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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Cathy Ace

Cathy, I’m so pleased we could squeeze you into our interview schedule before the celebration ends next week.

2cathy

Hello there Fellow MMC-ers…it’s great to have this chance to talk to you all, but I have to admit it’s a bit scary too. Here goes anyway!

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?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments and input that folks take the time to put up on the FB page: I like finding out what it is that readers take to and, sometimes, what they don’t care for so much. For example, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in being bugged by un-resolved red-herrings!

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I’m a newbie! I only discovered MMC last year, but I’m so glad I did. I found it on one of my wanders through the online universe…somehow!

How did you know you were meant to write?

To be honest, I think I was born to talk…but writing allows me to chat with others in a different way, even if the people I’m talking to, or through, are those I’ve created myself! That said (you see?!), I was always a child who enjoyed journeying in the worlds made real for me by writers. I suppose I wanted to try to do what they had done. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to study English at University, and did so for a year, but then decided that instead of studying how others had described the human condition, I’d rather gain a better understanding of it for myself, so I switched my studies to psychology.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I’m naturally very solution-orientated: give me a problem or a puzzle and my instinct is to come up with the answer. Whatever the sub-genre, all mysteries are about puzzles…solving them is what draws me in.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

I wish I could type as fast as the words come into my head. I’m the classic three-fingered typist: I never had lessons, I just hammered away at the keyboard and got faster as time passed. I can’t touch-type: I have to look at the keys as I go, so the screen isn’t a part of my writing experience, until I look up to see the typing mistakes I’ve made. Maybe that’s a good thing: it means I have to read what I’ve written straight away, put the punctuation right as I go along, and I have the chance to reflect on sentences as I build them.

What do you enjoy reading?

I’m a very mood-driven reader: I read widely, but often have two or three books on the go at once, so I can pick up something light or dark, factual or fiction, as the mood takes me. I have a room full of books, which is where I write, and every other room in the house also has a bookshelf, or three! If you looked at what’s on my shelves you’d find pretty much every subject and genre covered, but what would really stand out would be my dozens of red and gold, leather-bound volumes of Agatha Christie’s complete works, into which I enjoy dipping – whatever my mood.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie’s works have been a part of my life since I was ten years old, so her structure and plots, as well as her ability to mould our expectations of what a traditional murder mystery should be, are engrained in my psyche. I admire the way she made the rules, then went on to give us what we expected, in unexpected ways. I try to do the same. In my chosen genre, amongst living authors, I would say that PD James inspires me the most, and I always look forward to a new Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Tamar Myers or Louise Penny. I’m especially sad that there won’t be any new books from Reginald Hill, Robert B Parker or Tony Hillerman, but am glad I can re-read their work at will.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I’m not just one of life’s problem-solvers, I’m also highly goal-oriented and process driven (okay then, I’m a bit of a control freak!), so I know pretty much all my story before I begin writing.

I prepare very detailed notes about my characters – their entire life-history, my chosen, or imagined, locations, and about the method/s and means of murder I have chosen. Even though Cait isn’t a forensics person, and I certainly don’t write about forensics, I need to know how a body would present under certain circumstances, or how the means of murder work/s in minute detail. I’ll spend time talking to medical specialists, coroners or cops, amongst others, to make sure I get this right.

I also have the outline of what needs to happen within each chapter. Quite often a character will say or do something I’m not expecting – yes, I know that sounds nuts but, honestly, it’s how it happens. So, sometimes, I achieve what I need to happen in a chapter, but in an unexpected way.

When I’m writing, so long as I feel the characters are acting in a way that would be right for them, and the book, I let it play out. That means I update my outline notes as I go along, so that I remember all the clues and red-herrings I have to tie up!

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

My protagonist, criminology professor Cait Morgan, is very much like me: she’s my height, my weight (or thereabouts – there are some things you really don’t need to know about me!) is Welsh-Canadian, had the education I had, where I had it, and, up to a point, she followed a similar career path to myself. Do I like her? Absolutely. Is she perfect? Oh, good heavens, no! But that’s why I like her. Brilliant, judgmental, sharp-tongued and over-indulgent, she’s still quite insecure. In other words, she’s very human. Bearing in mind that the series is called the “Cait Morgan Mysteries” you can bet she’ll be in each one. Truthfully, I enjoy all my characters, however small their role, or rotten they might be. But as for “memorable”? Well, that’s something that only those who’ve read my books can comment upon.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

“Thank You for choosing to include my books, and Cait Morgan, in your life. I hope you enjoy her company as much as I do!”

