Meet Patti Larsen

Good Morning Readers! It’s a cool, crisp morning here, but the temps will get up into the mid 70’s by lunchtime. My cats really like these cool mornings. Speak of cool-or rather cold!- Our next author knows what cold winters are all about. We don’t have to travel too far to meet this author, just head North.

Patti is a writer of Young Adult, Adult Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Cozy Murder Mysteries, Horror, Thriller and Post-apocalyptic books. (do you think she keeps busy?!?) She publishes wide and you can find them on her website and Amazon. Now lets find out more about our Canadian neighbor.

Have you ever been to the United State and if so where?
As a Canadian, travel to the US was always a treat as a kid and something I have continued to do my entire life. In one three-month trip alone I visited 40 of the 50 states by car, living in a tent on a tiny budget and had a blast. There were so many highlights and I do plan to see the other ten states, my two bucket listers Hawaii and Alaska.

What is one expression that is common to your part of the world that might be unusual to us in the US and what does it mean?
There are so many that seem to be unique to my part of Canada! I live in beautiful Prince Edward Island, home of Anne of Green Gables and the most lovely beaches anywhere, but we are notorious for our slang. The most amusing to me isn’t so much a phrase, but an odd—when we agree with you, we do this odd little inhale of breath two or three times, making a ya sound. It’s hilarious and actually has a name and a history and likely began with the Vikings (who first settled my part of the world). http://bit.ly/ingressivepulmonicspeech

Where would you take a US visitor to your country to first and why?
Hands down, we’d tour my gorgeous little island paradise. Prince Edward Island has some of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas in summer and we often swim off my brother-in-law’s boat in the West River just off the Charlottetown harbor mouth. From our unique red soil (caused by an overabundance of iron in the clay) to the abundance of live performances, fresh seafood from the dock to your plate, art, Broadway-class musicals and so much more… and that’s just our capital city! Not to sound like a tourism ad, but you have to come see us—islanders are friendly and welcoming and our food, music and scenery are all breathtaking.

When did you start writing?
I think I’ve always been a storyteller, but the idea of wanting to write a book coalesced one afternoon while I was reading a Nancy Drew Mystery. I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy thanks to my father, reading a great deal of subject matter far too advanced for a kid but loving it. So when a friend let me borrow her book, my very first YA book, as a matter of fact, I realized partway through the simple storyline, as entertaining as it was, felt like something I could do. Of course, it took me many years and a lot of writing, studying and writing some more in order to develop the skills to do what I do for a living. However, the spark, I think, is the key ingredient. Without it, I likely would have stopped at some point and given up, instead of continuing to write and grow as a writer until I was finally able to do what I always wanted fulltime.

Describe your writing space.
You’re going to laugh at me, but because I work at home fulltime, I’m always moving around, looking for a new and better and physically healthier way to work. My chiropractor and I often discuss best practices because I want to be able to keep writing for many, many more years. So, my latest setup will crack you up. I’ve bought a projector and lap desk and I’m testing out writing lying down with the screen on the ceiling. The pugs and kitties love it and I have to say I’ve never felt more productive.
No teasing. I’ve heard all the lying down on the job jokes already.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
When I’m in full-on production mode, it’s pretty steady. Typically I work on outlines or marketing in the mornings, write for at least three hours in the afternoons (my usual quota is five chapters), then take evenings to myself to watch TV or movies (I’m also trained as a screenwriter, so I often watch to study storylines and grow my craft as well as to chill out). Though, lately I’ve been indulging in my new favorite toy, an Oculus. And now I want to make all my books into VR mysteries.

Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?
I’m one of those writers who hears voices, so I find writing rather easy, first, third or thirteenth in the series. I see myself as fingers on the keyboard (or holding the pen), invited to sit down with a new friend (or an old one, depending on where I am in a series) over a cup of coffee (cream and maple syrup for this Canadian girl) and write down this cool thing that happened to the character in question. Rather than a lot of backstory exploration, I let the voice fill me in as we go. I do outline extensively, so the books themselves are completely fleshed out before I start writing, which frees my brain to take a hike and allow the character to do her (usually) thing.
There have been times I’ve been four or five books in (even ten at one point), knowing there’s a giant ending coming and NO IDEA what that ending is. I do my best not to panic, because the voices ALWAYS come through and wrap things up so perfectly I’m kind of in awe of them. As long as I trust what the character is telling me, and don’t argue or try to change fate (like killing off beloved characters), the storylines always work out.
Best. Job. Ever.

Have you ever been on any sports teams? If so, what sport?
I was one of the founding members (and two years vice president) of the Red Rock ‘N Roller Derby league here on my little island. While I loved flat-track derby, it didn’t love me. After I broke my elbow and then my tailbone within four weeks of each other, I sadly had to hang up my skates. That remains my one and only sports team activity—I prefer to ride my horse, walk and do other activities that don’t involve breaking bones.

