Monday, November 25, 2013


Today my guest is NYT bestselling author Carly Phillips!

N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips has written over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels that today’s readers identify with and enjoy.  After a successful 15 year career with various New York publishing houses, Carly made the leap to Indie author, with the goal of giving her readers more books at a faster pace at a better price.  She also hopes to rediscover the pure joy of writing without expectations.  Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website.  She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. 

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

I’m a mom of two almost adult girls (17 and 21), married for almost 25 years, and we have 2 dogs, a Havanese and a Wheaten Terrier.  Apologies, Rocco. J I was always a huge reader, but I didn’t start writing until I was already a stay at home mom with my oldest daughter.  There was never a question that I wanted to try writing what I loved to read: Romance.

R: Tell us about your latest release

DARE TO LOVE is the name of my newest series as well as the name of the first book.  The premise is what happens when a father has two families who don’t know about the other – how does each sibling react? How does it shape them? We start with Ian, the oldest in the “legitimate” family. Ian stepped up as the parent his father never was – and swore off relationships.  Until he laid eyes on Riley Taylor.  He will do anything to possess her.  Their chemistry is hot and they complete each other in many ways.  But when her past reappears, everything they are trying to build is threatened.

R: What drew you to the romance genre? Is there any other genre you would like to try?

Growing up, I’d read anything and everything but often I wouldn’t be satisfied with the ending of the story.  When I realized there was an entire genre catering to happily ever after endings … I was hooked! There is no genre I want to try.  I love what I do!

R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

The answer to that has evolved over time, but from the earliest – LaVyrle Spencer, Lori Foster, Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  More recently, I would say the “Indie Revolution” in romance has heavily influenced my writing and my way of thinking.

R: Which of (your character)  adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?

Oh definitely Kiss Me If You Can was up there with the most fun to write.  There was so much humor in that story.  Every book has its share of painful moments in the writing. Perfect Together, my February 2014 release, is an example.  Every day of writing felt like torture but in the end I am very proud of the story.  There’s never a real reason why a book is more difficult than another to write.  But when one is easy to write, it’s a gift!

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 really don’t have an agent story.  I had one agent, then left for another agent, … it just sort of happened over time.  First sale was amazing. I’d been working for six or seven years towards publication and I just couldn’t believe I’d FINALLY sold. It was to Harlequin Temptation, Blaze line … and I was beyond excited.

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

The creative process is always a painful one, LOL. I must have a private space.  Not alone space, but a corner.  I have a recliner chair in my office, and even my bed works for me.  I just need to be comfortable and have a TV.

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

Oh.  That’s hard.  I honestly don’t know!

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?

Another difficult question! Let’s say … my current book:
DARE TO LOVE – I’d like (being a huge soap opera junkie) to have James Scott, who plays EJ Dimera on Days of Our Lives play Ian.  Yum.  And I honestly don't have anyone in mind for Riley ...I’d  love to hear thoughts once readers have read the story!  As for Alex - A younger Josh Holloway - as he looked when he was Sawyer on Lost.

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

Even though I’m really outgoing online and on social media, I’m really shy.  It’s hard for me to be out in crowds of people and be “on.”

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

I actually went parasailing with my daughter in my arms once when we were in Aruba years ago.  It was nuts and I’d never do it again!

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
A sense of Romance, love, and that happily ever after feeling that leaves them knowing all is right with the world.  I want them to want to come back to the characters again and again because they loved how they made them feel.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser and my process is ugly, ugly, ugly.  Sigh. (LOL).
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
I’m all over the Internet.
R: What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

Currently I can’t wait to read Violet Duke’s Finding the Right Girl. I am really enjoying her work!

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Dog ::ducking::
Beach or Pool?   Beach
Steak or salad?  Steak
Favorite Drink?  Coke
Favorite Book?  Whatever I’m reading at the moment
Favorite TV Series?  Alias (still in withdrawal)
Favorite Movie?  Overboard, Saving Silverman (good comedies)
Favorite Actor:  George Clooney
Favorite Actress:  Jennifer Lawrence
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: I’M STUCK on this one. Sorry!
If I had just one wish, it would be: THAT my dad was still alive.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: I’M happy being me (most times!).

