Interviews with authors of mystery novels, from thrillers to cozies and everything in between. Host: Laura Brennan. Show notes and transcripts are available at http://DestinationMystery.com
Episode 78: Jennifer J. Chow: Cozy Mysteries and a Talking Cat
I looked over at the white cat, who had finally opened his eyes, and mulled over possible names. His coat was so poofy, it made him shapeless, like a giant marshmallow. Hmm, that wasn’t too bad of a name.
I cocked my head at Marshmallow, and he stared back at me with piercing sapphire eyes. We maintained eye contact for so long, it felt like a staring contest. I would show him who was boss.
Okay, I blinked first.
In the midst of the surreal times we're going through, it was beyond wonderful to sit down and chat with Jennifer J. Chow. I was already a fan of her Winston Wong cozy mysteries and I'd had the pleasure of meeting her at the California Crime Writers Conference last year. Her latest book, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, is the first in a new cozy series and is out this month -- just in time for the comfort read we all need.
A deserving victim. An adorable heroine. A talking cat. What more could you ask for?
Whatever it is, Jennifer hits it with the Sassy Cat Mysteries. Mimi Lee is a terrific heroine with strong family ties and a growing relationship with her telepathic cat -- as well as with the cute attorney she met doing laundry. For warmth and humor, this new series hits it out of the park.
Jennifer is also the author of the Winston Wong cozy series, starting with Seniors Sleuth, and featuring a male detective steeped in video games, as well as award-winning books for Young Adults and a host of short stories.
I particularly want to mention her short story "Moon Girl," which is in the anthology, Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack. Proceeds from this book are donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers, so definitely worth checking out.
Jennifer gives a shout out to a thriller she's currently loving, Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel, as well as to mystery writers Dale Furutani and Naomi Hirahara. And to learn more about Jennifer herself, check out her website.
And if you have already devoured Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, you can pre-order Book Two in the Sassy Cat mysteries, Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, right here.
Enjoy our conversation. As always, there is a transcript below if you prefer to read rather than listen.
I also want to wish you all well. During these crazy times, I hope you and yours are staying safe and finding comfort in each other and a good book. Take care!
Transcript of Interview with Jennifer J. Chow
Laura Brennan: Jennifer J. Chow writes multicultural mysteries and fantastical YA. Her Asian American novels include Dragonfly Dreams (a Teen Vogue pick), The 228 Legacy, the Winston Wong cozy mystery series, and a brand-new series called The Sassy Cat Mysteries. The brand-new first book in that series, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, is just out now. Jennifer,
Episode 77: Michael Bowen – Locked Rooms and Courtrooms
In June, 2019, a nice young man in a blue suit asked me “when was the last time you smoked marijuana, ma’am?” I told him the truth – semester break during my sophomore year at Tulane – because you don’t lie to the FBI.
I have no objection to the truth, but I don’t let it push me around.
-- False Flag in Autumn, Michael Bowen
I love a good locked room mystery almost as much as I love the Nick and Nora Charles dynamic. Author Michael Bowen combines both of these in several of his nifty, "plucky couples" series, starting with his first mystery, Badger Game.
But he is also the author of thrillers, and his latest book, False Flag in Autumn, pits a savvy political operative against evil -- and her own conscience. Complex characters and high stakes ignite this story, the second in the Josie Kendall series.
We also chat about the books that shaped his writing, and his life (turns out Perry Mason had an influence on Michael's choice of career). We're both fans of Agatha Christie (Alert! Spoilers for Murder on The Orient Express), Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner, among others.
You can learn more about Michael's books on his author page. As always, if you'd rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy!
Laura Brennan: Michael Bowen started writing while working as a trial attorney. While not playing Perry Mason in court, he was writing mysteries across genres including locked rooms, puzzle mysteries, and thrillers. Now that he's retired, we can look forward to many more books from Michael. Michael, thank you so much for joining me today.
Michael Bowen: Well, thank you for having me. I'm really looking forward to this.
LB: Tell me a little bit about your career pre-writing. How did you decide to get into law?
MB: Well, as I was growing up, I had basically two possible career paths. One was to become a journalist and the other was to become President of the United States. And I knew I couldn't start at President, so I had to do something to earn a living. So I settled on practicing law because that's the way Abraham Lincoln did it. He practiced law and then he became President. And I had a very healthy sense of self-esteem back then.
So, basically, I turned to law because I decided I wanted to be one of the people doing things that people write about instead of one of the people doing the writing.
