Guest Post: Joanne Guidoccio

Welcome back Joanne Guidoccio, author of the Gilda Greco mystery series. Read on to learn about her latest book – and enter the giveaway!

The Back Story

TooManyWomenintheRoom_w11221_750 2Once I get the initial spark of an idea, I like to play around with a What-If scenario and after much deliberation come up with a title for the novel. Only then can I start writing the first draft.

That MO worked well for Book 1 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series:

Spark:                         Dead blondes turn up in dumpsters throughout the city.

What if…         A woman wins a $19 million lottery and then returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes. Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

Title:               A Season for Killing Blondes

Book 2 presented a challenge. I toyed with several storylines about a Greek restaurant, a charismatic chef, two murders, and a group of women who didn’t always get along. Frustrated with these disjoint elements, I turned my attention to shorter pieces and hoped that inspiration would soon arrive.

It came from an unlikely source.

One day, I received a phone call from a former colleague. While reminiscing about the past, I recalled an incident from my early teaching years.

Circa 1982: I had just started a short-term placement in the mathematics department of a large composite high school. My timetable wasn’t a good one, and I gathered the other women in the department hadn’t fared much better.

The men outnumbered the women in a ratio of 3:1 and dominated most of the conversation at the monthly meetings. But as the semester drew to a close, three of the older women became more emboldened and started voicing their concerns. Legitimate concerns about timetables and room allotments.

Surprised by these outbursts, most of the men shrugged and said nothing. The department head glanced at his watch and started shuffling papers. But one senior male teacher in his sixties couldn’t contain himself. He stood, and shouted: “There are too many women in this room! And that’s why we’re having problems in this department.” He threw his binders on the table and stormed out of the room.

One woman muttered, “What else can you expect from a man of his generation?”

“Or any man born before 1950,” another woman added.

I don’t recall too many other details about that short teaching placement, but the older gentleman’s outburst has stayed with me. And provided the perfect title for Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series: Too Many Women in the Room.

Postscript: In 2008, I retired from a mathematics department that was predominantly female. I also had the satisfaction of knowing I had positively influenced many young women to pursue mathematics, business, and science careers.

Giveaway:

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/628069205/

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

*****

guidoccio-001In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Amazon: https://is.gd/29GS1e

 

Interview: Rob Hart

Please welcome Rob Hart, author of the Ash McKenna novels. Take it away, Rob!

New YorkedWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

I’m constantly swamped with work stuff, so any day where I feel like I made some headway is pretty good. Alternately, any day where I get to spend time with my wife and daughter and then realize I haven’t checked my phone in a while–that’s pretty nice, too.

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

Accessory: Swiss army knife.
Color: Black.
Fragrance: Hell no.
Phrase/Expression: Swear words mostly.
Meal: I make a mean chili.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

This is such a hard question because I could do this for days. I would say the book that stuck with me most from when I was a kid was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The book that made me want to be a writer was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. The book I most often give as a gift is The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. And my favorite book is In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Music without words–ambient or electronic or classical. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Dan Romer. He’s an old pal who does film scores. Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of his most recognizable. His score for Tomorrow We Disappear is incredible. Dan makes really good writing music.

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

This is a really interesting question because I have no idea how to answer it. I’ll say a really fancypants milk chocolate, but I’m biased because I’m not a big fan of dark chocolate. Anything that’s fun to eat without being so light it feels cheap.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

A few years ago I visited Prague and within ten minutes of being there, I knew I wanted to set a book there. It’s an incredible city, and being able to revisit it, even through a novel, was a ton of fun.

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

Given the series is very much about a character finding his moral compass, I tend to gravitate toward violence, the consequences of it, moral right versus legal right. Mostly, pain, and the ramifications. Humans are the only species that cope with pain by trying to put it on other people.

Tell us about your main character.

