Sunday, March 26, 2017

ROCCO's guest....author Susanna Calkins!

Meow my guest today is author Susanna Calkins!

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, and works at Northwestern University. Holding a Ph.D. in history, Susanna writes a historical mystery series for St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books.  Her books have been nominated for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Agatha for best historical mystery and her third received the  Sue Feder Historical Mystery (Macavity) Award.. She is currently working on a new mystery series set in 1920s Chicago and enjoys researching Chicago criminals from the Jazz era.


Welcome Susanna!Tell us a little about your background:
Thanks ROCCO! I have a PhD in early modern English history—my books were inspired by a set of ‘murder ballads’ I can across doing my research. Over and over I would see the same story being told—of a young woman found strangled or stabbed, and in her pocket, a note would be found. The note would say something to this effect: “Dear [young woman], please meet me in this secluded glen at midnight. Tell no one. Your sweetheart, [signature]’ The community would read the note, round up the man suspected of being the woman’s sweetheart, throw him in jail, and usually find him guilty. I was always so curious about this—and the questions became my first book, A MURDER AT ROSAMUND’S GATE.

Tell us a bit about your latest book. 
My latest book-A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET—is the fourth in this same series, featuring a seventeenth-century chambermaid turned printer’s apprentice.

How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
 I feel like I got to know my recurring characters as I wrote about them. Their motivations, quirks and habits became increasingly fleshed out over time. I’ve learned though to find pictures of actors and actresses that help me visualize how the characters look. This helps for new, non-recurring characters.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
 Ha! I’m all over the place. For my first book, I wrote about 200 pages before realizing I need to figure out who the murderer is. That’s kind of a challenge to not know that ahead of time. So I’ve learned its helpful to at least know that. My books always go first circle as well, in that I always end my books more or less where they began, so I at least know something of the ending. But then a real plotter would laugh at me because I’ll write 5 lines on a piece of paper that say something like “pivotal event needs to happen by about this point” or “murderer should be discovered at this point.” And that’s my outline.  But I do like to write to an end.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
 They are equally important. That being said, I tend to be fairly sparing with character backstory. However, I’m extremely interested in showing larger cultural and social trends and developments, through dialogue and character interactions.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
 I’m pretty self-motivated. I just enjoy writing!

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am switching things up a little and trying a new time period.  I’m working on a new series set in 1929 Chicago, featuring a young woman working in a speakeasy.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
 I have very atypical workdays. I have a demanding full-time job at a university, I teach two graduate courses on top of that job, I have two children, and I have to promote my books with book talks, blogging, library events, workshops, conferences etc.. Somewhere in there I write my novels. Some days I can grab an hour, sometimes on the weekends I can grab three or four hours between soccer games and other family events. There are two good things about this: (1) I never ever make myself feel guilty for not meeting a certain word count. Instead I applaud myself if I get even ONE SENTENCE down. I feel that is healthier for me as a person. And (2) I’m very focused when I do have only an hour to write. I write really fast and bang it out. The time in-between can be very helpful for reflecting on what needs to happen next.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
 Read books on the craft of writing. Examine your own work with a critical eye. Get trusted readers to give you feedback about your book. Read agent and writer blogs/articles/essays etc. Join professional writers organizations to understand how publishing works. Make friends with other writers, don’t be a jerk.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?


Swing on the mainsail of the Golden Hind without a harness, two stories in the air. (I served as a pirate/living history specialist/tour guide on this museum ship, which is dry-docked on the Thames in London)

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I was a pirate.
 Where can we learn more about you and your books? www.susannacalkins.com
Do you collect anything?
Ha! Stories. I’m a huge eavesdropper. They don’t usually make it into my novels, but I’ve heard the most fascinating things in coffee shops and on the bus.  
What was your favorite book as a child?
So, so, SO many favorite books. I was a huge (YUGE!) reader, and there are many books that I read over and over. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, An Old-Fashioned Girl, The Secret Garden, and all the Lloyd Alexander (Prydain) books. My eldest son is even named Alexander Lloyd (shhh).