Thank you, Carly for a great interview. Folks, Carly will be giving away a copy of DARE TO LOVE, winner’s choice of format (eBook or paperback). To enter, just leave your name and address in our Comments section. Winner will be chosen at random using for extra entries, you can:

Friend Carly on Facebook or follow her onTwitter
Friend the human, Toni Lotempio on Facebook
Follow moi, ROCCO on Twitter #RoccoBlogger
Tweet or FB about this giveaway & interview! (3 extra entries)
Be sure to list all you do in your comment.  Contest ends midnight, December 1. Good luck!

Friday, November 22, 2013


Meow, today I’m pleased to welcome Ron Fernandez, one of the authors in the KNTR anthology, Love and Other Distractions

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

Hi Rocco!   So great to be here.  I started writing a dark fantasy novel when I was around 12.  I would pass around short chapters of my pages (notebook pages covered in carefully hand printed blue ballpoint ink) to my classmates, who would nod eagerly and unwittingly puff up my aspiring ego.  To this day, I can’t piece together the story I was trying to tell, but it was something about the apocalypse, so even back then I was concerned about the end of the universe apparently, as my story for this compilation will attest. 

Writing seemed like a way to get lost in ideas and words. You could start writing and just see what happened. The words were free, you would just needed to put them in some kind of order, and magic might unfold. Writing was also an escape from the horrors of growing up.  Homework, tests, dating (or lack of), gangs, teenage moustache…so much drama. 

My interest in writing was really nurtured when I got into science fiction and fantasy.  I liked the imagination and the weird planes of being and bizarre characters, whose motivations were not that far from mine.  I started reading when I was around 10, there was a short moment in time when the junior high cool kids (not me of course) were actually reading books for fun, and I jumped on the bandwagon.  Those little bastards did me solid!  I started with what was available in the public school, mostly novelizations of scifi movies (Tron and The Black Hole kicked it off as I recall). After this I discovered Madeline L’Engle and her wonderful universes.  Then I found Steven King, who also really talked to me.  His stories were so realistic at their core yet they involved otherworldly subjects, like vampires, killer cars, and (again) the end of the world.  He also used great song quotes at the beginning of his movies, sort of a peek at other minds I would later shamble after, Dylan, Springsteen, et al.  Into my teenage years I was into Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, and poets like Yeats and TS Eliot.  They still talk to me to this day.

R:  How did you hear about Kids Need to Read?

I was introduced to the wonderful work done by Kids Need to Read through Christiana Miller, who edited and brainstormed the invention of our book.  She really made it happen, and was so excited to bring all of our creativity together for a great cause.  She is the mastermind, and should be her own publishing house! She can do it all.

R: Tell us about the story you wrote for the KNTR anthology.  What was its inspiration?

My tale “Two Into One” is a story about Valentines Day at the End of the World. Our hero, Dusty, is called to play a crucial part in saving the galaxy, but finds it tough to explain the rules of the unseen cosmos, which is threatened with destruction, to his girlfriend Rachel. 

The story is about the difficulty of falling in love with someone, of trying to explain and welcome them into the confusion and glory of your solitary existence. That is the inscrutable thing, how two people leave their parents and previous lives to come together and become one, and new lives are birthed.  You know, when you fall in love, these various layers of your life get peeled away.  Friends and situations either help or hinder your love story and you are left watching as the thin, onion-like skins of meaning and relationships are shed, while others are rediscovered after a few more layers.  You wonder Who (and what) will still be with me when I go off with this person?

(In the story, Dusty has a best friend named Ace, who does actually go with him for the journey, supportive all the way, so maybe a sequel could be called “Three Ain’t Bad.”)

For Dusty, Rachel is a keeper.  She is one for ages, she “gets” him, and helps him save the world.  This has always been my experience.  Women save the human race all the time.  Men go around running into furniture and trying to give speeches, but it is women that makes the world go ‘round, who validate a quest worth undertaking.

The story is also set around the character of New York, a city I adore.  I worship the godlike energy and surprises around each corner. The way you can get lost and always end up somewhere interesting. Every neighborhood has its secrets, every shop its mysteries. I think there are novels and stories waiting to be written about New York, and I hope to tell a longer yarn or two about it someday.

R: Out of all the television shows you’ve worked on, do you have a favorite?