Ash McKenna is an amateur private investigator. He’s a good kid who means well but sometimes makes a mess of things. In each book, he grows. And whereas the first three Ash books are very internal–there’s a lot of him struggling with the decisions he’d made–The Woman from Prague is very external. More him just trying to survive a bad situation. It was a lot of fun to write a book where I could turn him loose.

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

Jack Reacher
Henry Thompson (from the series by Charlie Huston)
Jack Taylor (from Ken Bruen’s books)

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

I’m going with all dead folks, because I might learn something I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn. So: Charles Williams, Donald Westlake, Dorothy Hughes, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Cornell Woolrich.

What’s next for you?

Working on the fifth and final Ash McKenna book. The working title is Potter’s Field and it’s due sometime in 2018, probably summertime. After that, I’ve got some ideas…

*****

Rob Hart headshotRob Hart is the author of New Yorked, nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose, South Village, and coming in July, The Woman from Prague. He is also the publisher at MysteriousPress.com and the class director at LitReactor. His short stories have appeared in publications like Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at The Daily Beast, Salon, The Literary Hub, and Electric Literature. Scott Free, a novella he co-wrote will James Patterson, will be available in 2017. You can find him online at @robwhart and http://www.robwhart.com.

Guest Post: Hallie Ephron

Today some of us (Liz maybe) are squeeing with fangirl delight as we welcome Hallie Ephron! Hallie has written some amazing suspense novels and her latest, You’ll Never Know Dear, is garnering high praise. And isn’t that cover so deliciously creepy?

Hallie Ephron on the dolls in You’ll Never Know Dear

HALLIE EPHRON: People tell me all the time, “Boy have I got a great idea for your next book,” and it never is. Until two years ago.” That was when I ran into an old friend at my fitness center and while we were waiting on line to get into a class, she told me about how she’d been helping her mother move out of their family home in Fayetteville, NC. 

HalliePostersDollsBook-CRHer mother was, of course, a collector and also a talented crafts person. Her most recent interest had been making porcelain dolls. My friend told me her kids used to hate to sleep in any of the bedrooms where Grandma kept dolls. They’d say, “You’d wake up and they’d all be looking at you.” There’d been all kinds of supplies for doll making–like molds and a kiln–and of course a fleet of dolls that needed to be dealt with.

On top of that, under every bed she found boxes and boxes of doll parts. Arms. Legs. Bodies. Heads. Eyeballs. And that’s when my friend said, “That would be a nice, creepy detail to put in one of your books!”

DollEyesShe was absolutely right, because long after I got home those doll parts haunted me. I couldn’t get them out of my head. When I started to write You’ll Never Know, Dear, I knew it was going to have dolls in it, and doll parts would somehow be the key to unlocking the mystery. 

The novel turns out to be the story of a little girl who disappeared with the special porcelain doll her mother made for her; forty years later, the doll comes back. By now it’s old and battered, and creepy the way dolls can be. But along with it comes the hope of finding out what happened to the little girl. (Remember the line that comes after “You’ll never know, Dear,” is “How much I love you.”)

Reviewers have been calling the book a Southern Gothic with “strong characters” and “a vivid sense of place;” a cross between suspense and women’s fiction. That’s my sweet spot. The dolls are an added bonus.

ABOUT YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR

YoullNeverKnowCover-MedFrom the award-winning author of Night Night, Sleep Tight comes a novel about a little girl’s disappearance and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to her fate.

Lissie Woodham was only seven years old when her little sister Janey disappeared. They had been in the front yard, playing with their dolls, custom creations made for them by their mother Miss Sorrel, a famous dollmaker. Lissie wandered off for a moment. When she returned to the yard, Janey was gone, and so was her doll.

Now an adult with a college-aged daughter of her own, Lis has never stopped blaming herself for what happened, and it continues to haunt her. Four decades after Janey went missing, her doll comes back. What begins as a small clue in a tragic cold case turns into something far more sinister. The women in Miss Sorrel’s family may be in danger, because whoever knows the truth about what happened all those years ago will do anything to keep it hidden.