In the first series that I began, it's a "plucky couple," and the male half of the plucky couple had to surrender his license to practice law because of some shenanigans that he engaged in. And the female half was what back in the sexist, early 1960s was called a Girl Friday for a law firm. So she wasn't a lawyer, but she did stuff that people found helpful.
Episode 76: Lea Wait
"What about this one?" I asked, passing several oil paintings and pointing to another large needlework. "It looks like a coat of arms."
"It does. Although about a third of the stitching is gone. I wonder if it was done here, or in England? Stitching coats of arms was more common there. Americans didn't have family crests or coats of arms."
The coat of arms was in poor condition. The glass protecting it was cracked, and dirt had sifted onto the embroidery. Threads were broken or missing in several places, so only part of the crest was clear, and the linen backing was torn in several places. Still, it fascinated me...
-- Lea Wait, Thread Herrings
Such a delight today to talk to the extraordinary Lea Wait. Life-long advocate for single-parent adoption and the adoption of older children, writer of historical books for young people and cozy mysteries for adults, Lea is as fascinating as her novels. Start by checking out her website, which includes discussion guides for her Antique Print Mystery Series and teacher guides for her books for children.
Like Maggie Summer, the heroine of her first series, Lea has worked as an antique dealer. She credits her grandmother -- also a dealer, in dolls and toys -- with sparking her love for antiques and auctions. The warmth in her novels is clearly echoed in our conversation when she talks about her family and the community of antique dealers -- which didn't stop her from plotting to kill some of them off! On the page only, of course.
Lea has so many books, I'm going to fail in any attempt at getting them all in order. However, her own website does a terrific job of parsing them so I'll link you back to that, and of course to her author page on Amazon. Although they're not mysteries, if you have children in your life, do check out her historical novels. As you'll see from our conversation, they give a very nuanced look at life in the 1800s.
In addition to her website, you can keep up with Lea on Facebook and Goodreads.
As always, if you'd rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy!
Transcript of Interview with Lea Wait
Laura Brennan: Author Lea Wait has written historicals, children's books, nonfiction, and not one, not two, but three cozy series set in her home state of Maine.
Lea, thank you for joining me.
Lea Wait: It's wonderful to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
LB: You are so interesting and accomplished that I almost don't know where to start. But since I'm a theater person, let us start with college because you majored in drama and English.
LW: I did indeed. It's been actually an immense help. I'm not sure my family was enthused at the moment, but I always wanted to be a writer and by working the theater, I learned a lot about dialogue.
Episode 75: Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Sunday morning, the quiet kind that I don’t get enough of. Until a minute ago I’d been on my second cup of coffee, reading Dreamland and starting to think about breakfast. Hopalong, dozing at my feet, stirred briefly as my phone went off. I saw from caller ID it was Burke Cunningham. I almost didn’t answer, and not just because I liked listening to my new ringtone. A call from Cunningham on a Sunday morning was like the cluck of a dentist as she works on your teeth. The news can’t be good. On the other hand, because he’s one of the most sought-after defense attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, the news would probably involve a job, which I could use right at the moment. But it also meant an end to a quiet Sunday morning of the kind I don’t get enough of. I answered anyway. Unlike my conscience, my bank balance always gets the better of me.
“What’d the cops say?”
“They said it was a good thing I didn’t get my ass shot.”
“They did not.”
“Perhaps I’m paraphrasing.”
“Not at the moment. They took the info. Put out a news release.”
“I saw the coverage. You’re a hero, again.”
“Slow news day. A zoo baby would have bumped me off the lineup in a heartbeat.”
-- Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Third Brother
Andrew Welsh-Huggins is a crime reporter and author of the Andy Hayes private eye mystery series. You can sign up for his newsletter on his website and keep up with him on Twitter and Facebook. And you can follow his recommendations for some of his own favorite PI reads, including Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series (and whenever the wonderful Sue Grafton is mentioned, I like to give a plug for the work of her father, C.W. Grafton, The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope and The Rope Began to Hang the Butcher, two of my all-time favorite mysteries).
Andrew also gives a shout out to Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series, and authors Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, and John D. MacDonald as masters of the PI genre.
Here are Andrew's own Andy Hayes books, in order:
1 - Fourth Down and Out
2 - Slow Burn
3 - Capitol Punishment
4 - The Hunt
5 - a style="color: #800000;" href="https://amzn.
Episode 74: Elizabeth McCourt
I repeated my thirty seconds of speeding up and thirty seconds of rest method, sprinting around the park's track. I was panting hard when I rounded the bend coming back to where I'd started. I veered off the track, my sneakers crunching on the gravel, and I slowed to a walk heading towards the playground area to hit the drinking fountain over by the swings. The swings were moving from the tiniest breeze, but otherwise all was quiet.