I wrote a TV movie called Grendel, which was really fun to work on. It was directed by Nick Lyon for UFO Films and stars Chris Bruno, Ben Cross, and Marina Sirtis.  They shot it in Bugaria where you can blow things up and drag people from galloping horses and you don’t need permits.  The story was a version of the Beowulf saga, which allowed me to relearn that fabulous epic poem.  It has dragons, giants, swords, sex, and blood, which I must have missed freshman year of high school. I know Alvy Singer admonishes Annie Hall to "Just don't take any course where you have to read Beowulf," but it really spoke to me this time around.  It is a story about the lineages of kings and conquerors, and the power they pass on through their lives. To me, it was about what it means to have a story that is your own. The story that is you. The ancients passed information through oral storytelling, and at that time your name, your family name, your parents and ancestors, told people who you were.  So when Beowulf comes to save this kingdom lead by Hrothgar, who is tormented by the monster Grendel, he is welcomed in the strength of his name, and his father’s name.  It seems like a deep desire in us, to have a legacy that lives beyond our years, to have a story.  And the movie gave me a chance to see that in a fresh way.

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

There is a chimerical quality to writing, a lighting in a bottle effect we are constantly after. But the paradox is that inspiration best comes when you are consistent and do your work every day. Having a special place you write helps. Believe me, I enjoy coffeeshops and interesting locales for writing, but at home it is nice to have a spot where you can get your work done, to listen to the voices, to hear the story that is trying to tell itself.

I also like to draw and doodle as I go, so I allow myself to go make a painting or something out of clay to keep myself busy, in hopes of tapping into the subconscious and the Muse, which is skittish and moves away from direct questions. 

As artists our work is a marathon, not a sprint.  There are moments when you do sprint, for a deadline or a paycheck, but you want to generally take it steady and make it something you do often.  You might compare writing to working out, or riding a bike, or dancing, activities which get easier the more you do it. 

That said, actually working out is also very good for writers and artists.  Having physical activities that get you out of your head and out of your interior spaces, both real and imagined. 

Vacations and little day trips are vital for me as well. You need to recharge the batteries, to keep them flowing, or your inner child will hold you hostage and pout until you make the process fun again.  Buy him a toy, take her to the zoo, and get me a Bloody Mary while you are up.  

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

A few years ago, my buddy Bob and I backpacked from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Hanoi in Vietnam. It turned out to be an amazing trip, where we experienced this incredible country that we once were at war with, and discovered the people actually were a lot like us. Friendly, generous, pushy, enjoying life, eager to share what they have with you.  One of the most breathtaking countries I’ve been to, the land in Vietnam varies from river delta, to jungle, to desert, to rain forest, to miles of soft sand beaches. Incredible food (especially in the south), where the French influence contributed to a fusion between the bread, sauces, and baking traditions and the soups, flavors, and spices of the region.  Each morning we awoke to fresh baguettes, and enjoyed tangy pho dishes at dusk. I also remember a beautiful violin player at Maxim’s, playing to a full room, yet somehow alone.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

I am writing my first novel, called Pandora, a drama set in New Mexico. A little less apocalypse-y, but plenty of paranoia and government conspiracy to make up for that!  Like Thomas’ Under Milkwood, it is a kind of play for voices, mostly the ones who live in my brain who refuse to go quietly.

I am also finishing a movie I directed, acted in, and co-wrote called Lady of the Lake. It’s a ghost noir set in LA, a revenge tale, with a love story warped around it, and (naturally) an apocalyptic narrative.  The picture stars Sanny Van Heteren and Daniel DeWeldon, and features a cast of amazing actors including Matt Crowfoot, Klementina Mellin, Sasha Van Duyn, Holly Huebner, Andy Pacheco, Allen Nalasco (also co-writer), Kevin Kelly, Elizabeth Blanchard, Melissa Wintringham, Kelsey Wintringham, and Kat Lohr (my on-screen antics kind of slow things down).  

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m trying to take up golf, but I can’t find the right pants.

A bit of both. I like to scribble notes and scenes in notebooks and then lose them at the key moment – just when I need them. 

