Interview: Joyce Tremel

Please welcome Joyce Tremel, author of In Spite of Murder.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would either be spent at our cabin under construction on the top of a mountain where I’d be doing something hands-on like cleaning log walls or sealing tongue and groove, or in Gettysburg, which is my favorite place in the world. A couple of years ago we discovered they have a World War II weekend complete with a USO dance, which is so much fun.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I don’t think I do. Very boring, I know.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
This is a hard question! I’d have to say everyone in my local Sisters in Crime group, which is a lot more than three people.

Do you listen to music when you write?
It depends on what I’m writing. When I wrote In Spite of Murder, the book my agent is pitching now, I listened to mostly country music because that’s what my characters listened to. For a WWII based short story I started, it’s Big Band music (which I love and listen to a lot anyway). Most of the time I like it quiet, though.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
I have no idea, so I’ll just say milk chocolate because I really like milk chocolate!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

In Spite of Murder came about because I was fired from my job as a police secretary. People had been telling me for years that I should write a book with a police secretary protagonist but I couldn’t come up with the right thing. Then when I lost my job, I was pissed off enough to want to kill off a few people, so an idea and a book was born.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
My protagonists all seem to be dealing with being alone in some form. In an earlier, unsold book I wrote, my character was a young widow whose police officer husband died violently and wouldn’t let herself get close to anyone. Eventually she learned to let people in.

The protagonist of In Spite of Murder has been divorced for a year after she caught her husband in bed with a local barmaid. She has to work with her ex every day because he’s a cop. Then she meets a hunky Irishman who is renovating the local hotel and has to deal with trusting again.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Irma Jean is funny and sarcastic and doesn’t hesitate to tell people what she thinks. Her mother has been married numerous times and Irma Jean, who is recently divorced, doesn’t want to turn into her mother. She also likes doing things her own way, which isn’t always ideal.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Irma Jean is like Stephanie Plum meets Daisy Duke (from the Dukes of Hazard for those who aren’t as old as I am!). I can think of another one, but throw in someone really bull-headed and that’s Irma Jean.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
That’s easy–we just did this at the Pennwriter’s Conference. It was all our local SinC members–including Nancy Martin, plus Jennie Bentley/Jenna Bennett and Hank Phillippi Ryan. Nice group, but I think we frightened the wait staff with all our talk of murder and dead bodies!

What’s next for you?
Besides my agent submitting In Spite of Murder, I’m working on a cozy series proposal for her to submit. I’d also like to finish my WWII short story and the second Spite book. I have more ideas for books than I’ll ever have time to write, but I think that’s the case for most writers.

Thanks for having me. This was fun! If anyone has any questions, post them and I’ll be happy to answer.

***

Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. Her fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. She is a member of Pennwriters as well as Sisters in Crime. Her blog post “What Does a Police Secretary Do?” is the number one Google search result on the topic. You can talk to Joyce on Twitter where she’s @JoyceTremel or email her at joyce@joycetremel.com.

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Interview: Lev Raphael

Please welcome Lev Raphael, author of seven Nick Hoffman mysteries as well as seventeen other books in genres from memoir to Jane Austen mashup.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
That partly depends on where I am.  If I’m at home, it includes sleeping late, not having to rush to the gym, having plenty of time to read, walk the dogs, enjoy a nice dinner and watch a movie.  If I’m traveling, it also includes sleeping late, speakhot rocksing the local language if I know it (or know enough of it), and taking in local sights in a leisurely manner.  I’ve published three books connected to Edith Wharton, and I read from the most recent of them, Rosedale in Love, in Florence last summer at an Edith Wharton conference.  My favorite day there involved going to one church after breakfast to look at the art; a two-hour lunch at the Piazza Santo Spirito; then a few hours enjoying the church of Santo Spirito; heading back to my quiet hotel to make notes about my day, catch up on email, and Skype home; and then change for a 3-hour dinner near the hotel.  The key thing to a perfect day for me, wherever I am, is not feeling pressed for time.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My favorite men’s cologne is Joop! (which has the exclamation point in its name), though I’m also partial to Rochas for Men because I first tried it in Aix-en-Provence when samples were being given out on the Cours Mirabeau where I was having dinner one night.  Paul Sebastian is a nice light cologne, and I have also sometimes used Cool Water by Davidoff.