*****

HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels. Reviewers call her work “deliciously creepy” and “Hitchcockian.” In Night Night, Sleep Tight she took her experiences growing up in Beverly Hills in a family of writers and wove them into a suspense novel with echoes of a scandalous true crime. Her Never Tell a Lie was adapted for film as And Baby Will Fall” for the Lifetime Movie Network. She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and author of Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel, an Edgar award finalist.

Interview: Victoria Houston

Today we welcome Victoria Houston, author of the Loon Lake Mysteries

dead spiderNEW.inddWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?


Early morning coffee at my cottage by the lake followed by two hours of work on my book; then two sets of doubles tennis, an early lunch and a short nap. That afternoon I’ll check mail, do research for the current book and follow that with a glass of wine (or two) sitting down by the lake and watching fishermen go by. Then dinner with friends – outside on the picnic table as the sun is setting – and finish with an evening of reading in bed with all the cottage windows wide open so I can hear the loons calling.

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

Every Christmas Eve I make a wonderful Julia Child recipe, Crepes a la Florentine. Twenty-four crepes layered with three sauces (mushroom, spinach and béchamel) and baked until lightly browned. Then sliced like a cake! It takes me two days to make and tastes “out of this world.”

And my signature expression is: Holy Cow!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Every few years I re-read Willa Cather’s My Antonia and O! Pioneers, which I consider my textbooks on how to write in a contemporary and specific voice. I also re-read early Hemingway and early Updike for the same reason. My favorites in the mystery field are everything written by Ross Thomas; Henning Mankell’s first six books in his Wallander series and every mystery written by the outstanding Sjowall & Wahloo.

Do you listen to music when you write?

No. I have to have quiet. Later I’ll listen while cooking or reading and my list of favorites is long but mellow and includes a wide range of music from jazz to rock to classical.

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

Dark chocolate with a bitter edge. Because life has edges to it. My characters try to survive living with the bitter as well as the sweet.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

A remark I heard during dinner with friends one New Year’s Eve. The friend had been cheated by a business associate and mentioned the revenge he would take if ever given the opportunity. That got me thinking….

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

The dangerous thirsts for money or power or revenge – and how those play out against the stunning beauty of the Northwoods’ lakes and rivers and forests. Given that fishing, with a fly rod or a spinning rod, backgrounds my stories – it is often water, placid or turbulent, that can change lives as goodhearted, wise people struggle to survive and help one another in a landscape where nature takes no sides.

Tell us about your main character.


I have three:

1) “Doc” Osborne is a recently widowed, retired dentist who is learning to fly fish from…

2) Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris, the Loon Lake Chief of Police, who before being promoted to chief had been teaching fly fishing part-time. Now that she has met Doc Osborne, she finds his skills in forensic dentistry very helpful in identifying dead bodies and otherwise helping with murder investigations as the local coroner is a drunk and unreliable.
Note: Doc and Lew soon find they have more in common than just fishing. Enough said on those two.

3) Ray Pradt is a handsome and very tall 32-year-old fishing guide who lives in a house trailer next to Doc Osborne’s property. A skilled fisherman and tracker, he also tells really bad jokes. And because of his predilection for a little weed from time to time, he knows people who live down roads with no fire numbers; i.e. off the grid.

These three people know one another well and often work together to help Chief Ferris in her investigations.

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

Doc Osborne: Cary Grant, Rhett Butler, Mathew Rhys

Lewellyn Ferris: Calamity Jane, the British actress Olivia Colman and a touch of Frances McDermond

Ray Pradt: early Keanu Reeves leavened with the charm of a young Clint Eastwood and the “innocence” of a young Brad Pitt

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

Sjowall & Wahloo (2)
Ross Thomas
Henning Mankell
Raymond Chandler
Daphne du Maurier

What’s next for you?

My latest installment of the Loon Lake mysteries, Dead Spider, publishes May 23rd with Simon & Schuster. I plan to stay close to home and work on my next book, which is Dead Big Dawg — a Big Dawg is a fishing lure. I’m working on it currently and I’m just back from a month in New Zealand where fly fishing is very popular. Yep, I saw a few fish during my travels.

