Meow, my guest is author Peg Cochran!
Mystery writing lets Peg indulge her curiosity under the guise of “work.” As a kid, she read the entire set of children’s encyclopedias her parents gave her and has been known to read the dictionary. She put pen to paper at age seven when she wrote plays and forced her cousins to perform them at Christmas dinner. She switched to mysteries when she discovered the perfect hiding place for a body down the street from her house.
A former Jersey girl, Peg now resides in Michigan with her husband and Westhighland white terrier, Reg. She is the author of the Sweet Nothings Lingerie series (written as Meg London), the Gourmet De-Lite series, the Lucille series and now the Cranberry Cove series. Her newest series, the Farmer’s Daughter, debuts with No Farm, No Foul in September 2016.
- Meow, Welcome Peg! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! I’m a Jersey girl transplanted to Michigan. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I read my first Nancy Drew. I wrote bad, angst-ridden poetry in high school, studied journalism in college, got side-tracked and spent many years working in the art world in NYC but eventually started doing some freelance writing for magazines and the web and had some success with that. But I always wanted to write fiction—specifically mysteries. I used to haunt bookstores looking at all the mysteries with the Berkley Prime Crime handprint on the spine and imagining my name on one of those! I still can’t believe it’s happened!
- Tell us a bit about your Cranberry Cove Series. How did that come about?
The whole concept came about when I read about cranberry bogs and how they flood them to harvest the berries. The thought immediately popped into my head—what if a body floated up with the berries? I mentioned the idea to my agent and she said write it!
The town of Cranberry Cove was inspired by some of the little towns sprinkled along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. When I first moved to West Michigan, I was surprised by how many people are of Dutch ancestry and what a strong influence it still is. I decided to use a lot of that in the series because I found it fascinating.
- Tell us about your latest release, BERRY THE HATCHET. How hard is it to come up with “berried” titles?
It’s very hard to come up with “berried” titles actually! The publisher kept the titles I suggested for the six books in my other two series (Gourmet De-Lite and Sweet Nothings Lingerie Series written as Meg London.) That’s not always the case. But I seem to have lost my title “mojo” and was very grateful for Penguin’s marketing department for coming up with some great titles for my Cranberry Cove series!
In Berry the Hatchet, Monica’s mother shows up in Cranberry Cove and when she and Monica’s stepmother Gina discover they are dating the same man they become prime suspects when the object of their affections turns up dead.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I fiddle around on paper asking myself questions and answering them—like what age do I want him/her to be? What kind of person are they? I don’t do a whole character inventory like some writers—a lot about the character comes out as I’m writing the story.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I’m sort of half and half. I have to have plot points before I start (what happens at critical points in the story like midway through the book, the ends of acts I and II etc.) I’ve tried the storyboard thing—sticking post-it notes on a large piece of poster board and moving them around until I like the flow of the story—but that doesn’t work for every book for some reason. I can’t go into the story blind, but I do love the moments where something completely unexpected pops into your head that works really well with what you’ve already got.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
For me, it’s character because that’s how I start. I think of a character who is going to be the victim, and then I come up with people who would want to murder someone like that. The plot comes out of that.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge was getting an agent! I racked up 400 rejections on three projects in two years. The biggest challenge after you’re published, for me, has been conquering doubt and fear—a nasty duo that can stop you in your tracks. But I push through it and keep going because I love telling stories!
- Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I didn’t get my agent in the usual way. A fellow writer told me about an opportunity to write a series as a work-for-hire and put me in touch with her agency. I “auditioned” for the job and got it—the agent came along with it. And I’m super lucky because she’s fantastic!
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I have a “day job” and work forty hours a week as a marketing communications manager. So the hours between 8:30 – 5:00 p.m. are not my own—except for my lunch hour which I spend working on my current manuscript. I spend some time writing when I get home and before I start dinner (we tend to eat on the late side.) I will sometimes go back to my desk after dinner—except Fridays because that’s the start of the weekend, right? You have to party a little. And by party I mean watch something on TV! I try to carve out a bigger chunk of time on Saturdays and Sundays to write.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
It’s a tossup between two things. I’ll let you decide which is crazier! In college (a long, long time ago) my roommate and I hitchhiked to her parents’ house. Don’t tell my mother! I also went skinny dipping at a nude beach (much later in life but before my body began to fall apart.) Don’t tell my mother about that either!
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That’s a tough question! I’m pretty much an open book (pun intended!) How about this—when I lived and worked in NYC, I was often mistaken for Jackie Onassis despite the fact that she was a couple of decades older than me and at least a foot taller! (I did meet her once when she came into the gallery I managed.)
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Question: How do you deal with negative reviews? Answer: By crying, sulking, drinking a whole bottle of wine…just kidding. Everyone has an opinion, and not everyone is going to like the same books. But I do look to see if there is a nugget of constructive criticism in the review that I can take away and work on improving. You can learn something from a lot of reviews although unfortunately some are just plain mean spirited. I had one reader disagree with something I posted on Facebook (I learned my lesson—stay away from religion and politics!) and she subsequently wrote a really nasty review of my next book on Amazon. I had someone review a book that hadn’t come out yet—the only copy of the manuscript that existed was on my computer! I’ve also had people put reviews of my book on Amazon that were actually for someone else’s book.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Probably the best place is on my web site: pegcochran.com. You can also sign up for my newsletter there where I give readers advance notice of contests, giveaways, etc. I blog on the first, third and fifth Saturdays of the month on mysteryloverskitchen.com and on the 26th of the month on killercharacters.com.
Peg will give away a copy of Berry the Hatchet to one lucky commenter!
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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, May 8!