My favorite dish to cook at home is pasta with a sauce made from simmered cherry tomatoes, Mascarpone, and Parmesan, and fresh basil.  It’s very simple, very earthy, very good.  It doesn’t take much more than half an hour.

My favorite accessory is a very thin, very soft, very big cashmere and wool scarf I bought on a book tour in Frankfurt.  It cost more than some coats I’ve owned, but my closest friend in the world who is like a sister to me had sent me euros before the book tour and said, “Buy something extravagant.”  I did.  Every time I wear it, I think of her, and my good times in Frankfurt.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My creative writing teacher in college believed in me as if I’d been her own son, pushed me to “write something real,” and predicted that I would have a long career if I did.  My mother also believed in my talent implicitly and that made a huge difference during hard times.  I was inspired very early by the life of Henry James because his career collapsed at one point, but he kept going.  He made very little money and there’s a great story about that.  Edith Wharton was a good friend and once when she came to visit him she arrived with a magnificent new car, saying it had been purchased with royalties from her latest book.  James showed her a little luggage cart he had for guests he met at the train station in Rye and said, “I bought this cart with the royalties from my last book.  With the royalties from my next book, I hope to have it painted.”

Do you listen to music when you write?
I used to, when I was younger.  Now I listen to music when I revise, and it’s typically classical from one period or another, whether dramatic or soothing.  But writing isn’t just sitting at the PC or laptop or even a pad of paper.  A lot of it involves musing, letting things sift and sort in your unconscious, and in that sense I do listen to music all the time, except when I want to hear the bird song in my quiet neighborhood.  I often work on a book while at the gym, and there the music on my iPod could be Steve Reich or classic disco, whatever gets me motivated.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Neuhaus chocolate from Belgium because it’s my favorite chocolate, and I learned there that it’s the chocolate Belgians give each as gifts.  It’s very rich, very elegant chocolate, very subtle, and I hope my book captures some of those qualities.  But even if it doesn’t, I love thinking about Neuhaus, and am looking froward to having some next time I’m in Belgium.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Hot Rocks is set in an upscale health club not unlike the one I’ve belonged to for many years.  I’ve overheard wonderful stories there, been told others by members, and have observed all sorts of people, trainers and members, young and old, fit and fat, shy and boisterous.  It’s a perfect setting for a murder because it’s like a small town in a classic mystery, bristling with secrets.  But it has something better: the costumes and the changing in and out of them.  People go in wearing street clothes, get naked in the locker rooms, change into yoga wear or gym wear, take that off to shower, then change back into what they were wearing before.  The interplay of surface and revelation intrigued me when I tuned into it.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I grew up a child of Holocaust survivors who spoke many languages before English, so I was in some ways an outsider in New York and someone with a sense of different, clashing realities.  Outsiders show up in my work, and so do family problems, and trying to find the answers to tough questions.  Also, the difference between appearance and reality, which is why academia has inspired my mysteries.  There’s so much lofty rhetoric about education and a community of learning, while there’s a lot of backbiting and double-dealing, while fundraising and the success of a football or basketball team can be higher priorities for administrators than learning.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Nick Hoffman started his career as a composition professor, the lowest of the low, and what was worse to his colleagues was that he liked his work immensely.  They looked down on him for that as well as his having authored a secondary bibliography, but no “original” scholarship.  His book is immensely useful, but it’s not daring or recondite.  During the series his career takes a nosedive and then gets an unexpected lift.  He rolls with the punches, though, because he had a generally happy family life, he has a sense of humor that reviewers and fans have enjoyed, and he’s happy with his partner.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Wow.  That’s a tough one!  I guess he’s got some of Sam Waterston’s New York attitude when he was on Law and Order, a touch of Hugh Grant’s wit, and a lot of Vince Vaughan garrulousness.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
If the guest list is only mystery/thriller authors: Alan Furst, Ellen Hart, Linda Fairstein, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Loren D. Estleman.  They’re all wonderful writers, terrific and smart story-tellers and I know they’d enjoy each other’s company.  And if not, I’d enjoy cooking for them and hanging out together, so somebody would have fun.  And if someone cancelled at the last minute, my fantasy replacement would be Anthony Horowitz who wrote Foyle’s War.