A big thank you to Patti for sharing a glimpse into her writing world. I don’t know about you, but a summer vacation to Prince Edward Island sounds wonderful. Both of the above books by Patti are free, so grab a copy and enjoy (don’t forget to provide your review!). I hope you are enjoying this series of author interviews. Be sure to let me know if there are any other series you’d like me to consider. Have a wonderful weekend!

Victoria LK Williams

Meet Mona Marple

It’s a new year, and I bet you’re ready for an adventure!

This next series of author interviews is going to be fun, and I’m sure you will learn something extra from each author. We’re traveling across the pond to meet these authors, so grab your passport. Well, virtually anyway. Just a bit of a reminder…some words may look misspelled, but that is probably because of US English vs “proper” English!

I feel blessed to call Mona not only a fellow writer, but also a friend. I have enjoyed reading her cozy and paranormal books and I bet you will too. Her books are available in Kindle Unlimited. Now for the interview…

Have you ever been to the United State and if so where?
I LOVE the USA! I’ve visited around 13 states and would love to return and visit more. I was lucky enough to visit New York for my 21st birthday, which was incredible. And I first developed my love for cacti following a trip to Arizona in 2015!

What is one expression that is common to your part of the world that might be unusual to us in the US and what does it mean?
In my town, a lot of people say ‘duck’ as a familiar greeting. For example, someone might say ‘alright, duck?’

Where would you take a US visitor to your country to first and why?
I’d have to take a US visitor to Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood, and in particular to see the Major Oak tree. I live just a few miles from Sherwood Forest and I walk my pampered Labradoodle, Miss Coco, in there most weeks.

Describe your writing space.
I’m lucky enough to have a writing room, but the window is quite small and high. I’m really obsessed with windows and I love being able to see out, but a traditional desk is too low for me to see out of the window. Imagine my delight when my sweet husband made me a desk that sits right under the windowsill! I had to order a special type of high chair, my desk is so high, and now I can sit and write and see out of the window! Typically, I work on a laptop with my notes next to me, some cacti arranged on the windowsill, and a candle burning. My feet get really cold so I’ll probably be wearing fluffy socks, drinking really strong coffee, and water too (I’m giving up fizzy pop right now). And Miss Coco will probably be curled up near me. That dog has no understanding of personal space boundaries 😉

Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?
I find the first book hardest because everything is new. I’m trying to get a feel for the world and the characters as I write, so the first few chapters can be quite slow until I get my head around it all.
Later books in a series have a different difficulty – trying to make sure I’m not repeating plots!

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I have a day job in a law firm and I really enjoy it. I think I’ll always do both.
Although, when I was a child, I really wanted to work in a pizza parlour. I remember going to a local pizza parlour as a child and watching them roll out the dough and add the toppings. It seemed like the coolest job in the world to me!

Now wasn’t that fun? I love learning not only about the author, but where they are from. Can you image living near Sherwood Forest? I’ll be thinking about Robin Hood all evening (lol). Don’t hesitate to contact the authors and let them know what you think. And if you do read one of their books, please don’t forget to review!

Victoria LK Williams

Buy Direct and Save and sign up for my news letter while you’re there

A Special Author

I hope you have enjoyed the Christmas series of author interview! I can’t wait to start the next series; we’ll be going far and wide for this group of author.

But before I start that, I wanted to introduce you to an author who is dear to my heart. He writes non-fiction, in the gardening genre. With two books under his belt, it is easy to see the two sides of this author; serious and funny.

Meet Donald R. Williams

That’s right, Don is my husband, and I’m so proud of him. The above picture is the serious side of the man, but when you read the following exert from his newest book, you’ll discover the funny man I love.

Chapter 19

Wait A Minute… Here’s Another Thought

How do you think the plants feel about all of this? Maybe they have feelings too. After all, the Sensitive Plant’s (yes, it’s a real plant!) leaves curl up when it is touched by somebody that can’t keep their hands to themselves.  Ask yourself; do plants have eyes and ears? They can’t see or hear when you’re coming to chop of their limbs. They tolerate a lot of abuse; moved around, dug up, thrown in your trunk, starved to death, left to go thirsty, leaves falling off as they bake in the hot sun and are generally ignored.

Plants must  be tough; they can’t run away. They can’t hide from your lack of care. They don’t like being talked about behind your back by your neighbors and they hate it when the neighbor’s dog squirts on them.

Do plants have a social life? Think about it. They hang out in groups and show off their blooms when treated right. But treat them wrong? They drop their leaves when ignored and go into shock when cut back too hard. They don’t have a brain, but they communicate in ways we do not understand. You want grief, they will bring it on.

