Forensics, Anyone?

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Breaking news, this just in, and all that kind of stuff. Are you going to Bouchercon? Have you seen this? This is going to be the most fabulous session on forensics you’ll ever encounter—the amazing Jan Burke is headlining an unbelievable line-up of experts—see below. (Death investigation, cadaver dogs, crime scenes, trace evidence, and answers to all the questions you can ask.) And it costs…fifty bucks!

Click below on “workshop registration” to sign up—let me know if you have any questions. Who’s up for this? See you there!

SinC into Great Writing VI!

A Forensic Science Day with Jan Burke

Bouchercon InformationWorkshop Registration

Featuring Donald Johnson, Beatrice Crofts Yorker, Katherine Roberts, Elizabeth Smith, Cat Warren and Jan Burke*

Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 ♦ 7:30am–3:15pm* ♦ Renaissance Hotel, Long Beach, CA

Sisters in Crime is holding its annual SinC into Great Writing! one day prior to Bouchercon. Bouchercon registration is not necessary to attend this one day workshop.

*Note Well: Because our speakers are human beings and because they may be called upon to handle cases or testify in court, program subject to change without notice.

jan-burke-200A Forensic Science Day with Jan Burke

7:30–8:00 am: Registration

8:00–8:10 am: Welcome and introduction by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Logistics announcements by Jan Burke

8:10–9:00 am: Session 1 — Crime Scene Processing with Donald Johnson

9:00–9:50 am: Session 2 — Medical Serial Killers with Beatrice Crofts Yorker

9:50–10:05 am: Break

10:05–10:55 am: Session 3 — Trace Evidence with Professor Katherine Roberts

10:55–11:25 am: Question and Answer Session for morning speakers

11:25–11:55 am: Lunch Break (box lunch provided)

11:55–12:40 pm: Session 4 — Death Investigation: Homicide Detectives and Coroner’s Investigation with Elizabeth Smith

12:40–1:30 pm: Session 5 — Working with HDR (cadaver dogs) to Find Human Remains with Cat Warren

1:30–1:45 pm: Afternoon break fruit/sodas/coffee/tea provided

1:45–2:35 pm: Session 6 — What Writers Need to Know about Forensic Science and How to Learn More about It with Author Jan Burke

2:35–3:15 pm: Session 7 — Question and Answer Session for afternoon speakers

Cost: $50 for SinC Members. Not a SinC member? Join us at the Active or Professional level ($35/$40) and then register for this workshop.

When: Workshop check-in begins at 7:30am in front of the workshop room. Room details will be sent closer to the event.

Where: Renaissance Long Beach Hotel 11 E. Ocean Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90802. You may stay at the Renaissance or stay at one of the other conference hotels and take a short walk to the Renaissance. The conference hotels will extend the discounted conference rate to you if you call them 1-562-437-5900 directly. Fly in Tuesday night and start the workshop on Wednesday.

Notes: Attending Bouchercon? Have you made your hotel reservations for Bouchercon yet?

Questions: If you have any questions, you may contact us at admin@sistersincrime.org

Presenters

Donald Johnson has been actively involved in the forensic sciences for over two decades, both as a practitioner and academician. His career began with service to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office and the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. He then advanced to senior criminalist at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he was an ASCLD/LAB qualified DNA analyst and specialized in the forensic investigation of violent crimes. Professor Johnson continues to serve forensic laboratories as a consultant and trainer. Professor Johnson received his graduate degrees at the UCLA School of Medicine, and has published on research in neurobiology and criminalistics in scientific journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and the Journal of Forensic Sciences. His research has received National Institute of Justice research grants. Professor Johnson is additionally investigating the role and impact of forensic evidence in the criminal justice process under a National Institute of Justice research grant given to Drs. Peterson and Sommers of the CSULA School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics. Professor Johnson brings his casework and research experience to the classroom in his teaching of forensic science to undergraduate and graduate students at CSULA.

Katherine Roberts is a Professor at California State University, Los Angeles and the Director of the university’s Criminalistics MS Degree Program. She has served on the National Institute of Justice’s Technical Working Group for Education and Training in Forensic Science. Dr. Roberts’ research interests relate to the development and application of analytical methods to enhance the value of forensic evidence. Her current projects focus on nuclear/mitochondrial DNA analysis and trace evidence analysis.

Beatrice Crofts Yorker is the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services for California State University, Los Angeles, of which the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, and the university’s forensic science programs are a part. She has both a juris doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law and master’s degree in nursing from the University of California, San Francisco. She has published groundbreaking research on hospital homicides, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and medical serial killers.

Elizabeth Smith is a homicide detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Cat Warren is a former newspaper reporter and is currently a professor at the University of North Carolina, where she teaches a variety of reporting, editing, and science journalism classes. She is also a cadaver dog handler and author of What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, about dogs who work in the military, in police departments, and by searching for both contemporary and historical missing remains. She’ll talk about how cadaver dogs and their handlers are trained, the environments and conditions they work in, and what we do and don’t yet know about how dogs find the missing dead.

Jan Burke is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and the recipient of MWA’s Edgar Award for Best Novel. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, she is also an active advocate for the improvement of public forensic science. She founded the Crime Lab Project and has been an invited speaker at meetings of the National Institute of Justice, the American Academy of Forensic Science, the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the California Association of Criminalists, and other forensic science organizations. She is a member of the advisory board of the California Forensic Science Institute. With Dr. DP Lyle, she hosts Crime and Science Radio, an online program produced by Suspense Magazine.

 

It’s going to be fabulous! An amazing unbelievable lineup of speakers—with insight and information and insider stuff you will never get anywhere else. I mean—look at that! All for fifty bucks!

****************

Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Conferences, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Of Interest, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Rhys Bowen

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hope you know Rhys Bowen. The words “indefatigable” and “hilarious” and “surprising” spring to mind…we secretly call her the Duchess. She’s had tea with the Queen—yes! And knows Simon and Garfunkel, she’s been a singer, and a broadcaster, and is endlessly glamorous.

And thing is, with all that, she’s still a brilliantly clever writer. When I read her books, it’s as if I’m hearing that fabulous accent reading them to me. She’s done three series, amazingly, and writes TWO books a year, and they all are bestsellers and amass starred reviews.

Wait—I just remembered that in her intriguing and multi-layered past she’s written a bunch of other things, which I hope she’ll tell us about in the comments—one of which is being made into a TV series in the UK!

And—pant pant—she still has time to give back. She’s such a supporter of her beloved Malice Domestic, and helps in ways she never talks about, but just quietly does.

So you know about the Royal Spyness books, right? In her new one–the eighth!–Lady Georgiana, 35th in line to the throne of England but penniless, finds herself dragged off to America, and becomes entangled and immersed in the glamor and intrigue of old Hollywood.

So, yay for Rhys! She’s done it again. And in honor of her brand new QUEEN OF HEARTS, I did my best to get the scoop on Not Quite Twenty Questions from the hilarious and wonderful Rhys Bowen.

