Sunday, October 29, 2017

Guest Blogger - Lea Wait!

Meow, my guest blogger this week is author Lea Wait!

Lea Wait has lived in several places, but has called the coast of Maine home for almost twenty years. She writes the Mainely Needlepoint mystery series (including THREAD THE HALLS), the Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and historical novels (and now a contemporary YA mystery, PIZZA TO  DIE FOR) for younger readers. She invites readers to check her website ( for links to free prequels of her books, and to friend her on Goodreads and Facebook, where her page is “Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd.” Cornelia is writing the next Lea Wait mystery series, debuting in 2018.


I grew up with my parents and grandparents between the suburbs of New Jersey and the coast of Maine. I went to college in Pittsburgh, lived in Greenwich Village, New York, for seven years, and then raised my children in suburban New Jersey … while often visiting the coast of Maine.
So if you’d guess I’d write books set in New Jersey and Maine, you’d be right. Of my 21 books, 3 are set in New Jersey, and 16 in Maine. (Yes, one set in Cape Cod, one in New York State are there, too, and many scenes in one are in Charleston, South Carolina. But that character gets to Maine, too.)
Place is as critical to my books as a stage set is to a play. None of my plots would work in other locations. That’s particularly true of my two most recent mysteries: PIZZA TO DIE FOR, set in New Jersey, and THREAD THE HALLS, set on the coast of Maine.

In PIZZA TO DIE FOR, future chef fourteen -year-old Mikki Norden is ready for any kitchen emergency – except the unexpected death of her mentor, Mr. Baldacci. But Mikki’s learned a lot about solving crimes from her mother, an almost-published mystery author. So when the local New Jersey police rule Mr. B’s death a heart attack, she knows she has to prove otherwise. Mikki grows up fast as she discovers secrets surrounding Mr. B and his restaurant .. and within her own family.  Suspense Magazine called it “a delicious mystery starring a smart and feisty young girl, with a supporting cast of wacky characters guaranteed to entertain readers. Plus recipes!” 

Why is the New Jersey location important? Well, Mr. B owns an Italian restaurant, Mikki’s family is connected to some guys in black suits who hang out there, Sundays are for bagels … and Mikki can walk to her school, library, and, of course, to the restaurant. On October days she wears a sweatshirt to school, slips on dog poop hidden by autumn leaves, and sees a (real) skeleton reading Halloween books in the town library. Not to mention what happens when she’s kidnapped …   

THREAD THE HALLS, on the other hand, is set in a Currier & Ives version of a New England Christmas in a Maine harbor town. Sleighs? Wreaths? Santa arriving via a lobster boat? Carolers? Snow every day? Of course! Protagonist Angie Curtis, the Mainely Needlepointers, and Angie’s beau have to ensure everything is perfect before Patrick’s movie-star mother arrives with her co-star, director and screen writers to experience a perfect Maine Christmas. Of course, they didn’t expect the body partly covered with snow, or the blizzard, or the poisoned cookies … but by Christmas Day, all should, they hope, be merry.

If I hadn’t lived in both those places, I wouldn’t have known about how crazy Maine is about wreaths (every door and window on most homes?) or what sorts of folks may hang out in an old-style New Jersey Italian restaurant. I hope my readers will benefit from the small details that make these mysteries come alive.
I know they were fun to write!

Lea will give away one copy each of THREAD THE HALLS and PIZZA TO DIE FOR  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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!  Contest ends midnight, November 5!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Guest Carolyn Haines!

Meow! My guest is author Carolyn Haines!

USA TODAY bestselling author Carolyn Haines has published over 70 novels in a number of genres. She loves animals, ghosts, and tormenting her friends. She’s been a journalist, PR flack, and college professor, but her true love is writing fiction. You can find out more about her here, and she invites you to sign up for her newsletter at her website.

1.    Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? J 
I’m crazy for animals. I’ve always been the person who picked up stray cats and dogs (and now horses) and took them home to care for them. In fact, I have such an addiction to helping animals that I have my own 501c3 animal rescue, Good Fortune Farm Refuge. It is very small, but I do what I can for animals. And I love to write mystery. All kinds of mysteries. Currently I’m writing 3 series—one with cats, one with ghosts, and one with humor. I spend more time with fictional characters than real people, but my 11 cats, 8 dogs, and 3 horses keep me grounded.