Interview: Leslie Budewitz

Please welcome Leslie Budewitz, author of the Food Lovers Village Mysteries and the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries!

TrebleWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

One in which I laugh a lot, eat great food, hang out with my hunny (aka Mr. Right), and the words flow on the page. Fresh flowers from the garden would be a plus.

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

I always wear a bracelet, and for fun occasions, including book events, I often wear a scarf. Scarves make me feel happy and sparkly, and as one of my favorite authors, Margaret Maron, says, an author’s job at a book event is to sparkle!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been influenced, in one way or another, by everything I’ve read. I attended a Jesuit liberal arts college, Seattle University, and though my degree is in English Literature with a minor in Philosophy, the program I was in included courses in theology, history, music, art, and science. Basically, I got a college degree for reading books, many of them novels. So I learned to analyze literature at the same time as I learned to love it. But of course, the love goes way back – to the Happy Hollisters, Calico Bush, and the shelf in the local bookstore that I called “good books” and later learned, when I became a teenage bookseller, were actually called “the classics.” < smile >

As a teenager and young adult, I adored poetry, and I think the Elizabethan poets, e e cummings, Richard Hugo, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, and others influenced my sense of internal rhythm and language. I have long said Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, and especially Victoria Holt got me through law school, because a few minutes of gothic suspense before bed was enough to wipe all thought of torts and taxes from my brain. (Some of it permanently, alas.) They taught me the importance of story and mood. That lead to more mystery and crime fiction.

In my mid thirties, I was working at a job that put me on the road a lot, and I listened to a lot of books on tape – and they were on tape, back then. The nearest library’s audio collection was high on mystery – Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Elizabeth Peters, Ellis Peters, Tony Hillerman. So I suspect that’s why, when I started to write fiction, it came out as mystery. From Hillerman, I discovered that the small towns of the West, off and on the reservations, could be great settings. I still adore all those writers, and modern mystery writers like Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Margaret Maron, Laura Lippman, and Catriona McPherson. I adore Toni Morrison and Sue Miller. (Oh, dear. Perhaps I should try reading a book or two by a man. I hear some of them write nicely, too.)

Do you listen to music when you write?

No, not even while working on Treble at the Jam Fest, involving murder at a jazz festival! Though I did listen to a lot of jazz faves between writing sessions. Music is a big part of my life, but I find it too distracting while I write – I get too caught up in the music, especially if it’s got lyrics, to attend to the voices in my head and on the page.

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

A huckleberry truffle, the signature chocolate of the Merc, the shop at the heart of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Every book in this series involves a festival or holiday, some made up and others inspired by celebrations in my village. The Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop, held every year the week before Labor Day, inspired me to create a jazz festival. And of course, while most of the musicians who have visited our fair community have been lovely, egos do sometimes clash. With a small-town cozy, your conflicts have to arise within the locals, come with the visitors, or arise between locals and visitors, which is where this story falls. I was also interested in the subplot involving Erin and Adam. The “retail ladies” are key to the economy of a tourist town, and I wanted to play with them, as well.

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

In all my books, identity is a huge issue. In fact, while the hero’s journey seems to be a good model for stories with male leads, I think that the search for identity may be the heroine’s journey. In my Spice Shop series, the metaphor becomes literal, as many characters are not who they appear to be. In the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, that search for identity is shaped by Erin’s return to her home town, where she works to shape her own identity in a community where everyone thinks they know her; she takes over the family business from her mother, so the mother-daughter relationship influences that search for identity as well, and is a huge part of each story. And always, I find myself writing about art, whether it’s musicians as in Treble at the Jam Fest, the potter in Killing Thyme, and painters and collectors in Butter Off Dead. Insider-outsider tensions drive a lot of mystery, and they flare up occasionally in both my series. I’m also always looking at how a small town recreates and revitalizes itself.

