Where Gable Slept

My guest today is Irene Bennett Brown, best known for her historical novels such as The Bargain, The Plainswoman, and Haven. Irene’s latest novel is a departure for her, a cozy mystery, Where Gable Slept.

This is an entertaining, fast-paced mystery with a blossoming romance. Celia Landrey leads tours through a historic mansion, where Clark Gable reportedly stayed, to attract tourism to her struggling community. The owner’s death and the shadow of murder threatens to spoil its appeal. Then a mystery woman appears and buys the property out from under the town’s preservation group, with plans to burn it down. Celia is a well-characterized and sympathetic middle-aged sleuth, and I enjoyed the story very much.

Irene, after specializing in historical fiction, what made you decide to write a mystery?

As I got older, eyesight problems made intense research difficult for my historical work. I decided to try something light, fun, set in the present day, and for the most part—my own backyard, thus requiring less research. I’d turned to reading cozy mysteries, and after studying several I became excited at the prospect of writing one.

Did you find it more difficult to write? Not really, although in the long ago past I was convinced that writing a mystery would be impossible for me–I was sure I didn’t have the intellect/analytical mind a mystery puzzle would require. Maybe years of writing gave me the necessary confidence to at least try. In any event, after I had created a small-town cast of characters I loved and could work with, each with their own personality, motives, and agendas, I had a great time working out “whodunit” and “how come” in Where Gable Slept!

Which genre do you prefer? Gosh, hard answer. I love both so maybe no preference? At this time, though, I am more involved in the mystery genre.

Are you planning another cozy mystery? Yep. Where Gable Slept begins a planned series. Celia Landrey, walking-tour guide, who one reviewer referred to as “charming and indomitable” will remain as my main character. Plots will also involve other characters the reader met in book one. I’m working now on the second book, with the working title Where Danger Danced.

Why did you decide to self-publish this book? Chiefly, I did it myself because I wanted to see the book in print when and how I wanted it to appear. At this stage in my career I have less patience waiting for a traditional publisher to make a decision, which in some cases can be years. Fortunately, I have great help in that my computer-expert husband takes care of the mechanics, formatting and such, to get the book ready for the printer. My daughter is a professional artist and she designed and illustrated the cover of Where Gable Slept. I had the book professionally edited as well.

How did you get started with your writing career? I’ve known since I was twelve years old that I wanted to be a writer. I began very small, writing brief anecdotes and articles for newspapers, then short stories and longer serials for children’s Sunday School papers. That led to writing children’s book-length fiction. I wrote nine books for children and young adults. Many were book club selections and/or were printed in both hardcover and paperback.

What were some of your early influences? Easy answer; books like Little Women and Caddie Woodlawn in the children’s field, and adult novels by Frank Slaughter, Janet Holt Giles, Edna Ferber, Robert Penn Warren, Jessamyn West. Countless others, I’ve always been a reader.

What was your first published book? To Rainbow Valley is a children’s book and my first. It is a dust-bowl era story about a family who makes a new life in Oregon, much as my own family did. The book was published by David McKay in 1969 and these 40-odd years later, is still available as an easy-reader from an educational publisher, Perfection Learning.

How many books have you had published?  I have had 15 children’s and adult novels published by a wide range of traditional publishers—Atheneum, Ballantine, Five Star/Cengage to name a few. My two latest, The Bargain, and Where Gable Slept–making it 17–were published by my own imprint, Riveredge Books.

Do you have some tips to share with pre-published authors?

Read tons in the field in which you want to write. Revise and rewrite until your manuscript is your very best effort. Submit your work and don’t let rejections get you down if this is what you truly want to do. Attend writer’s conferences, learn from the speakers and network with other writers. As author Robert Fontaine said, “To be a writer is to reach, however awkwardly, for the stars, and move however haltingly, in that direction.”  In other words, writing is work, no doubt about it. But if a writer is what you’re meant to be, nothing will give you more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Irene’s books are available through her website www.irenebennettbrown.com and through local bookstores and from most on-line bookstores. Many are also available as audiobooks through www.booksinmotion.com and on-line bookstores such as www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

The Right Ingredients for a Delicious Read

When the meanest gossip in Brea Ridge dies mysteriously, suspicions turn to cake decorator Daphne Martin. And all she’d done was deliver a cake…”

Gayle Trent writes the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery series for Bell Bridge Books. The second book in that series is Dead Pan. Both Thorndike and the English publisher BBC Audiobooks will be releasing the first book in that series, Murder Takes the Cake, in large-print, hardcover format in the coming year.

Gayle also writes an embroidery series under the pseudonym Amanda Lee for NAL/Penguin. The first book in that series is due to be released in August of 2010.

1. Tell us about Dead Pan.
Dead Pan is the second book in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series. When the book opens, a police officer is questioning Daphne about a cake she took to the Brea Ridge Pharmaceutical Company Christmas party.  Many people at the party got sick, but most recovered after being treated with a vaccine manufactured by the company. Only one, Fred Duncan, went into a coma and died. Coincidence? Or did somebody have it in for Fred?

2. What would you like to overhear people saying about your book?
“I laughed so hard when–” A local book club selected Murder Takes the Cake as one of their books; and when I attended the meeting, I was delighted to hear that they thought this or that part was funny. I also love it when people say, “I never guessed ______ was the villain.” Also, there was a review where a woman said she loved the main character’s relationships with various members of her family–that they were beautifully or realistically drawn. I felt like, “Oooh, she got it!” Actually, I’ll take anything that’s not negative. 🙂

3. What inspired you to write Dead Pan?
I was reading an article in Wired magazine about clinical drug tests. I did some further investigation, and I came across some fascinating stuff.

4. What do you advise new writers to do?

Read the genre they’re interested in writing. For instance, when my agent pitched my first three chapters of the embroidery mystery to the editor, the editor said she liked it but didn’t love it. I needed to revise it to make her love it in order for her to buy the book. I asked my agent who the editor had published recently. With two names in hand, I went to the bookstore and bought two books. I read them and found they were more descriptive than my own books. I went back, added more description and gave the heroine a bit more spunk, and the book sold. Sometimes you have to be flexible.

5.  Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

1) There is a feral cat who comes to visit us on holidays. We’re pretty sure he belongs to somebody because he’s always well fed. We think we’re his “other family.” We first realized his penchant for visiting on holidays when he came and cried at our door on Mother’s Day. He came back for Memorial Day and Father’s Day, and so on. Sometimes he’ll drop by for a visit, and we have to check the calendar to see what holiday it is.

2) I have an adorable cartoon Debbie Ridpath Ohi did of me with a cake (for “Murder Takes the Cake”) when her blog InkyGirl hosted me on my blog tour. The cartoon is framed and hanging above my desk. I figure I’ll never look that good in a picture again!

3) I once got to interview the famous criminalist Dr. Henry Lee via telephone for an article which appeared in Law and Order Magazine.

6. Favorite quote

“It’s not enough to stare up the steps. You must step up the stairs.” – Vance Havner

7. Do you have any funny writing stories to share?

I once tried to “write” using my laptop’s voice recognition feature while baking brownies and peeling potatoes. Great multi-tasking, right? BUT, there is a drawback to using voice technology gadgets when you have a Southern drawl. Although, the exercise helped me get unblocked and continue on through the chapter I was struggling with, the computer misunderstood most of what I said. AND, to add insult to injury, when I read back over what it said and laughed, the computer translated that as “a a a a a a a a.”

8. What exactly is a cozy mystery?

Cozy mysteries usually take place in a small community and involve a relatively small number of people. The reader knows that someone within the intimate group will turn out to be the killer. Think Desperate Housewives with one of the cast turning out to be the killer as opposed to Criminal Minds or CSI. Cozy mysteries also feature an amateur sleuth as opposed to a professional detective, and the heroine has an interesting profession or hobby.

9. Do you decorate cakes?

I do decorate cakes but I’m nowhere near Daphne’s level! My daughter and I took a Wilton cake decorating class a few years ago, and that’s how Daphne’s profession came about.

Purchasing Information: Books purchased from Bell Bridge Books will be personalized. They  are also available from Amazon.

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 11:17 pm  Comments (14)  
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