Posted in Authors, Books, Cats, Cozies, Cozy Chat, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery, Cozy Series

Cozy Chat with L.J.M. Owen

cozycatpicAlthough I consider myself a romantic suspense author and fan, I also used to be an avid reader of cozy mysteries especially those featuring cats. For those of you who also share that interest, I will be featuring Cozy Chats with cozy mystery authors on this blog. If you are an author who writes a cozy series and would like to participate in a future Cozy Chat, please contact me.

OlmecObituary_cover_HIRES (1)Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with L.J.M Owen about Olmec Obituary, Book One in the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series. It is a planned cozy mystery series of 9 books.

Hi, L.J.M. Thanks for joining us on Cozy Chat. Have a seat and help yourself to some tea while we talk.

 

 

2015-12-03 22.12.07 Can you tell us a little bit about this new series? What gave you the idea for it?

Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth is the story of an archaeologist/librarian who solves ancient mysteries from across the globe, with plenty of forensic science, culinary exploration and historic trivia along the way. There are ancient libraries, modern libraries, cats and – of course – recipes in the back.

Book One in the series, Olmec Obituary, introduces Dr Elizabeth Pimms as she struggles with a job she doesn’t want, a family she both loves and resents, and the volatile excavation director of a royal Olmec cemetery. Amid seventeen concealed skeletons, an evolving mental library and Welsh soup Elizabeth strives to determine cause of death for a 3,000 year old athlete before being fired.

2015-12-03 22.28.50This first mystery, and the second one, feature the archaeology of ancient Mexico. The remainder of the series will explore the ancient cultures, homicides and libraries of Egypt, Mongolia, Persia, India, China, Britain and Crete.

My original inspiration for the series was a sense of wanting to give back.

Like many quiet, studious children I never quite fit into the world around me. I spent much of my childhood escaping into storyworlds created by others. As an adult, tired, stressed and overworked, I continued to snatch an hour or two in those otherworlds to recharge my batteries.

As a writer I realized I wanted to construct another space for readers to escape to. I figured the most sensible course of action was to draw on what I knew. I have a degree in archaeology, a degree in library management and a PhD in palaeogenetics, so felt most comfortable writing about these subjects. I could also indulge my love affair with other cultures, past and present.

And like many, I am intrigued by the classic whodunit. I love to pit my reasoning skills against the fictional detective of the hour.

So Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth was born. It’s a mix of the archaeology of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, the forensic science of Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series and the cozy setting of TV series such as Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. With more libraries.

My hope is, ultimately, that the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series becomes another place of refuge for readers everywhere.

How very interesting. I don’t know if you know that I’m a librarian as well as an author, and your series sounds especially appealing to me – cats and libraries how can you go wrong?

Do you have any advice to other authors about writing cozies or writing in general?

Read the books you love. Read the kind of books you want to write. Study the basics of storyworld, character, plot and theme. Sit down and write for at least an hour a day. Research how to improve your writing. Rinse and repeat.

Remember that if you love what you write chances are someone else will too. Some people will also hate it. That’s just how it works. The important thing is to know exactly what sort of book you have written and make it clear to potential readers to increase the chances so that the people who pick it up have a good chance of liking it.

That’s exactly what I believe, too. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on Book Two in the series, Mayan Mendacity, which sees Dr Pimms contend with the maimed skeleton of a Mayan warrior, a vengeful Tikal Queen, the Phantom of the Stacks and an intruder in her phrenic library. I can’t wait to finish writing it! I’d like to release it ahead of Christmas next year.

Do you write any other genres than cozies?

I’ve started work on a range of short stories in other sub-genres of crime but at the moment I’m having too much fun with cozies with an archaeological twist.

I don’t blame you. I’ve written some short stories I’d like to gather into a collection one day, but they are very different than “A Stone’s Throw,” and I’m working on a sequel to that right now. My publisher, Limitless Publishing, is planning to put out a holiday anthology next year, and I’m hoping to contribute to that.

Can you tell me how you got started in writing?

I worked through some online writing courses and read widely on how to develop rich, rounded characters. I prepared the overarching storylines for the whole series and developed full character sketches for the top twenty characters in the series.