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

This is a tough one. Other than the general advice that, in order to be a writer you have to actually write, rather than just thinking or talking about writing, I’m not sure I’m well placed to give much advice. I’ve had a bizarre path to being published, and I’ve been fortunate, I know.

There are lots of platitudes about “The harder you work, the luckier you get”, but I honestly believe that, with the work under your belt, there is a certain amount of luck involved in things. Maybe it’s about being prepared to step up and take a risk, which then becomes an opportunity. If you’re working on your writing skills, reading as widely as possible (and I don’t just mean reading books about writing, but books that challenge you and help you understand the way that words work well on the page) then you are better prepared when the opportunities come along.

So: write lots, read even more, and good luck!

I’m sorry if that’s not very constructive or original, but I suspect it’s the best advice I’ve got.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I’m delighted to say that I haven’t (yet) found anything about being an author that drives me crazy, in fact, just saying or writing the words “I’m an author” makes me glow with joy. There – I’m glowing right now!

As for what I enjoy the most? When I’ve been weeding or planting in the garden all day, aided and abetted by the dogs of course, and I’ve been plotting: multi-tasking at its best!

If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select?  What would you discuss?

1)   Agatha Christie – I’m not sure I’d have the guts to discuss mysteries with her, but I’d enjoy listening to her talking about her time with her second husband, Max Mallowan, on his archeological digs. I enjoy ancient cultures, history, art, gardening and family, as did she, so I might find something I could contribute to the conversation.

2)   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – again, it’s a bit of an alarming prospect to discuss plotting and deductive reasoning with the man who made these elements his byword, but I’d take a chance! I’d be fascinated to get his take on the technology that now surrounds us in our daily lives.

3)   PD James – I adore her books: the places and people she creates are real to me, and will live with me forever. That’s magic! Over the years she’s generously given many interviews and written a great deal about her writing process, so I think I’d take the chance to talk to her about what she’s read and how it’s touched her, find out what her private passions might be, walk through London with her discussing art and architecture, and find out more about what makes her the person she is, which, of course, is what makes her the writer she is.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Oh dear, this is a bit weird, but I’ll confess all: I wrote my first novel wearing a silk dressing gown that’s heavily embroidered with dragons. I know. How pretentious, right!? But it was fun! I also had a chocolate Labrador on each foot – puppy slippers. That was “winter writing”. For “summer writing” I tend to wear light, comfy clothes, and the dogs lay on the tile in the hallway outside my study to keep cool.

As an 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?

When writing, I am each of my characters in turn, in situ. Total immersion. I move, turn, “look” about at my surroundings, make gestures…the lot. I dare say that, if anyone could see me, they’d think it a bit peculiar. Before I start writing I’ve “seen” the entire movie of the book. When I’m writing, I’m in that movie, trying my best to get onto paper everything that Cait sees, feels, hears, touches, smells, says, thinks and, yes, senses or suspects. The Cait Morgan Mysteries are written from Cait’s point of view, so that’s who I am when I write. I haven’t dreamed any scenes yet, but, in that fog between sleeping and wakefulness, I’ll often be visualizing the movie in my head and something will shift or come into focus…a detail, a clue or an extra complication will present itself to me: that’s when I have to get up and write it down. So long as I don’t disturb the dog on the bed when I get up, I can creep back when I’m done and get off to sleep. If the dog wakes up, then that’s quite a different matter!

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?

I can’t read any books at all when I’m writing. Even if I’m watching TV, I know that what’s on the screen is pretty much just washing over me. I’m totally zoned out – or zoned in, depending on your point of view.

What are you writing now?

I’m on the cusp between finished style sheets and outlines, and starting to write my third novel. It will be published in Spring 2014. It’s set in Mexico. I’m not allowed to say more than that right now, but I can tell you that it will pick up where my second novel finishes…oh, and I’ve really enjoyed the research!

