) Also, there’s in nothing in my background to prepare me for this kind of career choice—I don’t have any kind of a degree in English. And truthfully, I thought everyone would think I was nuts for trying. That I might be laughed at. And I let the fear hold me back from giving it a shot.

Seven years ago, I finally decided “what the heck?” Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and if I didn’t give it a go, I’d always wonder whether writing was something that I might have done. And in the process, I learned something—you do write what you know, but it’s not so much about the external, it’s more about the internal. How does it feel to be a mother, a wife? How does it feel to lose people close to you? What does friendship mean to you? What scares you? What makes you happy? Looking at things that way made it a lot easier to create stories.

Have I had any interesting jobs??? Well, I’m going on twenty-nine years with the United States Postal Service! And has it been interesting? Oh yeah! There’s been a lot of changes with the advent of technology and it’s a challenge to keep up. So no, I’ve never been a librarian, but there was a reason I picked working in a library for Ophelia. A librarian and a small town Postmaster have a lot of things in common—we’re both in front of the public day in and day out, we serve the community, and if someone has a beef, we’re the ones who get to handle it.

Amber - Are you anything like Ophelia and Abby or even one of the other main characters? are any of the characters based on people you know?

Shirley - Well, my oldest daughter says that whenever Ophelia talks, she hears me!! And Ophelia has my sarcastic sense of humor, plus her relationship with Abby is very similar to the one I shared with my mother. (Which I didn’t start out to create when I wrote WITCH WAY TO MURDER. The book was finished before I’d realized what I’d done. See what did I tell you—you do write what you know!) I’m also a worrier like Ophelia, and I wish I were as balanced as Abby!

And Darci?? Well, not to sound too much like a feminist...I’ve been a female manager for a long time, and I have run across unenlightened men who think just because I’m a woman I might not know what I’m talking about, so I drew on some of those experiences when I created Darci.

Are any of the characters based on real people? Except for Aunt Dot, it’s never been my intention to do so. I think most of the characters are more of a composite. However, I have had people who have known me for a number of years try and figure out who’s who in the books!! Lol. They all come up with different answers, so I guess that means I’ve been successful at taking a little of this, a little of that! 8)

Oh, and one last thing—no, I’m not a witch or a psychic! 8) (Everyone always asks that one! 8) )

Amber - How do you relax? Do you enjoy any particular music/bands/TV/Games?

Shirley – I read a lot—bordering on an obsession actually!!! Books for me have always been great de-stressors and they’ve helped me deal with some dark times, especially after my husband died. And I got to tell you...when I hear from a reader who’s had their own hard road and they used Ophelia and Abby as a bit of an escape, it absolutely means the world to me. It’s the biggest compliment that I could receive as an author!

Other things I do to relax? I really enjoy spending time with my family and going out with my friends. In the summer, I love being near the water—swimming, water skiing, or just floating around. I watch TV—naturally, quite a few shows on the paranormal, forensics, etc. I get some of my best inspiration from those! I also enjoy old movies—THE THIN MAN series is one of my favorites!! (just like Ophelia!)

And my dog — I adopted her last January from the animal shelter in Des Moines, so I also watch THE DOG WHISPERER and IT’S ME OR THE DOG. (As I’m watching the dogs misbehaving, it goes something like this, “Yup, Roxy does that.” “Uh-huh, that too.” We are working on it, though...the dog’s only as good as the owner, don’t ya know! She may not come when I call her, but she can jump through a hoop on command! 8) )

Amber - What books do you like to read? Any favourite authors or series that you have to have?

Shirley –I’ll read about anything!! Thrillers, suspense, mysteries, romance, biographies, true crime. The only thing I don’t read is horror. As I’ve said on THE SOMETHING WICKED blog, I’m a real chicken!! My imagination goes into overdrive and I can scare myself silly!! I also try and avoid books where children are victimized. And if I’m reading a true crime, I’ll skip the chapters involving crimes against kids.

And favorite authors?? Got a couple of hours??? 8) Charlaine Harris, the J.D. Robb series, Jo Dereske, Carolyn Hart, Joanna Slan, Angie Fox, Casey Daniels, Janet Evanovich, Lora Leigh, Donna Andrews, Steve Berry, Jennifer Espe, the list goes on and on. And every time I’m out doing events, a bookseller will always recommend some one that I haven’t read yet, so I have the pleasure of discovering new (at least to me)authors constantly. Recent reads—THE LACE READER, THE VENETIAN BETRAYAL, DEATH PERCEPTION, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID. (The last one is a memoir by Bill Bryson about growing up in Des Moines in the late 50’s. I laughed until the tears ran! Although I grew up in a small town, it brought back a lot of my own childhood memories.)

Amber - What have been your author ups and downs?