Do you talk to your plants? Do you make them feel better with your empty promises of better care? Maybe you should. You might feel better, and they might bring you more pleasure, or give you so much grief. Plants are like the Venus Fly Trap; they will grab your finger in retribution and not let go.  So, don’t stick your fingers where they don’t belong, treat your plants right, and you will get all get along fine.

With over 45 years in the horticulture industry, Don has more than earned the right to poke a bit of fun at gardening. Yet, even as you read and laugh, you will also learn.

Our next series of author interviews will be from authors who live beyond the United States. England, New Zealand, Germany, and Spain will start us off. I’m so interested to hear from these wonderful authors and hope you will be too.

Happy New Year; here’s to a fantastic 2021!

Victoria LK Williams

Meet Christa Nardi

Well, the holiday season is here! It’s already December 2 and the days are just flying by. I think it would be safe to say that most are looking forward to the end of 2020 and the hopes only a new year can bring. But until then, we still have some great authors to meet!

Christa writes cozy mysteries that are all in Kindle Unlimited. You can find all her books there and also in Goodreads, where you should always leave a review for the books you read and enjoy!
You can connect with Christa on Facebook, Twitter, Bookbub, and Pinterest (you have to check out her boards!) And don’t forget to visit her website for even more great information.

How long have you been writing?
Probably since elementary grades? I wrote poetry in high school and college. Dabbled with fantasy right after college and oh, I wish I knew where that floppy disk is! I got started again probably around 2010. Mostly, as an escape from my full-time work.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Technically, that is the plan. I sort of retired from my full-time career in August 2020, but I am finishing up stuff and helping while they try to hire someone to replace me. So, yes, I would like it to be. That is the plan.

What is the significance of the title?
For Murder at the Theater, the significance is the setting for the murder and how Sheridan Hendley, the amateur sleuth gets involved. The “theater” is a community theater planning to showcase A Christmas Carol directed by a Scrooge type and starring a student at the college where Sheridan is a faculty member. He’s also the nephew of a good friend and the prime suspect, arrested almost immediately. A Cold Creek Cozy Mystery.

              For Holly and Holidays, Another Murder, the murder takes place at a holiday gala to benefit a local dog shelter. The killer tried to cover up the murder by adding enough of the poison in holly to make lots of people sick. The killer’s plan was that the holly would be blamed for the death as well. A Sheridan Hendley cozy mystery novella.

              For Holidays, Hijinks & Murder, the key is the “hijinks.” What is going on that gets an elf shot and then Santa killed at the mall? Stacie Maroni is the amateur sleuth here and feeling very “bah humbug.” Her friends efforts to get her in the holiday spirit for the best Christmas ever fall flat, but now she has a murder to keep her occupied. A Stacie Maroni mystery novella.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities who would star in it?
Male roles would go to the likes of George Clooney, Christian Bale, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo — so that would be Brett McMann (Cold Creek and Sheridan Hendley series), Marty (Cold Creek and Sheridan Hendley series), James Fabry (Sheridan Hendley series), and Detective O’Hare (Stacie Maroni series). I go back and forth on which one should play which character.

Female roles would go to Jennifer Garner or maybe Sandra Bullock (Sheridan), Amy Adams or Julianne Moore (Sheridan’s best friend, Kim), Daniela Ruah or Rachel Bilson (Stacie Maroni). Minka Kelly or Michelle Borth might be options for Sheridan or Stacie as well.

What book is currently on your bedside table?
Forever Saved: Forever Bluegrass #14 by Kathleen Brooks (romantic suspense for a change – that’s the latest and I’ve read the whole series and the one before it)

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Travel, walk, read, bake.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A puppy. Playful, full of spirit, energetic, and cuddly.

I just love these covers, don’t you? What are you reading? Christmas? I hope you are exploring the works of my featured authors, like Christa Nardi.

To help you get in the holiday mood, I’ve put my box set of Christmas cozies on sale through December the 25th. This set has four books, each from a different series, all with a Christmas theme. Regular $7.99–grab your copy while it’s on sale for $.99!!! Christmas Cozy Collection is available at all the major book outlets and you can even order it from your library.

Cozy Christmas Collection; Grab your copy for just .99

Meet Anne Shillolo

Are you ready for the holidays to start? Less than a week and we’ll be digging into that turkey…hours of preperation and work, gone in under an hour. But we gladly do it for those we love, especially this year. No matter how many gather around your table it will be filled with love, grace and thanks.

Ann Shillolo

Our timing is perfect to meet Anne. She has a new cozy mystery up for pre-order; to be released on December first. And the cover has me smiling as I wait for the publication. Don’t you agree?