Tell us about your main character.

I write two series, and it turns out that Erin Murphy in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and Pepper Reece in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries are quite different, though each is passionate about food and retail. Erin, the driving force behind Treble at the Jam Fest, is a driving force. She grew up in Jewel Bay, although she left for ten years after college, and in the first book, Death Al Dente, she’s just returned. She’s convinced she knows all about her home town, but darn it, the place went and changed while she was away. She changed, too, and it sometimes frustrates her that people don’t always realize that. (Yes, those expectations are a bit contradictory, but humans are sometimes, aren’t we?) She’s 32 and single when the series opens and looking to settle down, so romantic relationships are much on her mind. She works with her mother, she’s opinionated. She’s passionate about community and cooperation, and impatient with what she and her mother call the againsters. You know them—whatever suggestion you have, they’re against it. Both Erin and Pepper are passionate about justice, and believe that individuals play a huge role in solving both criminal and social injustices around us.

What’s next for you?

The fourth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, Treble at the Jam Fest, is just out, and I’ve just turned in the fifth. My hometown, the model for Jewel Bay, calls itself Montana’s Christmas Village, and I’ve been eager to write a Christmas mystery since I first started the series. Still untitled, alas. My titles all refer to the holiday or festival, include a hint of mystery, and suggest a food—in this book, cookies. Suggestions most welcome!
And I’m working on something completely different, a stand-alone set in Billings, Montana, from 1981 to the present. Two women whose paths crossed briefly 35 years ago meet again, while chasing down the same mystery from different directions.

*****

Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two national best-selling series, the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, and the Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.

Find me online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitzAuthor More about Treble at the Jam Fest, including an excerpt here: http://www.lesliebudewitz.com/treble-at-the-jam-fest/

I blog with the Killer Characters, where the characters do the talking, www.KillerCharacters.com, on the 27th of each month, and at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, cooking up crimes and recipes, www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com, every other Tuesday.

Interview: B.K. Stevens

Welcome, B.K. Stevens – short fiction author extraordinaire!

3D-Book-Her Infinite VarietyWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

An absolutely perfect day would include time for writing, time for reading, and a visit from our daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren. At the end of the day, I’d have to have some time alone with my husband—as empty-nesters, we’ve gotten addicted to ending days that way.

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

Several years ago, I ordered a fabric purse with a striking, unusual design from a catalogue. I loved the purse so much that I remarked to my husband that I’d be sad when it got too worn out to use, as fabric purses are bound to do. He decided to surprise me by ordering two more. Meanwhile, I’d decided to order another one, too. So now I have four identical purses. I’m still using the first one—I use it every day, and it’s still in good shape. At this rate, it looks as if I have a signature purse for life.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

The mystery that inspired and influenced me the most is definitely Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night. It was the first mystery I read as an adult, and it blew me away—the delightful characters, the humor, the thoughtful exploration of themes, the carefully constructed plot, the way Sayers plays absolutely fair with readers but still surprises them (or, at least, me) at the end by skillfully manipulating point of view. But Gaudy Night delighted me so much because my novel-reading tastes had been shaped by a number of nineteenth-century authors, especially Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and Mark Twain. Many of the elements I enjoy most in their novels meet in Gaudy Night.

Do you listen to music when you write? 

Yes, I do. A silent house makes me nervous—I get startled every time a floor creaks or the cat takes a leap and lands with a thud. I tend to put on one CD and play it over and over. That way, I have Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, or another favorite to keep me company, but I don’t get distracted when a new song starts.