Then when you find your notes again, you are hopefully deep into the writing and the notes will only remind you of where you are already going.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

My family likes to get lost in little towns, to see what we find.  Playing music is always a good time, and I love going to movies and theatres.  Starting dabbling in improv at Second City, hoping to be 3% more funny next year.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Please visit my site:

And you can join my mailing list here:

Thanks!  J

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The best thing to do is write everyday. Writing is a muscle, we train ourselves and get better and stronger by being consistent and showing up for the page. Sometimes we get busy or life intrudes and we don’t write a day or two, but you have to get back to it. Don’t beat yourself up when you miss a day, but allow your creativity a chance to express itself through your words.  Setting a page goal or scene goal can sometime be helpful. Making time for writing, a special time when you are not disturbed is critical.  We need focus to be there for our art, to be able to listen to the work.  This means taking it personally and carving out a time and space to feel safe and let yourself grow.  And to wait.

I am a big fan of getting the first draft out.  Outline and do a treatment for your work, do as much as you can to prep and research, but then push through and get a draft out. The cliché that “writing is rewriting” is usually true.  You will fix it and make it shine when you get it out. 

R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Surfing.  Or fishing.  The sea is like the bath we were born in, it speaks to that deep part of us, and is probably the most basic relationship we can have… joining the ocean in its undulations… drifting back into the brine…  

Or flying airplanes.  The sky is like the sea but in reverse. You can’t just float there unless you have some serious skills.

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  NIGHT.  All night!  With great radio.

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat wearing dogsuit.

Beach or Pool?   Beach. Maui. Dawn.

Steak or salad?  Steak. Medium rare.

Favorite Drink?  Gin and tonic. Also Guinness.  

Favorite Book?  On the Road

Favorite TV Series?  Twilight Zone, Cheers!, MadMen 

Favorite Movie?   Black Orpheus (1959). Beautiful reimagining of the story of Orpheus in the underworld, set during Carnaval in Brazil. Gorgeous costumes, touching performances, unforgettable music, universal themes.

Favorite Actor:  Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Donald Sutherland, Jacques Tati

Favorite Actress:  Julie Christie, Ingrid Bergman, Marpessa Dawn 

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada. Light rum.

Hawaii or Alaska?  Hawaii. Again, Maui would be great, but Kauai is not too shabby!

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Orson Welles. I’d like to just listen to him talk about Rita Hayworth.

If I had just one wish, it would be to have one million Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream bars in a giant freezer.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be you Rocco!  You have so many friends! 

Meow, Ron! And thank you for a great interview!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013



Robert S. Levinson is the best-selling author of the Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner series of mystery-thriller novels, the most recent, HOT PAINT, dealing with a suite of Andy Warhol prints that are the key to locating art masterpieces missing for more than half a century. He is currently serving a second term as president of the Mystery Writers of America-Southern California chapter, is on MWA's national board of directors, and wrote and produced the organization's 57th Annual Edgar Awards.
R:  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

 Always been a writer, starting as a pre-teen, likely inspired by my father, who wrote a column for the weekly L.A. Voice, and my uncle, a Broadway playwright. Taught myself to type at around age 8, churned out a neighborhood “newspaper,” and walked the one copy from neighbor to neighbor. Been at it ever since. Editor of my junior high and high school newspapers, executive editor of the old L.A. Examiner Scholastic Sports Association; moved from the Ex to the Times to managing the Riverside Press-Enterprise Pass Area bureau, later columns and human interest features for the Riverside Press. Moved into public relations for a major national firm, inspired to start my own independent company after hearing those inspirational words “You’re fired,” creating what ultimately became a major international player in the entertainment field, mainly representing music companies and artists. Ultimately moved into writing for television, followed by the move into writing mystery/thriller novels, a long-term goal, starting with a modest best-seller, THE ELVIS AND MARILYN AFFAIR. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

R: Tell us about your latest project, PHONY TINSEL. Where did the idea for it originate?

PHONY TINSEL is my tenth novel and the latest to use the Golden Age of Hollywood as a backdrop, exploiting my long-term love affair with the movies and its history, a successor of sorts (but not a sequel) to my earlier A RHUMBA IN WALTZ TIME, which played out a different brand of murder and mayhem from the MGM studio of the late 30s. The title comes from a quip attributed to the late Oscar Levant, “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.” The story deals with a young, naïve, quick-tempered screenwriter, Charlie Dickens, so desperate for success he’s ready to commit murder at the behest of film star Sarah Darling, who’s out to dump her autocratic, skirt-chasing producer-director of a husband. Along the way Charlie encounters a scheming damsel in distress, Hooverville homesteaders, Bible-thumping fanatics, club-wielding railroad bulls, a Chinatown opium den operator, cowboys, Indians, and other fugitives from an RKO B-movie casting call.

