Today we welcome writing duo of Gwen Mayo and Sarah Glenn!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Gwen: I spent the last Saturday of December lounging by the pool, discussing what types of birds were flying over the bay, and reading Louise Penny’s latest novel. That’s about as perfect as it gets.
Sarah: My perfect day is spending the day at a writers’ convention, followed by an evening of reading until bedtime. I like it because I am away from everything I am obligated to do.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Sarah: My magic phrase is, “Come on you $%#!&%, load!” I love to surf the net, but no device works fast enough.
Gwen: I have no fashion sense, and too many allergies for fragrances. Food is another matter: everyone in my family knows their way around a kitchen. We all have a collection of signature dishes. I think my Tuscan chicken served with orzo and spinach pesto gets the most rave reviews from dinner guests.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Gwen: Agatha Christie was my biggest influence. I grew up reading her mysteries and love the puzzles she created.
Sarah: Stephen King, Roger Zelazny, and Stan Lee.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Gwen: Only if Sarah is working with me. I love quiet, but she thinks life needs a soundtrack. When we work together we’ve agreed to have music but no lyrics. The words are too distracting for me.
Sarah: I play a lot of shamanic/New Age music for her. That, and Alan Parsons, where the voice is just another instrument. When she’s gone, I look for music that suits what I’m writing. The Alan Parsons Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Parsons’ take on Poe) is useful when I’m trying to be spooky, and standards have worked well for writing Murder on the Mullet Express. Squirrel Nut Zippers are good for anything funny.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Sarah: Bridge mix, because you never know what you’re going to get.
Gwen: Chocolate fudge with walnuts, because it is traditional, deliciously sinful, and loaded with nuts.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Gwen: The First Florida Chapter of the Historical Novel Society meets in Citrus County and we’ve gotten to know the area pretty well. There is a little cafe next door to the house where the engineer on the Mullet Express lived. The cafe owner is a member of the local historical society and has an album of photographs, many of them from the 1920’s, and my imagination took off from there. A lot of the places in that album come alive in the book.
Sarah: We visited Ellie Schiller Park a few years ago, which has a timeline of Homosassa’s history. I was drawn to the story of the Florida Land Boom project in Homosassa, where the developers wanted to create the ideal city. I could see the dreamers and the opportunists clashing with one another immediately.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Gwen: My writing often explores the nature of justice. I like to look at conflicts that arise when social justice and the law are on a collision course.
Sarah: I like stories that involve families, especially unusual families. Think of The Addams Family or the movie You Can’t Take It With You. I pit them against the ‘normal’ world.
Tell us about your main character.
Gwen: Cornelia Pettijohn is an army nurse who is nearing retirement. She is currently on leave and taken her ancient uncle to Florida on the belief that he is looking for a winter home. She is a strong, competent, self-reliant, no nonsense woman that the troops have nicknamed “the iron petticoat.” Cornelia’s softer side is well hidden, but it shines through when she is taking care of others. Her sense of social justice and fairness sometimes puts her at odds with the established order. It isn’t enough for Cornelia to see the problem, she has to do something.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Gwen: For Cornelia, picture actress Margaret Rutherford, crossed with Anne Perry’s Hester Monk, and Grandpa Vanderhof from You Can’t take it With You.
Sarah: For Teddy, think of Nora Charles crossed with Auntie Mame crossed with one of the old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Gwen: Louise Penny, Agatha Christie, Ariana Franklin, Anne Perry, Catriona McPherson, and, of course my writing partner, Sarah E Glenn (she insisted).
Sarah: Stephen King (who has an Edgar, after all), Catriona McPherson, Ariana Franklin, Sara Paretsky, Louise Penny, and Gwen Mayo, naturally.
What’s next for you?
Gwen: I am currently working on my third Nessa Donnelly novel, Blood Relations, and a non-fiction book about the 1920’s around Tampa Bay: Blues, Booze, and Bolita.
Sarah: I’m currently working on the sequel to Murder on the Mullet Express. It’s set in St. Petersburg, and the working title is Murder at the Million Dollar Pier.
Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky, but her most interesting job was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.
Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but it makes her good at crosswords. Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.