RhysBowenTitle of your autobiography?
“Been There, Done That.”

Wonderful. Why?
I’ve had quite an eclectic life and the opportunity to live in different parts of the world.

So—what would you still like to do?
A safari is still on my bucket list. And I’d like to write that one definitive book, like To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind winning an Edgar either. (Only modest ambitions, as you see.)

Very Rhys! Book you wish you had written?
The Lord of the Rings.

Movie you would see again and again?
Out of Africa

Why?
It’s so beautiful and so sad, and reminds me that I never experienced that great and doomed love. Also Robert Redford washes Meryl Streep’s hair in one of the sexiest scenes ever.

Exotic drinks–yes? No?
When I’m somewhere exotic. Sangria when I’m in Spain, Mai Tai when I’m in Hawaii, Margaritas in Mexico. At home I’m sensible.

When in history would you choose to visit?
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Rome.

Why?
They were so modern in many ways. Central heating, lending libraries for novels! Of course I’d stay away from the gladiators.

Very sensible. Pizza or chocolate?
No contest. Chocolate. Dark chocolate. After 8 mints.

Spouse?
Does that mean do I want one or have I got one? The latter. Doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t want to trade him in sometimes.

Kids? Pets?
Four kids and now 5 grandkids. The latter are much easier because I can send them back. Actually they are all wonderful and adorable. I love them to pieces and we have great times laughing together.

No pets. We travel too much.

Hobbies?
We travel a lot. I hike once a week with friends (saved a fortune in therapy bills). I sing. I paint (not very well) and I play the Celtic harp. All of the above only when I have time, unfortunately. With 2 books a year it’s not easy.

RhysInterviewSeriously, how do you do that?
It’s part insanity, part not being able to say no.

Garden?
Well, we have a lot of land, but we live on a hill and there are deer so it’s impossible to grow much. Mainly citrus and lavender. Actually I have no free time for anything more right now.

Fear or phobia?
Hate spiders. Hate ‘em but I’m civilized enough not to kill them. I trap them in a glass and carry them outside, which I think is very noble of me.

What someone might not know about you.
I used to sing in London folk clubs with Al Stewart and I knew Simon and Garfunkel.

Dish, please! Just tell us ONE cool thing about that.
I had been singing with Al Stewart. We were in a café late one night when Paul and Artie came in. They said they’d come to say goodbye because their manager wanted them to come home to the US. It seemed a record they had made, called The Sounds of Silence, was doing quite well. The rest, as they say, is history.

Paul and Artie, huh? Oh, Rhys, I bet you have SO many stories! But let’s see…Do you have a recurring dream? What is it?
I’ve had several. The one I have most often these days is rushing to catch a plane and trying desperately to pack but can’t find my clothes.

I also dream I’m in a play but don’t know my lines. Sound familiar?

Had that one myself. Last night, I dreamed I was supposed to find the cello player for the concert, which I did, and was so proud of myself. But then I couldn’t find him again, and the concert had started. Shaking head. DO you think we’re all a little…stressed? Anyway. Relaxing. Do you watch TV? What?
Mostly PBS. Masterpiece and Mystery, and travel and Nova and British comedy.

I also like watching sports, especially tennis.

Can you sing?
I’m Welsh. All Welsh people can sing! But the answer is yes. I’ve sung all my life, from folk clubs to the local opera chorus.

Best concert you’ve ever seen?
Hard to think of this one. Harry Connick was terrific once. So was Pavarotti.

Secret talent?
I’m good at boogie boarding!

That I’ve GOTTA see! Thing you always say to yourself when writing?
For the first half of the book it’s usually that this one will be a hopeless failure and I’ll be revealed as a fraud. Then by the second half I can see it’s going to be okay after all. But the one mantra is “Nothing is written in stone.” You mustn’t love anything so much that you’re not willing to axe it.

QueenOfHeartsSo—you had a pub day last week! Yay. Tell us about QUEEN OF HEARTS!
It’s the 8th Royal Spyness book. Georgie is dragged across the Atlantic by her much married mother who wants to get a quickie divorce in Reno. On the way they meet a jewel thief and a movie mogul who persuades her mother to do a cameo role in his movie.

Of course I had to research this well, including taking the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic. (How one suffers for one’s art…)

But such fun to satirize Hollywood in the 30s.

Whoo hoo! Does it ever get old—pub day? What are you thinking RIGHT NOW?
Never! It is still always a thrill to see one of my books on a shelf and to get fan mail. And to do a book tour and see expectant faces waiting for me.

As to what I’m thinking—I always worry that this book won’t do as well as the last one.

Tell us one more thing about that.
What can I say—I’m a born worrier.

Are you working now? On what?
The 9th Royal Spyness book called Malice at the Palace.

Are you…enjoying it?
I’m still in the first half. But I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and these books are fun to write.

Can you believe how amazingly your career has turned out?
I still remember my first mystery with a first printing of 2500 and I realize what a big part luck plays. I think I’ve learned how to craft good books, but so have many people whose books have gone unnoticed. Being a friendly person has helped with all those fan-based awards. Paying my dues in writing and travel and outreach have certainly contributed.

But things like being an Audible bestseller—that was pure luck for me. Right place at right time.

Right place at the right time, sure. But with a terrific book, and a terrific attitude, and a lot of hard work. Right? Do you have a motto? (What is it?)
No pressure, no diamonds. (I borrowed it from someone else, and now I don’t know who that was.) But I have it on my bulletin board.

HANK: Terrific. And readers, the Reds want to award a copy of The Royal Spyness book of your choice to one lucky commenter! So—what’s your favorite old Hollywood movie? I have dibs…what’s the Preston Sturges movie where he plays the director, and it has Veronica Lake? That one is my favorite. And Adam’s Rib. And Desk Set. (Which Hallie’s parents wrote!)

How about you?

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RoyalThreesomeRHYS BOWEN was born in Bath, England, of a family that was half Welsh, half English. She was educated at London University and then began her career with the BBC, where she became a drama studio manager. She had made up stories all her life. While working on a boring play she decided to write a play of her own. With the bravado of a 22-year-old, she marched into the office of the head of BBC drama and handed him the script. Two days later he summoned her and told her that they were going to produce the play. Rhys has never looked back.

The British climate forced Rhys to escape to Australia, where she worked for Australian Broadcasting before meeting her future husband, a fellow Brit who was on his way to California. So Rhys packed up again and found herself in San Francisco, where she settled and has lived ever since, raising four children.

Finding nothing like the BBC in San Francisco, Rhys turned to writing children’s books under her married name, Janet Quin-Harkin. Her first picture book was an immediate success and won several awards. More picture books followed, then her agent asked her to write a book for young adults. This was a turning point in Rhys’s career. Her first young adult novel was an instant hit. By her third she was selling half a million copies. Many more popular YA novels followed until Rhys decided she had said all she wanted to say about teenage love and angst, and she turned to her real love—mysteries.