R:  You’ve also worked in PR with your company, Levinson Associates.  Who are some of the clients you most enjoyed working with?

Given that over 20-something years the company had 700 or more clients, most delights to represent, it’s a tough call. Among the first that come to mind, in no particular order: Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Three Dog Night, Stevie Wonder, Elton, the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Bread, Black Oak Arkansas, Grand Funk Railroad, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, Judy Collins, Marcel Marceau, Suzanne Somers, Melissa Hart, Heart, David Essex, Osmonds, Bread, Sparks, Tanya Tucker, WAR, record companies Motown, Capitol, MCA, Liberty-UA, ABC-Dunhill, Elektra/Asylum, RSO; Las Vegas Tropicana, the Friars Club, the Actors Studio. Fun times, lots of great memories…

R:  How did you hear about Kids Need to Read? Tell us a bit about your short in this anthology.

Kids Need to Read was suggested by the amazing Christiana Miller, who’d proposed LOVE AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS, brought together the 14 contributing writers (all members of the Writers Guild of America), edited the anthology, and did all the tech heavy lifting that brought the book into being. (Pause for applause; bravo, Christina). Years ago, I’d created and coordinated the WGA School Literacy Program, which put Guild members the likes of the late, great Larry Gelbart into junior high and high school classrooms to work with students on a semester-long basis, so I was especially pleased by the idea. … My story, “Take My Word for It and You Don’t Have to Answer,” was the first short I attempted, appeared originally in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and was among Readers’ Poll favorites. It deals with two old comics, Hale and Harty, who meet to review a love lost and a promise made multiple years ago, after tragedy cost them their careers. It later was made into a one-act play that premiered at the first annual International Mystery Writers Festival at RiverPark Center in Owensboro, KY; take my word for it and you don’t have to answer.

R: What writers would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

Another tough call. Writers I especially admire, who may or may not have influenced the novels and short stories I crank out: Hemingway, Mark Twain, John O’Hara, Ray Bradbury, J.D. Salinger, Gene Fowler, Joseph Heller, E.L. Doctorow, W.P. Kinsella, Jack Finney, Jack Higgins, Joseph Wambaugh, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard, and the dozens more who’ll come to mind when it’s too late to include them here. Oh, yeah—Richard Condon…

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

Y’mean besides a computer and a keyboard? ; )  Actually, I need solitude, a quiet room with no distractions whatsoever. My focus is usually so intense I don’t hear the telephone ring. … My background is a big help to my (so-called) creative process. I’m able to develop and advance a lot of the story based on personal experience and memory, but do pause frequently to double check dates, spellings, locations, and details where I’m working elements of truth into my fiction.

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

While the Wall was still there, crossing from East Berlin back to West Berlin via Checkpoint Charlie, carrying a wad of East Berlin currency, an arrest offense. Staring down the rifles of North Korea troops from the South Korea side of the widow wall in the negotiating hut at the 42nd Parallel. … Take your pick.

R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Drawing and painting. (Art has always been a heavy duty avocation. Dabbled in earlier days, wrote a monthly art column for Coast Magazne, features for other publications; studied briefly with Edward G. Robinson’s tutor. Won an award or two, but definitely figure in the Sunday Painter category, desire being no substitute for talent.)

R: What’s your next project?

It’s my eleventh novel, FINDERS, KEEPERS, LOSERS, WEEPERS, scheduled for publication late January 2014. Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) are out to reviewers now, and Amazon already has it listed and is taking advance orders. It’s a rock-and-roll story that kicks off in 1989, when rock idol Nat Axelrod is sentenced to prison on a trumped-up rape charge. Characters come and go in a struggle to find love, success or survival in the take-no-prisoners music business, where backstabbing is a fine art limited only by the number of available backs. … Meanwhile, I’ll have a new short story, “After Daddy Died,” in the January-February double-issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and another, “The Dead Detective,” in THE SOUND AND THE FURRY, an anthology to benefit the International Fund for Animal Welfare edited by Denise Dietz and Lillian Steward Carl. … Not yet certain what my next novel will be, although fairly certain it will be set in Hollywood of the early forties. Working through several ideas, all of them leading off with the words “what if.”

