1. Marja, it sounds like you have had a fascinating background in law enforcement. What led to this particular journey, and how did these experiences inform your writing life?
The journey began out of necessity when I was a divorced mother of one who needed a job. I’d tested for a different job, and the Los Angeles County Marshal’s Office used the list I was on. Just one of those things.
When you work in law enforcement, or any profession having to do with law and legalities, you learn to always expect the unexpected. Writing mysteries means I want to surprise the reader, which means present them with the unexpected. Imagine walking up to the counter to help someone and they plop a gun down right in front of your eyes. Imagine receiving a death threat because someone wasn’t offered a job they wanted. Imagine it taking four deputies to restrain an itty bitty woman, about five feet tall and maybe eight-five pounds. There was always something going on.
2. What can you tell us about Bogey Nights? I love that title.
Bogey Nights has just been released on Amazon. This is the story of Chris Cross and his wife, Pamela, and their involvement in a murder that took place in 1942. Chris bears a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart, and he loves a good mystery, so this is right up his alley, even if it is an old crime. When their two yellow Labrador retrievers first save a man’s life, and then find the vintage body, they become a big part of the story, too. Their seven-year-old son, Mikey, fills their life with fun and excitement when he tells his class about his mom and dad, the detectives, and his teacher disapproves of all of it. Some people have no sense of humor.
Because of their involvement in an earlier crime, the relatives of the victim ask Chris (the Bogey Man) and his wife to solve the murder. In the process, Chris and Pamela learn a valuable lesson. Never underestimate a senior citizen. Because of the time period when the murder was committed, all of the suspects are “of an age”. This mystery is lighter with a little humor, and the characters are pretty terrific, if I do say so myself.
3. I also thoroughly enjoy character-driven stories and books. Are your characters based upon or inspired by people you’ve encountered or cases you’ve worked?
Some of the characters are very loosely based on a compilation of people I’ve known, seen, or heard about. None of my characters are made up of any individual that I’ve known. The Bogey Man, as his wife affectionately calls him, is purely fictional, as is Pamela, but they portray the traits of people we’ve all known, with a few eccentricities added which are unique to these characters.
4. From California to Nevada to Oregon, and now Arizona—what intriguing choices. What are your favorite memories of these places?
I remember California when I was a child and there were no freeways – walking to the park without a care in the world—orange groves, little traffic, friends and playing games. Of course, there’s also the memory of a man in a car who tried to coax me inside. He said something that I thought was just weird, I was a naïve child, but what did I know? I said, “Oh,” and walked away. Turned out he was a perv.
Nevada is a unique state. I lived in the State Capitol, Carson City. It held more highs and lows for me than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s a make-it or break-it state. If you make it past the first year, then you’ll do okay, for the most part. I have good friends there.
Oregon will remain with me because the area where I lived was beautiful, and I lived out in the country next to a peach orchard. I felt like I lived in a park.
Arizona is warm (translates to hot!) and full of friendly people. We live near a lake where we can boat, and we also live five minutes away from the casinos in Laughlin, Nevada. There’s always something to do.
5. Do you draw from your real-life settings for your creations?
Many times I do. In Bubba’s Ghost I used a house that I lived in when my daughter was young. It no longer exists. I’ve used various areas in Southern California (including historical settings) and Arizona to create a feeling for the story.
6. Are you working on another WIP? What, if anything, can you tell us?
Oak Tree Press is looking at another book right now titled Bogey’s Ace in the Hole. It has to do with some little old Church Ladies who strike terror in Chris’ and Pamela’s hearts. They have a missing friend, and as mysteries tend to do, one thing leads to another and before long they’re trying to save someone’s life.
My current WIP is for my other series, the Sandi Webster Mysteries, which are available through Wings ePress, Inc. In this one she and her partner, Pete, are stuck in an old ghost town (not by choice), trying to solve a murder.
7. Who or what has most inspired your writing?
As to the “who,” Harper Lee inspired me because of the way she presented her characters. They were people I would have liked to know. As to the “what,” I’d have to say the desire to entertain readers as I’ve been entertained by other writers. And I hope that every once in a while my stories will present new and different ideas to the reader—hopefully make them think about life and the people that enter their lives.
8. What can you share about your typical writing day?
It’s hectic and fun, both at the same time. Between working on a book and trying to market and promote, it’s a lot busier than I’d like sometimes. Can’t we just write our books and let someone else promote them? I wish. I generally work six hours a day, seven days a week. Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband.
9. Do you have a favorite writing space? If so, what is it like?
I have a small office that should have been a spare bedroom. I can hole up in there for hours while I work. What’s it like? An absolute mess. I have stuff everywhere. Once in a great while I actually take a day off and clean it, but not nearly as often as I should. I should be ashamed of myself, but I have to admit that I’m not. I do feel a twinge of guilt every so often, but it passes.
10. Oh, Marja, don’t we all have a little bit of clutter in our work spaces? But now I would love to know more about your antique store/tea room experiences. I can visualize a “cozy mystery” developing there.
Ah, that business was in Oregon, and I loved it. It was a large storefront and I actually set up rooms containing the antiques, along with regular store displays. My daughter worked with me and we played 1930s and 1940s music. I can still recall our first customers. An older man and woman came in for tea, obviously upset with each other. They plopped onto the chairs and wouldn’t even look at each other. While they waited for their order, they began to listen to the music. Before long they were smiling and talking about the songs they recognized. Before they left they were holding hands and bought a few antiques. My daughter was in charge of the tearoom, and she became quite the awesome baker, serving gourmet cookies, real scones and peach/apricot cobbler, among other things. It was a lot of fun, but as with many businesses, we just couldn’t get it off the ground. No pun intended, but there was a coffee house just down the stairs from us, underground.
11. Ah, that’s too bad. I would have loved to stop in for some of those goodies. What can you tell us about your current life and family moments?
I had a forced retirement, which means I was laid off from my job along with many others. It’s nice to be home, but I’m still looking for another job. This is a small town and the jobs are few and far between. In the meantime, my husband and I are enjoying being together more, although it was an adjustment in the beginning. I write, he tinkers and keeps things running, and we enjoy our life here in Arizona. If you ask him how he is, he’ll always answer, “I’m enjoying the good life.” I am, too.
12. The Dames love pets. Do you have any, and if so, what can you tell us about them?
Do we have pets! We have fish, two parakeets, and a fourteen-month-old yellow Labrador retriever named Sugar who is out of her mind. This is the most lovable, craziest dog I’ve ever been around. Sometimes I think she has at least fourteen personalities, each one totally different than the other. Most recently she’s learning what “time out” means. I had no idea that Labs were as smart as they are. We think we have a behavior problem solved, and then she figures out how to get around us. Ahem. Her mother recently had another litter, and at the end of the month we’re bringing home her little half-brother, Murphy, to join the family.
My goodness, I really didn’t mean to ramble on like that. Thank you so much for letting me visit you at Dames of Dialogue, and thank you for some interesting questions.
Thank you, Marja, for joining us today. I hope you’ll stop by and visit regularly.
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