Interview: C.T. Collier

Planted coverWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

I love this question! Coast of Maine, brilliant sunshine to start, changing throughout the day—misty, foggy, windy, stormy. I’m out with a friend and our cameras, stopping only to warm up over hot soup.

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

Pure White Linen is my go to fragrance every morning. It’s a promise to make very day feel like a walk in a summer garden.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Mystery author William G. Tapply’s Brady Coyne series had so many elements I enjoyed—Boston harbor, fly-fishing, puzzling plots, satisfying solutions, a pinch of romance. I was not fortunate enough to take one of his classes on mystery writing before he passed, but I have his excellent book The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Often, yes, especially if there’s noise I need to block. Classical music keeps me calm and productive, and both my sleuths, Kyle and Lyssa, groove on Classical.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

A delicious dark chocolate peanut-butter truffle. Kyle loves the luxurious allure of dark chocolate, but Lyssa only likes it when it’s paired with peanut butter.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Most of us have turned up an assortment of odd things in our backyards. My own experience, discovering bits of junk while creating a woodland garden, got me thinking about what would happen if my garden had turned up a gun. Hmmm. A gun wouldn’t have gotten there by mistake, would it? So . . . what’s the story?

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

Having been a terrible eater until 15 years ago, as well as a Type A personality, I make sure my protagonists eat nutritious delicious meals. Even better, they cook together! They frequently have long talks outdoors while exercising, and most of them enjoy stress-busting activities, like Yoga or photography or a hot game of pick-up basketball. Finally, my villains are likely to be secretive, self-serving, and working hard for their own gain.

Tell us about your main character.

You’ve probably guessed from the series name, The Penningtons Investigate, my mysteries have two main characters, Kyle (38) and Lyssa (28). Although both have PhD’s, aside from that, they’re more different than alike. Kyle is a wealthy luxury-loving Brit who runs his own computer-network security company out of London. Lyssa, would rather sew a skirt than buy one, and she earned her way through University of Texas Austin by getting scholarships and working at part-time jobs.
The two met when Lyssa was on a post-doc fellowship in London making a TV series about financial literacy for women. Once she gets a college teaching job in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York (to be close to her only family, her sister), they split their time between the Finger Lakes and the UK. Where do the mysteries take place? The books in The Penningtons Investigate all involve murders associated with Lyssa’s workplace, Tompkins College in Tompkins Falls, NY.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Kyle is brainy like Steve Jobs, looks like star Ewan MacGregor, and is committed to the great outdoors like John Muir.

Lyssa is a ringer for Hallmark Channel’s Sarah Rafferty; her career was inspired by Women’s Hall of Famer Muriel Siebert; and, back in her drinking days, she could hold her own with Amy Schumer.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

What a great idea! I’d invite three women authors: Louise Penny, Agatha Christie, and Josephine Tey. And three men: William G. Tapply. Robert B. Parker, and Peter Lovesey.

What’s next for you?

Getting the second book in The Penningtons Investigate ready for publication. Fingers crossed for publication of Stuck this April!


C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting is entirely fictional: Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).

Facebook: kate.collier.315
Twitter: @TompkinsFalls


7 thoughts on “Interview: C.T. Collier”

  1. Welcome, CT! I’ve never been to Maine but want to after reading about your perfect day! Your main characters sound really fun, and like there’s plenty of conflict between them! 🙂


  2. So good of all of you to welcome me! I left for a 3-day retreat at 6 AM Friday morning, so I didn’t get back to the post until now. Late to my own party . . . You all are delightful to read, and I’m so glad to get to know you better. Sue, I live in Canandaigua with a nice view of Canandaigua Lake this time of year when the leaves are off the trees. In fact on Valentine’s Day we had a pink sunrise, and the lake was pink, too! No kidding!! If I worked that into a book, no one would believe it, eh? 🙂 –kate


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