Today, I’m featuring an interview with the funny, hysterical, hilarious, makes-me-laugh-out-loud cozy mystery author, Margaret Lashley. Yep, just in case it wasn’t clear, she cracks me up!
Margaret is the author of the popular and best-selling Val Fremden humorous mystery series. There are nine books in the series (plus a prequel), all with cute titles that play off of the numbers one through nine. When it comes to cozy mysteries, I do love a cute title, as I’m sure many of you do too.
One of the things I really enjoy about Margaret’s mysteries is the fact that they’re set in Florida. We currently live on our sailboat in southern Florida, I was born in Florida, and my cozy mysteries are set in Florida, so it’s always fun to read books that are also set in the Sunshine State. There are so many things I can totally relate to, like dealing with the insane heat.
If you could use a good chuckle, scroll on down and see what Margaret has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies. Then be sure to check out her books on Amazon.
Interview with Margaret
1 – What inspired you to write your books?
Besides the prospect of impending poverty, you mean? I think I was inspired to write my series because I couldn’t find very many books with fabulously quirky, middle-aged women in the lead.
I grew up in an era of strong women role models, such as That Girl, Laverne and Shirley, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the irreplaceable Carol Burnett Show. These women were out there pursuing their own dreams in their own unique ways. I don’t see much of that in fiction today. With my protagonist, Val Fremden, I wanted to create a character who was strong, yet vulnerable. She’s someone who hasn’t gotten her act all together yet, and probably never will. But who ever does? And we as women should know that it’s okay to not be perfect.
Val is a survivor who bears the scars of her hard journey proudly, with her own quirky coping mechanisms and sense of humor. The goal of my writing is always the same: To help readers remember to celebrate the everyday, the imperfect, and most importantly, the absurd. Laughter is the universal crud cutter of sorrow. And laughing at ourselves is the fastest way to self-love and acceptance.
2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?
The world is already overloaded with negative news. If someone wants to see gruesome, angry, spiteful, petty behavior, there’s a whole buffet out there on TV, radio, Facebook, etc. No thanks. What I love about cozy mysteries is that they offer a venue where I can escape this negatively biased world and disappear into one where everyone is good at heart – even if they hide it sometimes.
My Val Fremden mysteries don’t hinge around violence. Instead, usually something bizarre happens to Val, and impending hilarity ensues as she and her friends try to figure it out. Picture Bridget Jones in an episode of My Name is Earl. Currently, Amazon has no category for non-gory, humorous mysteries. So right now, the cozy mystery genre is where it’s at!
3 – Do you have any writing rituals?
I sacrifice a goat at the waxing of every blue moon. Or I wax a moon at the sighting of every blue goat. Whichever comes first. I’m flexible that way.
4 – What’s more important – character or plot?
No doubt about it: character.
The right character can make watching paint dry fun. But if you don’t care about the characters, no amount of plot will save you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that readers like to be taken by surprise – and to laugh and cry and dissolve into another world when they read. Nothing accomplishes that better than giving them a real, dimensional character they want to root for.
The Val Fremden books are all character-driven. Still, there’s plenty of crazy plot to drive them on. The cast of characters involved each have their great triumphs and cringe-worthy failures. They’re flawed and vulnerable and funny as hell. My stories draw laughs using a wide net – from twisted, dark family humor to slap-stick situational gaffs. Things don’t always turn out like the characters planned. But that’s what builds character in the first place – and makes life interesting.
5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?
I have to say, I truly love being an author. I’ve been writing since I learned the alphabet, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. When I die, I’ll probably be found buried under a pile of what I call my “Crazy Lady Notebooks” full of my wacky ideas and absurd musings on life. Hey…that sounds like a good idea for a plot….
I’m still over the moon every time I get that first glimpse of my next book cover or when I release my next book. And I’m in awe every time someone buys one of my books or leaves a review. The thrill never gets old. As a bonus, I get to create my own imaginary friends and have them do whatever I want. Uh…hello? What’s not to love about that?
What do I like least? Paper cuts.
6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”
7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?
Penguin waddles up to me as I’m splayed out on a blanket on Sunset Beach:
Penguin: “Excuse me, Miss. You wouldn’t happen to know the way to Puerto Vallarta, would you?”
Me: “I don’t even know my way out of town.”
Penguin: “Oh. Well, that’s rather unhelpful.”
Me: “Thanks. Why did you want to go there anyway?”
Penguin: “For the margaritas and seafood.”
Me: “I’ve got a bottle of tequila and a can of sardines in my tote bag. Knock yourself out.”
Penguin: “You’re an excellent hostess.”
Me: “Yeah. I get that a lot. Hey! No pooping on my blanket!”
8 – What else would you like us to know about you?
I’m a comedian at heart. Writing allows me to perform my stand- up routine without being heckled or bombarded by rotten tomatoes.
Thanks so much for being on the blog, Margaret! Remind me to sit next to you at the beach. I do love a gal that always has a fully stocked tote bag. Although, if you could replace the sardines with chocolate chip cookies, that would be awesome.
Margaret Lashley is the best-selling author of the Val Fremden Mystery Series, including Glad One, Two Crazy, Three Dumb, What Four, Five Oh, Six Tricks, Seven Daze, Figure Eight and Cloud Nine. (Plus the stand-alone Val Fremden prequel novel, Absolute Zero.)
Featuring an extremely reluctant amateur sleuth in her mid-forties, each Val Fremden mystery is packed with laughs and plot twists you’ll never see coming. But the books also go deeper, exploring the ups and downs of being a woman, while mining midlife for all the laughs along the way.
Often compared to Janet Evanovich by her readers, Margaret Lashley’s books are similarly funny and upbeat, and offer a depth of character that will quickly have you rooting (and cringing) for Val all along the way.
Margaret is a native of Florida, and lives in sunny St. Petersburg.
From the Author: Like the characters in my novels, I haven’t lead a life of wealth or luxury. In fact, as it stands now, I’m set to inherit a half-eaten jar of Cheez Whiz…if my siblings don’t beat me to it. During my illustrious career, I’ve been a roller-skating waitress, an actuarial assistant, an advertising copywriter, a real estate agent, a house flipper, an organic farmer, and a traveling vagabond/truth seeker.
But no matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve done, I’ve always felt like a weirdo. As a child I lived in my own pretend world of tickling fairies and talking cats. I began writing when I found an ancient black typewriter on my grandparent’s back porch. (Inspired by my brothers, Boys are Stupid was my first masterpiece.)
I’ve traveled the world and learned a heck of a lot in my life. But getting to know myself has been my greatest journey. Today, I know I’m smart. I’m direct. I’m jaded. I’m hopeful. I’m funny. I’m fierce. I’m a pushover. And I have a laugh that makes strangers want to join me at restaurants. In other words, I’m a jumble of opposing talents and flaws and emotions. And it’s all good.
In some ways, I’m a lot like Val Fremden. My books featuring Val are not autobiographical, but what comes out of her mouth was first formed in my mind, and sometimes the parallels are undeniable. I drink TNTs. I once had a car like Shabby Maggie. And I’ve started my life over four times, driving away with whatever earthly possessions fit in my car. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that friends come from unexpected places.