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Dog

Beach or Pool?  Pool 

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink? Tab

Favorite Book?  Ragtime

Favorite TV Series?  The Sopranos

Favorite Movie?  Casablanca

Favorite Actor:    Gable

Favorite Actress:  Audrey Hepburn

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Piña Colada

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Pope John XXlll

If I had just one wish, it would be Peace on earth to men of good will

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _______; sorry, stumped; happy with who I am…

Thanks, ROCCO  and Toni. Enjoyed the visit.


WE enjoyed having you, Bob.  Folks, you can find out more about Bob at:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Meow - I interview Monica Ferris!

We welcome author Monica Ferris!

Mary Monica Pulver sold her first short story to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1983.  Her first novel, Murder at the War, appeared from St. Martin's Press in 1987. Four in that series followed.  In 1992, the first of six medieval Tales, written in collaboration with Gail Frazer as Margaret Frazer, appeared.   In 1998, writing as Monica Ferris, she began writing a new series for Berkley featuring a needleworking sleuth named Betsy Devonshire.  The first was called Crewel World, the eighteenth, to appear in February, is A Drowning Pool.

          To learn more, go to

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

My mother was a voracious reader and my father was a great story-teller, so I think that combination very naturally led to my career as a novelist.  I’m the oldest of six children, I grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin.  I joined the Navy out of high school, in six and a half years I served at Bainbridge, Maryland; Alameda, California; and London, England.  I was trained as a journalist, and had lots of adventures (I could write a book).  Back home I attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, joined the Society for Creative Anachronism (I DID write a book), married and moved to Minneapolis.

R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

The usual: Christie, Sayers, Tey, Marsh.  But also the less usual: John D. MacDonald.

R: Tell us about your latest release in your Betsy series.

The current title is And Then You Dye, but A Drowning Spool is coming in February.  Both are entries in the Betsy Devonshire needlework series.  Both follow the series’ template of a person under suspicion of murder who comes to Betsy with a plea that she clear his or her name.  But each has an un-similar twist at the end. 

R: your main character is fond of needlepoint. Is this something you also enjoy? How did you decide on this as a career for your sleuth?

This series was the idea of my then-editor at Berkley.  I had broken off a collaboration with Gail Frazer (we were writing the Dame Frevisse medieval series), with Gail continuing the series alone, and I was casting around for a new idea when my agent contacted me with a message from my editor about writing a needlework series.  I was so flattered to be asked that I accepted at once, and only later discovered I didn’t know enough about needlework to carry off the heroine I invented.  So I murdered her and put her ignorant sister in the role.  As I learn, so does Betsy, though she’s pulling ahead.  I have come to love and admire the needle crafts, especially needlepoint and punch needle and knitting.  I’m trying to learn crochet, have given up on Hardanger, and struggle with counted cross stitch – though that last has the most gorgeous results!

R:  From your website photos, it appears you have a fondness for hats.  Is this a hobby of yours and how did it come about?

I was attending one of the early Malice Domestic conventions, where we dressed up for a fancy tea party.  A vendor was offering antique clothing and one of her hats was a match for the costume I was wearing.  Many people complimented me on the hat, so I decided to get another one, and then another, and another . . .  I have around forty hats now.  I love the way they “complete” an outfit, and I feel grown up and sophisticated wearing them.

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?

The search for an agent is complicated and can be heart-breaking, but once you find a good one, her value is above rubies.  My first good agent was recommended to me by a fellow author – she kindly recommended me to the agent, as well.  I was glad to fire my previous agent (whom I think was lying to me about what he was doing), and Sally sold my first novel to the first editor at a prestigious publishing house she offered it to, because she knew the editor was looking for exactly the kind of novel I had written.  She sent me a post card telling me it was sold and I had to sit down and try to remember how to breathe when I read it.

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

Research is key for me.  Research writes about half of each novel, if not more.  The writers’ rule is, write what you know; but I’m like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Kipling’s mongoose, whose motto is, “Go and find out.”  Fortunately, I’m interested in everything, from how to make beer to clever ways to kill people.