What’s something you’re always running out of?
 Excellent pens. I’m fairly sure that my youngest son takes all my favorite pens when I’m not looking. I wish there were a “pen of the month” club I could join.

What is your go-to comfort food?
 Mashed potatoes, grilled cheese, mac & cheese

If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do? Hmmm, a writer. I’d love to be paid to write. ;-) Or a cop. But somehow I don’t think they’d let me do that.

What is your most annoying habit.
 I’m sure my husband would say my propensity to stay up super late, or my visible annoyance at people chewing.

What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
 Pens

Whats the last tv show that made you laugh? Big Bang Theory
What store could you browse in for hours? A home store that has little crazy knick-knack stuff.
How do you rate in the kitchen? terrible
What is always in your refrigerator? Beer in the crisper drawer. We like our beer crisp.

Susanna will give away one copy of any of the four Lucy Campion mysteries (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, March 31st!





Thursday, March 23, 2017

ROCCO interviews JH Bogran!


Meow, today my guest is author JH Bogran!



J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. Ironically, he prefers to  write fiction rather than fact. His genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw a twist of  romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and  Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller
Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributing editor  of their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

He is the author of several books, including Firefall. You can learn more on his website:  www.jhbogran.com or follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jhbogran and Twitter
at @JHBogran.

Welcome JH! Tell us a little about your background!

Thanks ROCCO! I’m a native of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t go to bilingual school, but started learning English during my mid-teens. I enrolled in Bank Management at the local university, only to have the career closed after a semester due to lack of enough students, thus I was transferred by default to Business Administration. Then I started working in the fashion manufacturing, an area mostly populated by industrial engineers. You see, I always find myself swimming against the current. Then of course was the writing. I find it funny that when people know you like writing they think you can write anything, from contracts, to letters and notifications, to novels, to speeches. Some people seem to think that because I liked to write I could do any of those…and I have, but most out of necessity rather than inclination.
I consider myself a storyteller, not much different from the troubadours in the middle ages, except I traded the musical instrument for a typewriter. 

Tell us a bit about your latest book Poisoned Tears.

Poisoned Tears is set in New Orleans, a city I longed to visit since I was young. The book tells the story of a retired PI, named Alan Knox, who comes to a city he hates—he lost his professional football career after an injured in the Superdome—but he can’t deny helping his son. You see, it’s his fiancée who’s missing.
When she turns up dead in a local park, people rule it as a terrible accident. However, Alan thinks differently. Call it a hunch, call it insider’s knowledge. He teams with a disgruntled newspaper columnist past his prime, and together they put together a theory, along with an exposé, that brings the city into a frenzy.

You do interviews for the Big Thrill. Who’s the most interesting author you’ve ever interviewed?

I’m a big fan of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. During a truth or dare game at The Late Late Show he preferred to eat a disgusting piece of raw meat instead of singling out his least favorite guest in the series. I admire him for it and will emulate his courage and take the Fifth Amendment on this one.
The fact is I enjoy every interview I’ve done and I’ve always found something interesting from the author’s I’ve met, be that how they work, their experiences with the craft and business of publishing, or their peculiarities…(Here’s looking at you, Rocco.)  ROCCO:  Merow?????

Do you prefer interviewing or writing fiction?

Can’t compare apples and pears.
Writing fiction to me is more like storytelling, working behind closed doors to create my own plots. It’s wonderful, but sometimes also a solitary undertaking. So doing the interviews provide a much needed break, but also a contact with the current market, and with peers writing novels in the same genre. Besides, I also get to read their books before they are published. People would kill for that gig.