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My second Cait Morgan Mystery, “The Corpse with the Golden Nose”, will be launched in March 2013. It picks up Cait’s life a few months after the end of my first novel, “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”. Here are the jacket notes for the book:

“A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist. Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait’s companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbors is a start. But, Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

The second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries, The Corpse with the Golden Nose is a classic whodunit featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

Praise for The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

 

“[A] smooth debut . . . Cait’s enjoyable first outing should earn

her a well-deserved encore.” —Publishers Weekly

“In the finest tradition of Agatha Christie, debut author Ace

brings us the closed-room drama, with a dollop of romantic

suspense and historical intrigue.” —Library Journal

“[Ace is] a writer to watch.” —The Globe and Mail

“A sharply paced cozy.” —The Hamilton Spectator”

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

You can find out more about my books, click-through to read from/buy them, read some interviews I’ve given in the past, learn about events I’ll be attending, and find my e-mail address, at: www.cathyace.com

The Cait Morgan Mysteries are available in paperback through your local bookstore or library, and are offered in every major e-reader format.

Please consider being my Friend on Facebook? You’ll find me here: Cathy Ace (Cait Morgan Mysteries)

Alternatively, you could Follow me on Twitter: @AceCathy

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Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Esri Allbritten

Hello, Esri!  It’s so nice to have you join our MMC interviews.

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating its 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?

Reader interaction. Some of the best recommendations on what to read next have come from this group. It also has a mellow yet polite vibe, which I credit to its creator, Jenny Hanahan. She has just the right amount of housemother.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

Oh, gosh. Two or three years ago. It may be longer. I’m no good with time.

How did you know you were meant to write?

[Fellow author] Steve Hockensmith and I discussed this, and agreed it was because we’re “slightly crazy, very spoiled, and terrible at all other jobs.” This is only slightly exaggerated.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

Crime almost always stems from strong emotions. Fear, anger, protectiveness. People dealing with that kind of pressure behave in extraordinary ways, and nothing is more interesting than the extraordinary.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

It’s funny…even though mysteries are almost the only fiction I read, I wrote and published other things first because the form intimidated me. Eventually I realized that while mysteries are rigorous when it comes to plot, there is actually more freedom than in a lot of other genres. You can have romance or not, you can explore any theme and set your story in any time period. Your characters don’t even have to be particularly likeable. Sherlock Holmes is a riveting character, but you wouldn’t invite him to your wedding.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

I love layering my characters’ personalities and including subtle references to past stories. It’s like on TV, when a fleeting reference to something in the past elicits a pained expression on a character’s face. It won’t mean anything to a first-time viewer, but those of us in the know howl with laughter or wince with sympathy.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Writing fast. I have trouble writing anything if I’m not excited about what comes next. This is a stupid mental block, because I love revising. My number one goal is to learn to be okay with writing crap. Crap can always be improved. Or deleted.

What do you enjoy reading?

Humor, historical mysteries, biographies (Thomas Edison, Houdini, Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker), neuroscience, stories of scams and con men, and those books that go into the surprising history of everyday objects, like salt or eggbeaters.

Which authors have influenced you?

Betty MacDonald, Dave Barry, Terry Pratchett, M.C. Beaton.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I have a complete story arc when I begin, but 50 to 100 pages in, I discover that I need more to carry a whole book, or the action happens mostly in the backstory, and I have to rework the whole thing. This happens with every book. Every. Book.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

I love my three sleuths in the Tripping series. Having an ensemble of protagonists gives me more options with dialogue and plotting, and I hope it gives readers more of a chance to find a character they love. Angus MacGregor has the perspective of age when it comes to dealing with people, but age hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big. He wants to achieve fame by finding proof of the supernatural. Michael Abernathy is young and manages to be both a cynic and idealist. That’s not a comfortable mindset, and he uses sarcasm and humor to deal with his discomfort. Then there’s Suki Oota, my half-Japanese photographer. Suki is very female in that she just wants to get whatever it is done and move forward. Some of this urgency comes from knowing that youth and beauty are temporary assets, and they’re burning a hole in her pocket. No one would call Suki a “good girl.” Not if they wanted to keep their teeth.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you so much!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Write because you enjoy it (or because you can’t help yourself, which is more often the case). If you want to be a career writer, ask yourself, “Can I tolerate uncertainty about my success?” Writing is full of uncertainty. It’s hard to tell when you’re writing well. Financial validation is elusive, and you’ll get bad reviews even on your best stuff. The best overall advice I can give is to approach writing as a really involving hobby. You’ll dodge a lot of mental bullets that way.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

The best moments are when I look at something I’ve written and know that it illustrates something funny and true about being human. When that’s confirmed through fan email, I’m overjoyed. I also like that I get to finish things. With so many jobs, you don’t get to say, “Done!” Finally, I have a lot of creative control over what I do, there’s no dress code, and I can put up all the inappropriate cartoons I want.

