Category Archives: Crime Fiction Writers (Interviews)

A Crime Writers Interview: Jenna Harte

Crime Writers Intro image

Welcome to another Crime Writers Interview!

We try to draw out what is unique and special about each author we interview. There are some real gems tucked away in this chat I had with Jenna Harte, especially at the end when I asked what question she wished interviewers would ask her. I just loved her answer!

headshot of Jenna Harte

Please give a warm welcome to Jenna Harte!

Jenna is a total romantic who also loves a good mystery. The first of her Valentine Mysteries, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She’s also the author of the Southern Heat contemporary romance series, and is working on a new cozy mystery series involving coupons, fairy tales and airplane repos.

She’s a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Sisters In Crime and works by day as a freelance writer and online entrepreneur. An empty-nester, she lives in central Virginia with her husband and a fat cat.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press): Let’s start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Jenna Harte:  I’m a die-hard romantic who especially enjoys mysteries involving committed couples, such as Nick and Nora Charles, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, etc. I also enjoy a good passionate romance, but it’s difficult to find a mystery series that has the romantic bits, and romantic mysteries rarely involve a series. That’s why I write the Valentine Mysteries and the Delecoeur novellas.

the delecoeur covers

Another tidbit is that I never set out to be a writer, and in fact, if someone told me in high school I’d be a writer, I’d have cried. I fell into writing non-fiction by accident. I became interested in fiction when I discovered fan fiction, and found all these stories around TV/movie couples I enjoyed. I started writing them too, and after one of my stories was stolen—twice—I wondered if maybe I had something. Of course, I had a lot to learn, but an online mystery writing course instructor told me I “had the goods” so I kept at it.

Now I can’t imagine not writing because I have characters prattling on in my brain all the time.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of crime fiction do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer and do you also prefer it as a reader?

Jenna:  I write a romantic mystery series that is similar to cozy, except I break the rule about no intimate bits. I also have a three-book contemporary romance series (one of which includes suspense). My most recent work is a traditional cozy mystery series that is currently in the editing process with my publisher.

I tend to write what I’d like to read. I’ve read every JD Robb book (passionate couple solving a crime), and I also enjoy the Stephanie Plum and the O’Hare and Fox books by Janet Evanovich (O’Hare and Fox are co-written with Lee Goldberg). I read romantic suspense as well, such as Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown.

Kass:  JD Robb and Janet Evanovich are at the top of my list too. But tell me, why do you write crime fiction? What is the appeal?

Jenna:  I enjoy other genres such as romance and some science fiction, but the ones I enjoy the most have a mystery involved. It might not always be a crime, but there is a mystery about something. I’ve never thought much about why I like mysteries in books, except that they give a story structure and a satisfying resolution. There is a purpose or a quest that keeps the story moving. The puzzle is fun too.

Kass:  Yes, I agree! So where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.

book covers from Valentines series

The Valentine Mysteries are a series of sexy cozies that blend the love and passion romance readers enjoy with a small town mystery cozy readers like.

Jenna:  I have eight novels and three novellas published. I’m currently revising book six of the Valentine mysteries, and in edits for the first book, Death of a Debtor, in my cozy mystery series. The Valentine novels and Delecoeur novellas are all mysteries solved by a passionate couple.

The closest couple to compare to would be the Harts from the Hart to Hart TV show (1979-1984). They are light mysteries that don’t have graphic violence or bad language, but they do have intimate scenes similar to those found in contemporary romance.

Death of a Debtor is a cozy mystery that involves a smart but unworldly young woman, who loves folklore and fairy tales, and who is forced to return to her rural, mountain Virginia hometown after her father and brother are put in jail for running a Ponzi scheme. Once living in luxury, she is now caring for a cantankerous great-aunt, and learning how to coupon to make ends meet. Things go from bad to worse when she’s accused of being involved in the murder of the man who turned her father into the F.B.I.

Once I finish the sixth Valentine book, I plan to write a novella about them that takes place on the train during their return trip from San Francisco to Virginia (the male lead is afraid to fly). I’m also in the middle of writing the second book of the coupon cozy mystery, Death of a Coupon Queen.

My brain seems to always have stories rattling around. I’m currently plotting a new cozy that will take place in the Outer Banks and involve pirates. I also have a paranormal story that I’ve begun taking notes on.

Kass:  I love the premise of Death of a Debtor. Can’t wait to read it. Tell us what was your favorite book/author as a child?

Jenna:  To be honest, I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. As a teen, I read a lot of Stephen King, although I wouldn’t say I’m a horror fan. In fact, my favorite story of his is an obscure one most people have never heard of called Eyes of the Dragon, which is a dark fantasy. I also liked To Kill a Mockingbird, which was the only book I was forced to read in school that I actually enjoyed.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Jenna:  I’m mostly a pantser, so for me, the most challenging part of the writing process is when I get stuck. In the past, I’d start writing as soon as I had an idea, which means I’ve started mysteries without knowing why or how the victim was killed. More recently, I’ve tried to let stories percolate, taking notes on the ideas that come, and then writing, but I still usually get stuck at some point.