What’s next for you?
I just signed a contract for my 8th Nick Hoffman mystery with my first choice: The University of Wisconsin Press which has a marvelous trade line.  I’ve published with boutique presses and giant presses and I think UWP did the best marketing and publicity of any publisher I’ve worked with.  They’ve expanded into mysteries and are doing very well with them, and I’m happy to be back on board there with a new project.

I’m also researching a historical novel set in Bruges, Belgium, where I’ll be spending a week doing site research.  Tough, huh?  Almost as difficult as the free vacation I had at a Club Med when I was part of a mystery writers and reviewers conference.

***

Lev Raphael is the author of seven Nick Hoffman mysteries set in the crazy world of academia, as well as seventeen other books in genres from memoir to Jane Austen mashup. His books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages, some of which he can’t recognize. But he has been able to do readings in German when he’s done book tours in Germany, thanks to a good tutor. Lev has been writing since he was in second grade and currently is a guest teacher of fiction writing, crime fiction, and Jewish-American Literature at Michigan State University. That university’s Library purchased his current and future literary papers for its Special Archives, carting off 93 boxes of all sorts of materials related to his long career. His attic is now navigable again.

For more about Lev’s books, check out his web site:http://www.levraphael.com.

Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LevRaphael

Read his book blogs at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lev-raphael/

Interview: Kris Neri

Please welcome Kris Neri, author of the Tracy Eaton mysteries and the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
The temperature is 70-75 degrees. The air is crystal clear, and the skies over Sedona, Arizona, which seem to go on forever, are a rich, intense blue, and the crimson color of Sedona’s craggy red rocks pops against the backdrop of that forever sky. Onrevengeonroute66 my perfect day, I do a red rock hike, but not one of the short, rushed hikes that I squeeze in too infrequently on workdays. This hike is long, and on one of the rocks I don’t frequent too often, such as Cathedral Rock or Bell Rock. Tough, too, to let the muscle kinks stretch out. Still, I take lots of time to simply sit on interesting-shaped rocks that seem to have been placed there for me, and think and stare out as far as I can see. If I’m lucky, a hummingbird pauses in flight before me, or a hawk flies low overhead. After the hike, I head home and begin cooking one of my favorite meals, such as chicken-and-mushroom crepes or lasagna. I enjoy a great glass of wine with that. After dinner, I sink into a book that is so unexpectedly great, I can’t put it down. Yup, that’s a really perfect day.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I love the colors that used to be described as autumn colors, such as rust, gold, teal, bronze—I’m always told they look good with my skin tone and red hair. I wish I could say I wore them often enough to be a signature, but I don’t have enough garments in those colors. I seem to lack the shopping gene. If you don’t shop often, you don’t find enough of what you want. But whenever I do see things in my favorite colors, I snag ‘em.

I don’t have a signature meal, but anyone who’s ever roomed with me at conferences and conventions could report that I sure consume lots of rich, black coffee. I can’t go too long without it.

One of my novel protagonist’s, Tracy Eaton, the offbeat daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, likes to start sentences with “Jeez,” or she’ll say, “Talk about…” and end that sentence with something sarcastic. They can’t be my signature phrases, though, because I gave them to her.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, and Henrik Ibsen. I used to read loads of plays when I was younger. I learned about humor from Wilde and Coward, and about drama from Ibsen.