The water in the fountain was warm, and I let it cascade over the side of the bowl for a minute. I tested it with my hand, then leaned down and slurped some of the metallic-tasting, still-warm water. I closed my eyes and let the water splash into my face, shaking it off like a dog and wiping my eyes with my shirt.
"Over here, please help me!" A woman's voice yelped through sobs.
-- Elizabeth McCourt, Sin in the Big Easy
I am delighted to chat with debut mystery author, Elizabeth McCourt. An executive coach and former trial attorney, she brings a realism to the story, and not just the courtroom scenes. Elizabeth brings nuance to all her characters, but especially her protagonist, Abby Callahan, in the first of a projected series, Sin in the Big Easy.
Check out Elizabeth's website here (she's also on Twitter and Instagram), but also don't miss her TEDx talk, which appropriately enough is on the burden of carrying secrets. She also gives a shout-out to one of my favorite reads, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Woot!
Sin in the Big Easy also deals with human trafficking, which is a terrifying and important issue. I can't help but mention Peg Brantley's book, Trafficked. Since I interviewed Peg, it has won several awards and continues to add to the national discussion. Also, if you have teenagers in the house, a good way to open up the discussion would be to check out author Pamela Samuels Young's YA version of her own novel, #Anybody's Daughter, which deals with domestic trafficking and teen safety. If you want to learn more or if you know someone who might need help, CNN recently published a list of organizations around the world who are fighting human trafficking. The nonprofit Elizabeth mentions in New Orleans that helps women who have survived trafficking is Eden House. Their mission is "Heal, Empower, Dream," and they offer prevention education as well as resources and recovery services.
As always, if you'd rather read than listen, a transcript is below. Enjoy!
Episode 73: Sybil Johnson
When Rory bent down to inspect the flowerbed, she caught sight of something twinkling in the dirt. She knelt down on the grass and plunged her hand into the cool earth, clearing away the soil from around the sparkling object.
An involuntary cry of alarm sprang from her lips. Her tennis shoes slid on the damp grass as Rory leapt to her feet and gaped at the finger sticking out of the dirt. She closed her eyes and said to herself over and over again: It's not real. It's all in your mind. Once she'd convinced herself the finger was a vision caused by too many hours at the computer, she opened her eyes and stared down at the ground again.
The finger was still there.
-- Sybil Johnson, Fatal Brushstroke
Such fun to chat with Sybil Johnson about her cozy series, the Aurora Anderson mysteries. Her heroine combines the logic of a computer programmer with the ability to see -- and notice details -- with an artist's eye. The warmth of her circle of family and friends -- not to mention a good-looking detective and a steady supply of mysteries to solve -- makes this series a great find for cozy fans.
Sybil gives a shout-out to one of my favorite cozy authors, Gigi Pandian, whom I interview here, and also Leigh Perry's Family Skeleton mysteries. Also, if you -- like me -- happen to be a sucker for holiday mysteries, let me send you over to Janet Rudolph's website, Mystery Fanfare, where she routinely publishes lists of mysteries involving holidays both major and obscure.
There are three books in the Aurora Anderson Mystery series so far, and three more to come. Book Four, Designed for Haunting, will be out for Halloween, but you can preorder it now.
Aurora Anderson books in order:
1 - Fatal Brushstroke
2 - Paint the Town Dead
3 - A Palette for Murder
4 - Designed for Haunting
You can find Sybil online at her website (her questions for book groups are here), on Twitter, and on Facebook. And you can find her blogging at the fun group site, Type M for Murder. The group includes a style="color: #800000;" href="http://destinationmystery.com/episode-30-vicki-delany/" target="_blank" rel="no...
Delightful host and fun discussions
I was so happy to be a guest on this wonderful podcast. If you enjoy mysteries-Laura gets the best out of her guests to make sure the conversations are interesting. Thank you!
A treasure for mystery lovers!
Awesome podcast. Highly recommend to anyone who has a fondness in their heart for great mystery stories.
Great Podcast for Writers
A fascinating podcast for anyone who’s curious about mysteries or just wants to learn more about the craft of writing. As a writer herself, Laura asks the right questions of her guests to help reveal the thought processes that go into creating a spellbinding mystery. For anyone who aspires to professional writing, for those who enjoy writing, and for those interested in the mystery genre, this is a podcast not to be missed.