Anne’s books are in Kindle Unlimited, and if you sign up for her newsletter you receive 2 free prequels to her series. Now let’s find out a bit more about our guest author…

Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery?
My series is progressing through the months of the year and the seasons, so I wanted to write a holiday-themed mystery. I plan to continue indefinitely, so maybe other holidays will get a story in the future.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for a long time! I had the typical drawer full of drafts, although I have to say they were electronic file drawers:) A couple of year ago I discovered the world of self-publishing and as I was royally sick and tired of the traditional process I leaped right in. A year ago, I retired and sort of switched careers. Now I write every day and try to get better at marketing. Poodle Versus The Fake Santa is my tenth book in the last year. Yes, I can hardly believe it myself!

What is the significance of the title?
My books are cozy mysteries featuring a 50-something, small-town newspaper publisher and her pampered prince of a poodle, and so I didn’t want to get too dark with the subject matter. There is already some built-in humor in the recurring series titles, and I thought, hey, Fake Santa fits right in with that tone.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Most of the dog humor in the books is true, and inspired by my real-life Rocco.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Because writing involves a lot of sitting, I try to be pretty active every day. I like all the triathlon sports – but I am not an athlete:) I just like walking, slow running, slow swimming, and leisurely bike rides.

I’m looking forward to Anne’s new holiday book, but her other books look great too. Be sure to check out her website to find all her books. I’ll be back with more holiday cozy mysteries next time. Until then, stay safe and healthy and curled up with a good mystery.

Victoria LK Williams

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Meet Morgan Best

I’m so pleased to introduce you to another writer who has a fondness for holiday writing…

Morgan Best writes several series (The Kitchen Witch, Witches and Wine, Australian Amateur Sleuth, Sea Witch Cozy Mysteries Witch Woods Funeral Home, His Ghoul Friday, Cocoa Narel Chocolate Shop Mysteries and the Prime Time Crime series) all in the cozy genre and her books can be found on all the major outlets. Her books are also available in print, large print and audio. Wow, I’m exhausted just naming her series, let alone all the fantastic books (43)!

Morgan Best

It’s obvious Morgan is a busy woman, so let’s get right into her interview!

Available at; Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Google Play

 Why did you write a holiday theme mystery? 
I write a Halloween story every year for The Kitchen Witch series. Amelia’s ancestor promised that her descendants would do a Halloween spell for another woman’s ancestors, so the lucky woman is Jasmine. Every year, Jasmine comes to Amelia’s small Aussie town, and Amelia is honor-bound to do a spell for her. Something always goes wrong with hilarious results. This year, Jasmine asks her to do a truth spell.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be? 
I started writing years ago. Random House solicited a book of mine, but a comedy of errors followed. In 2003, I paid out my literary agent and decided to go Indie. Back then, it was only print. I’ve been a full-time author since late 2010.

What is your favorite childhood book? 
Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree.
When I was a kid, I also loved reading books about animals, but most animals came to a horrible end. I have no idea why authors thought children would want to read about animals being harmed. I think that’s why I write cozy mysteries, where animals are perfectly safe and only people are harmed. 😉

What do you do when you are not writing? 
I pretty much write every waking minute, but when I’m not writing, I go to football (AFL- Aussie football) games (or watch them on TV), read, do something with the garden, take the dogs for walks, and run or ride the bike.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? 
Amelia Spelled is a terrible baker. I based her cooking abilities on mine, so I enjoy writing about her baking disasters. In an earlier book, Amelia is making a no-bake cake. She has to soak cookies in sherry overnight. She doesn’t have sherry, so she soaks the cookies in Scotch whisky instead. All the guests get drunk.
This actually happened to me. I had a dinner party for my work colleagues back in the day. I didn’t have any sherry, but I found an old bottle of Scotch whisky in a cupboard—my ex-husband had left it there. I served everyone the no-bake cake filled with Scotch whisky-soaked cookies. Everyone ended up extremely drunk, and the next morning I had the most terrible hangover.

Here are 2 more books by Morgan, be sure to visit her website and signup for her newsletter to keep up with the next book.

Halloween decorations are going up and the nights are getting cooler. Now is the perfect time to download a holiday tale, curl up with a cup of hot cider and get in a Halloween mood.

It’s That Time!

Do you love to read books with a holiday theme? I do! And they are showing up on the different book sites, just asking to be downloaded. I thought I would share some of the ones my author friends are publishing and make it easy for you to pick from.

We’ll start with Halloween. Think spooky black cats, ghosts, murder and mayhem. Oh, and witches, there are plenty of witches! Ready? Here we go!

And a taste to get you ready for the Christmas Holiday!

Watch for interviews from these great writers in the next couple of weeks! And next month, I’ll compile a list of Christmas books.

Happy Reading!

Victoria LK Williams

Here’s DB McNicol

Have you gotten excited about the Brozy Mystery books and their authors? Well, here is another author who has taken the time away from writing to answer my questions and let us in on what goes on behind the pages. Enjoy!

