Meow! My guest today is Terrie Farley Moran!
Agatha Best First Novel recipient Terrie Farley Moran’s Well Read, Then Dead is followed by a second Read ’Em and Eat cozy, the newly released Caught Read-Handed. Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been short-listed twice for Best American Mystery Stories. You can find her at www.terriefarleymoran.com
Welcome Terrie! Tell us a little about your background.
I’m a lifelong New Yorker. I have two great kids and seven fabulous grandkids. I worked as an Administrative Manager for the City for more than two decades. The tragedy of 9/11 reminded me that life is short. I decided to try to fulfill my heart’s desire so I left government service and became a mystery writer.
Tell us a bit about your first novel, Well Read, Then Dead. Where did the idea come from?
My friend Christine Begley recommended a book to me called Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen. It was a grand introduction to the untamed and isolated Florida Gulf Coast of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Shadow Country taught me that the history of the area was far more interesting and mysterious than I had imagined. At first I intended to write a short story set in that time and place but then I decided that a modern story with references to the past would make a perfect cozy. I love to read and I love to eat so a bookstore/café is my idea of paradise. I invented the Read ’Em and Eat, filled it with great food and lots of books. Turns out a group of eccentric and attention-grabbing folks hang out there. When the sweetest of the book club ladies is tragically murdered, her cousin begs book club maven Sassy Cabot to help track down the killer.
How did you feel when you learned of your Agatha nomination for best first novel?
I was honored and deeply humbled. I am delighted that mystery readers love Well Read, Then Dead as much as I do. Winning the Agatha Award steeled my resolve to work as hard as I can to write quality cozies that readers will continue to love.
Tell us about your latest release, Caught Read-Handed.
Caught Read-Handed is the second book in the Read ’Em and Eat series set in tranquil Fort Myers Beach Florida. When a brash library volunteer is murdered, the entire town is a-buzz. Sassy Cabot is horrified that the suspected killer is a veteran suffering from PTSD who happens to be the brother of Sassy’s old friend and former boss.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
The characters live in my head. We have conversations. Once we are friends, a character receives a name and with the name comes a personality. Then I sit back and watch what they do.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I am a definite pantser. My publisher Berkley Prime Crime requires an outline but they generously leave the amount of detail up to me which works well. Except for the part (and it always happens) somewhere in the middle of writing a book when I fall into profound despair and promise myself that I will write a gloriously comprehensive outline for the very next book. So far that hasn’t happened.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I think character is the most important aspect of a story. How the characters respond to what is going on around them is the key to an enjoyable plot.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge is that I am a slow-as-molasses writer. I have the attention span of a two-year-old so I keep popping out of my chair, sometimes in mid-word. I have to force myself to sit down and continue writing dozens of times a day. My strongest motivation is that I want to finish the project at hand. I have never left a project unfinished.
Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Sure. I’d written a novel called Driven to Death and was shopping it around for what seemed like forever. I’d looked at Bookends LLC and recognized that it was a great agency but I was too timid to approach until I saw that Kim Lionetti and I would be at the same conference, Sleuthfest, 2012. I pitched. Kim read a sample of the book, pronounced it unsalable but offered me representation provided I was willing to write something else. It was a glorious offer I couldn’t resist.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now I am finishing the third book in the Read ’Em and Eat series. Fort Myers Beach is a tourist town for much of the year and this book has a strong feel for the interaction between townies and tourists. I have been a short story writer for more than a decade. I presently have one story in the pipeline at Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and another due out soon in an issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I’d love to find the time to write some more short mystery fiction.
What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I write all day most days. I do some sort (depends on the season) of exercise as soon as I get up in the morning and then I sit down and write. I take a few “walk around the block” breaks and I usually watch Thomas the Train on PBS for my lunch break. I’ve also been known to watch Angelina Ballerina if I have lunch a little early. Then I go back to work until at least dinner time. I generally write for an hour or so after dinner. When I am really busy I write until bedtime.
If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
1. The Bible
2. The Chronology of the U.S. Presidency
3. Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories
What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Keep writing. Never give up. Don’t be afraid to submit. As soon as you send something out, write something else. Send that out. Keep at it. I know it’s hard. Do it anyway.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Well, if we don’t count hanging from a fire escape six stories up when I was about nine years old, I would say the craziest thing I’ve ever done was to stop working in what I like to call “the real world” in order to focus on my writing career. It is probably smarter to build the writing career before you quit your job.
What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m an introvert and a potential recluse.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I am surprised that no one ever asks why I spend so much time interacting with readers. The short answer is that it’s great fun. The longer answer is that we are light years past the time when the only way to reach an author was through her publisher. The electronic age has made communication between readers and writers informal and enjoyable.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
My website is www.terriefarleymoran.com
My link at Penguin Random House: http://www.penguin.com/author/terrie-farley-moran/245609
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Over the years lots of cats and dogs have been part of my family. Each has brought its own special joy. So I say both. And turtles. We had a turtle named Susan once and she was very entertaining.
Beach or Pool? Beach, especially Fort Myers Beach
Steak or salad? Salad, dressing on the side
Favorite Drink? Iced green tea
Favorite Book? To Kill A Mockingbird
Favorite TV Series? Justified, which just ended *sob* *sob*
Favorite Movie? The Magnificent Seven, love the movie and the musical score
Favorite Actor: James Garner
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
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: President John Adams
If I had just one wish, it would be: that every child in the world be healthy and have enough to eat.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Not a chance—I love being me.
Thanks Terrie! Folks you can find her at:
Terrie will give away a Caught Read-Handed tee shirt. (see photo) to one lucky commenter! And Berkley has given one copy of Caught Read-Handed to give o another lucky commenter, so there will be two winners!
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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. Contest ends midnight, July 11. Good luck!