Listening In is a series of author interviews, featuring authors whose works have been transformed into audiobooks! Danielle Garrett is the author of dozens of fantastical books that feature witches, magic, murder, and plenty of “snarky” cats. Witches in the Kitchen, narrated by Amanda Ronconi, is the first in a new cozy fantasy series that features “mystery, magic, and a splash of romance!” Garrett’s other series include Nine Lives Magic, the Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries, and more.
As a lifelong bookworm, Danielle Garrett has always loved dreaming of fantastic places and the stories they have to share. Through her love of reading, she’s followed along on hundreds of adventures through the eyes of wizards, princesses, elves, and some rather wonderful everyday people as well. This lifelong passion led her into the world of writing, and she has now achieved the dream she’s held since the second grade and has become an author herself.
Danielle lives in Oregon, and while she travels as often as possible, she wouldn’t call anywhere else home. She shares her life with her husband and their house full of animals.
Please tell us more about Witches in the Kitchen! Why should we listen to it?
Witches in the Kitchen is something of a spin-off to my longest and most popular series, the Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries. However, it is just as friendly to new readers who know nothing of my earlier work.
The main character is a woman named Blair, a thirty-something in Tacoma who feels unsatisfied with her life. She works a thankless job in a call center during the day and battles with insomnia at night. One night, she steps outside onto her balcony and witnesses a murder in the alley across from her apartment building. But it’s not just any murder—the killer has fangs and supernatural speed.
She’s thrust into the supernatural world and placed in a magic witness protection program, and along the way learns she is carrying some magical secrets of her own.
The story features a magical inn, run by a witch and a shifter, and their magical kiddos.
There’s a lot going on, but it’s a really fun story, and perfect for anyone looking for a cozy, magical escape from the real world. I haven’t yet heard the audio for this specific title, but I have absolutely no doubt that Amanda Ronconi knocked it out of the park. She always does.
Could you please tell us about your career as an author? What first drew you to writing?
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’m a lifelong reader, to the point where I would often max out my check outs at both my school and public library! When I was in elementary school, I have a memory of creating my first books out of paper stapled between cardboard cut from the back of a cereal box. Granted, the main characters were Barbie and Ken, but I digress.
When I got older, I researched traditional publishing, as that was the only option available at the time. I would buy the big, textbook size compilations of the various agents and publishing houses, and dream about someday having something to submit.
But, as so often happens, life caught up to me. I had bills to pay and being paid to write seemed like some far-off dream, meant for other people, not me.
Obviously, the publishing landscape has changed a lot, thanks to platforms like Kobo, and I had the opportunity to try my luck and get my work out there after all.
So, ten years ago this past March, I self-published my first romance novella under a now defunct pen name. I didn’t make any money with my first efforts, but eventually, I got a bit of a foothold. I changed genres, wrote a million plus words, and just kept trying.
Eventually, I burned out on writing contemporary romance and wanted to write something different. I found the paranormal cozy mysteries genre through a podcast, and was hooked! I wrote my first paranormal cozy, Murder’s a Witch, and it just took off and launched my current career.
We’d love to hear about your writing process. Please elaborate!
In the conversation of “pantsing” vs plotting, I am definitely a plotter. I marinate on ideas for weeks, months, sometimes years. When I get ready to start writing, I create a long, detailed outline, and if it’s a new series, I also create character profiles and worldbuilding notes to keep tabs on everything as best as I can (though it is far from being a perfect system!).
I write fast and clean. I generally don’t write a second draft, but tweak and edit when I comb through the completed manuscript. I think I am able to write this way because of how much time I spend outlining and planning. Most of my outlines have snippets of dialogue or even full conversations that I think up as I’m brainstorming, and those chunks get lifted right from the outline and put into the draft along the way.
From there, I have a team of wonderful editors and proofreaders who help me fix mistakes and typos (and tame my absolutely monstrous overuse of commas).
What drew you to Paranormal Cozy Mysteries? When did you know that it was the genre you wanted to write?