Meet Donna…

Donna writes in several genre (police procedural, traditional cozy and whodunits) but says she’s found her comfort spot with Brozy Mysteries. You can find all of Donna’s links and social media here: https://campsite.bio/dbmcnicol
Donna has all her books on Amazon and most are in the Kindle Unlimited Program.




How do you develop your plot and characters?
I normally start with a location, a few characters, and a dead body or crime. I don’t do a lot of outlining, preferring to let the story grow as I write. Sometimes I don’t even know who the killer is until they reveal themselves to me.
As a detailed, analytical type, I always thought I’d be a heavy outliner. Now it turns out I love writing from the seat of my pants, letting the ideas flow and grow as I type. I also work on scenes when driving or riding my motorcycle.

What time of the day do you usually write?
The best time for me to write is between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. I find I write best outside the home where there are too many distractions. I wrote the majority of my first two novels sitting in a local McDonalds. This was easy when we were full-time Rvers. Now that we live in a rural area, the closest McDs or coffee spot is thirty minutes away. So I struggle to keep my writing level up while at home.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
I have half a dozen series in the planning stage. Some have been around for a while, some have come as a result of newly purchased pre-made cover sets. The most recent, and next to be written, is the Red Line Coffee Mystery series. I hope to have the first one out by January 2021. As a side note, my husband is retired from a thirty-one year career as a firefighter/paramedic/chief.
Red Line Coffee Shop is run by three firefighters and the logo I designed was inspired by the “thin red line” images in use today. The Thin Red Line of courage is a symbol used by fire departments to show respect for firefighters injured and killed in the line of duty. As a firefighters are periled, they place their lives second to those they protect. They are forced to face their own fears and grasp for every ounce of courage to perform the necessary task.
Garrett, aka Flipper, is the oldest owner of the shop. He’s in his mid 40s, divorced and loves scuba diving. He’s been with the department for twenty-five years, starting as a volunteer while still in high school. He is currently a driver engineer for the department.
Brett, aka Smokey, is the next oldest. He’s in his late 30s, never been married (and never plans to be), and spends his spare time racing cars. After spending four years in college and getting a liberal arts degree, he backpacked around Europe and South America for another four years before joining the fire department where he’s stayed for twelve years. Thanks to education and hard work, he’s moved through the ranks to the level of lieutenant.
The youngest is Stephanie, aka Stevie, aka Grizz. She’s in her mid 30s and is divorced from a local police officer. She’s been with the department for eight years after getting an associate degree at a small community college in her home town. After a couple of years of waitressing to survive, she moved in hopes of getting a better job. She met her husband and through his friends, tried out for the fire department. She is a firefighter/paramedic.
All three currently work at the same station and are good friends. They do have a little help in the shop from Joni, aka Gabby, who is a single, part-time college student. Oh, and the names written on the cups are the “victims” in each of the books. Weezy is a retired fire inspector who worked on arson cases with both Garrett and Brett in the past. Newsie is the local newspaper owner/editor who never pulls any punches, always telling it as it is (or as he perceives it to be). Leathers is a sometimes homeless regular to the shop. He has an interesting past and was befriended by the group.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was real young, I thought I’d be a nurse like my mother. By my teenage years, I wanted to be an actress or dancer. No money for college, I initially considered going into the Army and even took the assessment tests. But life intervenes and I ended up married with children and working a variety of minimum wage jobs before stumbling into an office position that started my eventual career. The bookkeeper took me under his wing after discovering my aptitude for accounting. A few years later, I was introduced to programming computers (not the PCs around today, but the mainframes that fill rooms). My career in IT was born and I rose from a data entry operator to VP of Client Services.
My fiction writing didn’t start until much later in life, after spending several years writing articles for various publications and online websites.

Tea or coffee
Oh, definitely coffee! Mostly dark roasts served black. From time to time I do add cream and sugar and I use them both in my iced coffee. But I’m not a foo-foo coffee drinker, well, except for my love of a good iced cappuccino!

Morning person or Night owl
Most of my life was spent with very little sleep. A morning shower was the only thing that woke me out of my stupor. Now that I’m retired, I’m loving the night owl life. I could easily stay up till the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping till noon. But I compromise and try to turn out the light between midnight and one, getting up by nine-ish.

Do you base your characters on real people?
“All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
Um, yup. That’s right. Okay. You see… [pause] I admit to using people I know as the base for some characters. The good thing is they know it and like it. It turns out I’m a visual person and I need photos of my characters (and locations) to help me write.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit about Donna; I did!

I am working on a few things for Halloween and Christmas, and there are a lot of writers out there that write their cozy mysteries with holiday themes. We will meet some of them and seeing what their new holiday books are. Can you believe I talking about the holidays?!?

Until next time, pick up a Brozy and see what it’s all about. And don’t forget you can buy my books directly and save! Sign up for my newsletter for more featured books and find out what’s going on in my writing life.