Things that drive me crazy: The aforementioned uncertainty. Did I tell this story in the most interesting way possible? Have I found the sweet spot where my work is different enough to be appealing, but not so different that only a few people like it? How do I get the attention of those readers who will enjoy me the most? The isolation of working at home can also make you a little odd. My office mates are a Chihuahua and a cat. I love them, but they don’t like to eat out and they suck at discussing the latest episode of The Good Wife.

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

I don’t include romance in my stories, and that’s primarily because I approach life from a very irreverent place. My stories aren’t hospitable to romance in the same way that a Seinfeld episode or an Oscar Wilde play isn’t hospitable to romance. Putting romance in that setting is like tying a pink ribbon around a rubber chicken. It’s jarring. As for romance in other people’s mysteries, I can take it or leave it. Romance is very hard to write well. It’s rare that I really feel it in a book.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Whatever I pick up off the floor that’s loose and doesn’t smell. Sad, I know.

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?

Dreams would be a great resource if I wanted to write about overflowing toilets and missed planes, but I think Seth Rogen has that market sewn up. As for how deeply I get into my own fictional worlds, it’s pretty deep. When writing is going well, stopping is like coming out of a movie theater in the middle of the day. Another thing that makes my stories feel real to me is that I set each one in a different tourist town. My husband and I visit, take a ton of pictures and chat up the locals, then I go home and send my sleuths there on assignment. In a way, each book is a record of the emails and phone calls my characters might send from the road. “Interviews going well. Got a picture of a flying saucer, which turned out to be a water tower. Mayor has a crush on Suki. We think he might be a murderer.”

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

I’m not sure what qualifies as intrigue. It sounds intriguing. I write cozies because they study the subtleties of human interaction. That’s something women are good at, and doubtless it’s why so many cozies incorporate other feminine interests, such as cooking, crafts, and tiny, adorable dogs. I currently have an idea for a series that feels like it needs a harder edge, maybe sort of a noir thing. I think noir is how men see the subtleties of human interaction – murky, confusing, full of traps and unexpected weapons. As a writer, I’m kind of in the middle. Chihuahua noir, that’s me.

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own work too much?

As long as the subject matter is different, I’m good. My own voice is so ingrained these days, I’m not influenced.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so, why?

I think series are far more satisfying. Readers go to a fair amount of trouble to find books with characters and settings that they like. Once you’ve spent the time and money to find this new set of friends, you want to get some mileage out of them.

What are you writing now?

Critter from the Black Lagoon, book three in the Tripping Magazine mystery series. It involves the possibility of a prehistoric pig beast rampaging through Florida’s Ocala National Forest. It’s basically black-market paleontology meets extreme bacon.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My most recently published is The Portrait of Doreene Gray. Portrait is about twin sisters in their fifties: one a painter, one a dissolute jet setter. The jet setter doesn’t appear to age, but the portrait her sister painted of her does. The story takes place in Port Townsend, Washington, on Puget Sound. The town’s frozen-in-time Victorian character lends itself to a nice gothic feel. It could have been a very dark book, but my three sleuths come barreling in like the Marx Brothers if the Marx Brothers were an aging Scot, a half-Asian sexpot, and a skeptic, working for a crappy travel magazine.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

EsriAllbritten.com has big ol’ excerpts of all my current books, so you can try before you buy. If you want an ongoing look at the life of a writer, mostly involving pets and procrastination, then look me up on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Esri.Allbritten

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Betty Webb

by Karen E. Rigley

Hello, Betty. It’s a delight to interview you for MMC. You have quite a knack for entertaining your readers, so now we get to grill you. 😉

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?