Since I’ll write whatever scenes I happened to have, I usually write out of order. I have many manuscripts with the first three, and the last chapters written.  As difficult as writing is when I’m not sure what I’m doing, I have a goal to write 1000 words every morning, and somehow, I’m usually able to achieve that.

Kass:  What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Jenna:  The most recent thing I’ve researched is I asked my uncle, who is a doctor, how many Lorazepam mixed in a scotch and water would it take to make someone loopy without killing him (the answer was “about 50,” which is more than I have in the story).

I’ve also researched if it was possible to poison someone with mistletoe for a Christmas story, and how to stab someone in the back and have it be serious but not fatal.

For With This Ring, I Thee Kill (Valentine #3), I researched the French Blue Diamond, which had recently been linked to the Hope Diamond. That history was fascinating.

Kass:  What question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t?

Jenna:  Is it hard to keep the romance alive in an ongoing romantic mystery series?

Kass:  What a great question. So what is your answer?

Jenna:  So often, TV shows and books titillate readers with “will they, won’t they” chemistry, but put off having the couple make a commitment because they fear the chemistry will disappear. This is a real concern, as we’ve all seen shows or read books where this happens. However, I don’t find it hard to keep the love alive in the Valentine and Delecoeur stories.

There’s an idea that because stories need conflict, that the couple needs to experience trouble in the relationship. And of course, the higher the stakes (the relationship can end), the better. But the conflict doesn’t have to be between the couple in a mystery series. Instead, the couple can be in conflict with someone or something else.

DVD cover ofr Hart to Hart complete series

If you’re a Hart to Hart fan like Jenna (and Kass), you can get the complete series on DVD from Amazon. Dig the 1970’s big hair!!

Take Hart to Hart, a TV show about a happily married couple who solve crimes. What made that show work was that the couple wasn’t just committed, but also, they were passionate towards each other.

Second, in a series, the characters and their relationship need to grow, and often this comes from conflict. That doesn’t mean it has to be the type that can end a relationship though. I view it as growing pains. In the Valentine series, the couple has some bumps (including a break up) early on, but they learn about themselves and each other through these struggles, and because they’re committed to each other, they’re resolved to fix things between them.

I think the question is really about the chemistry…can a love story continue to be sexy and titillating in a series? To that I say, yes. While I do have intimate bits between the Valentines and Delecoeurs, that’s not really what highlights their magic. Instead, it’s how they talk and interact with, and think about each other. Instead of letting them settle into ho-hum domestic life, I continue to show their love, affection, and desire for each other.

Kass:  Wow, I love what you’re saying. I feel the same way about the romantic suspense stories I write. There is some conflict between the couple, because that’s realistic, especially in the early stages of a relationship. But the main story conflict comes from the mystery part.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Jenna. I really enjoyed chatting with you.

And folks, Jenna now has the first three books in the Valentine series out in a boxed set for just $5.99. That’s half the regular price for these books. Check it out!

If you have any questions for Jenna, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

Valentine boxed set coverPassion, Murder, Chocolate and Couture Lingerie

Tess Madison walked away from her two-timing fiancé, a multi-million dollar trust fund and a cushy corporate law job to pursue the single life indulging in chocolate and fancy French underwear. But her newly reordered life comes unraveled when she reluctantly accepts an invitation to a dinner party and stumbles upon the host’s dead body and into the arms of the sexy, blue-green eyed Jack Valentine. As romance grows, so too does Tess and Jack’s propensity to get into trouble.

If you like romance mixed with your mystery, the Valentine Mysteries are for you. In this collection, you’ll get books 1 through 3.