As I’m a very planned writer I love the ‘snowflake method’ developed by Randy Ingermanson, which he provides free on his website (just Google ‘snowflake method’). When it came to drafting Olmec Obituary I followed this method fairly closely.

To be honest, for me, it turned out that the process of writing was as natural as breathing. It’s everything else that goes along with being a writer that I struggle with. Typesetting, printing, distribution, marketing, PR and social media were far more challenging for me than writing.

I feel exactly the same. And, coincidentally, I also took online writing classes my library offered through Gale Courses before I wrote my novel. I’ve never heard of the snowflake method, but I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the info.

What are your hobbies besides writing?

I love investigating many branches of archaeology and history. I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting with a huge range of recipes – under strict feline supervision, of course!

lol. Cats do like to observe us humans

Is there anything else you’d like readers of this blog to know about you and/or your books?

As I’m Australian the series is written in British English. If a reader is used to American English I think this enhances their experience of escaping to another time and place, but I know some readers who prefer American English like to know about the slightly different spelling upfront.

Here’s a few links for readers of your blog who are interested in Olmec Obituary.

Paperback copies from Book Depository with Free International Shipping: http://bit.ly/1IR0H30

e-copies from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XRgTNG

The Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Book Series Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1N8nyej

A Booklover Book Review: http://bit.ly/21LokWl

The Goodreads entry (with reviews): http://bit.ly/1QbUrub

Happy reading!

Wonderful! Thank you so much for joining us on Cozy Chat today, and good luck with the series.

 

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Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cats, Characters, Dogs

Interview with My Characters

interviewblogpostI decided to interview six characters from my upcoming novel, “A Stone’s Throw.” I conducted the interviews at the Cobble Cove Library, the main setting of the book. The people interviewed were:

Alicia Fairmont – Protagonist of “A Stone’s Throw.” She is forty-two, a librarian, and the widow of Peter Fairmont.

John McKinney – The newspaper publisher of the Cobble Cove Courier. He is forty-five, a widower, and Alicia’s new love interest in the novel.

Sheila Whitehead – The fifty-two year old director of the Cobble Cove library.

Jonathan McKinney, Sr. (Mac) – The eighty-year old founder of the Cobble Cove library who is semi-retired. He is John’s father.

Sneaky Cat – The Siamese library cat at Cobble Cove Library.

Fido – John and Mac’s old Golden retriever.

I asked all six the following three questions:

Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favorite and least favorite part of the book?

Why do you think Debbie chose you as a character in “A Stone’s Throw?”

What other characters did you like and dislike in the book?

The four humans sat around a table in the reading room of the Cobble Cove Library. Sneaky, the library cat, was in his cat bed by the Local History section, and Fido was at Mac’s side.

As the lead character, Alicia answered first. She shook her long, chestnut hair away from her face and paused as she considered my questions. “It’s hard not to give away spoilers, but I would say one of my favorite parts of the book was when John took me up to Cobble Point and showed me the view of the town and the cove. I think I started falling in love with him then.  As far as my least favorite part of the book, I think it was when I discovered something that implicated John in my husband’s murder, but I can’t elaborate on that without giving away too much of the plot.”

“I think Debbie chose me because I’m a librarian like she is, and I know authors prefer to write about what they know. I liked most of the townspeople in “A Stone’s Throw,” although it was hard to get to know Dora, the innkeeper, and Casey, the diner owner, at first. I also had mixed feelings about Sheila. The character I think I disliked the most was Detective Ramsay. He took the definition of ‘Bad’ cop a bit too far.”

Next up was John. He smiled, showing the dimple in his left cheek. “I really loved showing Alicia the town and walking around Dora’s garden at the inn. It was really fun to paint with her, too. I hated it when I had to admit my relationship with Tina, and it really hurt me when Alicia stopped trusting me.”

“Debbie probably chose me because I’m so good looking. Just joking. She needed a love interest for Alicia, and I filled the bill. It also helped that I was a newspaper publisher and was also dabbling at writing a mystery. I guess I was Debbie’s other half. Alicia was the librarian, and I was the writer.”

“I try to get along with most people, but Detective Ramsay really tried my patience.”

Sheila answered after John. She tossed her flaming red hair over her shoulder and kicked her boots out from under the table. “I liked showing my strength when I shoveled my walk with John after the snowstorm. I also really enjoyed having tea and chatting with Alicia when we were snowbound at the library. I didn’t like when I realized some of the stupid mistakes I’d made.”

