Clam Wake, No. 29 in the Bed-and-Breakfast series, debuts Aug. 12. Cousins Judith and Renie have covered a lot of ground and encountered a lot of corpses since 1991. (Wouldn't you think they could find a less gruesome hobby?)
The cousins are house-sitting on Whoopee Island for Auntie Vance and Uncle Vince at Obsession Shores on Whoopee Island. Big beach, great view, fridge full of food. What could possibly go...okay, so it's gloomy January, most of the residents are retirees who pass the time drinking cocktails and having extramarital affairs. But Judith and Renie are duty-bound to cast their aunt and uncle's proxy votes against changing the septic tanks to a sewer system. Before they can attend the meeting, the go for a stroll along the beach and discover a...yes! A dead body.
For once, Judith isn't reluctant about finding out whodunit, having felt she didn't bring her A Game in Gone With the Win. The hunt is on, including one for buried treasure and a mystery boat that appears at midnight from who knows where or why. There's also a spooky old house where the nonagenarian land owner rules with an iron fist--when he's not face-down in his lunch plate.
2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?
I've just finished The Alpine Zen which, as so many people assume is the end of the Emma Lord series. I do not assume this and plan to flip future titles (eldest daughter's idea) as in A______Alpine, B ______Alpine, etc. There are still tales to be told in Skykomish County. The story starts with the arrival of a strange young woman from California seeking her roots. Abandoned by her birth mother, but left with items indicating Mom had a special attachment to Alpine, Ren Rawlings seeks Emma's help. There's not much she can do for Ren, especially with the distraction of Sheriff Milo Dodge's deputies digging up a long-dead body at the dump site on the edge of town.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
The writing. I love what I do. I get cranky if I don't write for a couple of weeks. The other pleasure--let's call it a surprise--occurred in 2009 when I learned that two men had found the long-lost site of the real Alpine where my parents, grandparents and several other family members had lived from 1916-1928. A native of this area, Pat Burns was close to retirement at a college in Georgia and longing to get back to his native turf. He told old friend Tim Raetzloff that the only way he could ease his homesickness was by reading my Alpine series because the books evoked the region so well. Tim got hooked on the series, too, so when Pat retired, they went searching for the abandoned town site--and found it. I now have my own treasure chest of Alpine relics and have been to the old site just off the Stevens Pass Highway. The goal is to create a historic marker trail that would link two existing trails in the Cascade Mountains.
4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?
I have to think about this...I guess having to read through my own mss. 5-6 times during the writing and the production process. I've convinced it's all junk. Then I see the actual book and decide maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought.
5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Honor Thy Author. My complaint is the same as that of most other authors. Publishers' ad/marketing budgets seem tilted toward the Big Names that will sell without the hype. Yes, I get it that those best-selling authors help pay the freight for the rest of us. But it'd be money well-spent to toss more $$$ at less well-known writers. Of course there's also the complaint that publishers should never have let e-books be sold for half or even less of the price of a hardcover. But it's too late to do anything about that.
6. Are there three or four forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?
There are too many to mention, but the one that rankles most when it comes to recognition is Mary Roberts Rinehart, known as the American Agatha Christie. Rinehart, in fact, was published first and like Christie, wrote books other than mysteries (romance novels. plays, travel books). Yes, her books are dated, but so are Christie's. However, the mysteries are solid, the characters are engaging, and the settings are well-done. I should add that many of her books are still in print.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.
Okay, so I'm contrary by nature. I am NOT a morning person. My husband, Dave, and I had only been married for a few days before he told me that if I continued to get up to make him breakfast our marriage wouldn't last a year. I was noisy, sharp-tongued, and cussed a lot. I said, "Fine." And stomped back to bed. Fast forward to 1981: I was sound asleep at 7:15 a. m. (PDT) when Dave woke me to say that my agent, Donald MacCampbell, was calling from New York City. I staggered downstairs and picked up the phone. Donald announced that he had sold my historical romance (titled The Royal Mile by me, re-titled Love's Pirate by my editor) to Avon Books. I said, "That's nice. Thanks." Donald asked--in surprise--why I didn't sound excited. I replied, "Because I'm not awake and won't be until about 10:15. I'll call you back then--and be excited." I went back to bed, back to sleep--and woke up at 10 to (excitedly) call Donald.