Welcome Guest Marjorie McCown and a #giveaway.

I am pleased to welcome guest author Marjorie McCown to the blog. I loved her mystery Final Cut, the first in her Hollywood Mystery series, coming June 6, and was happy to blurb it. So many of us write amateur sleuth stories about butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, but Marjorie really knows the world of Hollywood costume designers she writes about and it shows in this fabulous debut.

One lucky commenter below will receive a signed copy of Final Cut.

Take it away, Marjorie!

Write What You Know

My thanks to Barbara Ross and The Wickeds for inviting me to contribute to their wonderful blog, which has provided me with so much inspiration and entertainment.

From childhood, I’ve been hooked on the magic books offer — that ability to go anywhere imagination can take me. I’m certain that early fascination with make-believe was a crucial factor in my choice of occupation as a costume designer for theater, opera, and eventually film. I loved working in a profession where telling stories was part of the business model.

A hat from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Marjorie worked on the movie Forrest Gump.

But I also longed to be an author. Writing has been my avocation since I tried my hand at fan fiction when I was eight years old, so enchanted by Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, I wanted to write my own set of adventures for Badger and Mole. So, for my “second act” when I retired from film in 2017, I decided to devote myself to the craft of writing, to hone my skills to the best of my ability, which I happily accept as an ongoing challenge.

I knew I wanted to write a murder mystery. For the decades I worked in both theater and film, reading a good mystery at bedtime was just about the only way I could get my busy brain to disengage from my workday in order to relax and sleep.  

I was fortunate to have guidance and encouragement from my astute literary agent, Ann Collette. One of the first pieces of advice Ann gave me was “write what you know.”

That was when I balked. I didn’t really want to dwell in the world I’d just separated myself from. Not because of any bad feeling: I was simply ready to immerse myself in something completely fresh and new to me. Ann was patient. When I wrote an LA-based mystery with a private investigator protagonist, she pitched it beautifully to prospective publishers. Only after I garnered a collection of very polite rejection letters did she finally say, “Now if you want to sell a book, write what you know.”

This time I heeded her excellent advice. The irony is that I’d believed for many years that the film industry was a perfect place to set a murder mystery. What happens behind-the-scenes of a big movie in production is (to my way of thinking) often at least as interesting as the story being told in front of the camera.  

1930s costumes at the Western Costume Company

A movie company is it’s own unique community, made up of hundreds of people in the various departments — the director, cinematographer and his camera crew, the assistant directors, the production designer, art director and construction crew, set dressing, props, costumes, hair and makeup, grips, electricians, the teamsters who make sure all the trailers and equipment go where they need to be, the caterers and craft service people who feed us. And of course, the actors.

Anytime you have that many people gathered in one place, drama automatically ensues. And the everyday business of working on any film set offers such a huge variety of activities that are just part of the natural process of moviemaking, there’s always plenty of raw material to use as inspiration to drive the plot forward and to ramp up tension within the story. Plus, the characters you meet in the film world are quite an intriguing mix of talent and eccentricity. As the actor, Ben Mendelsohn said, “Crewing and being on film sets is kind of like being in a carnival, with carnie folk.”

What took me so long to come to my senses and write what I know? I wish I had a better answer than “my own stubbornness.”

Ann sold Final Cut to Crooked Lane Books on the first round of pitches. And this is what a good friend she is (in addition to being a great agent): She’s never said, “I told you so.”

READERS: Have you ever been given a piece of advice you initially rejected, then later realized was exactly what you needed to do? Marjorie will send a signed copy of Final Cut to one lucky commenter below. U.S. only.

About Final Cut

Every day on a big-budget Hollywood movie set is full of surprises, but the last thing key costumer Joey Jessop expected to find on the first day of shooting was the body of a murdered coworker. Because Joey found the body, and the victim was seeing her ex, she immediately becomes a suspect. Then the story blows up in the press and social media — and Joey finds her well-ordered life in shambles. That’s when things really start to go wrong for Joey and the movie as a series of dangerous mishaps interrupt the shoot. As circumstances spiral out of control Joey is forced to take matters into her own hands to try to salvage her career, and to save her own life.