I’ve had loads of other influences, of course. Including many mystery authors, especially the female mystery authors who broke the publishing glass ceiling and left footprints for those of us who came later to follow. But those three were my earliest influences.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I don’t listen to music when I write. I like the sound of silence and the words I hear in my head. I do listen to music in the car when I drive, and think about writing to that music.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Revenge on Route 66 would be dark chocolate, since that’s the richest, best kind. It would also contain nuts because madcap mysteries are—well, nuts. And maybe it would also contain some marzipan filling, because it certainly contains some unexpected whimsy.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
A former publicist suggested to me that I set a book in my Tracy Eaton series, which features the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, on Route 66, but I only considered it after I came to love Route 66 myself. The Mother Road has such a wonderfully kitschy quality, and I knew that would be appeal to Tracy. Because Route 66 connects us to the past, I gave Tracy and her dad, aging Hollywood hunk Alec Grainger, a history there. When Tracy was little, she and Alec used to visit an old friend of his, Lucy Crier, a café owner in New Mexico. Until Lucy confessed to murdering her married lover. Since then, Lucy has been serving time in prison. Only now, although she’s safely tucked away in her cell, Lucy has also been seen dashing between cars on Route 66. That conundrum is enough to lure Tracy and her sweetie Drew to New Mexico.

That conundrum was also what made me want to write this story. I wanted to know more about Lucy, and what happened there in her café all those years ago. Did she really kill her old lover, Billy Rob Royce? If so, why. If not, why would she confess? Other puzzles built on that, and they lured me in, too. Such as the secrets Tracy’s dad and her husband’s Uncle Philly are keeping. Tracy says at one point, “If Nosiness was a country, they’d make me queen,” and that’s true for me, too. I write stories so I get to dig into my characters’ secrets. But it was Lucy’s past that hooked me first and kept me going.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
One of my most common themes is that life is a little crazy, but that it’s also meant to be a grand adventure, lived boldly. Those are ideas that my characters and I visit often.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality.
Tracy Eaton, the protagonist of my latest mystery, Revenge on Route 66, is a cheerful, adventurous amateur sleuth, who takes wild chances, and tends to solve mysteries through the most unconventional means. She also has a smart mouth and has been called by at least one reviewer as the “queen of one-liners.”

What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Tracy is the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars. Having spent her formative years on movie sets, where the impossible appears to happen all the time, she doesn’t take reality very seriously. She believes the impossible can be made to happen in actuality in life as well, and because she expects it, she often does make it happen. In the course of this series, Tracy has broken into a mobster’s home to solve a kidnapping; climbs out of a warehouse, in which they were being held after being abducted, by shimmying up a rope with her oddball mother on her back; finds and reclaims an eccentric old wreck of a house her mother denies ever existed; hides in a bunch of Dumpsters and garbage cans; and goes on the lam from the FBI after they declare her one of America’s Most Wanted. Her life is never ordinary or dull.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Ooh! That’s a hard one, since I don’t think in terms of real people when I write. I’d have to say that Tracy is a mash-up of Susan, the character Katharine Hepburn played in the movie, Bringing Up Baby, Jamie Lee Curtis, because she’s a show-biz offspring, and me—not exactly famous, I know, but while I’m not really Tracy, there’s a bit of her in me, and I do hear her voice in my head.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’d probably only include authors who’ve passed on, since I do see the living varieties pretty regularly. The guest at my special mystery-author dinner would include Dorothy Gilman, Charlotte Macleod, Josephine Tey, Leslie Ford, and two author friends who’ve passed on, Barbara Serenella and Barbara Burnett Smith.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing a standalone supernatural thriller called Where the Rocks Bleed Red.

***

Kris Neri writes the madcap Tracy Eaton mysteries, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, and the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries, which feature a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her novels have been finalists for such prestigious awards as the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Lefty, and the International Book Awards. Her latest magical mystery, Magical Alienation won the 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Kris teaches writing online for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School, and works with writers individually as a freelance editor and writing coach. And with her husband owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.

Website: www.krisneri.com
Twitter: @krisneri

Interview: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Please welcome Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of the Charlotte McNally series and the Jane Ryland mysteries–and she’s the president of Sisters in Crime!

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
That so depends! Paris is one. Another perfect day: No alarm clock. Coffee. The newspaper (on paper.) Four hours with my manuscript at a point where I’m loving it…and it’s almost done and I can see the finale.. More coffee. A call from  my producetheotherwomanr at Channel 7 saying my story is coming through-I’ll be at work in the morning to do a big interview. Lunch, something lovely. More writing, some emails, some fabulous reviews. (Why not, right? You said perfect.) My dear husband comes home with salmon and roses. And rose’.