The sort of books she loves to read are those with a great sense of time and place. So she considered where to set a series of her own and chose the mountains of North Wales, where she had spent many happy childhood vacations, and used her grandfather’s name as her nom de plume. Constable Evan Evans was the hero of these novels that took place in a tiny fictitious village in Snowdonia. The series was well received from the start. The second book, Evan Help Us, was nominated for a Barry Award. Evan’s Gate achieved the ultimate success when it was nominated for the Edgar best novel—the highest prize in mysterydom.

CityOfDarknessBut it was a chance visit to Ellis Island that made Rhys start thinking in a new direction. The spunky and not always wise Molly Murphy came into her head, fleeing from Ireland and finding herself implicated in a murder on Ellis Island in the first book, Murphy’s Law. This book won the Agatha Best Novel award, plus three others. Every subsequent book in the series has received awards, nominations and glowing reviews. Book eleven, Hush Now, Don’t You Cry, was a New York Times bestseller. The latest Molly Murphy book, City of Darkness and Light, was published in March 2014.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Rhys reacted to the gloom and doom of real life by creating a second heroine—this one aimed to amuse. She is Lady Georgiana, 34th in line to the British throne but utterly penniless and struggling to make her own way in the cruel world of the Great Depression. Her Royal Spyness was a bestseller, nominated for many awards, and instantly endeared readers to her heroine. The following books have all received award nominations. The 2011 book, Naughty in Nice, started off with a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was then nominated for an Agatha, Bruce Alexander and RT Reviews award. The audio version was also nominated for an Audie. In April 2012 it won the Agatha Award for best historical mystery. The next Lady Georgie book, Queen of Hearts, will be published in August 2014.

Rhys is listed in Who’s Who in America under her married name, Janet Quin-Harkin.

As well as novels, Rhys has written many short stories, including an Anthony winner. She is an ex-chapter president of Mystery Writers of America. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, paint, play her Celtic harp, and spoil her grandchildren.

http://rhysbowen.com/

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Goals: Set or Forget?

cslewis119176Are you a goal-setter or a goal-hater? Some people thrive on goals: clearly mapping out their short, mid and long-term goals for the next decade. Others like to let things happen without a lot of planning.

There’s a plethora of information online about setting and accomplishing goals and how life-changing it can be. Successful indie author, Joanna Penn, talks a lot about it with guests (and fellow authors) on her popular podcast.

But are goals really all they are cracked up to be? Can’t we be successful authors without all that mapping and planning?

Maybe, but I believe it makes the journey harder. Let’s say you are preparing for a trip. Without setting at least some of your plans “in stone” (goals) you could wander aimlessly from locale to locale. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the site of the largest ball of twine. I have no idea why you’d want to do that, but let’s just say you did. You leave your house and head west–a good start. But along the way you decide that you really don’t need this GPS or map so you toss them out the window. First of all, tsk-tsk for littering. But more importantly, you’re now unsure of where to turn, when to get off the interstate or which roads to follow to find your destination.

With one’s writing career it can be the same. Without goals set (even broad, generic goals like, “I want to someday be a bestselling author in YA fiction”) how will you know if you ever arrive at your destination? And more importantly, how can you CELEBRATE once you get there?

This week I met a significant book sales goal. Significant in my mind, anyway. While I’m far from bestseller status, I am thrilled to have sold many more books than I ever dreamed possible when my first came out in 2013. But if I hadn’t set the goal and then met the goal, would it be harder for me to keep going? Being an author, while wonderful in so many ways, can also be alienating, lonely and frustrating. Without goals I may have already given up on this dream.

What do you think? Are you a goal-setter and if so, how detailed do you get (spreadsheets? charts? bar graphs?)? If you don’t set goals, why not? 

J.P. Choquette writes and sets goals from her office in northwestern Vermont. She’s currently at work on her third suspense novel. This one features a spunky, sarcastic vigilante named Tayt who keeps the author on her toes. Learn more on the author’s website.

 

Posted in Craft, J.P. Choquette, Opinion, Writers, Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Elaine Viets

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Imagine yourself in a crowded room, maybe Bouchercon. (Have you registered yet? It is going to be fabulous )

Imagine yourself in a room full of mystery writers and mystery readers.

Okay. Got it? Now imagine—and this isn’t too difficult—a roar of laughter from one corner of the room. Someone has obviously said something hilarious.

Who is it that made the bon mot, told the joke, found the funniest way on the planet to regale her colleagues with a side-splitting story? Betcha it’s Elaine Viets.

She’ll also be the one giving the good advice, working a million hours a day, being generous and loving and diligent. She’s the one writing two series, no, three, making every best-seller list and is short-listed for every award.

Elaine, who years ago had the infinitely brilliant idea to do real-life research as a hotel maid, a telephone boiler room caller, a sales person, a dog walker—and then write her Dead-End mysteries with the insight she gained from real life. She taught a whole generation of fellow mystery authors on book tour never to leave a hotel room without leaving a tip—when she reminded me how difficult it was to pick up a pile of wet towels, it changed my life.

Not Quite Twenty Questions—for the fearless, hilarious and intrepid Elaine Viets.

Photo by Cristiana Pecheanu. Hair and makeup by Mario Ortega.

Photo by Cristiana Pecheanu.
Hair and makeup by Mario Ortega.

Title of your autobiography?
“Fighter”

Why?
I had to fight to go to journalism school at the University of Missouri. My parents wanted me to go to a genteel women’s college, so I worked my way through school proofreading medical books and journals. I fought to marry my husband. My parents disapproved. Don and I have been married 43 years. When I worked at a newspaper I fought to break out of the traditional women’s assignments and eventually became a syndicated humor columnist for United Media in New York. In 2007, I was hit with six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and had brain surgery. It took a four-year fight to regain my health, but I’m fully recovered.

Movie you would see again and again?
“Burn!” the 1969 movie by Gillo Pontecorvo, starring Marlon Brando as Sir William Walker, the British mercenary who starts a slave revolt on a mythical Caribbean island.

Why?
Haunting music, good writing, stunning photography, and a fine performance by Brando. Much underrated.

Exotic drinks?
Vintage port at the Savoy Hotel in London.

(You are so sool.) More mundane: Pizza or chocolate?
Chocolate

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
My husband, Don Crinklaw. My friends. I’m very lucky to have so many friends in St. Louis, South Florida, and the mystery world.

Pets?
Two cats, Harry and Mystery

Hobbies?
Reading and walking along the docks near our home late at night.

Garden?
I live in a condo. My garden is a pot of basil, a Kentia palm, and an eight-foot-tall papyrus plant, all in my livingroom.

ElaineViets_BoardStiffDo you watch TV? What?
Love TV. Have to ration it, or I’d sit down in front of the set and stay there all day. I like “The Rachel Maddow Show” and love watching series DVDs, especially “The Good Wife,” “Downtown Abbey,” and “House of Cards.”

