My guest today is author Mary Daheim!
Seattle native Mary Richardson Daheim has been fascinated by story-telling since early childhood. She first listened, then read, and finally began to write her own fiction when she was ten. A journalism major at the University of Washington, she was the first female editor of The Daily where she attracted national attention with her editorial stance against bigotry.
After getting her B.A., she worked in newspapers and public relations, but in her spare time she tried her hand at novels. In 1983, Daheim’s first historical romance was published, followed by a half-dozen more before she switched genres to her original fictional love, mysteries. Just Desserts and Fowl Prey, the first two books in the Bed-and-Breakfast series were released in 1991. The twenty-eighth, Gone With The Win, was released July 9, 2013. In 1992, the Emma Lord series made its debut with The Alpine Advocate. The twenty-fourth, The Alpine Xanadu, was released in January 2013. One of her historical romances, Reunion, was re-released February 1. She has also written several short stories for mystery anthologies and magazines.
The author’s husband, professor emeritus and playwright David Daheim, died February 2, 2010 after more than 44 years of marriage. She continues to live in their Seattle home and has three daughters and two granddaughters who live within shouting distance. She has been an Agatha Award nominee, winner of the 2000 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Achievement Award, and was inducted into the University of Washington School of Communications Hall of Fame in 2008. Her mysteries regularly make the USA Today bestseller list and the New York Times top thirty.
R: Welcome, Mary! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
I’m a native of Seattle and have lived here almost all of my life. I graduated with a degree in communications (journalism) from the University of Washington and went to work on a small daily before spending the rest of my pre-publishing career in PR (with another daily newspaper stint after my husband, Dave, and I got married and moved out of town in December 1965). I was published first in historical romance—not intentionally. I’d written a historical novel, but didn’t know back in 1980 that they were no longer popular, so upon the advice of my agent, I reworked the first novel to fit the genre. One of the early books was re-released in February, a Civil War historical romance titled Reunion.
R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?
Agatha Christie for her incomparable plotting. Ross MacDonald for his masterful writing.
R: Tell us about the two series you write – what was the inspiration for each of them?
The B&B series arose from my desire to get out of the historical romance genre—not a good fit for me. I’d always wanted to try mysteries. I’d been offering an auction item to raise funds for the parochial school our three daughters attended. It was a dinner and overnight mystery for four couples at a local B&B. I spent a month every year creating the event and decided to turn one of the plots into what became Just Desserts. I’d suggested switching genres earlier, but my then agent (the late Donald MacCampbell) told me mysteries didn’t sell as well as romance. True, of course, so I had to go around his back, sending the 85 pages I’d written to the regional Avon Books rep in the hope she could show them to an editor at their annual marketing conference. Two weeks later I was offered a 3-book contract. I chose my cousin, Judy, as the model for the protagonist. I was her sidekick, Cousin Renie. Middle name is Rene (rhymes with mean), full given name is Mary Rene.
Some months later, I heard via the grapevine that Joe Blades, an editor I’d worked with early in my career, was now at Random House/Ballantine and wished he’d had a chance to publish the series. I called to ask if he was serious—he was. Having finished the 7th book and last book in the current contract for the historical romances, I jumped at the chance and came up with the idea of reviving the old logging town of Alpine. My parents, grandparents, and other relatives had lived and worked in the small, isolated community from 1916-1928. There was no road into the town—you could only get in and out by train or climbing the rocky face of Tonga Ridge. When the mill was closed in 1929, Alpine was evacuated and the left to be reclaimed by Mother Nature. All my life I’d heard such wonderful, happy tales about the town that I didn’t want it to be completely forgotten, so I moved Alpine to contemporary times and created Emma Lord, a single mother who had inherited just enough money to buy the newspaper and a used Jaguar. I never dreamed that years later two men, Pat Burns and Tim Raetzloff, would become so intrigued by the town after reading the books that they went searching for the site—and found it. There was now a road—a very rugged one—and out of that first trip, an organization has been founded called the Alpine Advocates (coincidentally, the name of Emma’s newspaper). The group is working to not only salvage the remains of the town, but to create a historic marker trail that will be linked with the existing Iron Goat and Deception Falls Trails. I made my first trip into Alpine this summer. It was an amazing experience, almost as if I’d already been there.
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 hate to answer this question for two reasons: I never do things the way normal people do. I read the procedure for soliciting an agent in Author’s Guide/Author’s Market. It went on and on about sending in a SASE ms. and how you might have to wait at least 6 months before hearing back and…etc. I picked up the phone and Donald’s assistant (and now my agent) Maureen Moran answered. I told her what I wanted them to look at and she was so startled that she said, “Yes. Send it.” We still laugh about that. After making the revisions to suit the then current market, Donald called around 7:15 our time out here on the coast. I was asleep—never ever been a morning person—but my husband, Dave, was up and answered the phone. He woke up and I staggered downstairs. Donald said he’d sold what would become Love’s Pirate to Avon Books. I mumbled something like, “That’s good, thanks.” Donald said--in surprise--“Aren’t you excited?” I replied, “No. I’m not awake. I’ll get excited when I’m conscious and call you back around 10:30.” And so I did--and I WAS excited.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
Pepsi. The real thing.
R: What are you working on at the moment / next?
I’m currently working on the new B&B, Clam Wake, which is set on Whoopee Island. I change local place names in the B&Bs. When I started writing mysteries in 1990, there were already several authors using Seattle as a setting. I wondered if that many people around the country cared about Seattle or could find it on a map. Given that the books are somewhat whimsical, I decided to make up place and local store names. Turns out it was just as well—this city has changed so much since I started the series that it’d slow down the plot by taking forever to do updates in the books.
I’m also about to get the copy edit for The Alpine Yeoman. I’ve already done the line edit.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
You can check out my web site at www.marydaheimauthor.com
or look me up on Facebook.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write. Real writers (in my opinion, of course) can’t NOT write. If I go two weeks without writing, I get cranky.
R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
Being REALLY cranky.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)
Beach or Pool?
River, with a mountain view
Steak or salad?
Steak—unless it’s a shrimp or crab salad
Pepsi—the real stuff
Favorite TV Series?
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?
Canadian on the rocks
Hawaii or Alaska?
Neither—are you kidding? No offense, but I live in Seattle
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Anne Boleyn.
If I had just one wish, it would be for an end to hatred.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be ME—I like being me. I get along with me really well.