How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

Since I usually come up with the plot before the characters, I kind of make them tailor-finished to what serves the story. I may have a vague idea, mostly physically, when going into the first draft, but they become real as I write the story. Very often they surprise me with blows right out of the left field. So you can say I’ve been sucker-punched by my characters.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I’d like to say a combination of both. When I first come up with the concept I write a short synopsis of what’s going to happen. Later I break that into a chapter list in a spreadsheet. This helps in case I run against a wall, I know where the story is going so there’s no such thing as writer’s block in my process. Later, when I sit and write the first draft I let it be “by the seat of my pants,” and if I need to make changes to the plot or outline I go ahead and do it. It’s not set in stone.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

As a native Spanish speaker, writing in English is a huge challenge all in itself. I’ve been blessed with wonderful writer friends who put up with my horrible lost-in-translation mistakes.
My motivation comes from the readers. Having a person quoting my book, saying they like it, or even the one-star reviews, all contribute to me. They give me a boost and make me work harder the next time around.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I have a couple of projects in the air, two novels and one potential movie-script deal. I’m currently working on one of the novels, but that may change in short notice.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

It would depend on your idea of crazy. Writing a novel is crazy enough for some people. Making five of them even more.

Let’s see, I got a tattoo before it was fashionable, I’ve jumped from one car to another while in motion, attended a party in a military camp while carrying a concealed unregistered handgun, and one time I scolded students and teachers in a college after I asked who’s currently reading a book and only two people raised their hands. Needless to say they never invited me again.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I think reading the second paragraph of the previous questions would bring gasps out of a few of them.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

What’s my favorite color? Just kidding!

 Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Well, you can visit my website, www.jhbogran.com and I keep updating my Facebook author page. www.facebook.com/jhbogran0

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Both…there are fun activities for each of them and I enjoy them both.
Dog or Cat? (Answer carefully)  I’ll take the Fifth then.
Beach or Pool?   Pool.
Steak or salad?  Salad. (Are you surprised?)
Favorite Drink?  Scotch, neat or on the rocks, sometimes with soda. However, given my James Bond infatuation I’ve learned to make a mean Vodka Martini.
Favorite Book?  Too many to mention, but I’ll share a list of the ones I’ve read more than twice: Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor, Clive Cussler’s Deep Six, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Half-blood Prince are at the top of the list.
Favorite TV Series?  Nowadays, Doctor Who.
Favorite Movie?  I enjoy movies a lot, but can’t pinpoint a favorite anymore. Keep in mind I’ve worked as a professional movie reviewer for a local newspaper.
Favorite Actor: Harrison Ford.
Favorite Actress: You really want to get me in trouble with wife, right? I think Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep are wonderful and try to see everything they’re on. Natalie Portman and Anna Hathaway have had hit and misses.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Vodka Martini. Shaken, not stirred.
Hawaii or Alaska? Never been to any of the two, so I’ll take a raincheck…or invitations to visit before taking a choice.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Honduras’ national hero Francisco Morazán.
If I had just one wish, it would be to be a better human being.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be nobody, because I’m happy as I am! I wouldn’t mind trading bank accounts though.

Thanks for a great interview, JH!

Find out more about JH at:
Website: www.jhbogran.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/JHBogran0
Twitter: @JHBogran
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jhbogran
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/j.-h.-bogran
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4307673.J_H_Bogran

JH will giveaway an autographed digital copy of Poisoned Tears to a lucky winner.
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, March 26.


.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

ROCCO interviews author Bruce R. Coffin!

Meow, my guest this week is author Bruce R. Coffin!


Bruce Robert Coffin is a former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

He is the author of the Maine Sunday Telegram #1 bestselling novel Among the Shadows, his debut and the first in the Detective Byron Mystery Series from HarperCollins.

