by Karen E. Rigley
Welcome, Clea, and thank you for joining our MMC interviews. Cats and mysteries certainly go well together as your entertaining books prove.
Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary. What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what and why?
Do I have to choose? I love hearing what everyone is reading, what they love, and why. I find this is very helpful to me as I write my own feline-centered cozies.
When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?
I don’t remember. It was way before Facebook, I know that!
How did you know you were meant to write?
I have always made up stories to amuse my friends and family, from as early an age as I can remember. My mother kept some of my first stories from when I was learning to write. It was only a question of learning that I could do it professionally – which I dared to try after close to 20 years of being a journalist (which is telling other people’s stories, kind of).
What fascinates you about mysteries?
I love the puzzle aspect and also the ability to bring order to the world. Maybe not the real world, but my own little universe. I shake things up, like in a snow globe, and then I get to set them right.
What inspired you to write your mysteries?
I have always read them. I had written a nonfiction book about women and cats (“The Feline Mystique: On The Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats,” St. Martin’s Press, 2002), and, Kate, the owner of a local mystery bookstore (the aptly named Kate’s Mystery Books) invited me to sign at her annual holiday party. I said, “But I don’t write mysteries.” She said, “Clea, believe it or not, there’s a huge overlap between women who love cats and mystery readers.” So I came and signed books with about 20 other authors and a few hundred readers and had a blast. And at the end of the night, Kate said to me, “You should write a mystery.” So the next day I started what became, with many revisions, my first mystery, “Mew is for Murder” (Poisoned Pen Pres).
What intrigues you about writing a series?
I love getting to develop the characters. I hate ending a book, but with series I know I’ll see them all again – and I get to watch them grow.
What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?
Making myself revise is hard, hard, hard. I love the inspiration. The perspiration part not so much – but it is soooo necessary.
What do you enjoy reading?
Everything! I am now in a John Lawton World War II mystery (“Bluffing Mr. Churchill”) and have a Stuart Nevile up next. I guess I read darker than I write.
Which authors have influenced you?
My childhood faves were C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, and it has been pointed out to me that my Mr Grey owes a lot to Aslan from those books. Also, Tolkein and Ursula LeGuin.
How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?
I usually have the central puzzle or dilemma in mind, but not necessarily how it will resolve.
Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?
Well, I adore my cats – Mr Grey in the Dulcie Schwartz books and Musetta in the Theda Krakow books. And, of course, Wallis the tabby from my Pru books. She’s got so much attitude!!
What would you like to say to your readers & fans?
Thank you!! I am always hoping that readers will take my books as they are – not look for them to be like anyone else’s books. If they try them and they enjoy them, I so deeply appreciate that! Oh, and if they do, they could spread the word!
What advice would you offer a beginning writer?
Write every day, even if you don’t feel inspired. Oh, and when you’re done with a chapter or a story, put it aside for at least a few weeks and then read it through. You’ll be surprised – so much stuff you thought was in there never made it out of your head and onto the page! Revising is so important. Also, read read read constantly. Writers have to be readers first (and always)!
What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?
I love getting to create little worlds, with people and characters of whom I grow quite fond. What I don’t like is realizing that I’ve been sitting at my desk for 10 hours and I have missed daylight… this happens all too often.
If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select? What would you discuss?
Agatha Christie, of course, Jane Austen, and Hilary Mantel. Mantel is still alive and writing, for which I’m so grateful! But I think of these women as just the masters at creating memorable characters. And that, really, is key to creating a story – and a mystery is a story first.
Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?
I do and I do. I want my characters to be real and have lives – and that includes pets and families and love lives.
What are your favorite “writing” clothes?
ANYTHING COMFY!! I bought these “velour lounging pants” on sale, so I wear them all through the winter (with a big, soft top). In warm weather, I go the opposite direction – cutoff sweatpant shorts and a T-shirt.
As author you create magic offering readers an escape into your story. As you write how deeply do you submerge into your own characters, setting and plot? Do you dream any of your scenes?
I have dreamt scenes, when I’m deep into a book. I always try to feel my way through my characters – I can’t make them do anything I don’t understand or, really, wouldn’t do myself. Even my killers have to have motives I believe in. I have to see how I could be pushed almost that far.
Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?
I don’t know. I read darker than I write – but I can’t write a scene where someone is tortured or anything like that. I like my characters and their happy endings too much!
Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?
I usually don’t read mysteries when I’m writing – too close to home! Its funny but I just don’t WANT to when I’m writing. I read a lot of Victorian fiction: Anthony Trolloppe and the like while writing.
Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so,why?
I do. Publishers want series – and I do like staying with my characters!
What are you writing now?
I just sent in the edits for “Grey Dawn,” which will be the sixth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery (for Severn House). So I should start the fourth Pru Marlowe pet noir, but I haven’t yet.
Tell us about your newest mystery:
That would probably be “True Grey,” the fifth Dulcie mystery – my heroine is working on her thesis, but when she goes to meet a visiting scholar, she finds her lying dead, knocked out by a piece of statuary. And since she was the one who found her, she immediately becomes a suspect…. luckily, her ghost cat, Mr Grey, knows she is innocent.
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
You can read excerpts and find out news at my home site at
http://www.cleasimon.com – you can also “friend” me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @Clea_Simon – thanks so much!
Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.
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