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

How lazy I am.

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

Oh, Lord!  The list of crazy deeds is long.  I tend to commit to projects without thinking too much about consequences.  I enlisted in the Navy right out of high school, I extended my enlistment for two years so I could be assigned to London – but those turned out to be good decisions.  While in the Navy and stationed at an out-of-the-way place, a friend and I sneaked over to the stables late one night, saddled two horses, and rode them around the base.  It’s interesting to ride horses in the dark; they barely lift their feet and the ride is very smooth.  My horse thought it was fun, his kept balking and nearly got us caught when the shore patrol drove by.  Trying to sneak them back into the barn we stumbled (literally) over a row of water pipes strewn on the ground and created a heck of a row, but miraculously didn’t wake the people in the house.  I had to hang onto the stirrup flap to keep from falling down laughing.  That was crazy - and stupid.  Years later, somewhere around 1977 I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism – which is a pretty crazy outfit.  But that was a good decision, too.  (See Murder at the War by Mary Monica Pulver – me.)

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

I think my novels, like all traditional mysteries, are comfort reads.  They are about ordinary, often likable, people caught up in an ugly event – but at the end, justice happens and order is restored.  Like when you learn a new word and then see it everywhere, reading about things turning out all right reminds the reader that in real life, most things turn out all right, too.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

I’m starting the next Betsy Devonshire mystery, currently titled A (or The) Needle Case.  I’ve been watching American Pickers and am intrigued by those people who fill their houses, garages, barns, sheds, even bought-for-the-purpose used school buses with stuff.  These people aren’t hoarders, they don’t keep garbage, they go out and buy things, bicycles and movie theater marquees and oil cans.  Why? So I have invented Tom Riordan to explore that a little bit.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Both.  I write a synopsis (required by my publisher), which I treat as a starting point, and fairly usually depart from it by Chapter Four.  But the solution remains – I need to know whom to point at as my culprit going in.  What often happens is, I do the setup, get Betsy involved, then just follow her around, writing down what she does and says.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

I’m learning more about numismatism (coin collecting), and have just decided to continue adding to a collection of medieval English silver hammered coins I gathered years agoI have one from every reign between William I and Elizabeth I, so will start looking for a good one of James I.  I’m on the Vestry of my Episcopal Church and was recently elected to the Board of the co-op we live in, and am finding both more complex than I anticipated.  I have taken up golf and love it, though I’m not very good at it.  And I’m very interested in crows.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?  I also have a Facebook account, and I am one of the bloggers on Killer

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day, especially early morning.

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat (two, actually)

Beach or Pool?    Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad – I make a killer salad.

Favorite Drink?  Diet Squirt, though I am also fond of Schells Shocked (a grapefruit flavored beer!), and Arnold Palmers (mix of iced tea and lemonade).  Once in awhile I like a Bloody Mary.

Favorite Book?  That’s really tough.  I worship Donald E. Westlake’s The Hot Rock (and love the rest of the Dortmunder series, especially Drowned Hopes) and all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.  My own special “comfort read” is Ngaio Marsh’s Overture to Death.

Favorite TV Series?  The Big Bang Theory 

Favorite Movie?  Another hard one.  The Philadelphia Story (original version), Groundhog Day, the first three Star Wars movies. The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.

Favorite Actor: Jimmy Stewart

Favorite Actress: Bette Davis

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Pina Colada

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.  Love, love, love Hawaii!

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: right now Richard III (I’m researching him for Magna cum Murder).

If I had just one wish, it would be to win the lottery – though I rarely buy a ticket!

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Betsy Devonshire.

Thanks for a great interview, Mary Monica!

Here are all the places you can find out about Monica Ferris!  I also have a Facebook account, and I am one of the bloggers on Killer

Giveaway note from Monica!

If anyone can come up with a title I can use for the Betsy Devonshire series, I’ll send them a specially-autographed copy of the book when it comes out.  The title has to be five or fewer words, contain a needlework term, and have an element of threat.   Examples: Crewel World, Hanging by a Thread, Blackwork, Knitting Bones.

List your titles and email addy in the comments section below.  We will forward them to Monica and if one clicks, she will notify the winner!