From Pat Nixon
to Miami Murders

by Carol DeFrank

PRUDY TAYLOR BOARD is no novice to writing. She’s an award-winning author, an editor and a writing coach. Like other writers, her dream is to have her books sell so well she could just stay home and write all day. And she’s certainly on her way to fulfilling that dream.

A Florida native, Prudy demonstrates her love for the state through fiction books that explore local places and attractions and non-fiction books that focus on Florida history.

Her father, whom she describes as a realist, was a night clerk at the Bradford Hotel in Fort Myers where she grew up. While supportive of her love of writing, he remained skeptical about its earning potential and insisted she enroll in a two year secretarial course after graduating from Fort Myers High School.

The degree came in handy when she and her husband moved to Miami where she worked as a secretary for several years. Following the birth of her youngest son, who was born with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), she quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and started to freelance. Although she did well, it didn’t generate enough of an income to support a family, which was necessary after her divorce.

Returning to Fort Myers, she was hired as a feature writer for the News-Press. Prudy became ‘infamous’ when First Lady Pat Nixon came to town and the editor gave the interview assignment to her. The story included a reference to Mrs. Nixon’s “slightly bowed legs.” A firestorm erupted in the community. “But, then I showed my editor her photos and he said ‘Prudy, you were charitable.’ He stood behind me 100%.”

She remained at the News-Press for five years before moving on to become a reporter for WINK-TV, then an assignment editor for WBBH-TV.

She also worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department as media liaison and took statements from a variety of witnesses for a potpourri of crimes. These experiences supplied fodder for her mystery novels. “The steady employment supported my fiction habit,” she said.

Her writing career took off. Bylines appeared in most of the area newspapers and on the masthead under managing editor of two regional magazines, Lee Living and Home & Condo.

Prudy credits Stephen King for her success. “He was my mentor. I tore his books apart, page by page, learning every step of the way. He’s an uneven writer who understands the fears of our generation: the fear of the unknown, being alone, and insomnia.” She learned well and created vivid human characters, effortlessly weaving together plots and sub-plots. Success was within reach.

Her first book, Lee County: A Pictorial History, was published in 1989 and the rest came easily. “I now understand my own personal psychology. I hate getting started, and once I start, I hate to finish.” She has started and finished many times, authoring four novels, ten non-fiction books and more than 1,000 articles.

With all this going on, you would think she could follow her dream and write full time. “But,” she says, “as a beginner, or even a mid-list author like I am, you don’t get a lot of money up front, especially for promotion. You have to expect to spend the advance on your books promoting them. Prepare your strategy and be ready to send them out to reviewers three to six months before publication. Creating a snail mail and an e-mail list comes in handy when sending out promotional material.”

Small book publishers have a distinct advantage over the big houses according to Prudy. “Major presses promote your book three months before publication and three months after. That’s it. Small presses will work with you, especially if they feel you’re really trying.”

She is constantly promoting through speaking engagements. “If you’re nervous talking to people or groups, get over it.” Employed by CRC Press, she maintains high visibility by teaching creative writing at workshops around the country. She is a believer in autographing. “They can’t return a book if it’s personally autographed.”

This advice, plus much more, can be found in her how-to book, 101 Tips on Writing & Selling Your First Novel, published in 2003.

Prudy practices what she preaches. She says a writer must know their characters inside and out. Know the hospital they were born in and what their favorite snacks are. Be familiar with the places they frequent and the streets and landmarks they see in their travels.

She followed that advice in each of her four novels: Blood Legacy, The Vow, Dishonored Grave and her newest book, Murder a la Carte.

Murder is the first in a series. It features Miami broadcaster Clyde Colby and was published by Arch Books Publishing, “I guess I’ve paid my dues. I submitted it on a Friday and received a contract on the following Monday. That was nice.”

“Before I sent the book out I followed my own recommendation. I made sure my book was truly finished. I put it aside for at least a month then went back and re-read it. I paid special attention to the first page, especially the first paragraphs. That is the part of the book where editors, agents and publishers make their decisions.”

Although she shares a lot with her fans, one thing she doesn’t talk about is age.

She refers to herself as a “tough old broad” who no longer has birthdays, just events. These events all appear on a long “to-do” list. “Age is just a number. I must be getting a little older though, because I have noticed I no longer have senior moments, but senior hours. I guess I’ll worry when I start having senior days.”

To Prudy the two most beautiful words in the English language aren’t ‘I do,” but “the end”. •

from the January-February 2005 issue

Prudy became 'infamous' when
First Lady Pat Nixon came to town
and the editor gave the
interview assignment to her.
The story included a reference to
Mrs. Nixon's "slightly bowed legs."