Interview: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Please welcome Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author of the Regan McHenry Real Estate mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
It starts with cold left-over Chinese food and a cup of tea eaten while watching a sunrise over Monterey Bay on a crisp November day. At that time of year there’s enough moisture and clouds in the air that the sky is streaked red, orange, violet and amber.

Next, I’d chethe murder houseck Kindle sales and discover there have been many overnight, possibly with one in France or Italy because selling a book in either country would be such fun. I’d spend the day writing using only a light outline so my characters could tell me what to type and writing would be an adventure, almost like reading a book. Later in the day, I’d hear from another writer I’ve met on some form of social media telling me about a five star review they received or some other good news.

As the sun starts to set, I’d be sharing a glass of wine with my husband when the phone rings. Clint Eastwood would be on the line saying he read “Mags and the AARP Gang” and thinks it would make a great little movie. He’d like to play Harvey, the character who does Clint Eastwood impersonations, if that would be okay.

After my husband picks me up off the floor, I’d spend the rest of the day calling people I love to tell them what a great day it’s been.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?

I wear red more often than any other color, especially on 49ers game days, but other than that, no.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
1. Agatha Christie who made me love a good mystery.
2. Charlotte Bridges. She was a friend who always wanted to see her name in print. She wrote every day but never finished anything because she was constantly distracted by those who tried to “improve” what she wrote. She died of a brain tumor and is the reason I published my first book. It was hurriedly published with a dedication to her in it so she could have her final wish before she died.
3. Tony Hillerman whose Navajo policemen on the Big Reservation tracking bad guys without forgetting to take in an approaching snow storm inspired me to set my Regan McHenry mysteries in worlds I knew well. Santa Cruz became my Big Reservation, and the world of real estate became my Navajo culture equivalent.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No. No. No. I want absolute quiet when I write.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be dark and spicy like a Godiva Aztec Spice truffle. The Murder House is a darker mystery than most of the others I’ve written and what causes the house in the book to be haunted — if it is — is the spicy lives its former inhabitants lived.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I found the picture of the young woman I used on the book cover and was immediately drawn to her. She seemed to have dark secrets and great sadness in her. She also was so pale she seemed ghostly. I wanted her to be part of my next mystery. Then, as a writer of real estate mysteries, I thought it would be fun to think about how to disclose the presence of a ghost in a house, considering as many people believe in them as don’t.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

My stories seem to revolve around honor and how that affects my characters’ core values and behavior, even if some of the characters hold values not widely shared.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Regan is of Irish decent and proud of it. She grew up in San Francisco in a family filled with Irish cops. She married too young and had two sons who are essentially grown at this point. When she was on her own after her first marriage ended, she began working as a Realtor and finished college with a degree in behavior science. She’s detail oriented and prides herself on listening and hearing things others might miss; she also great at reading people…at least most of the time. She’s tenacious, smart, a tad pushy, and a terrible liar. She’s also caring and most importantly curious, which may be a kind way of saying nosey.

Regan has earned her success and done well financially, but the most significant thing she’s done is picked Tom for her second husband. He’s tall, handsome, and has incredibly blue eyes that still stop her heart even after several years of marriage. He’s also as logical as she is intuitive and as deliberative as she is impulsive.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Regan is primarily Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, although a much younger version of her. I also see a touch of Julia Childs in her because she’s a bit of a foodie and slightly awkward occasionally, and I think she has a bit of the romantic and impractical Mary Queen of Scots in her, although she probably sees herself as more of a Queen Elizabeth I.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Three dead: Agatha Christie, Tony Hillerman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to talk classic mystery writing. Two live and well known: Sue Grafton and Laurie King to find out how they did so well; and a friend and fellow writer I’ve never met live, Yolanda Renee, whose work I admire and who, like me, would get a kick out of talking to the others. I’m sure we’d both take copious notes.

What’s next for you?

For some reason, I got it in my head that I’d like to write a book set in the 1880s west. I discovered the Harvey Girls, women recruited from the eastern United States to work as waitresses in Harvey restaurants and hotels along the Santa Fe Railroad lines, and thought it would be fun to see how a young woman fleeing Boston before she could be forced into an unwanted marriage might cope in the completely new environment of the old west.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she’s having too much fun writing to ever sell another house and let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.

(A special note from Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Tomorrow is my birthday. As a child we used to get it off because it is George Washington’s birthday; now we celebrate President’s Day and I’m not special. To cheer me up for that loss of status, please say stop by and say, “Hi.”)

Buy autographed and inscribed books at and pick up a free recipe for Regan’s Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies while they are at the site.

Amazon author page:



9 thoughts on “Interview: Nancy Lynn Jarvis”

  1. Thanks for having me on your blog today. I recently discovered that while my birthday is no longer a holiday, it is National Margarita Day! Even better.


  2. Nancy, First, your book sounds great. Second, ✬HaPPy BirTHdaY✬. I love discovering chocolate from writers and Godiva Aztec Spice truffle sounds like a must-try. I love Hillerman and Doyle, for sure. And Santa Cruz. One of my fav cities. Thanks for dropping by!


  3. Aww, happy birthday! Yes, how a Boston girl would adapt to the west would be interesting. I love your ideal day description – with the possible exception of cold Chinese for breakfast. 🙂


  4. Hi Nancy, Love your mash-up of characters! Interesting that you were inspired by the photo that you went on to use on the cover. Inspiration can come from anywhere, I think. Good luck with the Harvey girls–sounds like there’s a great story there!


  5. I would love to attend your dinner party! A virtual invitation that just made my day! Although, someday I’ll surprise you and knock on your door! Today I’m working on several lengths of blurbs for my current books and wondering if Christie or Doyle, ever struggled with telling their novels in short descriptive paragraphs.

    I can’t wait for your next book – westerns were always a guilty pleasure, so I’m really looking forward to reading yours!

    Happy Birthday!


  6. Happiest birthday to you! Thanks so much for your great interview, too. That sounds like a fascinating dinner party (I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear Sue Grafton and Agatha Christie talking, especially).


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