Well, let’s face it, we cozy writers are generally unwelcome on sites dealing with major explosives and serial killers, so it’s nice to be able to hang out with other folks of the cozy persuasion. You know, we authors who write about “gentle” killers, the polite killers who don’t splatter too much blood around because it’s so difficult for the maid to clean up. There’s the camaraderie, of course, and the promotion tips. But more than anything, MMC is simply a wonderful living room to hang out in. You never know who’s going to show up with chips n’ dip – or a blunt instrument.

How did you know you were meant to write?

I wrote my first book at the age of 14 – it was 100 pages long, and I was devastated when no one would publish it. Ironically, that little book was titled “Desert Mane,” because it was about a horse that lived in the desert. Fast forward 55 years and I sold my first mystery, “Desert Noir,” about a P.I. who lived in the desert. I wasn’t even aware of the odd coincidence until one of my creative writing students pointed it out.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I’m going to take a chance and be honest here. In my books, I fictionally kill the people who in my real life I want to kill. In fact, I’ve killed a former boss three times, as well as those pesky people who’ve cut me off while standing in line at Motor Vehicles. Writing mysteries has kept me from acting on my baser urges.

 What inspired you to write your mysteries?

I heard there was no money in writing literary fiction, but mystery writers were making a killing (pun intended) with their books. That turned out not to be as true as I wish it were, but it’s cheaper than therapy, so I guess you could say that writing mysteries has saved me a ton of money.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

In my dark Lena Jones series (“Desert Wives: Polygamy Can Be Murder,” “Desert Wind,” etc.), Lena is the daughter I never had, and I feel very close to her. In my cozy Gunn Zoo series (“The Llama of Death,” “The Koala of Death,” “The Anteater of Death”), Theodora “Teddy” Bentley is a lot like me, temperamentally at least. She lives on a houseboat, I lived on one for a summer. She works in a zoo, I volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo. She has nutty parents – don’t even get me started on mine. I can’t imagine not having these two women, Lena and Teddy, in my life – so I just keep writing about them. I won’t stop until my books stop selling. At that point, I’ll simply have conversations with them. (Yes, I know that’s a bad sign.)

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

When I was still working full time as a journalist, I started writing at 4 a.m. so I could get in 4 hours before I went to work. Now that I’m retired, I still get up at 4 a.m. because the habit has become so ingrained. The challenging part for me is stopping. If I don’t write every day I get buggy.

What do you enjoy reading?

Kate Atkinson, P.D. James, Christopher Moore, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, J.A. Jance, Margaret Coel, David Morrell, Rhys Bowen, Yrsa Sigurdardotter, Michelle Huneven, Robert Crais, Margaret Maron, Sophie Littlefield, Nathan Larson… the list goes on and on. I like a mix of cozy, dark, horror, and that nebulous thing called “literary fiction.”

Which authors have influenced you?

I learned plotting from Agatha Christie, arc of action from David Morrell (whose book, “The Successful Author,” I use in teaching my creative writing classes), and character development from Kate Atkinson and P.D. James. Oh, and how can I possibly not mention the ever-sainted Tony Hillerman, the man whose books urged me to move from New York to Arizona, where I found my “desert daughter” Lena Jones. 

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

 Basically, I have my victim and the reasons so many people are out to get him/her. As I write my way into the book and the main characters emerge, I learn more about them. Then the book begins to take shape. In some cases I start off with an outline but abandon it about a quarter of the way through. Why? Because the “killer” I’ve originally planned to do the dirty deed often refuses to lift a finger against the victim, while a perfectly lovely person turns out to have a hateful heart. Stephen King once said about writing, “If the author isn’t surprised by what happens, how can he expect to surprise his readers?” Fortunately, my characters keep surprising me. 

 Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

My protagonists, of course. Teddy Bentley in my zoo mysteries. And Lena Jones in 7 of my “Desert” mysteries, too many to list here. They are both so different: Teddy is light-hearted, outgoing, and non-neurotic, while, Lena is a hurt, haunted woman, who was raised in a series of foster homes and doesn’t even know who her parents are. Yet both women are equally courageous, willing to risk their own lives to protect others (in Teddy’s case, she’ll also risk her life to save an animal). But another favorite character of mine is Aster Edwina Gunn, the autocratic owner of the Gunn Zoo, who while unfailingly kind to animals, makes poor Teddy’s life hell every chance she gets. I based Aster Edwina on my great-grandmother, quite the autocrat herself. I also dearly love gentle Jimmy Sisiwan, Lena’s half-Pima Indian partner at Desert Investigations. My female readers love him, too.