  • Welcome Bruce! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO. In 2012 I retired from the Portland Maine police department after 28 years to pursue my dream of becoming a published author. At the time of my retirement I was the detective sergeant supervising all violent crime investigations, including homicides.
  • Tell us a bit about your Detective Byron series! How did the idea for that come about?
I think it was only natural for me to want to tell stories portraying the lives of homicide investigators as realistically as possible. John Byron is the vehicle that allows me to do that. Byron was created as a compilation of people I worked with and me. He is a second generation Irish Catholic Portland cop raised on the city’s Munjoy Hill. A twenty year veteran, Byron is currently separated from his wife and battling alcoholism. In the first novel, Among the Shadows, we find Byron trying to stop a killer from his father’s past.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
Good question. It's really hard to explain my relationship with the characters. I guess the honest answer is that while I have a good idea of who I want them to be, and I write based on that, often while composing the story, my characters reveal themselves in ways I hadn't planned. I am currently writing the third Byron novel and my characters are still surprising me.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Both. I do write a general synopsis of what the novels will be about. I know how I want the story to open and how I want it to end, but the path I take to get from beginning to end is very fluid. I think writing in this way keeps the process fresh. Here again, sometimes the characters will drive the plot in a way I hadn't planned.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I think they’re both important but for my money character is paramount. As I often tell aspiring authors, if your readers don’t care about your characters they will never care what happens to them.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Back in college I was basically told I couldn't write. Of course this influenced my career direction greatly. Law enforcement was a long way from what I had hoped to become. After retirement I had well-meaning people tell me how hard it is to get published. Some suggested that I might have to consider self-publication. In my mind, this advice was the equivalent of being told I couldn't write all over again. People telling me that I probably won't be able to accomplish something has always been my greatest motivator.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Currently, I’m writing the third Detective Byron novel, the last in my contract with HarperCollins. As far as my future plans, I'd love to see Byron and his team live on. I hope my readers feel the same. I know John Byron has more cases to solve and I'd love to help him do it.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
As with most authors, there's nothing typical about my workday. Believe it or not, I'm writing this at 3:00am! I like to begin writing as soon as I get up. I’ll get the coffee going and start by editing what I wrote the previous day. This helps to get me back in the groove. Like stretching before a run. I do have a seasonal quirk. During the winter months I can write at home without a problem. In the summertime I like to write at the local libraries. I find too many distractions when the weather is pleasant. Getting in the car and driving to the library helps to put me in the work mode and keep me there.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Never give up. Writing well is an art form. Like any artistic endeavor, it takes a great deal of patience to master. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Ha! Sorry, if I told you that I'd have to kill you off in my next novel...
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Prior to writing full time I was an accomplished artist. In 2008 I was commissioned by the New England Chapter of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy to paint a portrait of Special Agent Edwin C. Shanahan, the first agent killed in the line of duty, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the FBI. The finished portrait was presented to the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office, where it is permanently displayed.
  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?
You can visit my website or my Amazon Author Page. My web address is: www.brucerobertcoffin.com
You can also find me on Twitter: @coffin_bruce
And on Facebook: Bruce Robert Coffin Author
  • What was your favorite book as a child?
I think the one book from childhood that stood out the most was Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. In addition to scaring the hell out of me, that book, more than any other, spoke to my need to become a storyteller.
  • What is your go-to comfort food?
Shepherd’s pie.
  • If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
This one! Maybe they’d let me write under a pseudonym.
  • What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
Time.
  • Whats the last tv show that made you laugh?
The same one that made me cry. MASH.
  • What store could you browse in for hours?
Any bookstore, art supply store, or woodworking store.
  • Who is your favorite musical artist?
Sting.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my great grandfather’s second cousin, Robert P. Tristram Coffin. I think we’d have much to discuss.

Bruce will be giving away a copy of his latest release, to one lucky commenter! To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest open to US and Canada residents only and ends midnight, March 24!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

PURRING up a storm....literally!

Meow!  ROCCO here.

As you may know, the Human's new series debuted this Tuesday- right in the middle of a nor'easter that hit the East Coast!  I tell you is that any way to make a debut or what!!!!!!!


PURR M FOR MURDER, the first in the Human's Cat Rescue series for Crooked Lane, is about Syd McCall. Syd was an advertising executive who chucked the bright lights of Manhattan for her hometown of Deer Park North Carolina after catching her finance cheating on her.  Not only does Syd stumble across a dead body her first few weeks in town, but she has to become involved in the investigation when her sister Katherine (better known as "Kat") is the chief suspect!