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

To answer this question, I’ll have to reach into the past and say bridge mix—my mother used to buy a bag every time she hosted her bridge club. For the uninitiated, bridge mix combines various chocolate-covered nuts, fruits, nougats, and so forth. My latest book also is also a mix. It’s a collection called Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime (Wildside Press) and contains eleven of my more than fifty published short stories. Some women featured in the stories are detectives, some are criminals, some are victims who strike back—all of them, in one way or another, manage to get tangled up in crime.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 

I’ll focus on one of the stories in the collection, “Death in Rehab.” I got the idea for the story after reading and hearing a number of news stories about celebrities who behaved badly and then tried to repair their reputations by checking into rehab to battle addictions to drugs or alcohol or sex or—well, you name it. I also read about some luxurious rehab centers that cater to wealthy clients, offering them every conceivable comfort. I’m sure many of the celebrities were sincere and many rehab centers do valuable work, but I couldn’t help wondering if some stints in rehab have more to do with public relations than with getting help. So I decided to write a satirical mystery set at an upscale rehab center. I wanted to keep things light but didn’t want to make fun of serious addictions, so I filled my center with clients suffering from problems such as compulsive proofreading, serial plagiarism, and Jeopardy! addiction. (That client is obsessed with trivia and can speak only in the form of a question.)

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

Crime fiction writer Jim Thompson said, “There is only one plot—things are not as they seem.” Change “plot” to “theme,” and I think you’ve got an excellent statement about a theme in just about every story, especially every mystery story. So I can hardly claim that theme as distinctly my own, but I do keep it very much in mind whenever I write. As human beings, we’re all much too likely to accept appearance as reality, to think we understand people and situations thoroughly when we’ve barely scratched the surface—if that. Mysteries are especially insistent about reminding us to keep digging, to keep questioning our impressions and opinions. It’s a lesson we can never learn too often. That’s one reason mysteries are important.

Tell us about your main character.

Since Her Infinite Variety is a short story collection, it has many main characters. I’ll choose Leah Abrams, the protagonist of “Death on a Budget” and “Death in Rehab” and also of several other stories that aren’t in the collection but have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Leah is a former college communications professor who now works as a temporary secretary—and, wouldn’t you know it, she has a way of stumbling across bodies in the places where she takes temp jobs. She’s married to a sculptor who specializes in custom-made lawn ornaments, and they have two young daughters. Leah can be naïve, and she tends to get carried away by enthusiasm for her theories about workplace communications. But she’s smart and observant, and she always figures things out in the end.

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

To some extent, Leah was inspired by Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi David Small: Like Rabbi Small, Leah uses insights from Jewish traditions and customs to solve mysteries, and she’s devoted to her family, just as Rabbi Small’s devoted to his. Leah’s also got some Trixie Belden in her. Trixie isn’t perfect (the main reason I preferred her to Nancy Drew)—like Leah, she sometimes jumps to conclusions, and she can be too quick to believe what people tell her. But both of these amateur sleuths learn from their mistakes, and both are determined to see justice done. Then there’s Miss Climpson, who assists Lord Peter Wimsey in several Dorothy Sayers novels. Miss Climpson looks quiet and ordinary, and she takes on humble tasks—people often overlook her. But it’s a mistake to underestimate Miss Climpson, just as it’s a mistake to underestimate Leah Abrams.

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

I’d invite Dorothy Sayers, of course, and also Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell, Dick Francis, and Harry Kemelman. And I’d invite Jane Austen. After all, P.D. James has said that Emma is one of the greatest detective novels, and that if Austen were alive today, she’d be writing mysteries. Works for me.

What’s next for you?

I’m looking forward to Bouchercon, especially since my “The Last Blue Glass” is a finalist for an Anthony award in the new Best Novella category. Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine has accepted a sixth Leah Abrams story, “Death under Construction,” which will appear in the November/December 2017 issue; AHMM has also accepted a stand-alone story called “One-Day Pass,” but that hasn’t been scheduled for publication yet. I’ve been compulsively revising and re-revising a novel featuring characters from one of my other series for AHMM (the Iphigenia Woodhouse/Harriet Russo series)—some time during the next week or so, I’m going to work up the courage to stop revising and actually send the thing out. I swear. I also have a few short stories in various stages of planning, writing, and revising. And I’m in the early stages of working on a nonfiction project, a collaboration with another writer.

