Saturday, April 9, 2011

Molly MacRae: Author of the Cozy Mystery Novel - Lawn Order

Today I'm especially delighted to welcome my long-time friend Molly MacRae.  Molly, and her family, lived in Johnson City for many years and our sons attended school together.  Molly and I were also founding members of a local writer's group known as Diversities. Molly MacRae Cozy Myster AuthorTo celebrate her visit here at MyLadyWeb, Molly has generously offered a copy of her newest cozy mystery novel Lawn Order, and just to say thank you to everyone who visits, I've created a complimentary musical jigsaw puzzle of the cover.  I'm particularly excited about Molly's newest release because Lawn Order stars my favorite Molly characters, her delightfully eclectic, sisterly duo Margaret and Bitsy, whom many of you might recognize from a series of stories published over the years in Alfred Hitchcock magazine.
Q. Tell us a bit about Molly MacRae:
A. I grew up surrounded by all the classic elements of story, in a small town, in a large, loving, rambling family. I was born and raised in northern Illinois, spent my childhood summers on an island in Lake Michigan, lived for a year in Edinburgh, Scotland, for four in west Texas, and was blessed to live in upper east Tennessee for twenty. I’ve worked in a delicatessen, a towel factory, and a university dormitory kitchen cooking for 2,000. I’ve taught emotionally disturbed teenagers to use hand tools, I’ve been a museum director, a bookstore manager, and now I work in the children’s department of the public library. My husband I live in Champaign, Illinois. We have two grown sons and a grown cat. I’ve had incredible luck throughout my life.
Q. Tell us about your history as a writer:
A. My writing “career” is one of many disruptions. I knew I wanted to write from the time my brother Andy read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me. Dr. Seuss blew my little four or five-year-old mind away. Seuss put stars in my eyes and lead in my pencil. I wrote my first complete mystery series for a high school French class – in French. The stories starred François Spagatini, l’investigateur and involved an escaped circus lion, a red canoe, and an air mattress. But it turns out I’m easily distracted by things like having children, work, family. My first published short story appeared in the January 1990 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Over the years they’ve published seven more. My first novel, Wilder Rumors, came out in 2007. My second, Lawn Order, came out in December 2010.
Q. I know that you recently had some very exciting news. Could you share that with us?
A. I recently signed a three-book contract for a new light paranormal mystery series with Penguin. Woohoo! The series, tentatively called The Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, follows Kath Rutledge, a textile preservation specialist who inherits her grandmother’s wool shop and also ends up with a depressed ghost on her hands. I think of it as the series that puts the woo woo in wool.
Q. What was it about writing mysteries that captured your fancy?
A. I like reading mysteries so it seemed natural to try writing them. I like the structure of mysteries. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end with the loose threads tied neatly. Wouldn’t it be great if life were like that?
Q. Do you have an all-time favorite novel and what elements make it your favorite?
A. No all-time favorite novel. I have many favorites for various reasons and different moods – an awful lot of it to do with humor. A few of those favorites: The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell; The Bilboa Looking Glass by Charlotte MacLeod; The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde; The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; and even though they’re total fluff, I love the Hamish Macbeth mysteries by M.C. Beaton. They follow a predictable course and the characters never change but they’re completely charming. I do have a favorite author and that’s P.G. Wodehouse. I love his stuff for his characters, the intricacy of his plots, the escapism of his world, and above all for his humor.
Interviewer's Note: My youngest son and I spent last spring working our way through the entire Jeeves and Wooster DVD collection staring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry...which we borrowed from the Johnson City Public Library!  If you have not seen these video's, they are a delightful introduction to P.G. Wodehouse.
Q. How do you research your stories?
A. I started out the easy way by writing what I know. Doesn’t that sound better than saying I make it all up? Characters are easy – we’re surrounded by characters everyday and I just take notes. For the museum details in Wilder Rumors I drew on my own background in small museums. The bookstore details in the first several Margaret & Bitsy stories (the Hitchcock stories) were cadged and cobbled together from details of bookstores I liked. But then, in a strange twist of fate, my life started imitating my stories when I was offered the job as manager of an independent bookstore. So the rest of the Margaret & Bitsy stories, and their novel Lawn Order, draw from my own bookstore experience. The new series for Penguin will require more actual research, but there’s a great local group called the Champaign Urbana Spinners and Weavers Guild and the members have agreed to let me pester them with questions. And there’s a wonderful needlework shop, here, called Needleworks, which I plan to borrow from shamelessly. The Internet is a good resource, too, if used wisely. And there’s always the public library. Books – they’re full of good information.
Q. Tell us about your favorite story that you have written, and why it's your favorite.
A. I’ve never really wondered which is my favorite and don’t think I have one. Maybe I’ll say Lawn Order, though, for the simple reason it’s the most recent one to see the light of day.
On Writing:
Q. Is there anything you absolutely must have in order to write?
A. Like a good luck charm or a fetish? No. Or do you mean do I need a legal-sized pad of paper and a number two pencil because I always start a project in long hand? Or a quiet room? Or the right music? Or the right chair? No. I’m not particular. I write in my writing room upstairs and I stop and write on my walk to work (when it isn’t too cold to take my mittens off). I write on my computer and I write in notebooks. I also write on small pads of papers, on scraps, or on paper napkins. So I guess the answer is I need to have something to write on and something to write with, although I’ve also walked along repeating something over and over to myself until I can get somewhere and find something to write on or with. My brain. I guess I need my brain. (Interviewer's Note to Molly's family: Gift the darling girl with a micro digital recorder to carry in her pocket so she doesn't have to walk down the street talking to herself, or take off her mittens on those cold mornings.)
Q. What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
A. Sometimes it’s breaking the glare of that first, blank page. Sometimes it’s keeping the energy flowing through the sagging middle of a story. Sometimes it’s making sure I’ve reached the real end and not left the real conclusion and loose ends tangled in my head. Sometimes it’s turning off the inner editor who gets stuck like a broken record going over, and over, and over a paragraph or scene. Sometimes it’s reining in silliness that becomes ludicrous. Sometimes it’s not having a thick enough skin or not trusting myself. Shall I keep going and show you what a mass of insecurities I can be?
Q. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?
A. The common wisdom is that a writer should write every day. Although I believe that to be true, before the Penguin contract, I had the luxury of not writing every day if I felt more like trying a new recipe or having lunch with friends or cleaning the cat pan. But consistency is good and I do my best when I write every day. And now it’s necessary. My goal is to write 333 good words each day. I get up at 5:30 and write before breakfast. If I don’t reach the goal by the time I go to work, I write during my lunch hour, and then write some more after supper, if need be. It’s not much, 333 words, but working at that rate I can finish a novel in nine months and still have time to say hi to the family or clean the dratted cat pan.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your life online and any sites you maintain.
A. I have a website where people can find out what’s going on in my writing world. You can read the first chapters of Lawn Order and Wilder Rumors, there, and My Trouble, my first story published in Hitchcock and listen to a podcast of “Fandango by Flashlight,” one of my later Hitchcock stories. The website also has a page of links to other author sites and other interesting and entertaining websites, plus food blogs I like to drool over. I blog the first Monday of each month on Vintage Cookbooks & Crafts, a blog maintained by Amy Alessio. Amy is fascinated by food and craft fads from the 60s and 70s and it’s always interesting to see what triggers her gag reflex. I also contribute to The Mystery Cats – very haphazardly – a blog I maintain with mystery author Sarah Wisseman. I’m also on Facebook and Shelfari.
Just For Fun:
Q. What is your favorite quote?
A. No one favorite. But I keep some around that I like a lot. Here are five:
“I’ve tried to put in my films what Edgar Allan Poe put in his novels: a completely unbelievable story told to the readers with such spellbinding logic that you get the impression the same thing could happen to you tomorrow.” Alfred Hitchcock
“The tools I need for my work are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.” William Faulkner
“The bookstore is one of humanity’s great engines . . . one of the greatest instruments of civilization.” Christopher Morely
“Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.” Agatha Christie
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Monty Python
Q. Where is your favorite place to read?
A. I can read anywhere. I’m hopeless at these favorite things, aren’t I?
Q. If you were a supernatural or mythological entity, what, or who, would you be, and why?A. I’d be a selkie, because it would be fun if they really existed, although weird.
Q. If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you desperately want with you, and why?
A. A very powerful, solar-powered communication device; a gel cap that, when dropped into a small container of water, expands into a one room shelter complete with preserved foodstuff and seeds and tools to grow more while waiting for rescuers to arrive in response to the very powerful, solar-powered communication device; a solar-powered e-reader loaded with every book in the Gutenberg Project.