2.    Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
First, if you have companion animals, please neuter them. So many animals are unwanted and live tragic and painful lives. Second, please don’t buy any pets. Go to a shelter or rescue. Those are my requests. In the last couple of years, readers have asked me to “write faster.” I left my teaching job last year, and boy howdy have I been writing! See, the cats trained me to respond to all demands—and so I do. It’s good to have cats for task masters. They’re almost as good at discipline as the military.

3.    Please tell us about your newest release   
FAMILIAR TROUBLE, #1 in the brand new Trouble, black cat detective multi-author series, is now FREE. And it’s a funny story how Trouble came to life. Back in the 1990s I wrote 22 books about Familiar, the black cat detective, for Harlequin Intrigue under the name Caroline Burnes. I am reissuing some of those titles, but I wanted to write about another black cat, Trouble, who is Familiar’s son. And I convinced a bevy of talented writers to join me in this adventure So each book will feature Trouble, but there are multi-authors. Trouble is a character with his own voice (he talks to the reader). He learned his detective skills from his dad and from watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock on TV, so he has a slight British accent. And he is ALWAYS smarter than the bipeds.

4.    What was the inspiration behind this story?

I’ve almost always had a black cat. Familiar was based on my wonderful E.A. Poe, who passed away years back. That’s when I stopped writing the Familiar stories. I just missed him so much, I couldn’t write anymore. And Trouble is based on another wonderful black cat, Coal Shaft Haines. When he died in February 2016 of kidney failure brought on by diabetes (he was a stray who had had a very tough beginning) I decided I wanted to honor him with some stories based on him. He loved Benedict Cumberbatch! He did. And he could definitely solve mysteries. Mostly he knocked things off my desk and hid them, but he could also find things I’d lost for years!

5.    What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?

Well, he’s black and sleek and very smart! And he takes no guff off the humanoids. He loves his owner, Tammy Lynn, but he also loves to travel, and that’s how he gets into so many adventures with the other writers of the series. So far this year he’s solved a mystery in Wetumpka, Alabama, Savannah, Georgia, Tallahassee, Florida, and Summer Valley Ranch in Alabama—a horse farm. He’s one determined cat!

6.    One of your characters is going on a shopping spree. Where does he/she go and what does he/she buy?

Trouble is something of a shopper. Food. That’s what he loves. Snapper, shrimp, crab, organic chicken or beef—in a light pumpkin broth or sometimes heavy cream sauce. And warm fleece throws in bright green, aqua or red to contract against his elegant black hide. Or he might surprise me and buy a ticket to Scotland. He’s discovered he’s descended from the horse lords of the Clan Donald.

7.    Your character is at a bookstore. Which section is he/she shopping in? What book is in his/her hand right now?

Trouble lives at the Book Basket in Wetumpka, AL, with his beloved human, Tammy. She owns the bookstore. He loves “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He reads it in a British accent. But he’s also a fan of maps and atlases. They are helpful in plotting his next adventure.

8.    Your character has the music blasting. What’s playing, and what is he/she doing while listening?

He’s listening to “Alley Cat.” He loves old rock and roll and he thinks Peggy Lee is hot.

9.    Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)

I think Trouble is a force unto himself. I can’t take credit for him—he is just who he is. He’s such a fun character that 14 writers have signed up to write stories about him. We have 4 published books already, with a free Christmas story coming out, and we have about a book a month set to be published in 2018. So the cat has some kind of charm. The stories are romantic mysteries—light on the romance and heavy on the mystery. But they also easily fall into the cozy mystery category.

10. Fiction can often provide powerful life lessons. What message do you hope readers get from your book?

What I’d really like is for people to stop and contemplate the possibility that humans don’t give animals enough credit for thinking and feeling. Perhaps they don’t think and feel exactly like humans, but they do think and feel. And for heaven’s sake, men and women don’t think or feel alike! So Trouble, with his love of Tammy, his desire for justice, and his need for gourmet food, a little cuddling, and companionship is not so different from the rest of us. I think this is true of all animals.

11. What do you do when you are not writing?
As I mentioned, I run an animal rescue. I spend a lot of time at veterinarians, because many of the animals I’ve taken in are older or have been abused. And I torment my friends. I ride horses and clean stalls and take walks in the woods. I used to be a dang fine cook, but I quit cooking.

12. Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
Nancy Drew had a huge impact. The Black Stallion books. Sherlock Holmes, Poe’s dark stories. Eudora Welty’s short fiction. And I was so fortunate to have two parents and a grandmother who told stories. The oral tradition was strong in our house and I have benefitted greatly from that.