About Marjorie McCown

Marjorie McCown spent 27 years working as a member of the costume design teams for movies such as Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, A Bronx Tale, Angels and Demons, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and X-Men Days of Future Past. She belongs to Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Her mystery, Final Cut, publishes June 6 by Crooked Lane Books.

62 Thoughts

    1. Thank you so much, Edith! It’s an honor to be a guest today on your wonderful blog!

  1. Congratulations on your new book! Oh definitely there’s been times when I’ve had to “eat crow” and take the advice I’d previously rejected. I tend to think I know best lol, and sometimes I just don’t!

  2. congratulations. Can’t say that i have but perhaps i have just not understood what i needed to learn yet???

  3. Congratulations on the release of FINAL CUT! Sounds absolutely amazing and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review it.

    For years, I heard and was told “Change is good for the soul.”, but never too heed. I had always been more of a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type person. Hubby and I stayed in the same area due to my parents. We were all they had to help them – especially in the later years and the onset of Mom’s Alzheimer. I’ve never been one to grasp change without some kicking and dragging my heels it seems. Even our choice of homes was dictated on how life was going to be with one or both of my parents living with us to make caring for them easier.

    After the death of both parents and hubby’s retirement, there seemed to be nothing holding us in the place we had always called home. It was even my thoughts and feelings, to the great shock to hubby, that sent us exploring the possibilities of moving. We discarded all the “stuff”, including a lot that we had just because it had been handed down from grands, to parents to us, but had no emotional pull to us at all. Then we decided to build “our” dream home. We put in the things we had always dreamed about and took out all the extra space and rooms that would only mean more work to maintain and clean, but were never used. We drew up our own plans. Then more changes – we started exploring places to live, property that we loved and finding a builder. In the end, I found that making the plunge – making the change – was so worth it. I’m now in my happy place and hubby and I are enjoying our lives to the fullest. Something that won’t have happened if I hadn’t opened myself up to change. It’s definitely been good for my soul!

    Thank you for the fabulous chance to win a copy of FINAL CUT.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi, Kay, and thank you for sharing your inspirational story! I’m happy for you and your husband — it takes courage to embrace all those changes and to chart a new course.

  4. Congratulations on your book! Looking forward to reading it!

  5. Welcome to the Wickeds and congratulations on your book! Barb has mentioned several times how great it is! I look forward to reading it!

    1. Thank you so much, Sherry, for your kind words and for having me as a guest today! I’ve loved The Wickeds blog for years and it’s a thrill to be here.

  6. I didn’t want to change majors but then I got my masters In the field that I had thought about and was supremely happy ! Your book sounds great and I love to find a new series to read!

  7. Congrats on have a wonderful agent who steered you the right way. Many years ago, and for many years, I was told if I would stop drinking I would blossom. Finally, I did and I did. I’m not a movie person, nor performer junkie, but I do love a good story “behind the scenes.” I’m sure you have a lot of great stories tell.

    BTW, you can’t have worked in costume design for 27 years. You are aren’t that old in your picture!

    1. Oh, Ginny, you are too funny and sweet! But in all seriousness, thank you for being generous enough to share your story. Congratulations on overcoming that huge obstacle!

  8. Congratulations! What wonderful experiences in theatre. I have taken heed of advice and benefited greatly. I listened and appreciated wise input.

  9. I am thinking back to when I was much younger. My mother advised me not to marry the man who became my first husband. Actually, she did more than just advise me not to marry him because it caused a rift in my relationship with my mother. As it turns out, she was right! I later divorced and stayed single for a number of years before meeting the true love of my life.

  10. This mystery sounds unique and intriguing. I have been the recipient of many for good advice. Fortunate and happy now to have had mentors.

  11. I was in theater in college and stopped my involvement in theater after I graduated because I needed to “be a grown up.” I was pretty unhappy until one day a good friend said to me, “You love theater. Go do theater!” I resisted for a little while longer and then found a community theater in need of a stage manager – and was involved in theater in Portland, OR for the next 25 years. Congratulations on your new release! I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you! So happy to hear your story! I’m also grateful for the years I spent working in theater, and I share your love for that special creative community.