Can you sing?
Only in the shower.

Best concert you’ve ever seen.
Duke Ellington playing in the Rainbow Room in New York.

Book you wish you had written.
Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Why?
It’s a fine piece of reporting and entertainment.

Fear or phobia?
Spiders. I kinda like rats, especially tame ones. They’re very smart.

What someone might not know about you.
I’ve eaten brain sandwiches and pig ear sandwiches.

Um, really? Why? I mean—why did you do that?
Both are ethnic specialties. Brain sandwiches are a local specialty in St. Louis, my hometown. My family is German-American, and the thrifty krauts never wasted anything. A deep-fat-fried calf brain sandwich, properly prepared, is like biting into a cloud. My grandma made good brain sandwiches. Few people eat brain sandwiches any more, and that’s probably a good thing. One sandwich had 3,000 mg. of cholesterol, which I think is the average annual cholesterol allowance.

Pig ears are an African-American specialty and delicious. They taste like pork rinds in barbeque sauce and they’re crunchy.

Do you have a recurring dream?
I’m late, I’ve forgotten something, and it has to be done now.

How about a secret talent?
I’m good at finding four-leaf clovers.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Helen Mirren

JM-09-Fixing_to_DieWhat was the very first moment of your very first idea for your very first mystery—do you remember?
Yes. I think good mysteries are also good reporting and I wanted to report on reporting in my first series, the Francesca Vierling novels: Backstab, Rubout, The Pink Flamingo Murders, and Doc in the Box.

I was a newspaper reporter in St. Louis for more than 25 years, and this series is about when newspapers went from being crusading institutions to corporations. I wanted to write about how newspaper management brought in consultants for “team building exercises.” Reporters already had team building exercises. We hung around and griped about management.

This four-book series is darker than my Dead-End Job mysteries, and still in print as e-books and paperbacks.

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
It’s had so many twists, turns, and coincidences, I wouldn’t be allowed to use them in a novel.

Things you say to yourself when writing:
You’d rather read a mystery, Elaine? Go ahead. Miss this deadline and you’ll have plenty of time to read.

When you are writing, do you have moments when you think—“wow, this is good!”? Or are you more likely to think—whoa, this stinks.
Both. Some days the words seem to flow from my fingers and I enjoy writing. I can feel sparks flying. Other days, writing is a chore. When I go back and read my work later, I can’t tell if it was written on a good day or a bad day, but there are always passages I wish I could improve.

What do you think about that?
I think all writers feel that way, don’t you?

Elaine Viets CatnappedI do! Absolutely. I hear it all the time. So what are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
My latest Dead-End Job mystery is Catnapped! set in the world of cat shows. I’m just back from a cross-country tour promoting it. I’m currently writing my May 2015 Dead-End Job mystery, Checked Out.

Tell us something else about that!
Checked Out is set at a Florida public library, and my protagonist, private eye Helen Hawthorne, goes undercover as a library volunteer to find a missing million-dollar watercolor that was stashed in a book donated to the Friends of the Library. The library is supposed to be haunted, and Helen is also on the track of the so-called ghost.

I’m working as a volunteer at my local library, the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center to research Checked Out.

Are you enjoying it?
Absolutely. I love libraries and librarians. They keep us writers going by recommending our books and hosting reading programs. I like volunteering at Galt Ocean Mile, too. I find myself reciting the alphabet when I shelve books and DVDs.

Do you have a motto? What is it?
Work hard and work smart.

HANK: Cannot put it better than that! What’s the worst job you’ve ever had, sisters? (I worked at the candy counter at G.C. Murphy’s, but I wouldn’t call that bad. Although I cannot look at a peanut butter krispy thing ever again in my life.) A copy of Elaine’s latest book to one lucky commenter!

Oh, and don’t forget to register for Bouchercon! http://www.bouchercon2014.com/registration.php

And you do know about SinC’s special fabulous amazing forensics class with Jan Burke and a cast of incredible insiders the day before, right? Hope to see you there—check it out now!
https://m360.sistersincrime.org/ViewEvent.aspx?id=96942&instance=0

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Elaine Viets MURDER UNLEASHED coverElaine Viets is the author of two national bestselling mystery series. Her Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. She’s been everything from a telemarketer to a hotel maid. The South Florida series has been called “Janet Evanovich meets The Fugitive.”

Publishers Weekly called “Murder Unleashed,” Elaine’s hardcover debut, “wry social commentary.” Her series has received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and raves in The New York Times. Catnapped! is her thirteenth Dead-End Job mystery.

Her Dead-End Job series is taught in universities in the United States and Japan.

Elaine’s second series, featuring Josie Marcus, is a look at the pink collar world of secret shopping. This critically acclaimed series debuted in October 2005 with Dying in Styleand tied with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Fixing to Die is her ninth adventure.

Elaine’s short stories have appeared in two New York Times bestselling anthologies. “Vampire Hours” was in Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner and reprinted in Vampires in Love, published by Barnes & Noble. Her short story, “The Bedroom Door,” was in Mystery Writers of America’s Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris.

She has had short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and anthologies such as Drop-Dead Blonde, High Stakes, the award-winning Chesapeake Crimes I, Mystery Writers of America’s Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block; Mystery Writers of America’s Show Business Is Murder, edited by Stuart Kaminsky; and The World’s Greatest Mystery and Crime Stories, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg.

Her short stories have been published worldwide, including Britain, Australia, Turkey and France.

Elaine Viets is a frequent guest on local, national and international TV and radio shows, including the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, and Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? show. Elaine also hosted the syndicated Travel Holiday Radio Show and was a commentator for the National Public Radio station KWMU. She hosted a prime time television program, Viets Beat, for KMOV-TV in St. Louis and won two local Emmys. She was featured on National Public Radio station WLRN with Jeff “Dexter” Lindsay on Literary Florida. She was inducted into the St. Louis Media Halls of Fame in 2011.

She hosts the half-hour Dead-End Jobs Radio Show on Radio Ear Network.

Elaine has served on the national boards of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.

http://elaineviets.com/

****************

Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Charlaine Harris

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Once I was at a library event, and the well-meaning person who was the emcee said, “And now here’s someone who needs no introduction, Hank Phillippi Ryan.”

Well, that was very nice, and I knew he meant it affectionately. The problem with it was, I do need an introduction. And it started me wondering if there was any one who actually didn’t need one.

One of the names I came up with (and I think you’ll agree) is Charlaine Harris.

But—even with a blockbuster HBO series (True Blood) and all kinds of other fabulous stuff (see below) she is so modest and so unassuming that she would probably disagree.

I will admit that many years ago, I bet 10 or so, I met Dana Cameron and Toni Kelner and they talked about how wonderful this Charlaine Harris was. Newbie that I was, I had no idea.