13. Where can we purchase this book?
FAMILIAR TROUBLE is free right now in the US at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. The other Trouble books are available there also for $3.99 for e-books. And they are in print at Amazon.

14. Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
I do write in a number of other genres, but all within the scope of mystery. I love ghost stories and creepy stories, and I write those in the Pluto’s Snitch series. The the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery books are about friendship, place, and humor.

15. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Hopped a freight train with another writer friend. We rode from Pascagoula to New Orleans—before we got in big, big trouble. But it was SO worth it.
16. What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I was run over by a hayride when I was 15.

Random Quickies!

1.    Pepsi or Coke?
Coke—never Pepsi

2.    Favorite kind of chocolate?
Dark chocolate of any kind. Only with nuts. No nougat.

3.    Cats or dogs?
Both cats and dogs, horses, snakes, birds, lizards—if it’s alive, it is welcome at my farm.

4.    Favorite movie?
The Wizard of Oz

5.    Favorite book to movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird

6.    Hardback/Paperback or eReader?
All three. I love eReaders for convenience and ease and the larger type. I love to hold hardbacks. Paperbacks are so easy to carry.

7.    Favorite color?

8.    How many paperback/hardcover books do you own?
Maybe 1000? I don’t know. I have recently been boxing up all the really nice hardcovers and donating them to two local libraries that are having a tough time filling shelves.

9.    Do you own a laptop or desktop computer?

10. What book are you reading today?
I’m writing today, so not reading (sad, isn’t it?)

11. If you could live anywhere in the world it would be:

Find Carolyn at:
Amazon Author Page:

Carolyn will give away 2 print copies of FAMILIAR TROUBLE to two lucky commenters!
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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! US only please.  Contest ends November 1.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Claire Matturro!

Meow! This week my guest is author Claire Matturro!

Claire Hamner Matturro admits she used to be a dog person. But then she rescued a black kitten and there was no going back. She’s been a journalist in Alabama, a lawyer in Florida, an organic blueberry farmer in Georgia, and taught at Florida State University College of Law and as a visiting professor of legal writing one long, snowy winter at the University of Oregon. She now lives with her husband and two rescued cats in Florida, where it doesn’t snow. Her newest book, Trouble in Tallahassee (KaliOka Press September 2017), is part of a series featuring Trouble, the black cat detective. Her prior books are: Skinny-Dipping (a BookSense pick, Romantic Times’ Best First Mystery, and nominated for a Barry Award); Wildcat Wine (nominated for a Georgia Writer of the Year Award); Bone Valley and Sweetheart Deal (winner of Romantic Times’ Award for Most Humorous Mystery), all published by William Morrow. She remains active in writers’ groups and contributes regularly to Southern Literary Review. 

Welcome Claire! Tell us a little about your background:

Thanks ROCCO! Though born in Alabama, I was raised primarily in Southwest Florida. I’ve been a print journalist in Alabama, a lawyer in Sarasota, Florida, taught at both Florida State University’s law school and the University of Oregon’s law school, wrote a series of humorous legal thrillers published by William Morrow, a HarperCollins imprint, and I’ve also been an organic blueberry farmer in Georgia. These days, after many years away, I’m back in SW Florida with my husband, Bill, and our two rescued cats. 

Tell us a bit about your Familiar Legacy series. Where did that idea come from?

As much as I’d love to claim the credit for the idea, the creative mind behind the series’ concept is Carolyn Haines, award-winning, best-seller author of too many books to list or count. In the past, Carolyn had written a series of books about Familiar, a black cat detective, and these books were successful in their day. But Carolyn wanted to do a new series, featuring a similar cat detective, and, hence, Trouble was born. Trouble the black cat detective is the son of Familiar, the original black cat detective. Unlike his father, who was more a Humphrey Bogart type, Trouble speaks with a British accent (think Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes).

The genius behind Carolyn’s idea was to bring along other writers to join the series. She recruited a handful of women writers, each with varying styles of publications in their history, and gave us Trouble and let us go. Though the black cat detective is common to each book, the setting, style, mystery, and plots are all the product solely of the individual author.  

Is “Trouble” the black cat detective based on a real life kitty?

This is a great question for Carolyn, so I asked her. Here is what she said: “Familiar was based on my cat E. A. Poe. And Trouble is based on another wonderful black cat, Coal Shaft Haines. I think more detail may have been in that last newsletter I did, but that's basically it. So yes, they are both based on real life cats that I rescued.” Here’s the link to the newsletter she mentions:

Tell us about your newest release, Trouble in Tallahassee.