 Deadly Valentine
“Written with precision and care, this intriguing romance/murder mystery is a fun read that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” – Publisher’s Weekly 
Old Flames Never Die
Can a new love survive the lure of an old flame and murder?
With This Ring, I Thee Kill
Planning a wedding can be murder.
 ~~~

Boxed Set available on AMAZON now!

(These books are individually available on Nook, Kobo and iBooks, as well as Amazon.)

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

A Crime Writer Interview: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Crime Writers Intro image

Welcome to our second Crime Writers’ Interview! Our goal is to bring to you, our readers, some new and interesting authors and books for your reading pleasure.

Because books are not toasters. We don’t just buy one every few years. They are more like clothes. (Or for some of us, food!) We need a sustainable supply.

headshot Nancy Lynn Jarvis

So please help us welcome Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse.

She has worked in the advertising department of a newspaper, as a librarian, and as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  We like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy:  If there was any doubt about it before, there isn’t now: I turn seventy as my new book, “The Two-Faced Triplex” comes out, so I’m officially a geezerette. I was late to the writing party, starting the Regan McHenry Real Estate series at fifty-nine, but I love telling stories on paper so there’s no planned retirement for my writing venture.

My favorite out of the books I’ve written is not a mystery, but a comedy/commentary on the invisibility that comes to older people titled, “Mags and the AARP Gang.” I’ve also edited a cookbook, “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.”

photo of sunrise

The view my Airbnb guests will see at sunrise.

I like new adventures, so every few years I try something different. Currently, I’ve started hosting Airbnb (yes, there will be a book about it; look for “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” in March) and what I really want to do is start having writer retreats at my house where five or so of us writers can come together to work on our mysteries while we share creative synergy and, hopefully, have a great time

Kass:  *raising hand* Please put me down for that first retreat. That sounds amazing.

So tell us, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Nancy:  I love the logic of it. It’s fun to think about the order of events and clues and it’s an enjoyable challenge revealing everything the reader needs to know to solve the mystery without revealing too much too soon.

I’m a very visual writer―I need to be able to see what I’m writing about―so I don’t think I’d be any good at science fiction, and writing romance novels simply doesn’t appeal to me.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Nancy:  My mysteries fall in the cozy genre. Regan McHenry is a Realtor who gets involved in murder because of clients, colleagues, and friends.

I grew up reading Agatha Christie at my grandmother’s house while sitting in a wicker rocking chair that I still have. Miss Marple was my favorite of Dame Agatha’s protagonists and was the perfect cozy amateur sleuth, so that’s the style I chose.

Sadly, since I’ve started writing, I’ve learned how to spot a red herring from miles away and usually I’ve solved the murder by page eighty-six, so I don’t enjoy reading cozies as much now.

Kass:  Where are you in your writing career, newly published, have 20 books under your belt, or somewhere in between? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverNancy:  “The Two-Faced Triplex” is book seven and probably the final chapter of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series. I was a Realtor for almost twenty-five years and had many related stories to use for background material and, while I still have more ideas, the technology involved in being a Realtor today has moved beyond my remembrances of working and I worry that if I continue the series, my books will become dated.

I’m currently editing a short story anthology pertaining to Santa Cruz, California (where I live) which will be titled, “Santa Cruz Weird.”

Beyond that, I’ve already begun playing with an idea for a series called “Geezers with Tools” about two single senior men, one widowed and one who thinks he’s a player, who start a handyman business to meet women. I like older characters and want to put more humor in my books. The very title of the series is a double entendre and, in my mind, a great setup to play with. The series will still be in the cozy mystery genre. My protagonists will solve crimes that come up as they work.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Nancy:  I love writing first drafts and think researching for the mysteries is fun, although it does produce some very odd offers for items for sale in my inbox, so I would have to say editing is the hardest part of writing for me.

I was fortunate enough to have a willing (well almost willing) husband who became a great beta reader and content editor who kept me on track in large part, but he died about a year-and-a-half ago. “The Two-Faced Triplex” was hard to write and especially hard to finish because I didn’t know how I was going to get from finished first draft to something I was willing to send to my editor without his input in the middle.

Kass:  Oh my, so sorry about your husband. And I know what you mean about having that one beta reader whose blessing you have to have in order to feel comfortable releasing a book out into the world.

You said you enjoy doing research. What’s the oddest or most interesting thing you’ve ever researched?

Buying Murder book coverNancy:   The most unusual thing I’ve ever researched was the evolution of cat litter. In “Buying Murder,” Regan and her husband buy a house with a permanent resident. He was mostly decomposed, although partially mummified, as he spent time sealed in a wall anomaly filled with cat litter to keep him from leaking body fluids and, well, smelling like death.

He’d been there for sixteen years and, at the start of the mystery, who he was and when he died were unknown facts. I had those questions answered based on the type of cat litter that surrounded him. Cat litter formulations have changed over time, so I had to figure out what the litter components would have been sixteen years prior to the body’s discovery so his approximate death date could be determined.

Kass:  That is fascinating! Thanks so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Before you leave, let me open up the floor to our subscribers and guests, in case any of them have questions for you.

And folks, don’t forget to check out Nancy’s new release, The Two-Faced Triplex:

