by Karen E. Rigley
Welcome, Kris. Thanks for joining us for our MMC interviews. It’s such a delight to see the author behind those fun cozies.
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?
All of the above! It’s great that we have these virtual clubhouses where we can connect and chat about our favorite mysteries.
When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?
I joined in 2003. A fellow cozy author told me about, and I discovered when I joined it that lots of people I already knew were also members, and I’ve met loads of other great readers and writers it in since.
How did you know you were meant to write?
I’ve been writing practically since I was born. As a toddler, before I could read, I would go through my picture books and make up stories to go with the illustrations, which I pretended to read to my infant sister. I’d go through the same book a dozen times and make up a dozen different stories. My direction in life was set pretty early.
What fascinates you about mysteries?
The thing I love most about mysteries is how strong the element of justice is in them. In real life bad things happen to good people, and karma doesn’t always seem to kick fast enough to give victims the satisfaction they deserve. But in mysteries we get to see justice served in the course of a book, and often in the most symbolic and significant way. I also love that our characters, our settings, our backgrounds, etc. are every bit as well developed as straight novels, yet they also always contain an engaging mystery. With mysteries, you can have it all.
What inspired you to write your mysteries?
Oh, I’ve loved mysteries ever since Nancy Drew first led me into a life of crime. I couldn’t imagine not writing them.
What intrigues you about writing a series?
Since writing a series involves putting the same characters into different circumstances, I get to share in much more of their adventures than I would if I only wrote one book with each set of characters. I would also miss getting together with them again and again.
What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?
I mostly write madcap mysteries. My Tracy Eaton mysteries feature the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, and my Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature a fake psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. While I love writing humor, what’s also important to me is maintaining the ratio of humor to real feelings and real character growth. Humor is always fun for those readers who enjoy madcap mysteries, but a read only provides a full, rich, satisfying journey for readers if those other elements are also significant.
What do you enjoy reading?
Anything and everything, including the backs of cereal boxes! Mysteries are my lifelong favorites, and cozies are my favorites among mysteries. But I also read women’s fiction, especially the softer, more romantic ones, which I consider general fiction’s version of cozies. And I like to read some personal growth books, since I’m an eternal work in process.
Which authors have influenced you?
Oh, where do I begin? I have read so many books, and I believe I learn something from all of them. Even books that I haven’t cared for too much have taught me things. And I don’t just mean what not to do — every writer does some things well. I very much admire the female authors — authors, such as Carolyn Hart and Nancy Pickard and others, who broke the publishing glass ceiling for all of us. I love their books, and I’m also grateful for the trail they blazed.
How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?
While I’m not an outliner, I am a moderate planner. I always know who the bad guy is and why he commits his crime; I like my mysteries to have deep roots. I usually also know the high points I’ll encounter along the way. Beyond that, much of it comes to me as I proceed. I sometimes imagine scenes without knowing how they’d fit in. I call them “beacons in the darkness” because I have no idea how they can possibly connect to what I know about the storyline, but I find myself writing towards them, and the connections just seem to form effortlessly. My subconscious mind really works overtime when I write. I also delve deeply into my characters, and I trust them to lead the book where it needs to go.
Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?
Oh, I have loved so many of my characters, sometimes even minor characters, who slip into a book for a brief, but memorable, walk-on. In my Tracy Eaton mysteries, my favorite characters are Tracy and her over-the-top mother, exasperating movie star Martha Collins. I love to write their bickering, but I also love the way they come together in the tough times, and always have each other’s back. Readers love Martha, although they also tell me they’re glad she’s not their mother! I also love Tracy’s uncle-in-law, Philly, an aging con artist with the cheerful, childlike spirit of the boy who becomes the class clown. I always feel good when I write Uncle Philly. These characters appear throughout my Tracy Eaton mysteries, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, DEM BONES’ REVENGE, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, and the forthcoming, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66.
