Welcome, Lauren….I am happy that you’re here to talk about your latest book, your future creations, and what your writing process looks like.
1. Lauren, I’m very excited to have you back at Dames of Dialogue, to talk about your newest book in the Mac Faraday series: Shades of Murder. What can you tell us about the story?
In Shades of Murder, I took on tackling the task of penning two mysteries with two detectives in two different settings and bringing them together to find one killer. What can I say? I love mysteries and mystery writing. Two cases are twice the fun.
In Shades of Murder, Mac Faraday, my protagonist in the Mac Faraday Mysteries, is once again the heir to an unbelievable fortune. This time the benefactor is a stolen art collector. But this isn’t just any stolen work-of-art—it’s a masterpiece with a murder attached to it.
Ilysa Ramsay was in the midst of taking the art world by storm. Hours after unveiling her latest masterpiece—she’s found dead in her Deep Creek Lake studio—and her painting is nowhere to be found. Almost a decade later, the long lost Ilysa Ramsay masterpiece has found its way into Mac Faraday’s hands and he can’t resist the urge to delve into the case.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, former JAG lawyer Joshua Thornton, from my earlier series, the Joshua Thornton Mysteries, agrees to do a favor for the last person he would ever expect to do a favor—a convicted serial killer. The Favor: Solve the one murder wrongly attributed to him.
Joshua teams up with Cameron Gates, a spunky detective who has reason to believe the young woman listed as the victim of a serial killer was murdered by a copycat. Together, they set out to light a flame under the cold case only to find that someone behind the scenes wants the case to remain cold, and is willing to kill to keep it that way.
With that, Joshua Thornton, Cameron Gates, and Mac Faraday all land together in Deep Creek Lake. Little do these detectives know that the paths of their respective cases are on a collision course as they follow the clues to bring them together in a showdown with killer who’s got a talent for murder!
2. What was it like bringing Mac Faraday and Joshua Thornton together in this dual storyline?
It was tricky. Readers of my first series kept asking when I would bring back Joshua Thornton, who I never intended to leave behind. Instinctively, I knew it would be fun to have a mystery with him and Mac together. However, when I went back to Joshua, I found his character to be different from previously. He’s in a better place than he was when we left him in A Reunion to Die For. His children are grown. He’s more independent, and he’s ready for some romance and adventure. That’s where Cameron Gates comes in.
3. I do love the setting for the Mac Faraday books (Deep Creek Lake). How did you come to choose this locale?
That’s a funny story. After A Reunion to Die For was released, my sister-in-law asked me to set a mystery in Pelican Lake, Wisconsin; the small lakeside resort town where she and her husband have their summer home. Well, their summer house is at the end of a piece of land called The Point, and is actually surrounded by water on three sides. They have a quite distinctive home. When anyone in Pelican refers to the house on the Point, everyone knows you’re talking about Mary’s house.
I did have an idea for another mystery and knew that I needed to create a new character, so I wrote It’s Murder, My Son, which introduced Mac Faraday, a homicide detective, whose wife leaves him and takes everything. On the day his divorce becomes final, he inherits 270 million dollars and a mansion on the Point from his birth mother, the American Queen of Mystery Writers.
Sweet mystery! However, my sister-in-law was horrified when I placed the murder not only in her town, but in her HOUSE! That was too close for comfort for her. So, for family unity, I had to find another setting.
As luck would have it, my family started vacationing in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. I saw instantly that it was very similar to Pelican Lake. Not only that, but a lot of movers and shakers from Washington, D.C., vacation and have summer places there. It creates a wonderfully inspiring mix of characters to choose from that aren’t available in Pelican Lake. So, I plucked my Mac Faraday mystery up from Pelican Lake and plopped him down in the fictional town of Spencer, Maryland, on the shores of Deep Creek Lake.
4. What other characters from the first two books will show up in this one?
Most of the characters from the Deep Creek Mysteries appear in Shades of Murder, except for David O’Callaghan’s mother and Yvonne, his girlfriend from It’s Murder, My Son. But I warn you, Yvonne is not long gone. She is coming back in a later book.
The regular characters from the Joshua Thornton mysteries don’t appear in Shades of Murder because supposedly Joshua is embarking on the empty-nester phase of his life. His children are growing up. The older four are away in college and living their own lives. His youngest, Donny, has gone away to visit his aunt. For the first time in his life, Joshua’s home alone and loving it.
5. What does your writing process look like? Do you have a special routine?
My writing has gotten into more of a routine, which is nice. I am glad to be at that stage where I have found what works for me and what doesn’t. That is what every writer needs to figure out. We’re all different. What one best-selling author will tell you works for them, may not work for you.