 What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

You all have been so good to me, sending encouragement and chiding me when I’m “writing too slow.” Love you all a bunch.

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

I tell my creative writing students to hold off reading their work until they’ve finished their entire book. Reading raw material can be so depressing that many writers actually develop writers’ block over it. So don’t do it! Write all the way to the end without editing your work. The chapter or scene you’re struggling with now may be cut in the final draft, so why bother messing with it now? This makes me a charter member of the Terrible First Drafts Make Terrific Books Club, which says you can always fix “terrible,” but you can’t fix a blank page. Also – stop waiting around for “inspiration.” Inspiration shows up most often when you’re already at the keyboard working on your book.

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

Zookeeper Teddy is engaged to the county sheriff, and every now and then – especially towards the end of “The Llama of Death” – they do a bit of snuggling in public. Lena, though, has romance problems; she always falls for the wrong guy, such as Dusty, a handsome cowboy with a drinking problem.

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?

When I write about Teddy, I become Teddy. I’m warm, kind, caring, giving, the kind of gal mothers want their sons to marry. When I write about Lena, I’m emotionally closed off, bitter, and exhibit anger issues. My husband hates it when I write about Lena.

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

Actually I write both cozies and darker material. My Gunn Zoo mysteries are definitely in the cozy camp, and my “Desert” mysteries (which are sometimes categorized as thrillers) are pretty hard-boiled. That’s because in real life, I’m a combination of the two – light and darkness.

What are you writing now?

“The Llama of Death” comes out January 6, 2013, wherein zookeeper Teddy takes a llama to the local Renaissance Faire. Murder ensues when someone kills Henry VIII with a crossbow dart. After 300-plus pages of llama, Renaissance tidbits, and zoo fun, Teddy catches the killer – but not until she’s almost becomes a victim herself. I’m currently working on “Desert Regret,” another Lena Jones mystery, which might come out at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. And I’ve just returned from two weeks in Iceland, where I researched another zoo mystery, “The Puffin of Death.” In that one, I’ll include an Arctic fox, an Icelandic horse, and a polar bear cub – along with the titled puffin, of course. But as usual with all my Gunn Zoo books, no animal will be harmed, although humans fall like dominoes.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

www.bettywebb-zoomystery.com

www.bettywebb-mystery.com

http://bloggingwebb.blogspot.com

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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Nancy Jill Thames

 by Karen E. Rigley

Nancy Jill, it’s such a pleasure to interview you for the MMC celebration.  This is a treat for me as well as your other fans.

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?

First of all, thank you for the interview and Happy Birthday to Mystery Most Cozy! I love interacting with readers and authors alike. Everyone has been so gracious and supportive. Being able to connect with fellow authors is important since most of us work at home. The camaraderie is wonderful.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

About six months ago (April 2012), I was surfing cozy mystery topics on Facebook and came across Mystery Most Cozy. I felt right at home and joined immediately.

How did you know you were meant to write?

I’ve always been a storyteller with an overactive imagination. After toying with a blog posting one chapter at a time for a book I’d started, a journalist contacted me about my work. I think that’s when I felt like a writer for the first time.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

Unsolved problems draw me like a magnet. Trying to guess “whodunit” is what I find fascinating.

 What inspired you to write mysteries?

I have always been a voracious reader, leaning towards historical romance and mystery. After reading every Agatha Christie novel in print, I felt compelled to create stories of my own, patterned after her.

Family members discouraged my writing, but once I started, I couldn’t stop!

What intrigues you about writing a series?

If I like the subject matter, a series provides an easy pathway to enjoy more of the same without having to start over with a new author.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Showing the reader what is happening instead of telling. I find dialogue much easier to write than narrative.

What do you enjoy reading?