Shirley –I always joke around that since becoming a writer, I’ve learned a new way to spell’s d-e-a-d-l-i-n-e! 8) The second down would be the fear that the readers won’t like the next book! (I tend to be a people pleaser, and I can really mess with my head if I allow myself to dwell on that thought too much while I’m working on a manuscript.) The next would be snippy reviews!! And I’m not talking about ones where the reviewer says that the book wasn’t to their taste and why. Everyone has a right to their opinion. No, the ones that I have a problem with are the ones where the reviewer absolutely trashes the book. Those reviews just drip with negativity, and when one has worked so hard creating the story, it’s hard when someone is so vehement in their hatred. Fortunately, I haven’t had too many of those, and to be honest, I try not to read them.

And now the ups—so, so many!! Far more than the downs, which is why I’m still getting up at 4 in the morning to write!! Every book is a new challenge and with every book, I’ve learned...something about the craft of writing...something about myself. It’s been a real growth experience for me. I’ve met wonderful, interesting people—readers, booksellers, people I’ve interviewed while doing research—living in a small town, my path would have never crossed with theirs. And my world is larger because of it. But the best, the absolute best is, as I’ve said before, when I get an email or letter from a reader who’s had a tough time and one of the books gave them a break from it for at least a little while!! It truly doesn’t get any better than that! Those messages are a wonderful gift, and it’s both an honor and humbling to receive them. I treasure each and every one.

Amber - You are stranded on a desert island. What 5 items do you hope to have with you?

Shirley – Other than food and shelter? (And it would have to be an island where there’s already some kind of a shack ‘cause I could never build my own!!) Let’s see—1. My family and friends! I couldn’t survive without them. 2. My dog—I’m quite attached to her. 3. Books 4. Coffee, and last but not least 5. My cell phone, so I could call someone to get us off the danged island!!! 8)

Amber - Thank you so much for your time Shirley! I hope you will come by again sometime!

Shirley - Thank you so much for inviting me, Amber!! I’ll drop by any time! And I hope every one enjoys THE WITCH’S GRAVE!!!


Read and excerpt of 'The Witch's Grave'


Contest Time!

So Shirley has a copy of her new release to give away! The Witch's Grave isn't due out till the end of the month so if you are the lucky winner you may even get this before it hits the shelves! Oh and I am sure Shirley is going to sign it too!

Keep a lookout for updates and posts from Shirley! I think know she wants to pop in and answer any questions people have and maybe their will be some more prizes before the contest closes...

EDIT - Shirley is now giving away 6 prizes! 6 winners will be picked and each winner can pick one of Shirley's 6 books which includes her new release!

A huge thank you to Shirley!!! And I am sure she will sign them all too!!

To enter the contest ask Shirley a question! No question = no entry! Of course I can't guarntee that Shirley will answer every single question but each question will get you an entry. No more than 2 questions per person please!!!

You can earn yourself extra entries by posting about this interview and contest on the web. Make sure you post a link when you enter so I can confirm your extra entry.

The contest is open until Sunday 14th of December 4pm CET. All winners have 7 days to claim their prize. I don't go looking for the winners!! You have to check back!!!

Ok...go for it ;)

Labels: , ,

posted by Unknown at Sunday, December 07, 2008 |


At 7 December 2008 at 12:37, Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried

Hello, ladies! No need to enter me, as usual. I'm just letting you know I'm spreading the word about Ms. Damsgaard's visit.

Thanks, Shirley, for the honest words about the continuation of the series. I think a lot of readers aren't aware of how powerful their purchase decisions really are for us writers.


At 7 December 2008 at 15:11, Anonymous Anonymous

I have read some of her earlier books and loved them! Please enter me!


At 7 December 2008 at 15:11, Anonymous Anonymous

I posted this contest on my blog


At 7 December 2008 at 15:16, Blogger samantha.1020

My question to Shirley would be:

How hard is it to get through writer's block?

Great contest :)


At 7 December 2008 at 15:24, Blogger cheesygiraffe

I love this series!

What kind of dog did you adopt from the animal shelter? I have a Min Pin and I would love Caesar to work with him. I don't get to watch the Dog Whisperer much because our cable company doesn't have Biography channel but if I'm somewhere I can watch it then I'll watch him all day long. heehee


At 7 December 2008 at 15:29, Blogger Patricia Altner

Shirley, I'm wondering if you have many followers who are librarians? For many years I worked as a librarian and it wasn't often that this profession gets picked for hero/heroine status.

Great interview!

Amber, thanks for introducing me to this series!


At 7 December 2008 at 18:20, Blogger Nancy

Shirley! How wonderful to see you here!

I'm a little behind in my reading, but I ADORE your books, and am thrilled that THE WITCH'S GRAVE will soon be out!

I know you do great research. Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantster? Or a combination? Do you find any element of writing easier in an established series than in a stand alone book?

Amber, thanks for hosting Shirley. Shirley, whatever you write, may you have a long and wildly successful career!

Nancy Haddock
La Vida Vampire


At 7 December 2008 at 19:52, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

First of all, thank-you so much for your comments on the series!! To know that readers are enjoying Ophelia and Abby truly is the pay off for me as a writer!

How hard is it to get through writer’s block? Well, Samantha, I love sayings and one of my favorites goes something like this “A writer who suffers from writer’s block is simply someone who hasn’t set their standards low enough.” Lol!! So I think of that one a lot as I’m staring at a blank screen wondering what in the heck I’m going to write!! And it does help get me passed the block.