Is there a dashing cat in this series, as in the human's Nick and Nora series?  Well, yes.  He's a handsome orange fellow named Toby.  Toby's nickname is "The Wanderer" because he's got a habit of sneaking out of his cage and the shelter and wandering around the town.  Many thought it was because he was searching for his "perfect human"  and apparently that's true, because once he and Syd got together he seemed to settle down!

This all begs the question - is there such a thing as a "perfect human"??????  We cats would say "Heck no."  Now a perfect cat.....there's another kettle of fish!!!!!!!!



Toby was modeled after my brother Maxx, who's rather a handsome fellow if I do say so myself.  We have lots of fun together, and Maxx just loves it when I flip him over and bite his neck.......

Anyhoo, in honor of PURR's stormy debut, the human will give an autographed copy away to one lucky commenter....y'all know the drill.  leave your name and email addy below with your comment, and to earn extra points, you can friend the Human on facebook, tweet about the contest, follow me on Twitter @RoccoBlogger!  US entries only, please!  Contest ends midnight, March 20!


Sydney McCall left behind an ex-fiancé and a New York advertising job to return home to Deer Park, North Carolina and help her sister, Kat, run the local animal shelter, Friendly Paws. Determined to save the shelter from financial trouble, Sydney and Kat organize a cat café fundraising event at a local coffee shop. Things are looking up until their landlord, Trowbridge Littleton, threatens to shut down the event. When Sydney drops by his art gallery to make peace, she finds Kat--along with Littleton's dead body.

Local homicide detective Will Worthington--who just happens to be Sydney's old high school crush--is highly suspicious of the sisters' involvement. Desperate to clear their names from the suspect list, Sydney pounces on the investigation. With the help of one of the shelter cats, a savvy orange tabby named Toby, Sydney begins poking her nose into other local businesses whose owners may have benefited from Littleton's death--until the killer notices she's pawing a little too closely at the truth

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's see what's cooking with Ellie Alexander!

Meow my guest this week is mystery author Ellie Alexander!



Ellie Alexander writes the bestselling Bakeshop Mystery series for St. Martin’s Press, set in the Shakespearean town of Ashland, Oregon and featuring a romantic, artisan pastry chef, Juliet Montague Capshaw.
Ellie is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.
You can find her online at:


R:  Welcome Ellie! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

Thanks ROCCO! I wrote my first mystery in 3rd grade. It was titled The House on the Hill and had very little plot or character development, but plenty of creepy details like cobwebs sweeping across the rafters of an old abandoned mansion. Two young girls get flat tires and have to trek up to the house to find help. After many terrifying encounters with dusty basements and creaking doors they find a bicycle repair kit and pedaled happily home. I think I was destined to write cozy mysteries from a young age.

R: Tell us about the Bakeshop mysteries.  How did the idea for that come about?


The Bakeshop Mysteries are set in Ashland, Oregon—home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—and feature a romantic pastry chef, Juliet Montague Capshaw who has returned home to help run the family bakeshop and heal her broken heart.

My dad taught English and is a huge Shakespeare buff. We visited Ashland on many occasions when I was growing up. I fell in love with the small town. It’s designed like an Elizabethan village, complete with shops and restaurants themed after Shakespeare’s characters and works. Despite being tucked into the Southern Oregon mountains visitors from all over the globe descend on the hamlet to take in a production of Shakespeare under the stars when the theater is in full swing. 

It’s the perfect setting for a traditional mystery and given that the entire town revolves around the theater company I get to weave in extra touches of drama that might not work in another town. For example in Ashland no one would bat an eye if they walked past a man dressed as a jester performing a juggling act in the town square.

R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?

I was really lucky in that I had offers from a number of agents for my first mystery. I think sometimes it’s a matter of synchronist timing and doing a lot of research. No one had set a mystery in Ashland before and Oregon had been getting lots of press as a travel destination when I got “the call”. I also spent many hours researching which agents represented some of my favorite mystery authors. I think that makes a huge difference. I didn’t send out a mass of queries. I only sent out a round of about ten to a very targeted list of agents.