Victoria LK Williams

Meet Paul Austin Ardoin

Paul is the first of the Brozy Authors you are going to meet. If you missed the last post, Brozy Authors write light, entertaining whodunit cozy mysteries that appeal to more traditional male interest. Either by the chief character being male or the story line taking a more masculine turn (think book store owner vs biker). If you haven’t tried a brozy, then you’re in for a whole new adventure!

Meet Paul Austin Ardoin

Why do you write “Brozy”?
I’ve loved mystery stories ever since I was a little kid—Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. When I was in junior high, I burned through most of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels.
As an adult, I’ve absolutely loved the Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum books. Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich don’t write cozies, but neither do they write blood-and-gore thrillers. Their protagonists are smart, savvy professionals who are highly competent but don’t take themselves too seriously. Their books hint at darker themes without being disturbing, and their books have a lot of humor without being silly or absurd.
I majored in creative writing in college, and spent years trying to write literary fiction. In my forties, I realized I needed to change gears to write the books like the ones I love reading… and that’s why I find myself writing in this genre. I’ve often heard it called “soft-boiled” or “traditional,” but so often “traditional” means “British,” and my mysteries are set in California.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I can remember. I majored in creative writing in college and published a few short stories, but I was never able to finish a novel. When I turned 45, I realized that if I wanted to call myself a novelist, I actually had to finish a novel.I re-started writing The Reluctant Coroner for National Novel Writing Month in 2017, and I promised myself that no matter what, I’d finish the book—even if I thought it was horrible or unsalvageable. And about two-thirds of the way through, I realized it needed to be written in third person, not first person. Before, that would have been enough for me to abandon the book, but I remembered the promise I’d made to myself. So I finished the book. It was a painful process to rewrite the whole thing in third person, but at the end, I’d finished what eventually became my debut novel.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting?
I’ve gotten some valuable advice over the years. The most valuable thing is to finish what you start. Many writers have a few half-finished novels—some have dozens! Promising yourself you’re going to finish and then actually finishing is the most valuable thing I’ve ever learned. As Jodi Picoult says, “You can’t edit a blank page.” But editing a bad novel and making it good is possible, and usually way less painful than starting over.
One more piece of advice: write 200 words every day. NaNoWriMo was great to get my first book going, but it’s 1,600-plus words a day is daunting. 200 words, though, is usually fifteen or twenty minutes, and it’s something you can do even at the end of a busy day or at the end of your lunch break. Sometimes I find that I don’t want to write at all, but then I force myself to write those 200 words—and I get into a groove before those 200 words are up. Suddenly, three hours will have passed in an instant and I’ll have written 4,000 words.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
My wife was looking into becoming a nursing student, and she began to research careers in the field. In California where we live (and in several other U.S. states), an MD isn’t required to be a coroner. I started thinking about what would lead a nurse to become a coroner, and came up with Fenway Stevenson. A lot of the personality of Fenway and her father came from the simple idea that a father would insist on naming his daughter after his favorite team’s home stadium (for those of you who aren’t baseball fans, the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park).
When I started writing The Reluctant Coroner, all I had was the character of Fenway, the character of her father, and the identity of the murderer. I didn’t even know who the victim was when I began the first chapter! But as I wrote, both the plot and characters began to take shape. Many times, something would happen in the plot that surprised me—not as I was writing it, but just before it took shape. Quite often, these plot threads would take the story in an entirely different direction, or would turn an extremely minor character into a strong secondary character.
What time of the day do you usually write?
Before the pandemic, I used to travel a lot for work, and would often find myself with 20 minutes waiting for my flight to board, or back in my hotel room after a business dinner, and I’d take that spare time to write. I listen to “The Bestseller Experiment” podcast, and bestselling author Shannon Mayer discussed how working authors don’t have time to “wait” for their Muse—they have to grab their Muse by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and insist that inspiration come immediately. So I don’t wait for a time of day to write or a seat at my favorite coffee place to open up. I can write anywhere at any time.