It really is all in your head, and it’s about the mind games we play with ourselves. And over-thinking things. If I can set those thoughts aside and just write, something, anything—at that moment, not worry about whether it’s any good—the ideas will start coming easier. Or as my good friend, author Joanna Campbell Slan, has advised me...“Just write the dang story, Shirley!” 8) So that’s what I try and do, write the story...I can always go back later and fix it.

And Cheesygiraffe, Roxy is strictly a mutt! They found her abandoned in a cardboard box when she was a puppy, so her lineage is anyone’s guess! 8) The Animal Rescue League had her listed as a German shepherd/border collie mix, but based on the way she acts around small animals, I think she must also have some bird dog ancestors, too. When I adopted her, she’d already been in one home for about three months then returned to the shelter. As a result she had some trust issues, and at first, she would hide food around the house. (I’ve found all sorts of interesting things hidden under the cushions on the couch!!)

And without getting on a soapbox here—it’s really sad. Roxy is a really great dog and had not I, or someone else, come along and adopted her, she would’ve eventually been put down and what a loss that would’ve been. That’s why I always encourage people looking for pets to try a local shelter first.

Oh, one last thing, for your Min Pin, have you checked out “clicker” training? Roxy was trained at the shelter, and boy, when she sees that clicker, she’s on it! I have her undivided attention because she knows that treats are involved! There are lots of tips online about it, and it’s a really positive way to train a dog.

And, Patricia, for the question about librarians—yes, I’ve had several librarians tell me that they read the series. They’re also a great resource for me if I have any questions about what it’s like to work in a library everyday. And if you’re looking for other series that feature librarians, have you read Jo Dereske’s Miss Zukas? Jo’s a terrific writer and her characters are wonderful! I’d recommend that you give it a try if you haven’t already.

Oh, Nancy, I’m such a pantster it’s not even funny!!! And no kidding, Book 7—the one I just finished?? I didn’t know how it was going to end until a week before the deadline!! I was beginning to get a little nervous about it, too!! 8)

Here’s my process—I always start out with a body...I know that sounds kind of sick, but what can I say...I write mysteries! ;) Then I ask myself how did they die? Who killed them? And why would Ophelia and Abby get involved? From there I start writing scene by scene, chapter by chapter...very linear. I make notes on index cards, write the scene, then move onto the next. I have to do it that way otherwise the thought of writing 70,000 to 80,000 words is just too overwhelming for me handle.

For the second part of your question—you’ve touched on something that I’ve been thinking about a great deal as I go into my next project. I’ve never done a stand alone, so it’s a new experience and I’ve thought about the difference between the two. The good thing about a series is that you have established characters. You know who they are and what they’re about. It makes it easier to create situations for know how they’re going to react...but I see where this can be a problem for me, too. I’m so familiar writing from Ophelia’s point of view that I really need to watch how I create my next protagonist. I don’t want her to be another “Ophelia.” It’s going to be a challenge...and interesting to see what I can accomplish!

Thanks for the questions! And I’ll be stopping by for the rest of the week. Oh, and Amber, I think we need to give away more than just one book!! ;) Since THE WITCH’S GRAVE is the sixth book in the series, how about we give away six books—each winner gets to choose which one they want? 8)



At 7 December 2008 at 20:26, Blogger The Giveaway Diva

my question is where do you find you biggest inspirations from??/



At 7 December 2008 at 20:28, Blogger Jeanette J

I love the cover of the atmospheric. Did you choose this cover or was it chosen for you?


At 7 December 2008 at 20:32, Blogger Jamie

I haven't had a chance to read this series, but I'm always looking for a new one to start. So, this is on my wishlist of books to start reading. I think I'm going to have to get another bookshelf to hold all my books!

My question is:

What is you favorite type of book to read and who is your favorite author?

Also, posting a link on my livejournal:


At 7 December 2008 at 20:54, Blogger donnas

Great interview. I have read the first 5 books and loved them. Cant wait for the 6th to come out.

I have 2 questions, well these are the 2 I am going to post anyway, there are always more.

I love paranormal books, mysteries are some of my all time favorites. But if you could write a series in any other genre what would it be? I know you said you next standalone has paranormal elements in it too. Which brings me to my second question. Are you going to tackle a different element of the paranormal with it or any other series you come up with or stick with folk magic types?



At 7 December 2008 at 21:31, Anonymous Anonymous

HI Shirley! I found you! What a great interview. I still can't believe how all this stuff is in your head and then you put it on paper! Do you have any idea of how many characters will be in the stand alone book?


At 8 December 2008 at 05:11, Blogger Brooke Reviews

I haven't heard of this series before, so this was a great interview for me!

I love the cover art. Shirley, do you know who the artist is? As an author do you worry a lot about covers before you see them?


At 8 December 2008 at 06:28, Blogger Blog


How do you manage to remain creative in a world where everything seems to be done/thought out for us?



At 8 December 2008 at 06:41, Anonymous Anonymous

I really enjoy this series, by the way and would love to be entered.

