Once again, we are delighted to introduce you all to another accomplished mystery writer, M.M. Chouinard.
She is the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon Charts bestselling author behind The Vacation, a standalone psychological thriller, and the Detective Jo Fournier series, featuring The Dancing Girls, Taken to the Grave, Her Daughter’s Cry, and The Other Mothers.
She loves animals, coffee, amateur genealogy, and anything to do with Halloween or the zombie apocalypse.
Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang): Welcome, M.M. May I call you Michelle?
And please tell us a few things about yourself that will help us get to know you.
M.M. aka Michelle: Yes, certainly call me Michelle. Well, I’ve been a writer my whole life, but I didn’t think it would ever make me a living, so I trained to become a research psychologist. My specialty was learning and memory during child development, and I was an assistant professor and researcher in that area. My first published writings as an adult were non-fiction research articles and a monograph in that field.
The very cool side-benefit of all this is that my knowledge of psychology has turned out to be invaluable for writing my books.
Kass: Wow, I followed a similar path, pursuing psychology because I figured writing would not pay the bills.
Tell me, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?
Michelle: I’ve been a crime fiction addict since I first started reading! Two things have always appealed to me about it, the puzzle aspect, and the justice aspect. I love solving puzzles of any kind, and as it turns out, I love creating them even more.
And one of the best things about reading (or writing) crime fiction is that by the end of the book justice has been restored. That’s very satisfying, and even healing.
Kass: What type of mysteries do you write and why does that subgenre appeal to you?
Michelle: My published books have been police procedurals with psychological thriller elements, and now also a stand-alone psychological thriller. Getting into the heads of all my characters is really fun for me, so that’s why I lean toward the psychological thriller elements, and police procedurals allow you access to cutting-edge crime-solving techniques that are fun to play with (like forensic genealogy).
But I also write cozies, private investigator novels, and other types of thrillers (and hope to publish them), because there are lots of stories I want to tell, and not all of them fit into the police procedural or psych thriller subgenres.
Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?
Michelle: Rupert the Rhinoceros was my first favorite book, and is still one of my favorites. It’s about a rhinoceros that everyone thinks is dangerous because he keeps charging at people. But one man who pays close attention realizes Rupert isn’t dangerous or angry—he just can’t see well, so he charges at the fuzzy blobs he sees because he’s scared. Once the man makes Rupert some glasses so he can see better, Rupert stops charging at people and everyone realizes he’s a very sweet rhinoceros.
I love the book because the message is so important—don’t judge people until you know what they’re going through, and always remember that what looks like anger and nastiness is often just fear or pain that someone’s suffering. Trying to help them instead of writing them off is always the better way to go.
Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.
Michelle: I have five published books. Four of them are my Jo Fournier series (I’m working on the fifth now), about a detective who works in western Massachusetts; these books combine the police investigation with the killer’s and victim’s perspectives in one form or another.
I also have a standalone psychological thriller called The Vacation. In that one, a child goes missing while three couples are on vacation together, and all of the secrets they’re hiding come spilling out as they try to recover the child.
Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?
Michelle: I think each has plusses and minuses. The first draft is fun because you’re discovering more about your plot and your characters as you go, and you never know what’s going to happen on a given day. This is where the puzzle-solving kicks in, only in this case the puzzle I’m solving is how to create an interesting (but fair) puzzle for my readers to solve.
I take lots of walks to think through sticky plot points, and the excitement of figuring out a cool twist never gets old.
On the other hand, it’s stressful to have so many blank pages staring at you! So editing is great because at that point I have the reassurance of knowing I have a full draft, and I just have to focus on figuring out how to work with it to make the story the best I can. I research as I go along, so that’s a part of everything else.
Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?
Michelle: I think the killer reveal is always my favorite scene to write (or one of my favorites, at least). The hardest scenes for me to write are when someone finds out their loved one is dead. The emotions from those scenes sit with me for a very long time.
Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?
Michelle: I wish interviewers would ask what I hope readers will think about after they finish my book. With The Vacation, there were a couple of things I hoped would linger. First, the issue of mental health, especially how life can twist our thinking and lead us to make dysfunctional choices, which then feed back into creating bigger mental health issues.
Another issue was the role that the press plays in crime investigations. Sometimes press coverage helps, and sometimes it does harm to those involved and to the investigation—are there lines the press shouldn’t be allowed to cross, and if so, what are they?
Kass: Wow, another parallel. I’m writing my first police procedural at the moment, and the role of the press also plays into my story.
Well, there you have it, folks—the scoop on mystery writer M.M. Chouinard! I have read the first of her Jo Fournier series, and really liked it (stay tuned for a review in the next few weeks). And mp author Vinnie Hansen has read The Vacation and was very impressed!
When a loving wife is found dead, newly promoted Detective Jo Fournier is shocked to her core. Why leave her body posed like a ballerina? Why steal her wedding band and nothing else? But before Jo can get answers, another woman is found, wedding ring stolen, body also posed.
Digging through old files, Jo makes a terrifying link to a series of cold cases, but nobody will listen—not her bosses, nor the FBI. Knowing the killer is moments away from selecting his next target, will Jo be able to take him down before another innocent life is lost?
The Vacation, a psychological thriller (stand alone)
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