This is Sherry. Julie, I thought it only appropriate that in a random drawing of who would interview whom, I got your name. Because without having met you I don’t think I’d ever have met the rest of the Wicked Cozy Authors.
I think almost all of us started writing about the time we could grasp a pencil but was there some specific point where you thought I have to do this?
For me it was less of a “I have to” and more of a “I can? Really”. I always wanted to be a writer, but in college my writing classes were always very literary, and focused on writing the great American novel, or being a serious poet. I was taking a class about twenty years ago, and one of my fellow students asked why I wasn’t writing mysteries. The light bulb went off, and I started to take more classes, joined Sisters in Crime, and started down the path of considering myself a writer.
Who influences your writing? And does your writing reflect their style?
I have so many influences. In the mystery world, I admire Dame Agatha and many of the other writers from the Golden Age. I love the “fair play” traditional mystery novel. I read many other mystery authors, and look for inspiration and models of how it is done well. I would love to create the wit of Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, the world of Sue Grafton, the characters of Linda Barnes. The list goes on.
I also work in theater, and find the dramatic structure of plays and of mysteries to be identical. Which is a great opportunity to observe how other writers do it in another medium.
How has your career influenced your writing?
A great deal. First of all, a lot of my work takes place in the theater. I know the world well, and love it. Making a career in the arts has also allowed me to meet a lot of passionate, dedicated people who think differently. Is there a greater gift for a writer?
Secondly, the challenges of a theater maker are very similar to the challenges of a writer. Changing production models, challenges in making a living, the opportunities presented by social media. I don’t have any blinders on about the challenges, but am thrilled by the opportunities.
You grew up in Annapolis so how did you end up in Boston?
Actually, I grew up in Duxbury, MA, but we moved to Annapolis my freshman year of high school. I came back up here to go to Boston University, and I stayed. I talked one of my sisters into coming up a few years later, so our family is in both places. I really, really love the city of Boston, and this area.
What’s your favorite thing about New England?
I love that there is everything here—lakes, ocean, mountains. I love that it is compact (except for Maine, which is HUGE) and you can go to a very different place in a couple of hours. I love the vibrant arts community. I love the food. I love the Red Sox. But most of all? I love the sense of humor. It is dry, and smart, and really wonderful.
What deep, dark secrets do you have – that you are willing to share – that would surprise me?
I wish I could dance. I would love to tap dance, more than anything. I tried to learn when I turned 40, but never got the knack. I should try again, but I worry that my knees would let go. I would love to learn ballroom dancing. Fred Astaire was my first movie idol, and I aspire to be Cyd Charisse in Band Wagon.
What are you working on right now? And how the heck do you ever find time to write?
I am noodling with a new idea, which I really like. And finding time isn’t easy, but writing makes me happy, even when it is hard. So I try to find the time. I do need to get much better about finding balance. I took a great class about time management, and the premise was that there are only 168 hours a week, so you need to chose what you do carefully. Summer time is a great opportunity to rethink how I spend those 168 hours.
Why cozies? Are you writing anything else?
I love reading them, so it makes sense to write them. I love creating a world that people like to visit, characters they care about, and stories that keep them guessing. I wrote my master’s thesis on Agatha Christie, and spent a lot of time researching the genre. One of the reasons people like traditional mysteries is that there is justice. That resonates with me. We live in a tough time, I like creating places where good triumphs.
As for other things—I write a lot of blog posts for my various lives, and grant proposals. I also write short stories which are a little darker than cozies.
If you were stranded on a desert island name 5-10 literary figures you would want there with you? What meal would you feed them – assuming you could feed them anything you wanted to?
Wow, is that a tough question. During the Golden Age of Fiction there was a group called the Detection Club. Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, they were all members. It would be fun to have a meeting on the island with all of them. I would serve them bar food—sliders, fries, dips. But make it all look like an English tea, American style.
I would love to have Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Mark Twain come over for dinner. And maybe add F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Sayers, and Arthur Conan Doyle, though they might be challenging guests. But stranded on an island? Yikes—is it wrong to just want to have my Kindle with me, and a way to charge it?
What’s on your nightstand to read?