Most often, I’m in my home office at my desk, but I’ll take fifteen minutes at lunch, grab an hour before work, or wake up early on a weekend to write.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Unlike 85% to 90% of the population, I don’t have an internal monologue. I don’t think in complete sentences—my thoughts are more nebulous, and it’s like they unspool when they transform into words that come out of my mouth or off my fingertips onto the keyboard. As a result, my first three novels had early drafts that were littered with “filtering words” or “distancing words,” instead of the free direct narration that most readers prefer—and that give books a sense of immediacy. (These are phrases like “she saw the car drive away,” “she decided to get up,” or “she realized she needed to tell him the truth,” instead of the much more direct “the car drove away,” “she got up,” or “she told him the truth.”) I used these filtering words because it’s the way I experience the world, and the direct narration felt fake to me. My editor is the one who made me realize that I’m the odd duck—that free and direct narration is much more effective. This last novel, number six, was the first in which I didn’t overuse filtering words—and as a result, it had the least amount of red ink coming back from the editor.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Many writers I know couldn’t write anything when the pandemic first started and the world closed down. For me, writing was the only thing that took my mind off everything horrible that was happening in the world. Because I don’t have an internal monologue, I could unspool the thoughts that made me write my book instead of unspooling the thoughts that led me into anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips because my brain is weird like that.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels in this series and a novella of one of the secondary characters 25 years before the start of the first book. I always feel like the last book I’ve written is my favorite. Often, it’s because I’ve challenged myself to do something I wasn’t sure I could do—for instance, Book 5, The Courtroom Coroner, is what TV people call a “bottle episode”: it all happens in a single room without people coming or going. Currently, my new release, The Watchful Coroner, is my favorite because I can see the progress my characters have made along their arcs, and it’s very satisfying to see it.
When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for both your readers and also you?
Fenway Stevenson’s character arc is the thing that keeps me fresh. She’s at a different point in her relationship with 1) her father, 2) her main love interest, and 3) her job as coroner in every single book. It feels natural to me that she’d progress (and sometimes regress) in the way she has.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Rarely have I ever been inspired by a true-crime headline, but I have taken ideas from situations I’ve experienced in the past—with a murder overlaid. For example, I was in a Shakespeare troupe in college, very similar to the North American Shakespeare Guild in Book 4, The Upstaged Coroner. While none of the characters (except the director) were based on real people, the intensity of the rehearsals, the camaraderie of the company, and the emotions that the play brought to light are the things I hope I translated to the pages of the book.
Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
Not many readers have noticed this, but Fenway—who has a difficult and strained relationship with her father—never calls him “Dad” except to his face. When talking about him, she always says “my father.” This changes at some point in the series… and for readers of the books, it’s probably obvious where it is and what the catalyst of the change is.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
I’ve started on Book 7, The Accused Coroner, and it will wrap up some of the longer arcs in the series. I plan to go on to write at least two more Fenway Stevenson novels after this and maybe more.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
I have ideas for three other book series. One is about a private investigator who’s at the center of a 12-book series of interconnected crimes called Murders of Substance. One follows a secondary character from Fenway Stevenson Book 2, The Incumbent Coroner, and the investigations she spearheads. And one has another estranged father/daughter duo as the main characters, on the run from federal agents after being set up for a crime they didn’t commit. I hope to start one of those series after writing book 7 in the Fenway series.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Even in my late teens and early twenties, most of my protagonists were women, and I’ve always been told I have a good sense of narrative voice when my main character is female. I’m not sure why, but I did take one of those Marcus Buckingham “First Discover Your Strengths” tests, and I’m high in empathy. Perhaps I find it easier than most people to put myself in another person’s shoes? The one thing that DOES get me, though, is giving Fenway believable reactions in certain situations. For example, Fenway had a tough conversation with a co-worker, and walked home in the twilight from her co-worker’s apartment to hers—about two miles, with her headphones in listening to music. My critique group POUNCED on that—there’s no way, no matter how safe the neighborhood, that a woman walking by herself at night would do it with headphones in. Fenway is half-Black, too, and there were a bunch of things about basic day-to-day stuff like hair care that I had to be told to go research because I was getting it wrong.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In an early scene The Reluctant Coroner, Fenway’s assistant gets a little tipsy and then confesses that the murder victim sexually assaulted her two days before his death. The scene in which she talks about what he did was by far the hardest scene I ever had to write. Part of it was because of the disturbing subject matter (although it’s relatively tame compared to many thrillers), but part of it was also because I hadn’t ever written anything like that before. I hadn’t plotted that scene out, either—it was a complete surprise to me that she confessed it to Fenway. I couldn’t write another word in the book for three days afterward, and probably only started again because it was during NaNoWriMo and I was getting behind on my words.