And wow, was it fun to find out!

And even more fun now, after how many series? Three? Four? Five? and incredible hard work and bravery and imagination and courage, if there’s anyone on the planet who could be described as being an overnight sensation in 20 years, isn’t it Charlaine?

Now she’s walking the red carpet in Hollywood, and is one of the most acclaimed and beloved authors in the world. I will never forget the Sunday morning I opened the New York Times book review section and she had seven titles on the bestseller list at the same time!

It might have been eight, but who’s counting.

She is a wonderful and loyal and fabulous friend, and I admire her beyond all description.

CharlaineCharlaine Harris now, with Not Quite Twenty Questions.

Title of your autobiography:
“She Did the Best She Could”

(See, I told you she was modest.) Why?
I often fall short of my own goals, in my personal and professional lives. It’s hard to accept that I have built-in limitations.

Movie you would see again and again?
The Last of the Mohicans

Why? (You know, I’ve never seen it. I decided it would be too sad.)
It’s got everything: great acting, good script, beautiful scenery, romantic and adventurous.

Exotic drinks?
Nope, not me.

Pizza or chocolate?
Chocolate.

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
I have a spouse, Hal, and three adult children whom I adore. My newest special people are outstanding and tiny, our grandchildren Gavin and Devin.

Pets? 
Three rescue dogs.

Garden?
Used to, arthritis does not permit any more.

Hobbies? 

Reading. We go to the movies, too, and I definitely watch more television now that my eyes are getting older.

Oh, what do you watch?
Oh, yes, I love: Project Runway, Justified, Longmire, Life Below Zero, and Chopped. Oh, and True Blood!

Hank interviewing Charlaine at Crime Bake 2010

Hank interviewing Charlaine at Crime Bake 2010

Okay, gotta ask. Do you remember the first time you saw True Blood? What did you think?
The first time I saw True Blood, I was sure my husband and I were going to have to move. It was so much more EVERYTHING than I ever imagined. But it turned out people really loved it!

And wait—isn’t there another TV thing in the works?
Yes, Hallmark Channel is planning a series of made-for-TV movies made on the Aurora Teagarden books, my early series about a librarian and the challenges she faces in her small town when bodies turn up. Candace Cameron Bure is attached.

Wow. And check Charlaine’s blog on Femmes Fatales for a wonderful story about her latest Hollywood foray! Anyway, back to reality. Best concert you’ve ever seen.
I saw the Beatles in the seventies.

I did too! In the 60s though. <smile> Can you sing? 
A little. A very little.

Book you wish you had written.
So many! But the first book I thought that consciously was “Jurassic Park.” Minus all the scientific stuff.

I never would have predicted that! Why?
People: EEEEK! Dinosaurs: AAAARGH!

Fear or phobia?
Heights. And those weird rubber people with waving arms that businesses put by the road to entice you in. I will do a detour to avoid those.

I really hate those. I think they’re Stephen-King creepy, and I always wonder how anyone thought of them. “You know what we should do?” someone said. And then they described them, and someone else said—“Yeah, great idea!” Sheesh. Anyway, what someone might not know about you.
Pretty much of an open book.

Do you have a recurring dream?
No.

How about a secret talent?
I can figure tips quickly. Otherwise, math moron.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Tough one. Shirley Jackson, maybe.

It is a tough one! Funny, huh? But why Shirley Jackson?
I picked Shirley Jackson because I admire her intensely. She could write very funny books. She could write terrifying books. And she was a master at creeping dread. You would start reading, and then you’d sense that something was a little off with the protagonist and her viewpoint, and then you’d become more and more aware that all was not well in her head . . . or you’d laugh and laugh at her family’s situations. Her versatility was astounding.

Charlaine_officeThings you say to yourself when writing:
Keep going, you can do it.
Or, “What would be the most fun thing that could happen right now?”

What are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
I’m working on the second Midnight Crossroad book, and the third installment of Cemetery Girl. Just finished a short story.

Tell us something else about that!
Second books are traditionally hard, because all the newness of the first book has worn off for the writer, and you’re faced with the hard work of making the characters charming all over again.

Are you enjoying it? 
Some days . . . .

Do you have a motto? What is it?
Keep working.

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
Oh, gosh, NO.

HANK: Well, we can! And we are cheering like mad. Sisters, wouldn’t you say Charlaine is the role model for perseverance leading to wild success? Do you think about “Keep going, you can do it” when you write?

MidnightCrossroadAnd a signed copy of Charlaine’s MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD book to one lucky commenter!

****************

CHARLAINE HARRIS is a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for over thirty years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. Though her early works consisted largely of poems about ghosts and teenage angst, she began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She switched to novels a few years later, and achieved publication in 1981 with Sweet and Deadly.

After publishing two stand-alone mysteries, Harris launched the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden books with Real Murders, a Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards. Harris wrote eight books in her series about a Georgia librarian. In 1996, she released the first in the much darker Shakespeare mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who makes her living cleaning houses. Shakespeare’s Counselor, the fifth—and final—Lily Bard novel, was printed in fall 2001.

DeadEverAfterBy then, Harris was feeling the call of new territory. Starting with the premise of a young woman with a disability who wants to try inter-species dating, she created The Sookie Stackhouse urban fantasy series before there was a genre called “urban fantasy.” Telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse works in a bar in the fictional northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. Each subsequent book follows Sookie through adventures involving vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. The series, which ended in 2013, has been released in over thirty languages.

Sookie Stackhouse has proven to be so popular that Alan Ball, creator of the HBO television series Six Feet Under, announced he would undertake the production of a new HBO series based upon the  books  He wrote and directed the pilot episode for that series, True Blood, which premiered in September of 2008.

In October 2005, the first of Harris’s new mystery series about a young woman named Harper Connelly debuted with the release of Grave Sight. Harper has the ability to determine the cause of death of any body. After four novels, this series is on hiatus.

CemeteryGirlNow Harris is working on a trilogy of graphic novels with Christopher Golden and artist Don Kramer, “Cemetery Girl.” On her own she is writing a new series set in the small town of Midnight, Texas.

Harris has also co-edited a series of very popular anthologies with her friend Toni L.P. Kelner, aka Leigh Perry. The anthologies feature stories with an element of the supernatural, and the submissions come from a rare mixture of mystery and urban fantasy writers.

Professionally, Harris is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Crime Writers League, Sisters in Crime, and the International Crime Writers Association. She is a past member of the boards of Sisters in Crime and MWA, and she has served as president of the MWA. She is also a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America, just to make sure she’s covered.

Personally, Harris has been married for many years. She mother of three wonderful children and the grandmother of two. She lives in central Texas, and when she is not writing her own books, she reads omnivorously. Her house is full of rescue dogs.

http://charlaineharris.com/

****************

Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Donna Andrews

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: My husband and I don’t celebrate the anniversary of the day we met. We celebrate the anniversary of the day before we met. And we call that “You Never Know Day.” Because you never know what wonderful life-changing thing is around the next corner.

And it’s the same with writing, isn’t it? One day everything is bleak and terrible, or at least depressing or disappointing. And then the next day—blam. The dream agent calls, or the idea appears, or the perfect words come, or—who knows what.

The same thing happened to Donna Andrews. You know her, right? I met her at—must have been Malice. No—Bouchercon! When we were assigned to emcee the charity auction together. She had the audience rolling the aisles (hyperbole) with her hilarious (not hyperbole) wit and off-the-wall humor.

She’s now on her seventeenth (!) mystery for St. Martin’s, and every one has a bird pun in the title. How did that happen? I, of course wanted to know. Well, it seems it was by chance. You never know, right? And that’s all explained in one of Donna Andrews’ truly Donna-ish (thoughtful, clever and honest) answers to my Not Quite Twenty Questions.

DonnaAndrews057thumbnailTitle of your autobiography:
And You Thought I Made All That Stuff Up?

Why?
Best title I’ve thought of so far. I’m open to suggestions.

Movie you would see again and again?
The Twelve Chairs.

Why?
It’s a wonderful combination of physical and verbal comedy with just a smidgen of heartwarming snuck in when you’re not looking. And then there’s the young Frank Langella…

Exotic drinks?
Appletinis. That’s about as exotic as it gets. Usually I stick to margaritas.

Okay, basic food groups, then. Pizza or chocolate?
Pizza. Preferably pepperoni and sausage. If you’re on some kind of health kick, you can throw on a few mushrooms and green peppers—with, not instead of, the meat.

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
No spouse or children, but I’m lucky enough to live a few miles from my 92-year-old mother in one direction and my brother and his wife with the twin nephews in the other. Little League season just ended. I dream about baseball at the moment. And can anyone explain this Minecraft thing?

Pets?
No pets of my own, because I can’t do the guilt when I travel. And cats are easier than dogs, but alas! I’m allergic to cats. But I do have several loaner dogs who can stay with me when their people are traveling: Ginger, a Shih-Tsu; Wesley, an elkhound/shepherd mix, and Jingle, a beagle/basset mix. Or possibly beagle/dachshund.

DonnaAndrews_MysteryLovesCompany_restingHobbies?
Reading, of course. And playing computer games. And gardening. And attending Little League games.

Garden?
Yes, diligently and badly. The deer and the rabbits eat everything, so if you want to catch my attention in a garden store or catalogue, just write in big letters “Deer hate this! Rabbits loathe it!” and I’m sold. My father was a skilled and avid gardener who could keep the family in vegetables and fruit all summer and—thanks to my mom’s freezing—part of the winter. I inherited the avid. My garden philosophy is that if I see something that survives in spite of my efforts (and those of the deer), I go out and plant a lot more of it. Hellebores and daffodils are my mainstays—hellebores are a contact irritant, and daffodils are poisonous. In fact, I have been known to study books on poisonous plants as much for garden tips as for plot inspiration.

Do you watch TV? What?
Way too much TV. I like a lot of the crime shows, even though I know how inaccurate they are, and if there are vampires, wizard, spaceships, or aliens on a show, I’m either watching it or planning to do so on Netflix or DVD when I’m not on deadline. Ditto anything Joss Whedon touches.

Can you sing?
Yes, but there doesn’t seem to be much demand for me to do so. A friend who’s gotten very involved in choir activities recently decided to assess my vocal range and, once I’d finished singing along to his plunking on the keyboard he announced that I was a tenor. Or a contralto; I gather it’s much the same range. Clearly this explains why so many people call me “sir” over the phone. And also why I have such a hard time with sing-alongs; I can’t possibly hit most of the notes the women are singing, and the men look at me oddly if I try to rumble along with them.

Best concert you’ve ever seen.
Once in the late 70s, when my brother was a starving musician in New York, he took me to see a show by a Cissy Houston, then best known as Dionne Warwick’s aunt, Aretha Franklin’s backup singer, and Leontyne Price’s cousin. In the middle of her show, Cissy brought up her teenaged daughter to sing a song or two. My brother and I looked at each other and both said variations on “Wow! She’s going somewhere.” And that’s how I came to hear Whitney Houston sing at least five years before her first record came out.

ThirteenthNightBook you wish you had written.
The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull and Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon.

WarfortheoaksWhy?
They speak to me. I told Alan once that when I heard what he’d done—taken my favorite Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, and written a mystery featuring the same characters fifteen years down the road—I was prepared to hate him for thinking of it first, but he did it so fabulously that I couldn’t hate him. All is forgiven. The War for the Oaks is considered one of the pioneering works of urban fantasy and is still my gold standard. How can you not love a book in which a young woman electric guitar player not only forms her own band but gets to fight evil with chords?

Must go and reread both of them soon.

I did hate Alan for that brilliant idea! And told him so. At least admitted to my idea-envy. Oh well. Fear or phobia?
I’m slightly claustrophobic and slightly acrophobic, which is why I’m very proud that I’ve managed to complete a few caving expeditions.

What someone might not know about you.
Um . . . dunno; in a dozen years of being on panels, is there anything I haven’t confessed? No, wait; I’ve got it. I used to be very shy as a kid. No one will believe it, of course, but it’s true.

Do you have a recurring dream?
Yes. In it, I notice a bug on the wall or floor, and I suck it up with the vacuum cleaner. And then I notice another bug, and another, and pretty soon the vacuum cleaner bag is filled, and the walls are now crawling with bugs, and sooner or later the bag will burst, and they will all swarm out—

I have figured out that when I dream this, I am feeling at least a little overwhelmed by everything I have on my plate, and need to take a long, hard look at what I have the bandwidth for and what I need to delegate, delay, or just say no to.

How about a secret talent?
I am currently the family champion at Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, one of the segments of the Wii Nintendoland game. But the nephews are probably going to surpass me in that any day now.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Only one? Aw, come on, can I have half a dozen? Have you ever read Van Loon’s Lives? In it, the Dutch-American writer Henrik Van Loon has the ability to summon any historical figure to come to dinner. He decides on his guests, does a brief biographical sketch for the readers and then tries to imagine what would happen if he put this mixture of people together. Like Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Moliere. Robespierre and Torquemada. Hans Christian Andersen and Mozart. Plato and Confucious. One of my particular favorites is the evening when he invited the Bach and Breughel families, and the Bachs serenaded the Breughels while the Breughels painted the Bachs.

I refuse to pick just one person! I want to do what Van Loon did! (It’s a fabulous book. Published in 1942, and out of print, but very findable in used book stores and sites. Well worth reading.)

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
Every so often, when I’m complaining about deadlines or my editor’s demands, I take a step back and remind myself that I’m doing full time what I always wanted to do.

Things you say to yourself when writing:
Just finish today’s quota. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Just finish the book. You can edit a rotten draft. You can’t edit a blank page.

What are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
The life of the working writer: I have one book coming out this month—The Good, the Bad, and the Emus. I’ve finished the draft of another and am waiting for thegalleys to arrive—that one’s called The Nightingale Before Christmas. And I’m starting to plan still another—probably set at Halloween, and tentatively titled The Lord of the Wings. But that’s still in the planning stages, so I’m as close as I ever come to being between books. But not for long.

Malice lineup of Best Novel  nominees: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Louise Penny, Rhys Bowen, Lorraine Bartlett, Donna Andrews, and moderator Shawn Simmons

Malice lineup of Best Novel nominees: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Louise Penny, Rhys Bowen, Lorraine Bartlett, Donna Andrews, and moderator Shawn Simmons

Tell us something else about that!
The Good, the Bad, and the Emus is about feral emus and solving the possible murder of Meg’s long-lost grandmother. Meg’s father was found as an infant in the fiction section of a Charlottesville library. Earlier in the series, he is reunited with the father he never knew when Dr. Montgomery Blake sees a picture of Meg and realizes she’s a dead ringer for Cordelia, his college girlfriend. A few years later, curiosity overcomes Dr. Blake and he hires a local private eye to see if he can locate Cordelia. And the private investigator not only finds her—he determines that she may have been murdered. So Meg and Grandfather set out to solve the murder—and while they’re at it, round up the flock of feral emus Cordelia had been feeding.

Meg’s father and grandfather get a lot of screen time in Emus, but Meg’s mother doesn’t appear for most of the book—mainly because once the emu roundup begins, they are all camping out, and Mother does not camp. She considers it camping if she has to stay in a hotel without a four-star restaurant. So I decided The Nightingale Before Christmas would be Mother’s book. She and eleven other designers are participating in a Christmas-themed decorator show house. Meg, of course, has been drafted to serve as the organizer for the event, which means she ends up stuck with a lot of the headaches when one of the designers ends up murdered in the room he was decorating.

Can you just—tell us about the bird thing?
When I was getting ready to submit my first book to the St. Martins contest, I realized it needed a title. I called a friend who was good at that sort of thing and said “Help me think of a title for my book.” The friend knew that I had several projects going, and asked “Which book–the murder mystery with the peacocks?” Bingo! And I knew publishers liked themes, so when I began working on the second book, set in Maine, I made sure to put puffins in it. I figured birds would be a good theme. If John D. MacDonald had lived much longer he’d have run low on color names, and Sue Grafton will probably have to retire after Z, but birds? There are an estimated 10,000 of them in the world, and a reasonable number have names that lend themselves to lighthearted titles.

Are you enjoying the writing?
I don’t always enjoy writing, but now that I’ve turned it in and finished the revisions, I’m really enjoying having written.

Do you have a motto? What is it?
Um . . . not really.

HANK: Great motto! I can see it embroidered on an eagle rampant, emblazoned on the escutcheon… Oh, wait I see. No motto.

But you know, Donna? I think your motto should be: Bird By Bird.

EmusAny good bird title puns for Donna, sisters? We hope she’ll be needing a lot more! And a copy of The Good, The Bad, and The Emus to one lucky commenter.

 

WINNER of Toni Kelner’s new “Skeleton” Book is JULIA DAVID! Contact me via my website http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com and I will get you your prize!

****************

DONNA ANDREWS bio (from her website)

Like Meg Langslow, the ornamental blacksmith heroine of her series from St. Martin’s Press, Donna Andrews was born and raised in Yorktown, Virginia. These days she spends almost as much time in cyberspace as Turing Hopper, the artificial intelligence who appears in her technocozy series from Berkley Prime Crime.

Although she read widely as a child, especially in fantasy and science fiction, her love of mystery developed during her college years (and particularly at exam time.) Andrews attended the University of Virginia, majoring in English and Drama with a concentration on writing. After graduation, she moved to the Washington, D.C. area and joined the communications staff of a large financial organization, where for two decades she honed her writing skills on nonfiction and developed a profound understanding of the criminal mind through her observation of interdepartmental politics.

RealMacawIn the fall of 1997 she started on the road to publication by submitting her first completed mystery manuscript to the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery contest. Upon learning that Murder with Peacocks had won, she acquired a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds and settled down to have fun in her fictional world for as long as she could get away with it. Murder with Peacocks won the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and Romantic Times awards for best first novel and the Lefty award for the funniest mystery of 1999. Subsequent books have also received Agatha and Lefty nominations, and Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon won the Toby Bromberg Award for Excellence (presented by Romantic Times) for the Most Humorous Mystery of 2003. Owl’s Well That Ends Well (April 2005), the sixth book in the series, features a murder at a giant yard sale. No Nest for the Wicket (August 2006), the seventh book, explores eXtreme Croquet, and in The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (August 2007), Meg discovers penguins–and a body–in her basement. In Cockatiels at Seven, Meg must solve a crime while encumbered with toddler. She must organize her county’s holiday parade and solve a related murder in Six Geese A-Slaying. And the latest, Swan for the Money, features competitive rose growing and belted Tennessee fainting goats.

DeleteAllSuspectsNovember 2005 saw the release of Delete All Suspects, the fourth book in the Turing Hopper series–which was partly inspired by her experience serving as a translator between the marketing and systems departments at her day job. Andrews notes that in these books she seeks to use computers and other technology accurately without making the action incomprehensible for readers who prefer whodoneits to computer manuals–and Delete All Suspects, she achieves a long-time ambition of killing off a spammer, even if only on paper. The first book in the series, You’ve Got Murder, won the Agatha award for best mystery of 2002, and was followed by Click Here for Murder and Access Denied.

A member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and the Private Investigators and Security Association, Andrews spends her free time gardening and conquering the world (but only in Civiliation IV).

For more information: http://donnaandrews.com.

****************

Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions, Writers | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Toni Kelner

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was going to say Toni Kelner leads a double life, both as the Toni I’ve known for the past nine years, and as Leigh Perry, who the world has known for what, two? But truly, Toni leads a quadruple or quintuple life, as an author of her Toni L.P. Kelner mysteries—how many series, Toni?, and editor with Charlaine Harris of the New York Times Best-selling anthologies of paranormal short stories, and as the coolest mom and wife around. I mean, sisters, she dresses up, she participates in all kinds of conventions like Comicon and other cool stuff that many of us (me) don’t even know what it is…and, and…

And she’s always ready with a joke or a laugh or helping hand or a pat on the back. She’s a great and loyal pal with a very surprising personality—all southern drawl, until, bless her heart, she comes out with a zinger that has the entire crowd roaring with laughter.

(And she’s the one who taught me about “Bless her heart,” which is a whole other blog.)

Even in the midst of all she’s juggling—she agreed to our Not Quite Twenty Questions. And you’ll read how her personality—honest and thoughtful and loving and professional and um, so funny—comes out so beautifully in her answers.

tonilpkelnerTitle of your autobiography: 
I Was Rejected by Mickey Mouse

Why?
When I was trying to sell my first novel, I met the editor in chief of the brand-spanking new Hyperion Press. Hyperion is the adult publishing imprint of Disney publishing. She invited me to send a partial, and I got a very well-written, thorough rejection letter. But the thing was, Hyperion was so new they didn’t have a logo or letterhead yet. So my rejection was written on Mickey Mouse letterhead. I’ve always pictured Mickey saying, in his famous voice, “Hi, Toni. We don’t want your book.”

What do you think about that now?
Mostly amused. I mean if I got angry at every publisher who’d ever turned me down, I’d have nobody to talk to at conventions. And I’ve been published by several of them since.

Movie you would see again and again?
Lots of them, actually. But I’ll go with Serenity.

Why?
I think Joss Whedon, the producer and screen writer, does the absolute best dialog; the actors are wonderful; and the story is pretty close to perfect. It’s a fun romp, and quite exciting even upon re-watching.

Oh, well, um, I’ve never see that. What is it? And why do you love it? Do you think about it when your write your own stuff? Answer any or all…
Serenity is the continuation of the short-lived-but-awesome TV show Firefly, which was basically a space Western. It’s got tight plotting and adventure and humor and great characters and amazing fight scenes—everything I like in a movie. Joss went on to direct The Avengers, which has some of the same magic.

I wish I could write actions scenes like that, but I’m afraid I’m a lost cause. I do bear in mind something Joss said about slang in his shows and movies. Somebody asked him how he researched the lingo for the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which started out with the characters as high school students. He said to make it up, that slang changes so fast it’s impossible to stay current. I do that myself.

So—easy questions: Exotic drinks?
Yes, please. Frozen strawberry daiquiri or frozen strawberry margarita. My philosophy on drinks is that if you can’t put a paper umbrella in it, what’s the point?

Pizza or chocolate?
You promised softball questions! Chocolate.

ToniAndSteveSpouse? Children? Special people in your life?
I’ve been married for 26 to Stephen Kelner, Jr. We have two daughters: Maggie and Valerie.

Pets? 
Technically Spot and Clara are the girls’ guinea pigs, but I have petting privileges. Plus I’m the backup caregiver when the girls are busy.

Hobbies? 
TV and movies, and playing silly computer games. I don’t include reading, because that’s not a hobby, it’s a way of life.

Garden?
Nope. Brown thumbs.

Do you watch TV? What?
I binge-watch DVDs more than I watch current stuff, but I make exceptions for Doctor WHO, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the competition show Face Off. Our current DVD binges are Elementary and Torchwood.

Can you sing? 
Love to sing. I’m rubbish, but it’s so much fun!

Best concert you’ve ever seen.
A tie between Darryl Rhoades and the Mighty Men from Glad and the Velveteen Playboys. The Monkees were great, too.

Book you wish you had written.
The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon.

Why?
It’s one of those rare perfect books to me. Generally I can pick at even my most favorite books, but there are some that are just gems.

Fear or phobia?
Bugs. (Not insects, because I include spiders.)

How about a secret talent?
Okay, it won’t qualify me for the Legion of Heroes, or even the Legion of Substitute Heroes, but I can find four-leaf clovers regularly. I can also make up song lyrics to a tune on the fly, but that may not be a talent so much as a way of annoying my family.

I can do that, too! It drives people crazy. Anyway, what someone might not know about you.
I’m much meaner than people think I am. At first, anyway. And I had a chop shop operating out of my back yard once.

Do you have a recurring dream?
I have invasion of privacy dreams, when people come into my house or yard and will not go away. There’s a reason I’m a secluded writer.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Joss Whedon, though I’d probably go too fan girl to be able to actually have a conversation.

Huh. I guess I could have predicted that. But can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
It depends on the day. On bad days, I think I’m doing everything wrong. But on good days—which is most days, actually—I cannot believe how lucky I am!

Things you say to yourself when writing.
Only 200 more words and you can stop. Only 150 more words and you can stop. And so on…

What are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
I’m doing something different. Christopher Golden has asked me to write a vampire story for his horror anthology Seize the Night. Now I’ve done plenty of vampire stories, but never as horror.

a-skeleton-in-the-family-cover-186x300Then I’ll jump right into the next Family Skeleton book (by my alter Leigh Perry).

Tell us something else about that!
I don’t know as much about it as I should at this point, but I think it’s going to be set at a summer camp for live-action role-players, much like Wizards and Warriors camp here in Massachusetts. The fact that Valerie is going to be attending Wizards and Warriors camp next week is just a coincidence.

Wait—the Family Skeleton series? Where’d THAT idea come from?
I was toying with the idea of a paranormal mystery series, and our fellow pals Charlaine Harris and Dana Cameron seemed to have the vampire and werewolf tropes so well covered I couldn’t see anything I could add. So somehow the idea of a walking, talking skeleton occurred to me. The funny thing is, I never thought anybody would buy it.

Did you always like scary stuff? Are you brave in real life?
I’m totally not brave at all, unless you count the time I went onto the front porch with a cutlass because my daughter heard somebody out there. Boy, were those raccoons startled!

I write the scary stuff, particularly normal people dealing with scary stuff, to try to convince myself that if something really awful happens, I’ll be able to deal with it and not just squeal like a hungry guinea pig. If anything happens, I’ll let you know if it worked.

Are you enjoying it? The short story? And the Skeleton book? 
The short story? I am, actually. It’s a stretch, but I’ve enjoyed kind of analyzing what makes a horror story horror. And I’m getting down with my dark self. I’ve freaked out my husband Steve, so that’s a good sign that I’m on the right track.

Sid the Skeleton

Sid the Skeleton

As for the next Skeleton book, I know I’ll have fun. They are a romp to write.

Do you have a motto? What?
Fair’s fair.

I have a deep-seated need to see the world as fair, and play fair myself. That’s applies to stuff like letting somebody out in traffic if another driver let me out, emptying the dishwasher because Maggie did it last time, and recognizing that every day can’t be perfect because most of my days are just great.

HANK: Isn’t she…so wonderful? Every time I read one of these interviews, I just fall in love with the person all over again. So how about you, sisters? Do you like scary stuff? To read? Or to write? Have you seen Serenity? (The movie, I mean.)

And a signed Skeleton book to one lucky commenter!

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Toni L.P. Kelner is the author of eleven mystery novels: eight Laura Fleming mysteries and three “Where are they now?” mysteries. Both series are available as audio books and e-books.

GamesCreaturesPlayKelner is also the author of numerous short stories, and co-edits bestselling urban fantasy anthologies with Charlaine Harris. Their most recent are Games Creatures Play and Dead But Not Forgotten.

Kelner has won the Agatha Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been nominated multiple times for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer.

Writing as Leigh Perry, she recently debuted the Family Skeleton series for Berkley Prime Crime.

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

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