Not to belabor the obvious, but the story is set in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, a wonderful city where I lived for a number of years. Some of the action takes place at Florida State University College of Law, where I once taught. In the story, Abby, a young woman attorney, invites Layla, a law student, to stay with her for a brief time while Layla’s apartment is repaired from fire damage. You know the saying, “no good deed goes unpunished.” In short order, Layla is mugged, then kidnapped. Danger is heightened because Layla is a type-one diabetic and will die without her insulin.

Abby realizes the police aren’t going to save Layla because they are too busy blaming Layla’s good friend and fellow law student, Victor, for the crime. Victor had been career Navy, but after an abrupt resignation, had turned to law school. Soon Abby, assisted by Trouble, the black cat detective, and Victor set out to find Layla. Unfortunately, the first thing Victor finds is a dead body in a dumpster, which, naturally, makes the police more convinced of his guilt. Abby gets trapped in a burning house with Trouble and the comatose wife of her boss. Trouble finds a missing earring hidden in a padded bra and a wedding ring in a can of cat food—and sniffs out the scent of the villain. But how does he tell Victor and Abby when they can’t speak cat language?

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

My characters become so real to me that they talk to me—not literally, you understand, but in my imagination. Whenever I get stuck on a plot angle, or write myself into a corner, all I need to do is go for a long, fast walk and let my characters join me (again, in my imagination). Soon enough, they will tell me what to write next.

At the beginning or plotting stage of writing a manuscript, I deliberately give certain traits—intellectual and emotional, as well as physical—to each character and I think about what traits they need for the plot. That is, if a character has to be scaling fences and leaping fires, I need him or her to have the physical traits to support that action. I also try to flip the clichés. For example, the pot-bellied, ignorant Southern sheriff is an unfortunate cliché, so I would make my Southern sheriff lean, flat-bellied, and smart with good grammar to flip the cliché.

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

I’ve done it both ways, and I really can’t say which approach is better. If I outline, I tend to over-do with too many details and end up with 80 page outlines. Then, of course, as I write, I change things. A lot. So the 80-page outline is a waste, unless you count is as a priming-the-pump way of getting ideas flowing.

In contrast, when I just start writing and hope the plot will take care of itself, I find I write myself into corners so often I have to throw out whole chapters. Which is, of course, a waste of time except if you count it as a priming-the-pump way of getting ideas flowing.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

Characters. Definitely. I don’t care how convoluted or brilliant a plot is, if neither the writer nor the readers care about the characters, the plot won’t matter. Imagine your favorite novel, but replace the main characters with dull, boring, flat, one-dimensional characters, and what have you got? A boring, dull, flat, one-dimensional book.

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

As with my life, I have been so blessed in my writing career that’s it’s almost embarrassing to admit. Of course, the physical act of writing is a challenge in and of itself because it’s hard work intellectually. But it is work I enjoy. Like most writers, I’ve gone through periods of nothing but rejections (from publishers and agents), but that’s part of the territory. And, having been a lawyer for a decade, I was used to hard work, cold shoulders, and road blocks.

My biggest challenge would be getting back in the game. I left publishing in 2007 for family and personal reasons. Years later, by the time I was ready to write another manuscript, my agent had died, my editor had retired, and my publicist had switched career paths. So I had to start all over again. What motivated me to keep going was the simple fact that I like to write and I like telling stories.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

Yes. When I started my Lilly Belle humorous legal mystery series, I couldn’t for the life of me get an agent. Rejection followed after rejection, and in mostly form letters. But I entered a manuscript in a contest that involved an editor at HarperCollins, and when I won first place, she purchased that manuscript as well as a second one from me. By the time we were on my third manuscript, I decided I needed an agent to negotiate the deal. I called a friend of mine who was a retired publisher, and he recommended an agent named Elaine. I queried her. Nothing. I mailed her a book and a second query, and nothing. I called my friend, who had worked with her when he was a publisher. He said, “Wait a minute, I’ll give her a call.” Half hour later, Elaine phoned me and soon after she became my agent. Proof, I suppose, that who you know is often more helpful than one would want to admit.

Alas, sadly Elaine died, and I found my new agent, Liza Fleissig, the old-fashioned way of sending queries out to agents who were looking for what I was writing.