Sampling best sellers is always fun. I also read as many free cozies as I can along with books my writers guild publishes. When I like a book, I’ll read it more than once, simply because I enjoy the style of a particular author.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie, my favorite, Dorothy Sayers, who influenced Agatha Christie, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Victoria Holt and my “wanabelike,” Janet Evanovich. I would love to write with more humor.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

Somehow, I know the whole story before I begin. In the Jillian Bradley Mystery Series, I planned three books at a time. With five published and one to launch in November, I know the basic plots/characters of the last two books. The only thing for the last book I don’t have yet is the title.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

Aside from Teddy, Jillian’s Yorkie who helps her solve homicides, I really enjoyed creating Daisy Larsen. She is introduced in my fourth book “The Mark of Eden” as the Plant Lady who discovers the first murder victim, and reappears in my new book “Waiting for Santa.” I loosely based her on a dear friend of mine, but added touches of part-sleuth, part-nurse, and part-gardener. She marries Jillian’s personal assistant’s father because I like happy endings.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Above everything else, I want readers & fans to join Jillian and her Yorkie on their sleuthing adventures and have fun. I want them to enjoy the luxurious settings, fabulous food, collecting art and Jillian’s lovely lifestyle. Hopefully, when readers & fans finish a book, they’ll take a few moments and write reviews so others will read the series. If readers & fans enjoy the reads, I’ll have done my job.

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Write the best book you can and then invest in a great editor. Know where you want your writing to take you, and focus on your goals every day.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

Having books published has given me validation as a contributor to society. When people buy my books or read them for free, I’ve entertained them. Trying to keep up with details for six books on several platforms can be daunting. I’ve learned to take one book at a time and do my best to make sure its information is current.

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?

Funny you should ask. Normally, I can take or leave romance. I enjoy mystery and adventure more. In my second book “The Ghost Orchid Murder,” I added a touch of romance for both Jillian and Teddy. Later, in the fourth book “The Mark of Eden,” Jillian gets involved with another character. In “Pacific Beach,” book five, reference is made to both amours as she dallies with still another character. Her romances continue on a much larger scale in book six “Waiting for Santa.”

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

I write better fully dressed with street clothes and makeup. Perhaps I feel more professional that way.

 As an 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?

My protagonist is totally based on myself. When I began writing, I had no formal training in creative writing – only in music. I wrote from personal experience and then learned to add characters from people I met and saw in everyday life. As a Christian author, I incorporate my faith whenever the situation presents itself. For instance, in “The Ghost Orchid Murder,” people deal with death and funerals – perfect situations to discuss faith and the afterlife.

     Over the years, traveling with my husband to fabulous resorts and restaurants has greatly influenced my settings as well.

 Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

I love beauty and stay away from horror, in my personal life and in my writing.

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?

 I do read cozies while writing. Good writing style helps my own style in regards to sentence structure and narrative.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so, why?

I’ve never had to answer this question before, but since I’ve written six of eight in the series, my answer would be “yes.” I was influenced by Agatha Christie’s sleuths, Hercules Poirot and Jane Marple, along with others like Nancy Drew and Lord Peter Death Whimsy – once you met them, you wanted to be with them again and again.

What are you writing now?

 I’m in the final days of launching “Waiting for Santa” which will be published by this interview.

 Tell us about your newest mystery:

Everyone has gathered at Jillian’s house in Clover Hills to celebrate Christmas, but Jillian’s plans for a lovely Christmas Eve are rudely interrupted by a power failure. And a homicide. Not only does Aunt Jillian find herself with a house full of company to entertain in the dark, but she also receives a call from Walter Montoya, who finds himself in the dark, trying to solve the bizarre murder of a worker found dead in a maintenance shed at the power station. With Teddy at her side, Jillian is determined to solve the mystery.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

I am on Author Central on Amazon.com, write three blogs and have a website connecting all links. Please feel free to follow the blogs and enjoy tea with celebrity authors on “Queen of Afternoon Tea” Celebrity Author Interviews, find out more about my books on Cozy Mystery Author, Nancy Jill Thames, and have some fun on COZY MYSTERY MAGAZINE –collaborating with other Christian Cozy Mystery Authors. I’m also on twitter as @mystriterdva and have my Facebook Page, Author, Nancy Jill Thames.

 Thanks again for letting me help celebrate Mystery Most Cozy’s 10th Birthday!

Cozy Mystery Author,

Nancy Jill Thames

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

Mystery Most Cozy links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links: