Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Margaret Lashley

10 Reasons(17)

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

Margaret Lashley Covers

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?”

Pistachio biscotti.

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.

About Margaret

IMG_1795Margaret 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.

You can connect with Margaret on her website, her Facebook author page, her private Facebook group (Val Talk), Goodreads, Bookbub, and Amazon.

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Elizabeth Spann Craig

10 reasons(7)

Today, I’m featuring an interview with the bestselling cozy mystery author, Elizabeth Spann Craig. For those of you who enjoy reading cozies, many of you will already be familiar with her series—the Myrtle Clover mysteries, the Southern Quilting mysteries, and the Memphis Barbecue mysteries (under the name Riley Adams). She’s also at work on a fourth series—the Village Library mysteries—which I’m really looking forward to reading cause libraries and cozy mysteries go really well together, kind of like peanut butter and jelly.

Elizabeth is also well known within the writing community as a go-to resource on all things writerly. She publishes a helpful blog with general writing tips and tricks, as well as detailed posts on the ins and outs of writing and publishing cozy mysteries. She also curates writing links on Twitter and sends out a weekly Twitterific round-up.  And if that wasn’t enough, she also takes time out of her busy schedule to act as a judge for the annual Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) anthologies. (As an aside, submitting a short story to one of the IWSG anthology contests was how I got my start writing.)

So, without further ado, let’s get into it and find out what Elizabeth has to say about writing, cookies, and penguins.

Interview with Elizabeth

elizabeth spann craig books

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s books, and then M.C. Beaton’s books (especially her Hamish Macbeth stories).  I’d always wanted to write and decided that it would be easiest for me to write cozy mysteries, since I enjoyed reading them so much. My first series was the Myrtle Clover series and Myrtle was a mishmash of different people…mostly my grandmother and her strength, razor-sharp mind, quick and intuitive impressions of people, and her clever sense of humor. I also incorporated my past experience of living in a small Southern town.  All the pieces were there and I just had to put them together.

2 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I never really know whether to call what I do in the morning a routine or a ritual!  I think it’s pretty much muscle memory and not cool enough to be a ritual.  I get ready in the morning, go downstairs, let the corgi out and feed him, fix some coffee (decaf, sadly, now) and then open my laptop and start writing. I’ve done it so often that it feels very natural and seamless.  But I’d rather say that I do something interesting like light a candle or meditate or read inspirational quotes!

3 – What’s more important – character or plot? 

Naturally, they’re both really crucial. But, as a reader, I’ve read plenty of books where I enjoyed the characters and wasn’t as interested in the story.  I rarely finish a book where the story is interesting but the characters aren’t.  So, for me anyway, character is more important than plot.  I also think that it’s easier to fix plot than characters. If you have your characters downpat, you’re in great shape.  If your plot isn’t any good, there are many resources out there to help you make it better. It’s tough to fix flat characters.

4 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least? 

The best thing about being an author is creating every day. Every day I get to wake up and make something.  It’s like living in Mr. Rogers’ “The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” We create these little worlds and their inhabitants. It’s a really exciting process, when you think about it.  As far as what I enjoy the least, I don’t think I’m alone in listing promo.  🙂  That’s why I make my promo efforts as subtle as possible. My strategy has always been to build connections and to create visibility through a consistently-updated platform.

5 – 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?” 

People don’t like cookies?!  Can’t imagine! I like chocolate chip cookies: mostly the chewy type and not so much the crunchy ones. But I don’t bake them myself.  Fortunately, there are people who specialize in that sort of thing and they work at the grocery store deli.  I’m terrible at baking.  I either get distracted, am too impatient to measure properly, or mess up some aspect of the chemistry involved in the process.

6 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you? 

I think he tells me that he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  And then he says that he has an idea for a book, but he wants me to write it.  He wishes he had time to write. And read.  And perhaps he’s curious where my ideas come from.

7 – What else would you like us to know about you? 

That I don’t get out much, but when I do, I’m collecting ideas for stories and characters. That I can promise  that doesn’t take a lot of time to write several books a year if you set your bar low and write consistently.  That I’m trying to read as much and as widely as possible because I’ve found that it really informs my writing, even though I don’t read the genre that I write. And that I have a really bad habit of trying to convince everyone I meet that they should try to write a cozy mystery because it’s so much fun. 🙂  So you’re lucky that you already write them, Ellen!  As for everyone else…why not give it a go?

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Elizabeth! I loved your answers, especially the one to the cookie question. I’m a big fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies too. 🙂

About Elizabeth

elizabeth-s-craig-white-background-me-787x1024Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the upcoming Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently.

She blogs at ElizabethSpannCraig.com/blog , named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.  She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine WritersKB.com. Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband.  She is the mother of two.  To receive a free ebook, updates, and recipes, sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/kCy5j .

You can follow Elizabeth on BookBub, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.