What made you add Tink as a major character, not just wrapping up her story in the book she debuted in?


At 8 December 2008 at 12:16, Blogger Calliope

Awesome opportunity!

Alright, so a question, a

What do you think is the hardest part of writing?


At 8 December 2008 at 13:26, Blogger Vickie

Spreadin' the word:

Shirley: Some of the authors you listed as favorites are on my list, too. Now to look for the others you listed.
What nationality is the name Damsgaard? I have to say that it was your name that caught my eye on a review list, then it was the title WITCH WAY TO MURDER (always excellent eye-catchers), then that it was a paranormal. Had to find it, read it, and enjoy it.
How do you come up with your titles?


At 8 December 2008 at 20:15, Blogger Katie

Shirley - thank you so much for guest blogging here!

Have you ever thought about writing full time? Or does it work out better for you to have a job that is not writing?

Thanks again!


At 8 December 2008 at 20:46, Blogger Caffey

Hi Shirley and Amber! Gosh I didn't realize what I have been missing! And for 6 books in the series too! I so love the witch theme! A great interview to read as well! Loved it!!

Shirley, How do you keep track of the different details for this series?


At 8 December 2008 at 20:49, Blogger Caffey

I apologize for not leaving my email address at the above post, I will put it here. I do have another question for Shirley!

Shirley, what authors have inspired you in becoming an author? Any particular read that inspired you the most?

tbranxiety (at) yahoo (dot) com


At 8 December 2008 at 20:58, Blogger Liviania

My question: What kind of research do you do for the books?


At 8 December 2008 at 21:16, Blogger darbyscloset

Hi Shirley,
You mentioned in your interview that you are a big chicken when it comes to reading scary books, do you find that is true with movies as well? I do...."Psyco"...ugh, I cannot watch that movie and later take a shower....I mean I cannot!!!!
Thanks for your time!!!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com


At 8 December 2008 at 22:59, Blogger Penny Doulgeris

Hi Shirley, I didn't know about your books before this interview and now I'm really interested. My question is "how hard was it to get your first book published?"


At 9 December 2008 at 04:58, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

There are a lot of good questions today! I’ll start with Give away Diva’s question on inspiration. For me inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere! Maybe it’s a spooky old building I’ve run across, something I’ve seen on TV, read about in a magazine or online, or a story someone has told me...whatever...there will be something about it that strikes me. And my reaction is “wouldn’t that make a good story???”, or “what if (fill in the blank).”, or even “I can’t believe someone really did that!”. I know some authors who carry around little notebooks and jot this stuff down when it happens to them, or they have folders where they store the information that they find in order to use it for future stories. It’s a great idea, but unfortunately, I’m not that organized!! 8)

Jeanette and Brooke wanted to know about the covers for Ophelia and Abby. They are terrific, aren’t they? And no, I can’t tell you who the artist is. And do I choose them? No, not really—I have “author” approval, and here’s how it works—my editor emails me the cover and I say “Okay.” Lol! All kidding aside, I have a lot of trust in my editor and the staff at Avon. They’ve done tons of research into what appeals to the readers. (You have to remember the cover’s job is to get you, the reader, to pick up the book and give it a look! Then hopefully buy it! 8)) As a result, if they think a particular design is going to catch people’s attention, I’m not going to argue with them!! And I’ve been very satisfied with the results. This question also ties into Vickie’s about the I come up with them?? No, I stink at trying to think up a title!! 8) They’ve been a result of brainstorming between my editor and I. She gives me a list of titles, then we shoot emails back and forth about which one we like the best, and btw, we’ve always agreed!! 8)

And do I have a favorite author or favorite type of book? No, not really. What I read and when, can depend on what’s going on in my life at the moment. If things are a little rough around the edges, I’ll read something like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum to escape for a bit (love Grandma Mazuer!!! She always makes me laugh!) Or if I’m looking for an idea, maybe I’ll read a true crime (Ann Rule is terrific. I’ve learned a lot from her books, and not only about crime. She’s made me more aware of ways I can be safe when I’m out and about by myself.) I also love you name it, and I’ll read it!!

To answer Donnas question about what other kind of genre I might be interested in exploring? Okay, true confession time—I’m an old STAR TREK fan!!! (Yes, I’ve seen every episode of the original series, and no, I’ve never attended a STAR TREK convention! 8)) So my answer would be Sci-Fi/Fantasy—plus the idea of creating my own world is not without its appeal!! And will the stand alone have folk magick?? Nope...but I’m afraid if I say what I’m going to use, it might be too much of a spoiler!! 8) And to be honest, I don’t quite know yet how it’s all going to play out. (back to that “pantster” thing that Nancy mentioned!!) But whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Next question—why include Tink? Well, I thought Ophelia needed something else to worry about and I thought raising a teenage medium would do it!! 8) No, seriously, I’ve two daughters of my own and the mother/daughter relationship is so special that I wanted one for Ophelia. (However, my daughters did make me promise not to use specific incidences from their lives!! 8))

Calliope wants to know what’s the hardest part of writing? For me getting started on a manuscript...I always experience butterflies as I type “Chapter One!” I feel like I’m taking this huge leap! My concerns are always 1. that the story will come together and 2. that the readers will enjoy the finished product. But once I’m rolling along, it gets better. Another difficulty is focus and not allowing other things to distract me. When it’s writing time, it’s writing time—whatever else is going on in my life at the moment has to be left at the door to my home office. I can pick it up again later when my time at the computer is finished (usually about two hours every morning).