In my Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical series, Samantha and Annabelle are my favorites. Samantha is a fake psychic, and cheerfully irresponsible; Annabelle is secretly a modern goddess, who works too hard as an FBI agent. They are each what the other most deplores, so it’s a mischievous universe that puts those two together. One idea that I’ve floated in the books of that series, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE and MAGICAL ALIENATION, is that the people who come into our lives aren’t necessarily the people we want, but the people we need. The people who have something to teach us. I plan in this series for Samantha and Annabelle to continue to learn things from each other, but also to have a great time doing it.
I’ve also written short story characters that I’ve enjoyed enormously, such as the actress/sleuth Lorna Doone, who wears a cookie suit and gives graveyard tours in my cozy story, “Audition for Murder,” which is in the MAP OF MURDER anthology and also on my website: http://www.krisneri.com/story-archive.html. I’ve actually loved too many of my short story characters to list here.
What would you like to say to your readers & fans?
Thanks for taking a chance on a new author. My first book, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, was honored by Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Award nominations, which means lots of readers took a chance on it, and they liked what they found well enough to nominate that book. Since then, my last three books, MAGICAL ALIENATION, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, and HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE, received Lefty Award nomination for Best Humorous Mystery, which tells me those fans have stayed around for more. I’m grateful to all of you for that.
What advice would you offer a beginning writer?
Read, read read! Writers who read unconsciously absorb so much more about writing than those who do not. I truly can’t stress enough how valuable it is. I also teach writing at the Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School and other places, and I can always tell, from the quality of their assignments, which students read and which do not. I would also suggest that they become part of writing communities, such as Sisters in Crime. That way they’ll have a support system for the tough times and a cheering squad for the good ones.
What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?
I enjoy meeting and chatting with fans at my appearances more than anything else. Writing is a monastic activity, but I’m a friendly person who craves more social time, and appearances give me that. About the only thing that makes me crazy is having to drive to appearances because I’m so directionally-challenged, and I’m always afraid of getting lost and showing up late, or not showing up at all. I do have a GPS now, so I get lost less often, but I still manage it on occasion. The trick is turning where the GPS actually tells me to, instead of where I think I should turn.
If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select? What would you discuss?
Three people…? Hmmm… I’ll have to think about the others, but the late Dorothy Gilman would sure be one of them. I so wish I’d had a chance to meet her. All of her books, but especially the Mrs. Pollifax series, are among my all-time favorites. Maybe I’d also want to re-connect with two mystery author friends who passed on too soon, Barbara Burnett Smith and Barbara Seranella.
Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?
I often like a touch of romance in the mysteries I read, but I also don’t mind if they don’t contain any romance — I leave it to the author to know what’s needed. As a writer, I do like to include it in my own mysteries, marital romance in my Tracy Eaton mysteries, since Tracy and Drew are married, and even more in my Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical series, since Samantha and Annabelle are both single. It was so fun recreating Angus, the ancient Celtic god of youth and love and laughter, and turning him into Samantha’s love slave.
What are your favorite “writing” clothes?
I’m a pretty casual, jeans-and-T-shirt kinda-girl, whether I’m writing or doing most anything else. I clean up a bit better than that for my author appearances, but I’m rarely too formally dressed.
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?
Oh, I laugh with them, I cry with them. I’m completely submerged into my characters’ circumstances. I’m a very visual person, so I see their surroundings completely. In DEM BONES’ REVENGE, the book we’re giving away in our contest here at MMC, Tracy comes across an old home that’s rather eccentrically decorated that belongs to her mother, zany movie star Martha Collins. That house continues to influence the plot of REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE. Readers tell me how much they enjoy exploring that house and discovering its decor, and it wouldn’t be real to them if it weren’t also real to me.
In my Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty series, the most magical part of the process for me is creating Samantha’s colorful and highly eccentric wardrobe. Samantha believes nobody will take her seriously as a psychic if she doesn’t dress differently from other people, but I honestly think the clothes also represent the true nature of the inner girl. I’d never wear anything so wacky, but it’s great getting to do it vicariously.