The first book in the Fenway Stevenson Mystery series, The Reluctant Coroner, is free (at least until October 1) on all major e-book retailers: www.books2read.com/fenway1

Book 6 in the series, The Watchful Coroner, is available September 22: www.books2read.com/fenway6

The easiest place to find Paul’s books: www.books2read.com/rl/fenway
You can also locate all of them at www.paulaustinardoin.com


A peek inside my new book…

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Only a few more days until book 2 in my new series, A Beach House Mystery, launches. I so excited about this series, and  I got caught up in Mist Across The Waves. This is a series of 6 books that includes murder, magic, mermaid legends and the wrath of a sea witch. But it’s also about a group of characters that I really love to write about.  So, as promised, here is a small snippet of the story…

3D ereader Beach House Mystery 2

Capt. Rose turned the ferry back in the direction they had come, ready to head back to the dock. They had gotten about halfway to their destination when she slowed the boat down to a full stop. Most of the guests didn’t pay any attention, but Jenny, Morgan, and Gabe immediately felt the sensation of the boat coming to a halt. The hair rose on the back of Morgan’s neck, and she remembered her unease of being out on the ocean. Quietly moving to the captain’s wheelhouse, the three went to find out what was going on.

When they entered the captain’s room, she answered their unspoken question pointing out to the starboard side of the ferry. “There’s a ship out there. There are no running lights on it, and the engine isn’t operating. There’s been no distress signal, but I have a bad feeling.”

Sure enough, there was a good-sized private boat floating in the waves near them.

“I’m sorry to spoil your party, Jenny, but I need to make sure that ship isn’t in distress,” Capt. Rose explained.

“You’re right, Captain Rose. What can we do?” Jenny immediately jumped into action, her training taking over. Gone was the birthday girl, and back was the cop.

“I’m going to try and pull up alongside the boat. Do you think you and Gabe here could board her and see what’s going on?”

Gabe and Jenny quickly agreed, and Capt. Rose went about getting the ferry as close as she could to the boat. She was an excellent captain, and there was less than a foot between the two vessels when it was time for Gabe and Jenny to board.

“I’ll go first and throw over the ropes. You tether the boat to the ferry and then come over with me,” Gabe instructed Jenny.

She quickly agreed, and in a matter of minutes, Gabe was on the disabled vessel and Jenny was tying off the ropes. By now, the other party-goers were aware something was going on, and they were lining the rails to watch. Jenny ordered her party guests to stay back and jumped over to join Gabe.

“Hello? Anyone aboard?” Jenny called out but received no answer. Moving forward, she approached the open area of the boat. There was a full moon, and it was easy to see the decking. She and Gabe both came to a stop when they saw the blood pooled along the side of the boat.

“Call the Coast Guard,” Jenny shouted to Rose. Then with Gabe at her side, she slowly walked around the upper deck of the boat, making sure there was nobody injured and in need of help. But the deck was empty. Turning to Gabe, Jenny motioned to the door to the lower deck. He nodded his understanding, and they slowly walked to the door. Gabe was ready to kick the door down, but Jenny held her hand up and turned the knob slowly, not wanting to alert anybody who might be down below of their presence. The two disappeared from the sight of those aboard the ferry, and everyone held their breath in anticipation.

It only took a few moments for the two aboard the disabled vessel to come back on deck.

“The boat’s abandoned, there’s nobody on board,” Gabe called out. There was a collective sigh of relief, but not from everyone. Jenny realized the blood they had seen was severe. Someone had been attacked or seriously hurt, and they were no longer on the boat. It only stood to reason whoever belonged to the spilt blood had gone overboard. Climbing back on the ferry, with Gabe behind her, Jenny walked over to Capt. Rose and Morgan.

“This is now a crime scene. We need to wait for the Coast Guard. I don’t know what happened here, but somebody suffered a severe or fatal injury on that boat.”

Without a word, Captain Rose reached over and flipped a knob on the speakers, shutting off the music. The time for festivities was over. Morgan walked back out on the deck and stood away from the others looking out to sea, feeling a sense of danger surrounding her. In the distance, she could see a boat approaching, but from experience knew it wasn’t the Coast Guard cutter. The sense of being threatened increased, and without even realizing it, Morgan let one of her new abilities take over to protect those on the ferry. The boat approaching was bringing danger with it.

It started at Morgan’s feet, swirling and dancing with the wind, thickening as her sense of danger increased. The mist spread and began to engulf the ferry wrapping it in its protective cloak. Jenny and Gabe walked over to stand next to Morgan; they both knew about her ability, and they both realized she was trying to protect them.

“Jenny, get everybody inside and tell them to be quiet.” Without looking at her friend, Morgan gave the instruction, and Jenny hurried off, getting Winnie and Kathy to help her escort everyone inside.

Gabe didn’t move. Instead, he reached out and grabbed Morgan’s hand for support. Together the two of them stood on the deck, watching and listening. By now, they could no longer see the boat approaching, but they could hear the motors. Morgan made a motion with her hand, and the mist moved to thicken around the boat tethered to the ferry. She didn’t know why, but she had a feeling it needed to be hidden from sight.

The other boat was close but not dangerously so. Voices carried in the mist across the waves.

“We need to find that boat and its cargo.”

“It can’t be far. Pops was bleeding pretty badly when he took off. We’ll find him.”

“Yeah, well, we’d better. And that book had better still be on the boat, too.”

The voices faded as the boat passed the ferry, not realizing how close the two vessels had been.

 

I hope you enjoyed a taste of Mist Across The Waves. Look for it’s release on June 3rd. You can also preorder it-so you don’t have to remember to go back!

Next post, I’ll introduce you to another fantastic author. Are you enjoying these interviews as much as I am? 

Until then, stay safe & healthy and happy,

Victoria LK Williams

15 books on shelves