I just realized my “perfect” day is all about work.  And you know, that’s true. Is that a good thing?

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Yes. All of the above. Accessory? I’m very fond of purses and shoes. Color? NO question—black. People are always shocked when I wear anything else. Fragrance? 24 Faubourg, always.  Phrase. Oh—I love that question. Ah, maybe…Thank you? It’s a thrill just to be nominated! (!) And my constant: You never know.

Meal: that’s a toughie. Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and basil. Proseco.  Rack of lamb on the grill. Terrific red wine.  Raspberries.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Oh! Sue Grafton.  Steven Sondheim. Shakespeare. (There are many more…)

Do you listen to music when you write?
Nope. Never. Can’t do it. In the newsroom, with TVs blaring and  people yelling and utter chaos—no problem, I can write an script with no problem. I can bang out a news story at a fire, at a murder, in a raging hurricane.  But my books? Got to be quiet. Funny, huh?

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
The Other Woman…well, that would be something that’s different on the outside than on the inside, right? Something that’s not what it seems. So maybe…peanut M & Ms? Can’t hurt, right?

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Oh, so interesting.  I was in the dentist’s office, waiting to have a root canal. Really! And I read a magazine article about Mark Sanford, the ex-governor of South Carolina, who told the world he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail—when he was actually off with his mistress. I wondered—through my pain—why would someone do that? Why would a person be the other woman? Love? Lust? Revenge? Power? Selfishness?

And then I began to wonder—could there be a reason no one ever thought of? A reason that would lead to murder? A reason I could use as the lynchpin for a thriller?

And then a person in the article was quoted as saying: “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

I remember clearly, I got goose bumps. And I thought—my BOOK! My Book!

It made the root canal worth it.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Perception. Vulnerablilty.  The skepticism we have when someone says I didn’t do it. Why don’t we believe them? Desire and deception. The need to be loved, and the constant quest for approval.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Jane Ryland is a reporter, a journalist, who in The Other Woman has just lost her job because she refused to break her word and reveal a source. SO she’s incredibly honorable, incredibly trustworthy, and incredibly driven–and as a result, fired. How would that change you–to do the right thing, but be punished for it?  She takes a low paying job on a  local newspaper—because she needs to get her reputation back—what do we have, you know, as reporters, if not our reputations?

Her father is always critical—when she was fired, he said—you must have done something. And her mother recently died—and Jane learned from her—when one door closes, another door opens.

She’s 33, in love with an off-limits cop, driven to success, and worried about winding up an old maid with two cats—so much so that she refuses to tell people she has a cat.  “But that may be my own problem,” she says.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I’ve never thought about that this way, and it’s much more difficult that I would have predicted. Katharine Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn. And …ah, Rosalind Russell.  You know? Not physically. But emotionally and psychologically.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Sue Grafton.  Stephen King. Shakespeare. Edith Wharton. Tom Wolfe. Nora Ephron.

What’s next for you?
Yeah, would that we knew that, right?

I’m still a full-time investigative reporter, still loving that. (I just won two more Emmys, so that make, amazingly, thirty. But then, I’ve been around a long time.)   I’m in the midst of writing Jane’s next adventure (they’re all standalones, so this is the “next” in the series, not the “third.”)

The new Jane Ryland, The Wrong Girl, comes out in hardcover September 10—Jane is on the trail of an adoption agency she suspects may be reuniting birth parents with the wrong children. Creepy, huh?  But it could happen.  So I’m being sent on a big tour for that—and hope to meet all of you on the road! (Check my website for the whole crazy schedule!)

And click here for a couple of wonderful contests!

http://www.hankphillippiryan.com/newsletter-6-13.html

***

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 30 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone magazine.