I will think on a book for weeks, or even months. Mentally, I will put it all together while formulating characters and researching. Then, I will write out a loose outline—I mean a very loose outline. This is mainly to work it out in my mind because I have found that I will never refer to the outline when I’m writing the book. After going through several drafts, I will send my book to my perfect reader, who is my mother. She has read every mystery that comes out and is my expert on murder mysteries. One hundred percent of the time, after she reads my book, I will end up going back to do a rewrite based on her comments. From the rewrite, my book goes to the editor, and into pre-publication.
6. Do you have a special space where you love to write?
I have a writer’s studio, but if my mind is working away first thing in the morning, I will start writing on my laptop in a chair in the corner of our bedroom. The next thing I know, the morning is gone, I’m still in my jammies, and I haven’t moved from the chair. Other times, I’ll curl up in the recliner next to the fireplace. So, to answer your question, you can find me writing anywhere. When I get into the zone, I forget where I am.
7. What promotional outlets work best for you?
Reviewers and bloggers. With each book, I have been steadily building relationships with reviewers and readers who have loved my previous books. It’s great because I love doing interviews and guest blogs. So if anyone reading this wants an interview or guest blog, hey! Shoot me an e-mail!
8. I have so enjoyed the Mac Faraday character. Will he be returning in future books?
Oh, yes! Mac’s next mystery is coming out Spring 2013. In this as-yet untitled mystery, the FBI swoops into Spencer when an undercover agent discovers that a contract has been placed on Mac’s life. The problem is that they don’t know who put out the contract. Is it someone from Mac’s past life as a homicide detective, or one of his trusted friends on Deep Creek Lake? Is it his dog Gnarly? He has been acting suspicious lately.
9. What, if anything, are you currently writing?
Dead on Ice, the first installment in a new series entitled the Lovers in Crime Mystery. This book brings back Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates, who we first meet in Shades of Murder.
In Dead on Ice, Cameron investigates the murder of a female porn star, whose mummified body turns up in an abandoned freezer found in Joshua’s cousin’s basement.
From June 1-July 31, I am holding a contest to Name the Porn Star! The winner will win autographed copies of all three Mac Faraday Mysteries, and a copy of Dead on Ice, which will be released Fall 2012. (E-pub or print, winner’s choice. Print versions are only available for winners in the US)
The contest is to provide both a stage name (naughty is okay, but it must be clean) and the real name of the murder victim in Dead on Ice. E-mail your suggestions to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Put Name the Porn Star in the subject line. Please include contact information, including mailing address and phone number.
10. What can you share about your daily life, aside from writing?
Besides being a murder mystery writer, I am a wife and mother. My son is thirteen years old. While I think it’s a blast being a mystery writer, he does get embarrassed. Like while we were at the dentist and he was in the chair when I suddenly asked, “Which of these dental instruments would be most effective for a petite woman to use to kill a big strong guy who’s twice her size, but not easily identifiable to the police as a murder weapon? Not the scalpel. That’s too cliché. Can you suggest a unique murder weapon for me to use?” My husband had to start taking Tristan to the dentist after that. But I did get an answer to my question. The dentist even mailed the murder weapon to me a few days later. I’m keeping it in my desk drawer to use in a later book.
11. I understand that you live on a mountaintop in West Virginia. It sounds so lovely! Can you tell us a little about it?
Oh, yes, we have a beautiful home in Harpers Ferry. We honeymooned at a bed and breakfast in Harpers Ferry twenty-three years ago. So now we live twenty minutes from where we honeymooned. My son uses this as an example of how we never go anywhere.
Our house is on top of a mountain right across the Virginia state line. The Appalachian Trail runs across the ridge of the mountain about a mile behind our house. From our deck, we have a view of the Shenandoah Valley to the next mountain range. It is gorgeous and, yes, I do gaze out across the valley while thinking up murder plots.
12. I know you have pets….what can you share about them?
I was raised a West Virginia farm girl. I’ve always had animals in my life, which is why they find their way into my books. Currently, we have two dogs. Ziggy, an Australian shepherd, and Beagle Bailey, a beagle.
We got Ziggy at a football game. My son, then seven years old, was playing in our church league. During half-time, a woman came up to him and asked, “Would you like to hold my puppy?” Tristan looks at me. I think, “What harm can come from holding a puppy?” I say yes. As soon as the puppy is in his arms, she says, “You can keep him. He’s free.” Then, she was gone!
Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German Shepherd in the Deep Creek Lake mysteries is based on Ziggy. Like Gnarly, he is extremely intelligent and, as a result, will get bored. When he gets bored, he gets into trouble.
Beagle Bailey is my son’s dog. He is much more dignified, except when we have thunderstorms. Then he turns into a maniac with barking and running around as if he can chase the clouds away. Even Ziggy looks at him and rolls his eyes as if to say, “Can’t you put that nut in a straight-jacket?”
They’re both a couple of nuts, but I love them. I call them my muses because they are always at my feet while I’m writing. They inspire me.
Thanks so much for joining us again, Lauren, and I can’t wait for the next book.