When the first call came in I danced around my living room. Then I had a moment of panic because I knew that there were other agents still reading the manuscript and I had no idea what to do. I quickly googled “What to do if you get an offer from an agent but other agents are still reading your work?”

Thank goodness other authors had posted about their experiences. I emailed the other agents letting them know that I had an offer and then things got crazy. Agents who had had my manuscript for a couple of months replied with lightning speed asking for a few days to finish reading. I ended up chatting on the phone with everyone who made an offer which was entirely surreal. I felt like I was walking around in a dream world until I made my decision to sign with my agent. Then it happened all over again when he sold the series a few weeks later.

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

Coffee! That would be true regardless, but I do write a series set in bakeshop with an artisan coffee bar so I get to call it “research”. Juliet is a masterful pastry chef and each book in the series includes recipes so whenever I’m working on a new book I plaster my office with pictures of pastries and coffee. I also spend many hours baking in my home kitchen. There is something so sensory about getting your hands sticky in bread dough or rolling out a pie crust. I document what my kitchen smells like, the blast of heat from opening the oven, and the salty crunch of tasting freshly toasted almonds. It really helps me get into Juliet’s head. Although my home-baked goodies look nothing like Juliet’s professional pastries.

In the books Juliet bakes to clear her head and as a love language. The family bakeshop Torte is a gathering place for the entire community. People come inside for one of her cherry almond scones, a steamy latte, and to catch up on all the latest news and gossip.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

I don’t know that I would pick one historical moment but rather would want to be transported back into the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for my entire life and have always been fascinated by their adventure. My family and I love to hike and explore the forests and mountains here. I always imagine what it must have been like to arrive in the west without modern roads or gear. And I’ve been equally captivated by Sacagawea. Her skills and talents navigating the terrain and translating were invaluable and she did it all with a baby. Talk about superwoman!

R:  If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?

Meet Your Baker, the first book in the series. The book introduces Juliet, Ashland, and the entire team at Torte. In my dream world I want an actress who looks like Gwyneth Paltrow but with the personality of Reese Witherspoon and Kristin Bell to play Juliet.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

I’m fluent in American Sign Language and worked as an interpreter in a deaf education program right after I graduated from college. I think ASL is a beautiful language, and I think learning to communicate silently has been helpful in my writing. So much of the language is about facial expressions and gestures. You have to watch and pay attention which is also true in writing.

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

Ziplined off the side of a cliff in New Zealand to a pub at the bottom for a free beer!

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

I hope that readers can escape from their daily worries when they read my books. Despite the fact that I write murder mysteries I try to weave in real life and depth into my characters. Plus I want them to be running to their kitchen or closest pastry shop for a sweet treat!

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter. I write 30 to 40 page outlines before I ever start actually writing a book. In my opinion plotting is critical when writing a mystery. I spend a lot of time figuring out what each potential suspect is lying about or hiding which naturally embeds red herrings into the plot. I give myself permission to change things as I go (which almost always happens) but I couldn’t write without having a roadmap to follow.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


Write! Write every day. Think of strengthening your writing muscle. Just like any other muscle in the body you have to use it daily to make it stronger.


Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Both
Beach or Pool?   Pool
Steak or salad?  Salad
Favorite Drink?  Anything with coffee in it
Favorite Book?  The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Favorite TV Series?  Midsomer Murders
Favorite Movie?  Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Actor: Colin Firth
Favorite Actress: Kate Winslet
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Amelia Earhart
If I had just one wish, it would be_To see an end to Alzheimer’s
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Brene Brown


Thanks Ellie!


Folks, Ellie will give away a signed copy of Fudge and Jury, the 5th book in the Bakeshop Mysteries and some delicious chocolate treats to accompany your read!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!Contest ends midnight, March 15!