A best-selling author of five mystery novels, Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her crime fiction. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America  and is president of national Sisters in Crime.  Her newest suspense thriller, the best-selling The Other Woman (now in a third printing), is the first in a new series from Forge Books. It’s now listed as a Best Book of 2012 by periodicals nationwide including Suspense Magazine and the Boston Globe, is the winner of the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the only novel nominated for all five top crime fiction awards: the Anthony, Agatha, Macavity, Daphne and Shamus. Her newest suspense thriller, The Wrong Girl, will be published in September 2013.

Website: http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com
Twitter: @hank_phillippi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hank-Phillippi-Ryan-Author-Page/250706175034817

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!

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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.

Interview: Catriona McPherson

Please welcome Catriona McPherson, author of the Dandy Gilver detective series as well as the mystery As She Left It.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Neil brings me coffee in bed (this actually happens every day) then we go to a yard sale where I find a ton of vintage stuff–kitas she left itchenalia, dresses, barkcloth fabric–then have a bicycle ride around the 12 mile Davis bike loop followed by the Sunday New York Times (did I say it was Sunday?) at Mishka’s coffee-house.  I choke when I see my book in the best-seller list, but I don’t need the Heimlich manoeuvre.  Then we go next door to the art-deco Varsity Theatre to watch a great new film, pick up a Woodstock pizza and head home, where I discover that Joe the UPS guy (in my daydream UPS delivers on Sunday) has left a parcel of books on the porch.  These include a new Kate Atkinson, a new Ann Cleeves and a new Lisa Scottoline.  I crack one open after the pizza, as the sun goes down and the frogs start up.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I very often have at least one pair of glasses on my head and a pen behind my ear.  Ooh!  I have a signature pen; does that count?  Bue Bic Cristals–a design classic which is part of the 20thc design exhibit at MOMA in New York.  Partly I use them because I’m left-handed and inky.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Stuart Campbell was my English teacher at Queensferry High School.  He was the first teacher who didn’t care about spelling and neatness but cared a great deal about ideas and excitement. He comes to my UK book launch parties now.  Ronnie Cann was my PhD supervisor at Edinburgh University and, although I was a timid and hopeless academic, still the discussions he and I had about impossible worlds where Captain Kirk dances with the tooth fairy taught me a lot about plotting. He comes to the parties too.  And Her Awesomeness Mary Higgins Clark.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No, no, no–with one exception.  When I’m finished a first or final draft I print it out, play music on Youtube and dance around.  ELO’s Mr Blue Sky is a good printing-out song.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
If As She Left It were chocolate it would be dark and bitter with salt crystals but a sweet finish.  (Is that even possible?)  But I wouldn’t eat it.  I don’t like posh, dark, high-cocoa chocolate; I like cheap, creamy muck.  I do love salty chocolate, though.  I put salt on all cakes, chocs and puddings.  Delish.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Oof, this one has been knocking about in its component parts for a long time. I was on holiday in France in the mid-90s and driving to the bread shop in the mornings I listened to Louis Armstrong, which started a daydream about a trumpeter.  Then about ten years ago I bought the bed with a secret that’s featured in the book.  I still sleep in it every night.  Also, one weekend in Leeds, maybe five years ago, two friends and I met the little old lady who’s in this story.  I finally mooshed it all together and started writing in 2010.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I didn’t know this until my beloved agent, Lisa Moylett, said it in a very throw-away line, but then I recognised it to be true.  There is always a lost or missing or mourned child somewhere in everything I write.  Paging Dr Freud!

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Opal Jones is the child of an alcoholic mother whose father left them both when she was small, remarried and had a son.  At twenty-five she’s an orphan who deals with the past by burying it; absolutely refusing to go there.  It’s not a spoiler to say this doesn’t work!  She’s independent–doesn’t like people getting close–but she takes care of people too.  She’s strong and funny as well as vulnerable.  I’m very fond of her.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Okay. Princess Diana x Lisbeth Salander x Roseanne (the one that was married to Dan Connor, not the real one).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Val McDermid, Jess Lourey, Clare O’Donohue, Mary Higgins Clark, Ruth Rendell and Denise Mina.  That sounds like a fun night.