The Two-Face Triplex book coverRegan signs on to play consoler-and-chief after the body of Martha Varner, one of her favorite clients, is found and the woman’s distraught daughter begs Regan to stop escrow from closing on a purchase her mother was about to make.

Martha Varner’s death, at first ruled suicide, is quickly ruled homicide. The dead woman’s best friend thinks she knows who Martha’s killer is. The police have a different suspect. And Regan? Well, she has her own ideas about who killed Martha Varner.

She just can’t imagine how complicated playing amateur sleuth will make her life and how dangerous her investigation will prove to be for her husband, Tom.

Now available on AMAZON.

You can check out Nancy’s other books on her Amazon Author Page. Also she is on Goodreads and Facebook.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

A Crime Writers’ Interview: Katherine Bolger Hyde

Crime Writers Intro image

Welcome to our first Crime Writers’ Interview! Our goal is to bring to you, our readers, some new and interesting authors and books for your reading pleasure.

Because books are not toasters. We don’t just buy one every few years. They are more like clothes. (Or for some of us, food!) We need a sustainable supply.

KBH photo

So please help us welcome our first interviewee, Katherine Bolger Hyde.

Katherine has been immersed in books her whole life as a reader, writer, and editor. She lives in the redwood country of California with her husband, youngest child, and two obstreperous cats. In addition to several children’s books, she has authored two books, so far, in the Crime with the Classics mystery series, which she will tell us about shortly.

But first…

Kass (on behalf of misterio press):  Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Katherine:  First of all, I’m a card-carrying nerd. I have always been happiest with a book in my hand. I taught myself to read at age 4, majored in Russian literature in college, and have spent my career as an editor. Books are my life.

Secondly, I do have a lot of other interests, from knitting to designing my dream house to singing in my church choir. When I was younger and fitter, I led a Renaissance dance troupe for a couple of years. So I’m a nerd but not a narrow nerd.

And finally, I’m a bit like my character, Emily Cavanaugh, in that I live with one foot in the twenty-first century and one in the nineteenth (or earlier). I take advantage of modern conveniences (including, unlike Emily, technology), but I don’t believe that change necessarily equals progress.

Kass:  Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Katherine:  I write what I love to read. While I appreciate the best works of most genres, the only modern one I’ve ever found addictive is mystery. I also dearly love many classic authors, which is why I chose to incorporate the classics into my mystery series. What appeals to me most about both, I think, is that they delve deeply into human motivations, which I find fascinating.

Kass:  What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

The Little House book cover

Katherine:  I couldn’t possibly pick just one—my favorites shifted as I grew up. But one book that still moves me after all these years is the picture book “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton. Perhaps because I didn’t have a stable home as a child, that story with a house as its main character touches something in the core of my being—it always makes me cry.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Katherine:  My published series, Crime with the Classics, is a cozy/traditional series, but my current work in progress is a much darker standalone—sort of a cross between a police procedural and a psychological thriller. I also have a plan for another cozy series that will have a paranormal element.

Arsenic with Austen book coverI enjoy writing traditional mysteries because there’s a lot of scope for humor, atmosphere, and character development, and I don’t have to live in a really dark place for all the months it takes to write a book. As a reader, my first love is the traditional mysteries of the British Golden Age—writers like Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Patricia Wentworth.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Katherine:  First drafts are the most difficult for me. Researching is fun, and editing is second nature to me since I do it for my day job. But the initial process of converting the story in my head into actual words on paper can sometimes be excruciating, especially when I get to a point where I’m not sure where the story needs to go. On the other hand, when the writing is going well, it’s the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done.

Kass:  Boy, can I relate to that! So where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.

Katherine:  At this point I have published three children’s books and two adult mysteries—Arsenic with Austen (Minotaur, 2016) and Bloodstains with Brontë (Minotaur, 2017). The mysteries feature a retired literature professor, Emily Cavanaugh, who inherits a mansion in a little town on the Oregon coast, where her first love from high school, Luke Richards, is the sheriff. While Luke does the police work, Emily uses the insight into characters and situations gained from her love of literature to ferret out the culprits. Each novel borrows elements of character, situation, tone, and mood from the classic author it features.

Kass: I love that premise. I know one of our authors, Vinnie Hansen, has read some of your work, and now I can’t wait to read these stories.

Folks, you can find the first book in the series, Arsenic with Austen, on Amazon HERE, and Bloodstains with Brontë, just released in December, is available HERE. You can connect with Katherine on Facebook or her website.

Katherine, we wish you the very best of luck with this series and all your future stories!

Katherine:  Thanks for this opportunity to chat about books! It’s one of my favorite pastimes.

Bloodstains with Bronte coverBloodstains with Brontë, by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Passions run as dark and stormy as the coastal autumn weather in Bloodstains with Brontë, the second volume of Crime with the Classics. Emily hosts a fund-raising murder mystery dinner on Halloween night. All goes well until the supposed corpse turns up actually dead—with Emily’s young housekeeper, Katie, standing over him, bloody knife in hand. Emily’s loyalty to Katie crashes against her duty to the truth as she fights to save Katie from a murder charge.

On AMAZON

Thanks, folks, for joining us for the first of many Crime Writers’ Interviews. We hope to have one for you at least once every 4-6 weeks.

Any questions for Katherine? Thoughts on her Crime with the Classics premise? What was your favorite children’s book?

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )