Interview: Liz Mugavero

Please welcome Liz Mugavero, author of the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day for me actually starts early. Getting up around six or six thirty is okay if I know have the whole day to do what I lokneadingtodieve. First on the agenda would be taking care of the dogs and cats. What would make THAT perfect is not finding the random “present” from anyone on the floor! Then, my tea, check a few emails and get to writing. When I’m on vacation from my day job I try to get a couple thousand words in right off the bat, then I feel on track enough to stop and either do a workout – I love the Les Mills “Pump” and “Combat” workouts, which I do right at home – or go for a walk on the green with Kim and the dogs. Back for lunch and more writing in the afternoon, and perhaps a short nap, some playing outside with the dogs and snuggling with the cats. Then if I can squeeze a few more words out in the evening before settling in with a great book, excellent! And, an episode of American Horror Story if there’s time would be an added bonus.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Purple is my color – definitely. It’s been my favorite since I was a kid. I even had a framed saying about “Purple People.” It talked about purple being a color of power and creativity, and that always resonated with me.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
When I was in grad school, I read We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates. I never cried so much over a book until or since, and I remember that aha moment when I said, “I want my writing to do that to people!” So, she’s one.

I am indebted to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, for providing such an incredible tool to get me out of a vicious personal cycle that was destroying my creativity. I can’t say enough about that book. Anyone who is an artist of any kind must read it – it will change your life. The exercises will get to the bottom of anything holding you back, and put you in touch with the fun side of life again to truly jumpstart that creative process.

And my third is Johnny Rzeznik, singer/songwriter from the Goo Goo Dolls. From the moment I heard the song “Name” back in 1997, his music and his lyrics completely connected with me. He’s one of those songwriters who is inherently able to put words to people’s experiences when you never realized there were words. He inspires me to dig deeper in my own writing and find that connection that others can relate to.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Often, I do. It depends on what I’m writing and the mood I’m in, but I love a variety of music. Sometimes (often, as you may have guessed already) I write with the Goo Goo Dolls. Some days it’s Billy Joel or Alanis Morrisette, others it’s meditative music like crystal healing bowls or yoga CDs. I love the Putomayo World Music CDs too. Music From the Chocolate Lands is awesome!

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
If my latest book were chocolate, it would be finished! No, seriously, I love Lake Champlain chocolates. I recently had a salted caramel bar – I think that would be it. Rich, messy and lots of fun while it lasts.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
When my agent, John Talbot, and I discussed this particular cozy mystery theme as we developed this proposal, I wanted to just drive to his office and do a happy dance. I had always wondered how I could bring my two passions – animals and writing – together to provide a book that people would love to read that was also educational and could inspire people to look at animal issues differently. I saw this series as the way to do that, as long as I got it right. So in Frog Ledge with Stan and her friends, I get to hang out with lots of furries, try new treat recipes, talk to people about the value of nutrition for animals and get my frustrations out by creating murder victims. It’s so much fun it’s hardly even work.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I often find myself writing about mother/daughter relationships. I’ve struggled with  my relationship with my own mother, and I guess I keep trying to write a new ending for it. But depending on the characters I’m writing about, it allows me to explore different drivers for that relationship on both sides, and I find it’s been extremely cathartic. In this book, you’ll see just a touch of the differences between Stan and her mother, but in later books we get a little deeper into that.

And whenever I get a chance, I write about animal rescue and issues involving animals because it’s so important to me. There are so many wonderful animals in shelters all over the country who need our help, and so many people who simply don’t know what challenges these babies are facing.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Stan is interesting because she is living such a different life than the one her mother imagined for her, or even the one she imagined for herself. She grew up in “rich” Rhode Island, with an uptight socialite mother and a bohemian father. She definitely takes after her dad. As a matter of fact, it was her grandmother on her dad’s side that taught her to bake her own treats for the neighborhood animals. Yet she grew up with this view of what makes one “important,” and that belief and those teachings led her straight to corporate America (because she could never be a full-time socialite). She had a good run there, and she was queen of the media relations world. She had a big expense account, she traveled with a lot of “important” people and got to experience all kinds of things.

But corporate America is fickle, and poop, dog or otherwise, always rolls downhill. Stan found herself on the wrong side of a media blitz, and faster than she could say “no comment,” she was out the door. Once she came to terms with it, she realized a lot about the world she was living in, and the world she wanted to inhabit from that day forward. She was always a bit of the anomaly in corporate America, and now she understands why – it was never really her in the first place. She’s much more comfortable in this small town with these quirky people, doing her own thing.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Stan’s a lot like Lorelai Gilmore, from The Gilmore Girls – one of my all time favorite characters. She’s strong, independent, a little socially awkward, smart and she struggles with her relationship with her mother. She’s also got a bit of Ally McBeal in her – that silly side of her that needs theme songs to get through situations and has conversations with imaginary people. And she’s a whiz with money and investments and has a very Dave Ramsey attitude about finances. She knows her stuff and she’s not afraid to tell you when you’re doing something not-so-smart with your money. I hesitate to outright compare her to Dave – I would caveat that by saying she’s Dave’s liberal alter ego!

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Before I started watching The Following, I would’ve said Edgar Allan Poe, definitely! But now I’m too scared (and you have to watch the show to understand why).

My table would be a crazy mish-mash of authors, and six seats wouldn’t be nearly enough! If I had to pick six it would be Carolyn Keene, author of the original Nancy Drew series, because she originally got me into mysteries; Dennis Lehane, because his dark side fascinates me; Hunter S. Thompson, because who wouldn’t want to have Hunter S. Thompson for dinner?; J.D. Salinger; Stephen King – and Hank Phillippi Ryan to keep the conversation going!

What’s next for you?
I just finished book 2 in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, called A Biscuit, A Casket. I’ll be starting work on book 3, and hopefully talking with my agent about the next books in this series! I’m having a lot of fun writing it, so I hope it continues. I’m also thinking about another cozy series that I’d love to pitch, and I have a darker series in the works that I’m very hopeful about getting out into the world. It features a detective and a reporter, and the first book takes place in an old insane-asylum-turned-school for emotionally and behaviorally challenged students. Lots of crazy stuff going on behind those walls!

***

Liz Mugavero is a marketing and communications professional and animal lover from the Boston, Mass. area, whose canine and feline rescues demand the best organic food and treats around. She’s also a former journalist, marketing and PR specialist, and assistant to a homeopathic veterinarian. Currently based near Hartford, Conn., she’s had plenty of exposure to the small town craziness of the Nutmeg State, and saw numerous opportunities for murder.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Salem State College and a Master of Arts in writing and publishing from Emerson College. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime New England, Mystery Writers of America, and the Cat Writers’ Association. Visit her website, www.lizmugavero.com, or find her on FacebookTwitter and with a bunch of very cool authors at Wicked Cozy Authors.

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6 thoughts on “Interview: Liz Mugavero”

  1. Great interview–very entertaining! Stan sounds like an engaging protagonist–can’t wait to meet her in book one (and beyond). Your future darker series sounds intriguing too and perfect for fans of American Horror Story. 🙂

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  2. Hi all, apologies for being absent – I was running my first 5K Dirty Girl Mud Run this weekend! Lisa, yes – The Artist’s Way absolutely helped me get back on track and I’m so grateful for it. Cynthia, happy to find a fellow AHS fan! I hope next season is as good as the Asylum. And Mary, the darker the better for me. That’s where my mind automatically goes, so sometimes it’s more of a challenge for me to think light and cozy! Thanks again for having me. It was great to be here.

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