What’s next for you?
I’m editing and polishing the next Dandy Gilver for its summer 2014 UK release.  My working title is Dandy Gilver and A Regretable Kettle of Herring, but who knows if that’ll stay.  I’ll spend the summer in Scotland, doing Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and research.  Then this coming November  DG & A Bothersome Number of Corpses comes out in the US.  The next new writing will be the third modern stand-alone (the second is finished) which I’ll get stuck into after Bouchercon.  I’ve got a clear plan of the next year in my head even though it sounds like chaos.

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Catriona is the author of the Dandy Gilver series of 1920s detective stories set in Scotland, where she was born and where she lived until moving to northern California in 2010. Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains launched the series in the US and won the 2012 Macavity award at the Cleveland Bouchercon. Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder won the Bruce Alexander award at Left Coast Crime in 2013 as well as the Historical Agatha at Malice Domestic 25. Her first modern novel, As She Left It, was published on the 8th of June 2013 and earned a Kirkus starred review.  When not writing Catriona is reading mysteries, growing fruit, vegetables and roses, cooking, baking, dumpster-diving, thrifting and hanging out with her two black cats and her scientist husband.

Twitter: @catrionamcp
Facebook: /Catriona-McPherson
Websites:www.catrionamcpherson.com for Opal and www.dandygilver.com for Dandy  Email: catrionamcpherson@gmail.com

Interview: Lorraine Bartlett

Please welcome Lorraine Bartlett, author of the Victoria Square series, the Telenia trilogy, the Booktown Mystery series (as Lorna Barrett), and the Jeff Resnick Mysteries (as L.L. Bartlett).

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Waffles and bacon for breakfast; finding bargains at yard sales; lunch at a bayside restaurant; an afternoon reading in my favorite chair, and happy hour watching the sun set.

murderonthehalfshelfDo you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I wear 13 silver rings, five of which my late father made for me.  Funny thing, I rarely get any comments about them.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Barbara Michaels, Dick Francis, and Constance Faddis, my first editor.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes.  Usually I listen to new age or sounds-of-nature music, but today I’m listening to the Superman soundtrack.  Yesterday I had classical music on.  But it’s always something without lyrics.  They’re too distracting.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
I’m not much of a connoisseur.  I’m perfectly happy with Russell Stover or Whitman’s.  I love See’s Chocolates.  I was once given a box of Godiva chocolates, but when I opened them, they were all white, and had melted.  The giver was extremely embarrassed and returned them.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t given a replacement box.  : (

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
My contract. Also, I love that my characters are successful businesswomen.  I love exploring various aspects of how they conduct business, and their successes and failures.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Family relationships.  The one I enjoy the most is the one between my characters Jeff Resnick and his older, half-brother Richard Alpert.  I am never bored by them, and can’t wait until I can devote time to finish my next book in the series, A Leap of Faith.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
If we’re talking about the Booktown Mysteries, Tricia has carried a lot of baggage about the strained relationship she has with her mother.  She’s finally found out why in the next book in the series (Book Clubbed, which will be released a year from now).

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I like to think my characters are original.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’d just as soon have dinner with my blog sisters (7 mystery writers):  Jennifer Stanley (Ellery Adams), Leann Sweeney, Deb Baker, Julie Hyzy, Kate Collins, Heather Webber, and Maggie Sefton.  (And I wouldn’t mind if Mary Jane Maffini joined us, either.)

What’s next for you?
I’m working on VIctoria Square #4, currently untitled.  Then I’ll work on A Leap of Faith, and jump back into the 9th Booktown mystery.  In between, I have several other projects started.  I need more time in the day.

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The immensely popular Booktown Mystery series is what put Lorraine Bartlett’s pen name Lorna Barrett on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it’s her talent — whether writing as Lorna, or L.L. Bartlett, or Lorraine Bartlett — that keeps her there. This multi-published, Agatha-nominated author pens the exciting Jeff Resnick Mysteries as well as the acclaimed Victoria Square Mystery series and has many short stories and novellas to her name(s). Her next release is Not The Killing Type, under the name Lorna Barrett, on July 2nd.

Check out the links to all her works here: http://www.lorrainebartlett.com.

You can find her on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/LorraineBartlett.author ) Goodreads, and Twitter (@LorraineBartlet).