By Edith Maxwell
North Shore, Massachusetts
I am thrilled to have the honor of interviewing my good friend Liz
- When did you start writing? I’ve been telling stories since I was talking, and writing not long after that! Before I started putting pen to paper, I created imaginary worlds with my neighborhood friends. One summer we were characters loosely based on the “Battle of the Planets” crew, and created spaceships and planets out of the treasures in our neighborhood (including a swamp, a ginormous rock and a blackberry patch). By middle school I was writing short stories and poems, and by my teenage years I was storyboarding my very own soap opera. My first novel was my graduate school thesis (and it was pretty bad!).
- Who are your influences? I have been influenced by so many people, from beginning with Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew books, to my college days reading JD Salinger and Flannery O’Connor, to some of my teachers from grad school days at Emerson College who I will never forget. Today, I tend to read a lot of really dark writing (Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, Tana French) because I’m so fascinated not only by the stories but by the tone and feeling of the books. I’m always looking for ways to get people to that level of emotional connection with my work.
- What is your day job or career and how does that influence your writing? I was a journalist for a long time (although certainly not as esteemed as our multiple Emmy-winning friend Hank Phillippi Ryan!) and even today, working in various marketing and communication roles in the corporate world, I see that inquisitive piece of myself influencing everything I do. Whether it’s fiction writing or working on strategic communication initiatives, I’m definitely driven by the “why” of every story. Murder, most especially! Nothing is more fascinating than unraveling why people do what they do.
- What’s your connection to New England? I was born in New England and have lived here all my life. I’ve hit pretty much all the states: I was born and raised in Mass., lived in New Hampshire and presently Connecticut, and spend a fair amount of time in Rhode Island. Although the Boston area is by far my favorite part of New England.
- What’s your favorite thing about New England? Oops, see previous question….Boston and the seasons, certainly, but more importantly, who we are as people. New Englanders are an amazing bunch of people. We’re smart, we have just the right amount of attitude, we’re driven, we’re compassionate, and we’re definitely resilient, as the world saw after the recent tragedy in Boston. I’ve never been more proud to be a New Englander.
- What would people be surprised to learn about you? Let’s see. I worked at a funeral home for a while! (Before you get any ideas, I did the books. No embalming.) It was a friend’s place, and he knew I was working there largely for the research benefits. It was very cool though, because I got to watch all kinds of things. Like the removal of a pacemaker from a body. Patching a gunshot victim’s wound. A cremation. People thought I was nuts – but what a great opportunity!
- What are you working on right now? I’m wrapping up the second book in the Pawsitively Organic series, A Biscuit, A Casket. At least, I hope it’s almost wrapped up! I’m already plotting the third in my head, and can’t wait to get started on it.
- Why cozies? Do you write anything else additionally? When I started the Pawsitively Organic series, I was actually working on another series that was a lot darker. I had one book completed and was shopping it around, and had started plotting out the second. Prior to that, I had worked on a series that started out in the cozy style but graduated to a darker piece with every rewrite. So I really had no plans at that point to write a cozy, although I loved the style and read them every chance I could get. Then the opportunity to discuss cozy proposals came through the Sisters in Crime New England chapter, and I jumped at it. In a matter of a month, I was completely immersed in this new world I’d created, and when the proposal sold, I was ecstatic. I’m having a lot of fun writing these books – it was a nice break from the dark world I had created in my other series. But I am hoping that series sells – I do love dark as well. It’s part of the split personality syndrome that plagues many writers, I think!
- If you were stranded on a desert island, which five literary figures, dead or alive, would you want with you, and what meal would you choose (appetizer, dinner, dessert, drink)? Just five? Yikes! Okay, this is a tough one. Before I started watching The Following, I would’ve said Poe, definitely. Now I’m terrified to even see a picture of him! (You have to watch the show to understand why.) I think I would pick Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Dickens and R.J. Ellory. For the meal: Appetizer would be lettuce wraps. With shrimp. For my dinner, I think I would go with some Thai food (I’m on a Thai food kick lately). So perhaps pad Thai, or drunken noodles. Can I say with shrimp again? Or maybe tofu. Either would work for me (I don’t eat meat). For dessert – either pumpkin cheesecake, or Cheesecake Factory’s Godiva chocolate cheesecake. If I were stranded, calories wouldn’t matter, right? And for a drink – espresso martini.
- Which are the top five books are in your to-be-read pile? Again, just five? Right now, Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night, Michael Palmer’s Oath of Office, Daryl Wood Gerber’s Final Sentence, Louise Hay’s newest, All is Well, Heather Blake’s Wishcraft Mysteries….I know, I know, that’s more than five. But I can’t leave out my soon-to-be-released to-be-read pile: Edith Maxwell’s A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die (being released in May!), Barbara Ross’ Clammed Up, Jessie Crockett’s Drizzled with Death and another wicked cool mystery that I don’t think I can talk about yet (but I’ll give you a hint, it’s written by a Wicked Cozy sister)!
Sounds great, Liz. We’re all excited that your book is the first to release this year from thisgroup: Kneading to Die, May 7. Look for it! Readers, any questions for Liz? She’ll be popping in all day to answer them.