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

I am co-authoring a manuscript now called Wayward Girls. My partner, Penny Koepsel, and I have been revising the manuscript with the aid of an editor and the enthusiastic encouragement of our agent, Liza Fleissig. During our revisions, both Penny and I were side-lined by hurricanes. She got hit hard by Harvey, and I got a hit from Irma. Nonetheless, we hope to have the story finished and published soon. It's already won a couple of awards in the unpublished manuscript categories, and we have great hopes for its success. Wayward Girls is inspired by a true life story of a brutal student death in a Texas wilderness school, and also reflects some of the experiences Penny and I had as teen-aged students at a scandal-ridden boarding school in Florida. Liza is cheering us on and remains ever faithful.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

The only consistency in my work habits is inconsistency, which is not the same as saying I’m undisciplined. Some days, I work hours and hours. Other days, other demands from life require my attention elsewhere and I might hit a lick here and there at most. Like most attorneys, I find I write best when I’m facing a deadline. Then, I can work hours without breaks. Sometimes I will work so steadily without a break that my husband will have to come get me and tell me to stand up, stretch, and go eat something. Or, one or both of our cats will come and demand attention as if they too are telling me to take a break.

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?

The Bible, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I’ve been wanting to reread, and the Chicago Style Manual because I need it a lot when I write. However, if I can access CSM online in this retreat, then I’d take J. M. Roberts’ History of the World as my third book because I’ve always intended to read it, but somehow never find the time.  

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Take creative writing classes, but also take print journalism classes. Even if you want to write fiction, the skills and discipline you will learn in a basic print journalism class will help you tremendously with structure, grammar, style and the art of using precise words instead of adverbs and adjectives.

Join writers’ critique groups. Read. Read some more. Keep writing. Persevere. Sorry, there is no magic in that formula, but persistence and hard work are required elements of being a writer. In fact, I’d venture to guess that persistence and hard work are more important than raw talent in the writing business.

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

Listen, I’m a child of the Sixties and I didn’t skip much, so it’s better that I not answer that question. That said, I can refer you to Wayward Girls once it’s published.

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

I don’t have a clue, unless it’s the fact I am a devout, albeit liberal/progressive Christian. A few times that’s surprised readers because my books can be saucy and irreverent, and I have not lived a conventional Christian life. I see Jesus as one of the first love and peace hippies, and his message of love and caring and forgiveness transcends some of the messes people have made in his name.

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

Why do you write? It’s not for fame or glory or money. It’s a lonely profession, requiring hours of isolation, and one in which the odds are greatly against success, and rejections and critics will hound you. You will get emails from perfect strangers pointing out every mistake, real or imagined, in any published book, and some one will always really, really, really hate your book and post that far and wide.

There’s really nothing that glamorous about the process of writing, yet it seems to attract awe and interest. So why write? Other writers will have vastly different answers, for me it’s because it’s fun to create a world of make-believe people and see what they do when they are tested. Working the pieces of a mystery novel together also takes a great deal of analytical skill, and that challenge is something I enjoy.

Or maybe I just like to wear pajamas while I work!

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

You might be sorry you asked, but here’s a list of links to my social media and at the end to an online encyclopedia article about me that seems to be mostly accurate.

Just for Fun:
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Both. I used to be a dog person, but lately am a cat person, but I’ve got a serious hankering for another Boston terrier.
Favorite Drink?  Beer. Preferably with friends and pizza, or subtitled, why I’m not thin any more.
Favorite Book?  It depends upon the frame of mind when I’m asked, but I love Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, anything by Hemingway, anything by Donna Tartt and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Favorite TV Series?  Father Brown
Favorite Movie?  To Kill a Mockingbird
Favorite Actor: Toss up between John Wayne and Gregory Peck.
Favorite Actress:  Meryl Streep .  
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jesus
If I had just one wish, it would be that we could all love one another and behave with peace and kindness and generosity as God intended for us to do.

You can find Claire at:

Follow her at
for future give-aways!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Rhys Bowen!

Meow, my guest today is author Rhys Bowen!

Rhys Bowen is the New York TimesBestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

