A country music festival isn’t your typical setting for a murder mystery. That’s one reason I was so intrigued when I heard of Lewis Sinclair and the Gentlemen Cowboys. I got to chat with author D.M.S. Fick about her inspiration for such a unique setting, her path to publishing, and more.
Tell us a bit about Lewis Sinclair and the Gentlemen Cowboys?
Lewis Sinclair and his band are about to play at an important country music festival when his girl dumps him for his manager. The manager turns up dead, his face and hands pressed into the festival’s StarWalk cement. The book is, for the most part, a good time, but it does explore what some people do to survive in the world and how family, whether the biological or chosen kind, helps or hinders them. All this while the summer sun beats down, beer flows, and music fills the air.
I’m so intrigued by the setting. A country music festival is not your typical murder mystery setting. What inspired this story?
Well, that was my thinking too. I was at a concert of country and bluegrass artists. It was intermission. I was enjoying a pleasant glass of wine when it occurred to me that though I’d read a lot of mysteries––and I mean A LOT––I hadn’t come across any involving a country musician or music festival. A friend of mine works every summer at a country festival. She gave me a backstage pass so I could wander around and pick up the flavors. I people-watched, overheard snippets of conversation. The ball started rolling pretty fast after that.
You’ve had such an eclectic career, including being an Emmy-nominated graphic designer and grant-awarded animator. How have these experiences influenced your writing?
My graphic design career has been predominantly at TV stations where I had just seconds to get a message or story across before it disappeared. So, with design work and animation, I tend to think in short scenes of pictures first––almost like a graphic novel or comic book. That’s how I get the first draft––the bones––written. Then I go back and add in the other four senses to flesh it out.
Also, when you’re surrounded by people doing creative things, it’s not such a stretch to think, “Oh, yeah, I could be a writer.”
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Subscribe to or go to the library and browse the reviews in Publishers Weekly. See which books are like yours. The reviews list the book’s publisher and agent (if there was one.) Also, do a websearch on “agent” and the title of a book that’s like yours. Often the acknowledgments page of a book will show up with the information you’re looking for. Follow the leads. Go down the online rabbit hole. You’ll learn a lot about publishers and agents and it’s fun.
Find out which of your friends or potential friends are also writers. Talk with them regularly about writing. I have one particular friend I talk with on the phone about every three weeks. It keeps your head in the game and makes it all more tangible.
Oh, and if you have trouble writing query letters or pitches because it feels like bragging, pretend you’re writing about a friend instead of yourself. Promotion will come easier.
What was the path for publishing Lewis Sinclair and the Gentlemen Cowboys?
I’d already written an upmarket novel and a novella mystery, but it took years to do so because I was creatively drained when I got home from work. Circumstances eventually allowed me to become a freelancer and have more control over my schedule. I then dove into writing activities with more focus and time to spend on them. I revised old manuscripts. I completed Lewis Sinclair and the Gentlemen Cowboys. I did publishing research and prepared submission materials. I went to pitching conferences. I quickly became a much better writer and I was able to talk about my books more effectively. I participated in PitMad on Twitter several times. I’d sort of given up on them, but I had these pitches that I thought were tight so I kept participating. And eventually CamCat liked one of them. Since my support materials were ready to go I could submit my manuscript right away.
The moral of the story is, get your submission materials (query letter, synopsis, log line, bio) and your manuscript ready and get your story out there into the world. And don’t give up.
Where can people order Lewis Sinclair and the Gentlemen Cowboys?
You can order my book from a local bookshop or go to my website https://dmsfick.com/ I’ve posted several ordering options there. I include their links below as well:
Where’s the best place to follow you?
https://dmsfick.com/ has Lewis Sinclair extras like a playlist of songs mentioned in the book, a festival map, and character biographies, plus fun facts about me, such as why I once held hands with a game show host or slept under a shrubbery.
My social accounts are thus:
Thanks for the interview. This was fun!