I’ve always loved mysteries and am a bit of a true crime addict, so the idea of combining mystery with magic and fantasy was a perfect fit. Plus, most of my books have a splash of romance, so I get to tip my hat to my roots in a sweet way.
I’d say I knew it was the right fit (or at least hoped it would be) when I was writing Murder’s a Witch, my first paranormal cozy, and described the writing process as “recess for my brain.” It was just what I needed, and I had an absolute blast.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I wish I could say something cool here, like “oh, I do most of my drafting with the windows open and the sound of the ocean on the breeze.” Hey, a girl can dream, right?
I am fortunate enough to have a home office, and that is where the magic happens. My husband built me a custom desk two years ago, big enough for all my notebooks and pens and planner. I tend to sprawl.
My cats (or overlords) are my uncredited co-writers and spend the day walking/sitting on the keyboard or napping across the trackpad. My dogs (or hellhounds) are even less helpful, yanking me from my creative flow whenever the UPS drivers stops by with a package or someone dares to walk their dog on the opposite side of the street.
It’s a work in progress, but at the end of the day, even amidst the chaos, it is home, and I love it. Plus, I can wear comfy clothes and don’t have to pay for the endless coffee refills.
Describe your writing style in five words or less.
Humorous, whimsical, full of heart.
Any advice for emerging writers?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Don’t be afraid to try new things. And most importantly, never ever give up.
What do you do when you experience writer’s block or reader’s block?
I’ve hit burnout a couple of times in my career, where I couldn’t write or plot, and honestly wasn’t doing a lot of reading either. I’m a firm believer that rest and refilling the creative well is the best cure for burnout or writer’s block.
If I’m struggling with a scene or the edits are dragging me down and I find myself cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry instead of sitting at my desk, I shut down the computer for the day and go for a walk. I’ll put on some music or call a friend. Anything to get out of that headspace before it spirals.
I spent most of last year on the verge of burnout and worked with a creativity coach to help me get my mindset right. I ended up taking the entire summer off from writing mysteries, so I could dabble with other projects and get myself sorted out. This year I’ve been much more productive and feel so much better. But it’s a cyclical thing, for sure.
What has been the most exciting part of having your novels transformed into audiobooks?
Mainly, I love how much my readers love them. I’ve had such a great response to the audiobooks, and as soon as I put up a preorder for an ebook I get an immediate chorus (uproar?) of readers asking “Will it come to audio?” and “Is Amanda narrating?”.
You have a very faithful working relationship with your narrator Amanda Ronconi given that she has narrated all of your audiobooks. Did you have any say in her initial casting? Is having the same narrator across your series important to you? What made Ronconi the right fit?
Oh my goodness, where do I even start? I adore Amanda. She is incredibly talented and also just a really wonderful person. I am incredibly lucky to get to work with her, and my fans love her, too.
Tantor Media produces most of my audiobooks, but I have approval of narrator and cover art. So, when they first started casting, they sent me several samples and auditions to choose from. I turned those down and they sent another batch, and I rejected those, too. I was actually starting to feel really guilty for shooting them all down, and wondering if I was just being way too picky, but then they sent me Amanda’s audition and I was like “YES!”
And thank goodness I followed my gut!
Amanda does such a wonderful job with my characters and bringing them to life, especially the snarky talking cats in my Nine Lives Magic series and the Beechwood Harbor Ghost Mysteries series. Those two, Selene and Flapjack, respectively, are among my readers’ all-time favorites.
In short, she’s the best and I hope we work together for many years to come.
Please recommend an audiobook you absolutely adored!
I recently inhaled the Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir, narrated by Moira Quirk. And OMG they were amazing! Moira really brought the characters to life, and Tamsyn wrote a deliciously complicated story that made my head spin.
For a more cozy recommendation, I’d say The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, narrated by Samara MacLaren. This book was absolutely everything, and I cannot wait for Sangu’s next novel, coming next year I believe.
What are you reading (or listening to) right now?