Molly MacRae’s website: Molly MacRae.Com
Thanks to Molly for stopping by, and thanks to all our visitors too.  I hope you enjoyed the interview.   Please don't forget to download your complimentary musical jigsaw puzzle of the Lawn Order cover before you go, and be sure to leave a comment below to be entered to win you very own copy of Lawn Order.
Contest closes 11:59 PM, April 23, 2011.

Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

1 comment:

  1. 12 Responses to “Molly MacRae: Author of the Cozy Mystery Novel - Lawn Order”

    These comments were posted on the original blogs as shown.

    1. candice Says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 2:51 pm e

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing it. I enjoy a good paranormal mystery.

    2. Jan Brown Says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 3:09 pm e

    Margaret and Bitsy sound like a hoot! Molly we have a few things i common, I was born and raise on a small farm in NE Illinois and have lived in Ennis, Austin, Laredo and Katy, Texas! I love the solar powered ebook idea! If we ever have a day we couldn’t depend on electricity we would probably end up dependiing on solar and wind power for our basic needs.

    3. Shannon J. Says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 3:56 pm e

    I love a good mystery!! and an author holding a cat I just love! I’m a huge cat person! :) Great interview so fun and thank you for the giveaway!!

    4. Cindy Says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 8:37 pm e

    I enjoyed reading the interview.

    5. Molly MacRae Says:
    April 11th, 2011 at 4:22 pm e

    Thanks for the comments! Jan, where in NE Illinois did you grow up? It’s a pretty part of the state. Glad you like the cat, Shannon. He’s not mine, but he sure made himself at home in my arms!

    6. A.J. Cattapan Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 11:19 pm e

    The title “Lawn Order” cracks me up. I almost can’t say it without saying the TV show! :)

    Looking forward to reading it! I love a good cozy!

    7. InSpirit Says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 2:29 am e

    lovely interview! great sense of humour - totally enjoyed this - thank you! would luv my own copy of the book~

    8. Maureen Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 2:41 pm e

    Great Interview! Following you from the hop…Please stop by and say hi

    9. Loretta Minogue Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 11:22 pm e

    Charming interview, the book sounds interesting.

    10. Melissa Sparks Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 11:46 pm e

    I would love to read this book!

    11. deedee huckstep Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 12:03 am e

    I love a good mystery novel.

    12. Cindy Rogers Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 11:43 am e

    Enjoyed the interview an would love to read the book.