by Karen E. Rigley
Welcome, Carolyn Hart. We’re so delighted that you are our first author interview to launch the Mystery Most Cozy 10th Anniversary celebration. I admit that I have long been a fan of yours and it’s an honor and thrill to interview you.
How did you know you were meant to write?
I was a child during WWII. Headlines brought the war to us and very soon I realized the importance of information. I wanted to be a reporter. I wrote for my junior and senior high papers, majored in journalism in college, worked briefly as a reporter. It was only after I married and had a family that I turned to fiction, but I always knew I had to write.
What fascinates you about mysteries?
The exploration if what goes wrong in ordinary lives. Mysteries help us understand how good people and bad make decisions that warp not only their lives but the lives of those around them.
What do you enjoy reading?
Mysteries and history.
Which authors have influenced you?
Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Phoebe Atwood Taylor. For sheer beauty of writing style, Edith Hamilton’s prose and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry.
Tell us about your newest mystery:
WHAT THE CAT SAW, Berkley Prime Crime. After the death of her fiance in Afghanistan, Nela Farley feels an eerie connection when she looks into the eyes of a cat. She dismisses the thoughts as irrational, her mind’s way of avoiding painful memories, until the night she looks into the eyes of a cat and sees more than is safe to know.
How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?
I am a what if . . . writer. Some occurrence suggests an idea for a book. The people involved slowly take shape in my mind. I know the protagonist, the victim (or in suspense the goal), the reason for the crime and who committed it. Those who surrounded the victim in life will be the ones involved in the death. When I start on Page 1, I have no idea how I will get to page 300.
Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?
My own favorite characters would be Annie and Max Darling in the Death on Demand series, Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins in the Henrie O series, the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn in the Bailey Ruth series, Nela Farley in WHAT THE CAT SAW, and Linda Rossier in ESCAPE FROM PARIS.
What would you like to say to your readers & fans?
Thank you for making it possible for me to be a writer.
What advice would you offer a beginning writer?
Care passionately about what you write. If you care, someday somewhere an editor will care.
What inspired you to write mysteries?
I have loved mysteries since my first Nancy Drew. It wasn’t until many years after I started writing mysteries that I understood why I adore them. Mysteries celebrate goodness and reaffirm a commitment to goodness.
When & how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?
I met Jenny Hanahan at a writing event and ever since I have been a huge fan of MMC.
What intrigues you about writing a series?
The pleasure of returning to characters that intrigue me.
What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?
Trusting in the process. As a what if . . . writer I am always terrified that a story won’t be there even though I know that if I keep on writing I will find out what happened.
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 & why?
Mystery Most Cozy makes me feel welcome. I have the same feeling of belonging and contentment when I pick up one of Susan Wittig Albert’s Darling Dahlias series.
What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?
Having written is an exquisite pleasure. Electronic copyedits literally drive me crazy. I loathe and despise the new format and believe it is simply one more obstacle in the path of creating the best book possible.
If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select? What would you discuss?
Agatha Christie – Her adventurous spirit and her incredible gift for misleading readers. Mary Roberts Rinehart – Her wonderful creation of Tish Carberry and her delight in humor. Edith Hamilton – Did you read mysteries?
Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?
Definitely. There is always either romance, thwarted love, or hope for love in my books. Love or its lack are the mainspring of every life. When I wrote DEATH ON DEMAND, most mysteries featured women with no relationahip or a fractured relationship with a man. I believe in love and I chose to create a woman and man who love deeply, honorably, and forever.
What are your favorite “writing” clothes?
I never gave that a thought. In summer a blouse and shorts, in winter a blouse and slacks, whatever I would wear that day.
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?
They are with me constantly and I often work out scenes in my sleep. And as my husband observed, I spend a great deal of time physically present but staring into space, thinking.
Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?
My 50th novel will be out next spring., I have written primarily traditional mysteries for the last 30 years but earlier I wrote a number of suspense novels and WWI novels. SKULDUGGERY, an early suspense novel set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, will be published Nov. 13. Coming out in June will be a reissue of my WWII novel set in Occupied Paris, ESCAPE FROM PARIS. They are, again quoting my husband, a Carolyn Hart you’ve never known.
Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own?
We all write different kinds of book with our own style. That isn’t a problem.
Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so, why?
I think that depends upon the interest of the publisher. I enjoy writing series but I have never felt that I was precluded from standalones. My most recent standalone was LETTER FROM HOME, which meant a lot to me as it recalled the WWII of my childhood.
What are you writing now?