Have I ever thought about writing full time...sure have! And someday that’s the plan, once I retire from the Postal Service, which might happen within the next couple of years. Then it will be just me typing away on my stories while my faithful dog lies contentedly at my feet!! (Yeah, right!! Nice picture, but with Roxy, that’s not exactly how it’s going to happen! 8) )

And Caffey, I smiled when I read your question about keeping the details straight!! I don’t! In fact if someone wouldn’t have caught it, I almost switched the last name of one of the characters!! Not good!! Here’s what I should’ve done—made out note cards for each character containing pertinent information. Ah well, live and learn...on the next series, I will!!

Darby, do movies scare me, too? That’s a BIG yes!! 8) A few years ago someone talked me into going to the movie THE GRUDGE...what a mistake! It haunted me for weeks afterwards...I’d go to bed and start thinking about the ghost slithering down the stairs and that awful creaky sound it made!! Shiver, shiver! Oh, and I don’t know if you’re into Hollywood legends, but supposedly Janet Leigh, the actress in that scene from PSYCHO, never used a shower again after that movie! I don’t know if it’s true, but it sure makes a good story, doesn’t it?? 8)

There are a few questions that I didn’t get to and I apologize, but I’ve run out of time for this a.m. I’ll try and post more either tonight or tomorrow. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to post and to ask the questions! One last question that I have to answer—my last name. My paternal grandparents came from Denmark, the Varde/Soldrup area, and I’m told my last name means “pond farm!” Bet you don’t know many authors can say that!! Lol.

Everyone—have a good one and I’ll pop back later!



At 9 December 2008 at 05:25, Blogger Asylumgirl

These books look absolutely wonderful, just witchy! LOL

Shirley, I noticed black cats on the covers. Do you happen to have one? I had a black kitty one time whose name was McDuff. He was such a sweetie. I really miss him.



At 9 December 2008 at 05:49, Anonymous Anonymous

Wonderful looking books, have to tell that!

Shirley, how did you get the idea to take a Witch team for the books? Just wondering, as we managed to have here now many wicca related books ...


At 9 December 2008 at 09:19, Blogger Joanne (NeedSun)

Amber, thanks again for a great interview. I have the first three books in this series and they just moved way up on mount TBR.

Shirley, thank you for taking the time to give this interview. Your life sounds so so busy...friends, family, dog, full time job, reading, TV...oh my!

My question is how do you find the time to fit everything in? You said you are up at 4AM to write(coffee, wonderful coffee) but you must be ready for bed early evening.

I am definitely looking forward to reading this series.


At 9 December 2008 at 11:58, Anonymous Anonymous

What is your favorite paranormal movie?


At 9 December 2008 at 14:14, Blogger tetewa

Is there anyone who you are starstruck by? If you could meet this person who would it be?


At 9 December 2008 at 14:57, Blogger Ladytink_534

Librarian? Folk Magick? Mystery? Oh I'm so there! I'm going to put this series on my Christmas wishlist.

What was your favorite scene to write in Witch Way to Murder?


At 9 December 2008 at 15:42, Blogger Mona

Hi Shirley:-)

Your books sound great not to mention the covers.

My question.. If you can be one of your characters, who would you choose to be?


At 9 December 2008 at 21:11, Blogger Unknown

I absolutely love this series!! I hope that you do continue writing more than just 7 books. My question is this: How do you think that Ophelia will deal with Tink as a teenager?? What happens when the boyfriends start coming around? Can Ophelia put herself in Tink's shoes and understand what she is feeling from her angle and still deal with being the parent?

Shirley, thank you so much for writing a delightful series. I can't wait to read the new book coming out.

Marge Janiak


At 9 December 2008 at 22:13, Anonymous Anonymous

It it ever hard to motivate yourself when you are controlling your own schedule?

Thanks for the contest & Please enter me!



At 10 December 2008 at 04:53, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

Thanks again all the questions and I’ll try to get as many answered as time allows!! Caffey asked what authors have inspired me—that also ties into Tetewa’s question about being starstruck. Without a doubt...Barbara Micheals/Elizabeth Peters! I’ve read her for years! (Absolutely love Amelia Peabody!!) And Ms. Micheals was including paranormal elements in some of her stories long before it became as popular as it is now. If I ever had a chance to meet her, I know I’d turn into a blithering idiot! Which would be too bad...I’m told she doesn’t suffer fools gladly! 8) As far as movie stars?? Well...meeting George Clooney wouldn’t be bad!! ;)