“Debbie probably picked me because I was such a strong character, and I was close to John in a platonic way. I also didn’t like Detective Ramsay, and I almost told him where to shove it (excuse my language). I found Betty, the homebound, a bit exasperating, too, but I felt sorry for her.”

Sneaky meowed when it was his turn to “talk.” He jumped out of his cat bed and joined the group. “I liked the part where I got to sleep with Alicia and helped her find one of the big clues in the book. I didn’t like it when Alicia and John left me alone, and Mac forgot to feed me.”

“My cat sixth-sense tells me Debbie picked me for her book because I’m Siamese like her cat, Oliver. She also loves to write about cats and is even a member of the Cat Writer’s Association.”

“I didn’t like Sheila that much because she never wanted to clean my litter box and always left it up to Mac or John and even had Alicia do it.”

Fido barked for his turn. “I loved when John put me on the mission that was the pivotal point in the plot, but I can’t give that away. I didn’t like it when Alicia and Sheila doubted I was dog enough to help them because of my age.”

“I liked John and Mac the best because they were my owners. I didn’t like Detective Ramsay. He smelled bad literally.”

“I’d wager a bone that Debbie chose me because she had to consider the dog loving readers out there, but I also know that she likes all animals, even though she is partial to cats.”

Mac tapped his cane. “Don’t forget about me.  I loved the part where I told Alicia that things happen for a reason. That was the best line in the book. I didn’t like when John confronted me about issues in my past that forced me to reveal some things I’d done when I was young.”

“I would figure Debbie gave me a role in her book because I had the most experience and, if I wasn’t the smartest, at least I was the one who had the most sense.”

“The character I liked the most was John because he was my only son. I also grew to like Alicia a bunch. Sheila and I sometimes rubbed one another the wrong way, but I respected her. Ramsay was a rude guy, but he was only trying to do his job. Faraday was a lot nicer if you like cops.”

As the interview wrapped up, I thanked all the characters and told them I’d try being gentle when I edited their parts.

 

 

 

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Authors, Books, Characters

My Character, Myself

characterimageI was asked to write a synopsis with a character-oriented focus to help my publisher create some cover copy for my upcoming book. While doing this, I began to reflect on how I created the varied characters, some major and some minor, in “A Stone’s Throw.” I think it’s pretty obvious that the librarian protagonist, Alicia Fairmont, is based on me. While she’s not identical in her personality or looks, there are some interesting similarities. When the story starts, she has been a librarian for 17 years. I’ve been one for over 20. She and her husband have been married 15 years without children. I had my daughter after 15 years of marriage. She has chestnut hair (some people consider my hair reddish brown), and she is quite stubborn (I’m a Taurus, need I say more?).

What about the rest of my characters? Going back to my previous analogy of authors giving birth to their book, I believe that their characters are their “babies” that grow throughout the story.  In an online Gale Course I am taking on Mystery Writing, I am learning about the protagonist’s and antagonist’s flaws. No one is perfect, and characters share the same imperfections as real people, so it makes sense that they are based on real people – whether it’s the author or a relative, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance of the author. A character can also be a composite of more than one person. Characters are then shaped by their experiences, both the back story and the continuing plot.

Some authors create detailed sketches of their characters before even adding them to their manuscripts (I wish I had been one of those). Like me, others create characters as they write. It often feels that the characters create themselves.

Another type of character that adds interest to a book is the pet character. As a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, I am familiar with cat and dog mysteries such as those written by Rita Mae Brown, Carole Nelson Douglas, Shirley Murphy, Lilian Jackson Braun, Amy Shojai and others. While the cat and dog characters in “A Stone’s Throw” don’t speak or solve mysteries by themselves, they play important roles. Sneaky, the Siamese who is the Cobble Cove library cat, is modelled after my 15-year old Siamese cat, Oliver. Fido, the old, overweight golden retriever, is just the perfect type of dog for 80 year old Mac.

The most important thing about a character is that a reader can relate to that person and finds the person interesting, not a flat caricature. I believe one of my strong points as a writer is the way I depict characters. I hope you will agree when you read “A Stone’s Throw.”