I am halfway through FATAL CHOICE, which Berkley will publish in May 2014. DEAD,WHITE AND BLUE, also a Death on Demand mystery, will be out in May 2013. In FATAL CHOICE, a doctor looks across a room and recognizes evil. He makes a fatal choice. His sister calls on Annie and Max Darling because she believes her brother’s death was murder, not suicide.
Where can we find out more about you & your books?
and please sign up for my newsletter
Here’s a sample of Carolyn Hart’s NL:
Today marks the return of The Hart Beat
, a newsletter for readers. Many years ago, I sent out a newsletter on paper. What a difference 30 years makes! I am excited to once again be in contact with readers and I hope you will enjoy keeping up-to-date with me via the newsletter, on Facebook
, and through blogs. My thanks to each and every one of you for the wonderful welcome you have given my books through the years.
And yes, there is a new book! In fact three of them: an ebook publication only, a traditional hardcover release, and a reprint of an early suspense novel.
I hope readers will be be intrigued by this trio. Please come towww.CarolynHart.com
to say hello, see a blog, or (an author’s dream) buy a book.
All best wishes,
Coming October 2, 2012
WHAT THE CAT SAW
Berkley Prime Crime
After the death of her fiance in Afghanistan, Nela Farley feels an eerie connection when she looks into the eyes of a cat. She dismisses the thoughts as irrational, her mind’s way of avoiding painful memories, until the night she looks into the eyes of a cat and sees more than is safe to know.
Available from your favorite bookseller
Here’s a piece that originally appeared at Jungle Red Writers. I’m sure all of you cat-lovers will understand just what I’m talking about….
A funny thing happened when I started to write a book where the heroine knows what a cat is thinking. I had – famous last words – a great idea for a cute, fun, lighthearted series set in a cat hotel. Our three felines live the live of Riley when we travel. They stay at Aristocats Feline Suites and Spa, individual rooms (no cages for these tabbies), water fountains, heated cushions, window views, fake tree perches. Now we may be at a down-at-heels motel with rowdy kids in the next room, tepid air conditioning, and a mysterious clanking in the air vents, but hey–we aren’t cats.
My book would feature a young woman who had always hidden from everyone, including her family, the fact that when she looked at a cat, she knew what the cat was thinking. However, the imps of fate being what they are, her sister owned a feline hotel and had surgery and needed help while recuperating so the heroine was forced to deal with cats of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and thoughts. I foresaw possibly an imperious Persian boarding and the heroine learning that the owner was last seen on a misty morning after someone knocked at the door.
Fellow writers will understand what happened next. When I sat down to start – always a by-guess-and-by-God process with me – cute cats and a lively heroine refused to respond to my plaintive calls.
Instead, a young reporter who has lost her job on a small SoCal daily and is grieving the death of the fiancé in Afghanistan finds herself looking into cats’ eyes and seeing their thoughts. Nela Farley refuses to believe this is actually happening. She is a rational, smart, serious woman struggling with sorrow. She sees the transference of thoughts to the eyes of cats as a way of avoiding hard memories. Unsuccessful in her job search, Nela welcomes her sister Chloe’s request that she come to Oklahoma and take Chloe’s place at work for a couple of weeks. And therein lies a tale of suspense, danger, and possibly the ease of heartbreak.
Nothing funny. Nothing cute. No talking cats.
I think I turned away from my initial idea because I have such enormous respect for cats. They are – to me – God’s most elegant creatures, intelligent, perceptive, independent and incredibly attuned to their surroundings and the people in their lives.
It may rather be on the order of a proud young mother who thinks her kid is always the brightest one in the room, but I have no doubt that my brown tabby Sister always knows how I feel and whether there is safety or danger in our immediate surroundings. We don’t really need the tornado sirens. Sister will tell us. And yes, cats care for their very own people. If I get up to leave the room, Sister escorts me down the hall and back again to the sofa where she decrees that we sit while we watch baseball.
Sister knows if I’m happy or sad or upset. Sister knows if danger threatens.
And so does the cat in WHAT THE CAT SAW.
Cry in the Night
September 12, 2012
Never before published, this suspense novel was released as an ebook only by Berkley.
Sheila Ramsay, a young museum curator, comes to Mexico City in 1982 on a romantic whim and soon finds herself involved in a life-and-death hunt for missing gold.
November 13, 2012
Seventh Street Books has reprinted an early suspense novel set in Chinatown.
A desperate search for the missing Peking Man bones brings danger, death, and difficult choices for anthropologist Ellen Christie.
MYSTERY MOST COZY links:
Next week we feature Sherry Lewis.