I do dream about my characters and their storylines, and sometimes it wakes me. I have to remind myself that my characters are probably asleep and I should be, too.
Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?
I like variety in my writing, so I have written thrillers, and also loads of short stories. But cozies are my favorites, so naturally, that’s what I mostly write. I started reading mysteries as a kid with Nancy Drew, and I’m still entranced with the idea that amateurs really could solve murders. And, like many cozy fans, I also want to believe the world is an essentially safe place, and while bad things, like murders, do happen in cozies, we know our amateur sleuths will deal with them, and bring that order back to the world.
Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?
I guess I’m luckier than some authors. Some writers find they can’t read while they’re writing, or can’t read particular things. But I’m able to switch from my writer mode into my reader mode with ease, and one side never bleeds into the other. I would really miss reading cozies if I had to cut them out of my life for months at a time.
Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so,why?
Both publishers and readers love series, so it only makes sense to write them. But I also love writing books in a series. Since I write two different series, I alternate between them. When I come back to one series, after having spent time in the other, it’s like getting to spend time again with old friends. Writing these series also allows me to put these characters in such a variety of circumstances. I would miss so much if I only wrote standalones.
Tell us about your newest mystery:
My newest mystery is MAGICAL ALIENATION, the latest in my Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical series. Samantha becomes the personal psychic of aging rocker, Rand Riker, and they head to Sedona to host a benefit concert for the most reviled man in the country, Normal Frankly. Throw in a harmonic convergence, Area 51, and the supposed-Roswell alien, and it’s a rollicking affair that will turn everything you think you know about those things upside down. MAGICAL ALIENATION received a Lefty Award nomination for Best Humorous Mystery, so you know it’s great fun. It also just received a nomination for the New Mexico & Arizona Book Awards.
What’s coming up next for you?
Next up is my next Tracy Eaton mystery, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, which takes place along the famed Mother Road. I have always wanted to write a madcap road trip mystery, and this will be it. It will be out in March 2013. For those of you who’d like to know more about it, here’s the cover description:
Historic Route 66: with its signs for “New Dead Things,” the Biker Bunny Bin, and the Kontiki Pizza and Chinese Restaurant, which serves only waffles, it’s kitchy, crazy, and fun. How appropriate that it would hold a place of importance to unconventional Tracy Eaton and her dad, aging Hollywood hunk, Alec Grainger.
Their Route 66 adventures always included a stay in Tecos, New Mexico, but their regular stop at Lucy Crier’s Lunch Pail Café was now a thing of the past, since Lucy plugged her ex-beau and went to the big house for murder. That’s why it’s perplexing when Lucy, safely ensconced in her cell, is simultaneously seen dodging traffic along Route 66. Naturally, Alec uses that mystery to lure Tracy and her sweetie Drew back to America’s Main Street.
But the road takes a darker turn when Woody Crier, Lucy’s smarmy son, turns up dead, and an even stranger bend when the FBI goes gunning for Tracy, calling her one of America’s Most Wanted.
She has no choice but to go on the lam, but this time, the Mother Road provides no escape. Tracy knows if she can’t cut through the web of secrets and lies shrouding her favorite haunts and the pasts of those dearest to her, her own life could be snuffed out in a Route 66 minute.
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
I blog alone at: http://krisneri.blogspot.com/
And with the Femmes Fatales at: http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/.
You can learn more about my books at these links:
REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN: http://www.wellredcoyote2.com/pd-revenge-of-the-gypsy-queen.cfm
DEM BONES’ REVENGE: http://www.wellredcoyote2.com/pd-dem-bones-revenge.cfm
REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE: http://www.wellredcoyote2.com/pd-revenge-for-old-times-sake.cfm
HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE: http://www.wellredcoyote2.com/pd-high-crimes-on-the-magical-plane.cfm
MAGICAL ALIENATION: http://www.wellredcoyote2.com/pd_magical_alienation.cfm
Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.
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