  12. No real advice that I did or didn’t take, but I love the concept for this book. As a movie fan I think this is a great setting, and I’m sure there can be a lot of drama behind the scenes sometimes, so a murder mystery totally makes sense!

  13. Congratulations on the release of “Final Cut”. Sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading. There have been many times when I’ve regretted not taking unwanted advice from others.

    1. Oh yes, I’m sure I’ve been given advice that I didn’t take! Haha. Congrats on your book. Looks like a great read!!

  14. Congrats on the new release! As a lover of the entertainment industry, this sounds right up my ally. (Yes, please enter me in this giveaway.)

  15. .My dad’s advice was never er marry a working stiff but I fell in love with one. Almost 53 years and glad I didn’t listen.My dad loved him too btw.

  16. My mother said that I should be a secretary, and my brother should take business. Guess what we ended up doing. I wanted to be a Spanish teacher because I loved Spanish, but student teaching literally made me sick. Bob wanted to be a marine biologist, but when he didn’t have the grades to go out on the boats, he switched to Business. I’m happily retired now, ready to read about the movie biz!

  17. Congratulations on the release of FINAL CUT! I’m on my library’s wait list for the book.

  18. Yes, I have many times. When I started college, I was sure I was going to be a nurse. I took one of those tests to determine your strong suits. Nursing was not even one that showed up. I dismissed the test and continued with what I thought I wanted to do. A few years later, I discovered that the test was correct. I was not set up to be a nurse. God bless you.

  19. Congratulations on your new release! I think we have all had times where we have been given good advice and realized later we should have listened to it. I think we all have had regrets. It is part of the growth process.

  20. Congratulations Marjorie!!! Hollywood, costume design and murder? I’m in!! I am excited to read Final Cut. My wife and I have always been into fashion history, and we collected ladies’ vintage hats from the 1900s’ to the 1970s’. We amassed over 1300 hats in pristine condition. We learned so much about the fashions and designers of the era, especially about the movie stars. This relates to your question: During the pandemic, my wife told me we should sell the collection, and I was fighting this, because I knew it would be a lot of work, and there were so many risks, “ifs” and “buts”…I actually was a bit daunted and really didn’t want to do it. After much research, I found how to sell one by one on a website that starts with “posh…” and almost instantly found a new passion…Much to my surprise, I have been selling our beloved treasures and connected with other collectors and established quite a rapport with them. I am semi-retired (travel agent, avocado rancher) and now I can devote some time to opening the hat boxes, inspecting the hats, steaming them, displaying them on our vintage mannequins, photographing them and listing them. I find myself going to the post office frequently to ship our beauties, who are now being cared for by other vintage hat aficionados! Thank you for introducing us readers to your exciting life, and your passion for books! All the very best! Luis at ole dot travel

  21. Oh, my gosh, Luis! How much would I love to look at your beautiful collection of vintage hats! And how wonderful that you have found a new passion and a new community through your love of these precious historical pieces — thank you so much for sharing your delightful story! Sending you all best wishes and thank you for your interest in FINAL CUT!

    1. Thank you so much for your reply, Marjorie. I hope this goes through, but this is my page where I list and sell our vintage hats…we have over 1,000 more to sell…but it is going well! Thank you so much again! https://poshmark.com/closet/lanu11

  22. Brava! Your agent has the heart of a teacher. In parent conferences, we’d agree that we had no idea how man repetitions it w-sould take for a lesson to “take,” but we’d keep trying until it did. <3
    A friend who does costumes for a college theater program has my forever respect for the thousands of masks she made . . . she made mine with ties instead of elastic, a life-saver indeed.

  23. I feel like you give the reader and inside view of how a movie is made. A community of professionals handle the setting up of scenes and filming along with casting the crew and feeding them.

  24. Congratulations on your book! I am looking forward to reading it. And welcome!

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