*****

B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens has published over fifty short stories, most in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Eleven of those stories (including Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer finalists) are collected in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime (Wildside Press). B.K.’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder (Black Opal Books), is a whodunit offering readers insights into deaf culture. Fighting Chance (Poisoned Pen Press), a martial arts mystery for teens, was an Agatha and Anthony finalist. Currently, her “The Last Blue Glass” is a finalist for the Best Novella Anthony award. B.K. and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia with their smug cat.

Website: www.bkstevensmysteries.com

To read “The Last Blue Glass”: http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com/book/the-last-blue-glass/

 

 

 

Interview: Matt Ferraz

Welcome Matt Ferraz, author of the Grandma Bertha Solving Mysteries series!

131 Grandma Bertha Solving Murders 360x540 (Website)What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Any day day where I manage to read, write, work, be useful and spend time with my family and pets. If I can watch a play or a movie, even better!

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

I’m crazy about typewriters! My first stories were written in an old portable Oliveti Lettera that belonged to my mother, so a lot of people associate me with these machines. I have plans to tattoo one in my arm.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

No author has encouraged me as much as Stephen King. When you’re an awkward teenager who’s bad at sports and with the girls, and your only solace is writing horror stories in your typewriter, it takes a guy like King to come to you and say: “don’t give up, what you’re doing is right, and I believe in you!”. Reading It and The Body over and over again during my teenage years is what made me persist with my writing.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Yes, mostly old jazz and blues. I can write with Billie Holiday for hours! I also like to listen to classics, especially Paganini.

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

The Convenient Cadaver is like M&Ms. Fun, colorful and so tasty that, before you realize it, you ate the whole bag!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I wanted to do a book as an homage to my grandmothers and to my friend Silvia, who are so quirky they had to be turned into a cozy novel! Thankfully, the three of them loved the idea.

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

I have a healthy obsession with old people. Partly because I’m very attached to my grandmothers, but also because I think they are often overlooked by the society. So I love writing about them. Also, I like to write about people who are either completely losers or have been important during most of their lives but ended up poor and/or lonely. I don’t know what that tells about me as a person.

Tell us about your main character.

Grandma Bertha is an old lady who lives in a remodeled garden shed in the background of her son Todd’s house. She spend most of her times drinking beer and watching horror films. Her life isn’t bad, just boring. She has so much energy in her, and she’s not ready to give up, despite her age. There are things Grandma Bertha wants to do while she’s still on this Earth, and all she need is an opportunity. And that opportunity comes in the form of a mysterious murder involving her family, which she decides to solve by herself.

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

That’s a tough one! This may sound weird, Grandma Bertha has a bit of Chrissie Hynde, leader of The Pretenders, in the sense she’s deep and enjoys assisting those in peril, but has a lot of fun doing it. She also has a touch of Stephen Fry, with his witty charm and likability. Add a dose of Angela Lansbury, for being so adorable and captivating, and you’ll have Grandma Bertha.

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

My first invitation would be to my beloved Agatha Christie, just in case a dead body was found. Eoin Colfer and Terry Pratchett, for I grew up reading Artemis Fowl and Discworld. Robert Louis Stevenson and Giacomo Casanova, so I could listen about their travels again from their own mouths. And our guest of honor would be Giovani Boccaccio, for no-one is better to tell a good story after supper than him.

What’s next for you?

Right now I’m finishing a completely different book called Know Thy Enemy, a LitRPG novel that I’m writing together with a very talented author named Dawn Chapman. As soon as I finish this, I’m doing the sequel to The Convenient Cadaver. People ask me how many books Grandma Bertha will appear in, and I say: for as long as she wants me to. I’m sure it’ll be a fun ride!

*****

Author of all trades, Matt Ferraz has written thrillers, sci-fi, cozy mysteries and a lot of witty e-mails that sadly can’t be published. With a degree in journalism and a masters in biography, Matt has works published in English, Italian and Portuguese, and loves trying out new genres.