by Julie seeing the students coming back in Boston
Laurien Berenson and I shared a book birthday last week, and I’m delighted to welcome her to the Wickeds to help celebrate!
When I first started writing my cozy mystery series back in 1994, I knew it was going to be about dogs. At the time I was immersed in the dog show world as a breeder and exhibitor of Miniature Poodles. Not only did I see the dog community as a potentially fertile setting for mayhem, but I also wanted to introduce readers to a sport that many people know little about.
My main character is a woman named Melanie Travis. When the series opened she was a struggling single mom, with a young son and a boyfriend who’d just eloped with a Las Vega showgirl. Melanie had never owned a pet in her life. Back then, she’d have told you that she didn’t have the time, the money, or the desire to own a dog.
Enter Melanie’s Aunt Peg, who showed up on the scene and changed everything. Peg Turnbull, now in her seventies, is a force of nature. She’s smart, opinionated, irascible, and she loves to tell people what to do. She’s also a Standard Poodle breeder and a dog show judge. By book 2 in the series, Melanie had her first black Standard Poodle. Now, in book 26, she and her family live with 5 of them. It was all Aunt Peg’s doing.
When I first introduced her character in A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, the series debut, I didn’t see Aunt Peg as a minor character precisely, but I also didn’t envision that she would move in and take over the series. While I—the writer—am rooting for Melanie to prevail in their frequent interactions (okay, arguments) most of the readers I hear from are definitely on Aunt Peg’s side. I can’t really blame them. Along the way, she’s become a favorite of mine too.As every author knows, it’s fun when a character suddenly steps up and tells you what they’re going to do next. But when they make a habit of it, sometimes they need to be reined in. I’ve tried with Aunt Peg. I really have. But with age comes wisdom, and she is the one character who’s been able to outsmart me at every turn. She became a mentor to Melanie, introducing her to the fun and excitement of the dog show world, and now Peg won’t be satisfied until she’s running all the other characters’ lives too.
Over the years, one of my biggest challenges in writing a long running series has been keeping the characters fresh and interesting. I never have that problem with Aunt Peg. I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she causes next.
Question: Do you have an Aunt Peg in your life—someone who drives you crazy but you adore them anyway? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll choose one person to get a copy of Howloween Murder, US only please. The recipient will be chosen on Thursday! **WINNER IS TORI**
ABOUT LAURIEN BERENSON
Laurien Berenson is the author of the Melanie Travis mystery series, set in the world of dog shows. There are 26 titles including HOWLOWEEN MURDER. The series has won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, and was nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. She and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by dogs and horses.
ABOUT THE BOOK
With just a few days left before Halloween, everyone at Howard Academy is anticipating the guaranteed sugar high they’ll experience from gorging on Harriet Bloom’s famous marshmallow puffs. The private school’s annual costume party revolves around the headmaster’s assistant and her seemingly supernatural batches of gooey goodies. So, it’s a shock when Harriet’s elderly neighbor is suddenly found dead with the beloved dessert in his hand. In a snap, police start questioning whether Harriet modified her top-secret recipe to include a hefty dose of lethal poison . . .
Melanie knows her tenured colleague would never intentionally serve cyanide-laced puffs to a defenseless old man. But as explosive neighborhood gossip reveals a potential culprit, it also brings her closer to sealing her own doom. Because on an evening ruled by masked revelers, bizarre getups, and hidden identities, Halloween might just be the perfect opportunity for a cold-hearted killer to get away with murder once again—this time sending a nosy, unsuspecting sleuth to an early grave!