Deidre wanted to know if I have any cats...unfortunately, no. My youngest daughter’s two cats were still living here when I adopted turned real ugly, real fast! Roxy hated the cats, and they were none too fond of her. I tried to get them to adapt to one another, but it just didn’t work. As a result, the cats are now reunited with my daughter in her apartment. Both Roxy and the cats are much happier!! 8)

Joanne and Amanda’s questions are kind of along the same lines, how do I fit everything in and is it hard to motivate myself when controlling my own schedule?? On the scheduling—yes, it is...I’m a procrastinator!! And sometimes I don’t get everything done!! I dink around and time gets away from me, then I haven’t accomplished all I wanted to do!! To Joanne—yes, I often turn in pretty early in the evening, and yes, thank god for Folgers!!! But balancing this stuff is doable as long as I stay focused—I’m single, it’s just me and the dog, so my time at home is pretty much my own to schedule as I want. Seriously, the authors that I think do a far better job at balancing than me are the ones like my buddy, Angie Fox (THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER)! She has two small children, a husband, a home to manage, and she can still crank out a New York Times bestseller! Now that’s an accomplishment!!

My favorite paranormal movie, Taylor Z? It would be THE SIXTH SENSE! Not too scary and it surprised me...which doesn’t happen very often. As I’m watching a movie, I’m usually pretty good at figuring out how it’s going to end (a habit that drives my family nuts...from some strange reason they don’t want to hear my thoughts! 8) )but this one took me off guard. (I did think it strange that Bruce Willis seemed to be wearing the same clothes all the time, but I didn’t get it until the very end when the wife was napping on the couch!)

Expat wanted to know how hard was it to get WITCH WAY TO MURDER published? Man, I could go on about that one for several paragraphs, but I’ll try and be’s what happened in a nutshell. When I first started writing, things went really great for the first year...won a contest, had a couple of short stories published...then nothing! Every story I submitted, every agent I queried, the answer was “thanks, but no thanks,” and to be honest, I’d pretty much given up. Then I received a rejection letter for a short story I’d submitted NINE months previously, and getting reject AGAIN ticked me off! The straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak! 8) My stubbornness kicked in, I got off my kester, and started querying agents again. Within three months, I had an agent, and five months after that, a contract with Avon. A year to the day of receiving my agent’s call about the contract, WITCH WAY TO MURDER hit the bookstores! Was I lucky? You bet I was—my agent and editor are just the best—and I’m grateful for that luck every day. Getting a book published is tough—a lot of authors out there waiting in line for their turn (side note: over 2000 mysteries are published each year and literary agents receive hundreds of queries a WEEK!) But the point is—one has to be persistent. You get a lot of rejections and maybe in the end you might fail. BUT you’ll never know unless you try—the worst anyone can say is “no.” And every ‘no’ might put you that much closer to a ‘yes!’

Ladytink (love your name, btw!!) what was my favorite scene to write in WITCH WAY? Though it was fun writing the climax, I really enjoyed doing the scene where Ophelia searches Rick’s room!! Another favorite—this one in CHARMED TO DEATH—is where the young cop threatens to arrest all the senior citizens for staging a sit-in at the four way stop!! Loved doing that scene!

Mona, I smiled when I read your question—I get to be all my characters!! Kind of like having multiple personalities!! But in real life, which one would I rather be?? Gosh, I really don’t know—I wish I were as balanced as Abby, but then again there are times being Darci wouldn’t be bad!! ;) But probably it’s Ophelia since I write from her perspective. Don’t know if I’d want to be a psychic though!!! It would be nice to know the good stuff in my future, but I really wouldn’t care to know the bad!

And last but not least...Marge. You brought up a very interesting point that I hadn’t considered. How would Ophelia deal with all the teenage angst? I imagine she’ll wing it—kind of like I did as a mother! And go to Abby for advice. The boyfriend thing? Hmm, as a psychic wouldn’t it be tempting for her to do a little tiptoeing through their minds to see if their intentions were honorable??? But then again, knowing teenage boys...maybe not!! Lol!

I’ve run out of time again!! I’m having a great time answering your questions and thanks so much for asking them!! Have a great day and I’ll stop back later!



At 10 December 2008 at 06:14, Blogger drey

Shirley - these books sound interesting, I'll have to go pick some up to read...

My question for you - if you do write sci-fi/fantasy, which "world" would you pick? I'm a huge fantasy reader, but sci-fi is kinda hit-or-miss. I don't know if it's just the setting?

Blogged about this giveaway here.


At 10 December 2008 at 06:50, Blogger Shelbycat

I know i'm being really naughty here as i just won one of your contests but i've only just discovered these books for myself, i've read the first one and have already bought the second one.

My question is, why did you pick a librarian as your main character? I ask because i'm a librarian myself (in a hospital library so if you need any medical information please don't hesitate to request from me).

Sorry if you already answered this question but i'm at work and shouldn't really be reading interviews in depth!


At 10 December 2008 at 08:27, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

One quick post--sorry about all the typo's!!! I tend to type fast and my fingers get ahead of my brain!! I guess it's a good thing I have an editor!! And with me--she earns her salary!! 8)



At 10 December 2008 at 11:18, Blogger James Rasmussen

I'm sorry to say I've not read any of your novels ... but will definitely be looking for this series. It sounds enthralling!

My question: What, if any, are your personal writer procrastinations ... the things you do to avoid the blank page or a particularly difficult piece?


At 11 December 2008 at 03:50, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

Good question, Drey, about what kind of a world I would create! I really don’t know—it would be set on a different planet, a different kind of a society, but I know it wouldn’t be as technical as STAR WARS. I’m not a technical or scientific sort!! Anything I wrote would probably be more about the characters and the situations they find themselves in, than about the setting. And before I attempted a different genre, I’d do a lot of research first. Check out the market, see what’s selling, buy a couple of “how to” books, that type of thing. Find out what elements I need to include in order for it to be a satisfying book for the readers. I don’t know if I’ll ever try, but it might be fun to give it a shot!

Yeah, Shelby, my answers are kind of long, aren’t they!! Lol It’s hard for me to keep track of what I’ve said and I appreciate everyone’s patience in plowing through them! 8) But to answer why a librarian—a librarian works with the public as I do in my day job as Postmaster; in a small town, the library is a place where people can congregate, so it gives me the opportunity to bring in secondary characters. And secondary characters are important to the way I craft my stories. I write in first person, so the reader is only in Ophelia’s head. For an event to occur, she has to either be present at the event, or someone has to tell her about it. As a result, I’ll sometimes use dialogue between her and the other characters to drive the plot forward. Plus I love books, so it’s cool that Ophelia gets to spend her day in a library!! 8) (Oh and btw, thanks for the offer...I just might take you up on that!! Always looking for new sources of information!!)

And James what are my personal procrastinations?? I have one—the Internet!!! If I’m stuck and don’t know what direction I’m going to take, I’ll putz around on the Internet—reading articles, reading blogs, checking out the bestsellers on Amazon, visiting other authors’ websites, whatever I can find rather than get to it and get it done!! 8) There have been times when I’ve seriously thought about unhooking my modem! (Just promising myself I won’t go online wouldn’t work—in the back of my mind I’d still know distractions are a mouse click away!! 8) )

That’s it for today—again thanks for the questions!!



At 11 December 2008 at 20:43, Blogger Carmen R

I haven't read any of this series and was wondering do i need to read them in order?


At 11 December 2008 at 20:53, Blogger Evie

Great interview! May I enter the contest and pick the first book if I'm lucky enough to win? Thanks!


At 11 December 2008 at 20:54, Anonymous Anonymous

Awesome interview, I haven't read any of your books yet but plan to . They have been added to my tbb list. My question is how do you go about building your world?

What is the best thing about being a writer?The worst?

Who would be your favorite character in any series?


At 11 December 2008 at 22:42, Blogger WhiteWolf05

First, it is really great to hear that you adopted your dog from a shelter. Too many get put down every year. Two of my dogs are mutts and one is a Brittany. The Brittany is a bird dog and really loves going after our cats! Poor kitty cats! lol

How did you come up with the names for your characters? Were they random names you picked?


At 12 December 2008 at 04:35, Blogger Zita

I fell in love with this series from the first book on. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. How many will you be writing, do you think?



At 12 December 2008 at 04:43, Blogger Shirley Damsgaard

Thanks again for the questions!! Cameron asked if one needs to read the series in chronological order and that brings up a tough thing about writing a series—spoilers!! I had a bookseller tell me once that she hated it when the second book in a series gave away something that had happened in the first. She had a good point, but for me as an author that’s hard not to do. Much of a continuing characters growth is dependent on what they’ve learned about themselves and experienced in the previous books and it’s hard not to refer to those events. So in answer to that question—if a reader doesn’t mind a few spoilers, then, no, it’s not necessary to read them in order. But if you do, it’s best to start at the beginning. Reading them that way also gives a better picture of who the characters are and what they’re about.

What’s my favorite character in a series?? Wow, I have so many!! As I Amelia Peabody...Eve Dallas in the J.D. Robb series; Henry O in Carolyn Hart’s series (She’s not only one of my favorite authors whom I haven’t mentioned yet, but she’s someone I admire and respect tremendously!); Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series; Miss Zukas in Jo Dereske’s; Kiki Lowenstein in Joanna Campbell Slan’s PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH; Meg Langslow in Donna Andrews’s series; Claire Frasier in the Diana Gabaldon series; Pepper Martin in Casey Daniels’s series; the list goes on and on and I know I’m forgetting some of them!! Basically, I enjoy strong protagonists—I’m just not into starry-eyed ingénues anymore!! 8)

And how do I create my world? Most of the series is set in small town Iowa where I’ve lived all of my life, so I have my own perceptions to work with. But the magick? I do a lot of research and I’ve been fortunate to meet people who were willing to share their experiences with me. Which brings me around to an earlier question from Hippolein that I haven’t answered. Why witches? Other than my life long fascination with the paranormal, I’ve always believed that there’s more to the world than meets the eye, that there are mysteries out there beyond what we know. A favorite quote of mine is from Hamlet, (and please don’t think I sit around reading Shakespeare all day...I don’t...I’m not that literary!! Lol!) “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Writing about folk magick allows me to explore that.

And last but not least, WhiteWolf. Because of your screen name and the fact that you mentioned adopting pets from shelters, I really do need to relate a quick least I’ll try and make it quick!! (this is already going to be another long post!! Can’t help but feel that I’m making it hard for poor Amber’s site to download!! 8) ) Anyway, here’s the story...our family dog, Sheba passed away two years ago this coming March just as I was finishing up THE WITCH IS DEAD (hence the dedication). After it was over, I was trying to watch TV while bawling my eyes out, and this dog food commercial kept coming on. It showed a dog at a shelter and the line was “I know how to fetch, I know how to roll over. What I don’t know is how I got here.” The pitch was if one bought the dog food, and the company would donate to shelters. Now this may sound crazy, but do remember that I write about magick, so I saw it as a sign and I decided if I ever got another dog it would come from a shelter. About a year later, enter Roxy! So how does your screen name tie in?? Sheba was white and she was half wolf!! So see? I felt I just had to share the story with you! ;)

Now onto your question—how did I pick the names? Naming a character is really important. Whether we realize it or not, names carry with them preconceived images. For example when I hear the name “Brock,” I envision this tall, hunky guy. I’ve never known a “Brock” so it’s not based on personal experience.;) When I hear the name “Ophelia,” (and this again is from Hamlet) I see someone kind of wispy and vague. In my mind, I thought it would be fun to work against type...there’s nothing wispy about my “Ophelia” and she’d be highly insulted if anyone called her that!! 8) And with Abby?? It’s a nice old fashioned name. Also the age of a character can play into what I pick. You wouldn’t want to use one of today’s more popular names for a character who’s in their eighties. To get around that one I use a tip that I received from another author—you can go to the Social Security Administration’s website and under “Useful Links” pick “Popular Baby Names” from the drop-down box. Then you have the option of selecting the year and it will give you a list of names used during that time frame. It’s great and I use it all the time!! I also try and make sure I vary my characters’ initials. If you have too many names starting with the same letter it can get confusing to the reader. (I bet when you asked the question, WhiteWolf, you thought you’d get a simple “yes” or “no,” didn’t you?? Lol)

Got to run for now—again thanks for all the questions and for your interest!!



At 12 December 2008 at 05:39, Blogger Unknown

Hiya there! Great Interview! I haven't started reading your books, however I was looking for a new series to read. I have a better fantasy fiction section then my library! An I can't wait to buy your books. My question is about your new series. What got you wanting to write the new book? What inspired you? It sounds fantastic and an original storyline, which I love! Can't wait!


At 12 December 2008 at 07:14, Anonymous Anonymous

Great interview! My question is how do you come up with the titles? I assumed authors came up with the title before they write the book but as I have been trying to write my first book it has made me change the title at least three times! LOL. Thanks for the inspiration! Amy J


At 12 December 2008 at 08:52, Blogger Carolyn Sharkas

My question, Shirley, is What made you decide to write in this genre and why witches? Did you always have a fascination? I guess I have, but haven't read many books on them, guess I just didn't think they were out there.

Thanks so much.

carolyn s

ceashark at aol dot com


At 12 December 2008 at 09:03, Blogger macbeaner

How big is your TBR pile?


At 12 December 2008 at 14:40, Anonymous Anonymous

Shirley thanks for the great interview. My question - who do you feel is your biggest inspiration???

BooksnBeer on BookObsessed and Bookcrossing


At 12 December 2008 at 16:22, Blogger Jo Anne

I didn't read any of the questions here so if mine is a repeat I'm sorry. What I would like to know is; This is the last book in this contract. Do you feel/think that Abbey and Ophelia still have much more to say and do? If you do have to stop now is book seven the book you want to end the series with? I don't want it to end.


At 12 December 2008 at 17:52, Blogger Ginny

I love these books, have read them all. You did such a great job on the interview, have to think about what to ask. Let's see, have you have dabbled in witchcraft yourself or strictly research it?

Crossing fingers!!!


At 12 December 2008 at 20:10, Blogger rb

Hi, I am wondering if you could explain the relationship between witchcraft and black cats? Are they just familiars like I read somewhere or more? Also, how did the series start? They are wonderful! Harry Potter started from a train ride so I wondered...


At 12 December 2008 at 21:48, Blogger caseykelp

my question would be....I know you do research, but do you use straight fact (what you get from your research) or do you add a little bit of what "might be"


At 13 December 2008 at 16:31, Anonymous Anonymous

i love the covers, did you get to pick them?


At 13 December 2008 at 17:54, Blogger Ginny

I blogged for a 2nd entry ~


At 14 December 2008 at 01:38, Blogger Krissie

Who are some of your favorite authors? And what genre of books do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
allmycrazycats AT


At 5 January 2009 at 19:51, Blogger Jeanette J

I wonder if you would like to be a witch? (as in spell-casting, magic producing witch) Or is there too much temptation to misuse the magic.


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