  • Welcome, Rhys! Tell us a little about your background
Thank you ROCCO. I was born and raised in England, educated at London University and worked for the BBC, but now live in California and Arizona (I like sunshine). I’m married with 4 children and now 5 grandchildren. I have been a published writer for most of my life. I have been writing mysteries for 20 years now and have made the New York Times and USA today bestseller lists as well as being #1 on Kindle. My books have won 14 awards to date, out of 28 nominations and my fortieth mystery comes out next March..
  • Tell us a bit about your “Royal Spyness” series. How did that idea come about?
It came about when my publisher said they couldn’t really break me out unless I wrote a big dark stand-alone novel. I thought about this and decided I didn’t want to spend six months in such a dark setting. So I realized I wanted to have fun when I wrote. I wondered what would be the most unlikely sleuth I could come up with. How about if she was royal? But penniless? And the 1930s—such a fascinating time to set any book.
  • Tell us about your other series, Molly Murphy and Evan Evans.  Do you prefer one over the other?
It’s like saying which child do you like best! Evan was my first sleuth. I started writing those books because I had read Tony Hillerman and was so impressed with his sense of place. Since I had spent a lot of time in Wales during my childhood I wanted to give that same sense of place to my books. So the books take place in a small village in Snowdonia. And Molly—she came about after I visited Ellis Island. I was emotionally overcome with what I felt there and knew I had to set a book there. I also wanted to write a first person female protagonist, one who is brave and feisty with a strong sense of justice but not always wise (a little like me, I’m afraid). The first book, Murphy’s Law, won the Agatha Award for best novel that year and the series has gone on to win many more awards. Book 17 comes out in November!
And I’d also like to mention this year’s big stand-alone novel In Farleigh Field. It takes place in Britain in WWII and was such a joy to write. An equal joy that it has done so brilliantly: selling over 100,000 copies during the first month!
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I get to know them first through their speech. Both Molly and Georgie are first person narrators and once they started speaking they literally took over. Apart from that they reveal a little more about themselves with each book. I’ve never been able to create a character. They just introduce themselves and there they are!
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Definitely a pantzer! I start by knowing the environment in which the story will take place. Sometimes I know the crime that will happen, sometimes who will be killed and why. Sometimes very little. I write the first half of every book in panic mode. But if I outlined and knew what was going to happen I’d be bored. I like being surprised as much as my readers do!
However, when I wrote In Farleigh Field there were multiple points of view, several different stories so it had to be plotted out more carefully.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Oh character, definitely. Plots can be clever but readers fall in love with a character. No reader has ever said to me “I love your books because of their clever plots.” They say, “I love Georgie. Or I love Molly.”
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge has been to try to fit in as many books as my publishers want me to write. Twice now I’ve done 3 books a year and that has been brutal. But it’s hard to say no.
What inspires me is that I love spending time with my characters. I love chuckling when one of my Royal Spyness characters says or does something silly. I also love the historical research. AND I love going on tour and meeting my readers.  I realize how lucky I have been to have become more successful every year for twenty years.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I had a previous agent and things were not going well. She had moved to Singapore and thought she could take care of my career from there. So I was at Malice Domestic and on a panel with Dorothy Cannel. Afterward her agent said, “Who was that British lady next to you? She was really funny.”  And Dorothy, bless her heart, said, “She’s looking for a new agent.” And the rest is history.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am halfway through next year’s Royal Spyness novel. It’s called Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding. Lots of fun.
But before that I completed my second by stand-alone novel for Lake Union. This one is called The Tuscan Child and takes place in WWII and in the 1970s. it’s the first book I’ve written in two time periods. Quite a challenge.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I write every day. Up early and do my social media then settle in by about 9 a.m. I write until I’ve done about 5 pages. Some days that’s easy, some it’s hard. But if you know you can’t quit until you’ve done the required amount it makes you keep the behind to the chair! It takes me about 3 months to do the first draft, then I polish, give to other readers, re-polish and off it goes.
  • If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
That’s hard. The first one is cheating: The Lord of the Rings. It has been a favorite all my life. Something meaty that I wouldn’t otherwise read because it involved too much time and effort: maybe George Eliot’s Middlemarch or a Dickens novel. And something to make me laugh. An old favorite: Our Hearts were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read. Read. Read.
And then write, write, write. I can’t tell you how many would-be writers I have met who tell me they plan to write a book some day. I ask what they are writing now and they say they don’t have time right now. I tell them if they were going to give a concert at Carnegie Hall one day but didn’t practice the piano at all now it would never happen. You only get better when you learn to manipulate the words on the page.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Taking a chance on marrying my husband, leaving Australia with him and moving to California was pretty crazy. Also I hitchhiked around Greece for 3 months with a friend when I was a student.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I used to sing in London folk clubs with Al Stewart, and Simon and Garfunkel.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What’s the most exciting thing that you are looking forward to next year?
And my answer: I’ve been invited back to be writer-in-residence in Tuscany. It’s a fabulous hotel in the vineyards and we work hard but also eat fabulous meals, go to wine tastings, excursions and generally have a good time. The details are on my website.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Twitter @rhysbowen
Thank you. Great questions


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