I want to welcome cozy mystery writer Judy Alter. Can I pour you a cup of coffee?
JUDY: Yes, please. I take it black.
Ally: While we're settling settled, let's let readers take a look at your bio, including something personal that you wouldn't normally include. We like to know dark secrets around here. :)
I’m a lifelong writer—started at the age of ten—and have been published one way or another since 1978. I’ve written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, many books about women in the American West (some of which are available again in e-book form), and a some random books that don’t categorize easily but the last six years or so I turned my attention to cozy mysteries. I’ve written the Kelly O’Connell Mystery series with four books in print, and the Blue Plate series. I plan to branch out soon.
I was also in publishing for almost thirty years, twenty of them as director of a small academic press. Learned a lot that has help me but also hindered me from adjusting to the changing times.
The most important part of my life, however, is not writing but the four children I raised as a single mother. They are wonderful people today and have given me seven terrific grandchildren.
I currently write two series: Blue Plate Cafe Mysteries and Kelly O'Connell Mysteries.
No dark secrets, but I’m a devotee of chocolate and white wine (preferably together). My youngest daughter once said our house could run on cottage cheese, Paul Newman’s Own Vinaigrette, and white wine.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyAlter (although I’m not good about checking it)
Ally: I know you've written in more than one genre, but it seems like cozy mystery is your favorite. For readers who are not familiar with the genre, how would you define a cozy as contrasted with a traditional mystery?
JUDY: I get all mixed up between cozies and traditional mysteries, because I sometimes think the two terms are synonymous. What they are not is suspense, thriller, paranormal, etc. My definition of a cozy is that it usually has an amateur sleuth who has a job beyond her sleuthing; she is often single and in the midst of a romantic entanglement. Violence and sex are hinted at but generally off-screen, and there is a satisfactory ending. The reader unravels the mystery along with the protagonist, whereas in a suspense or thriller, the reader knows who the killer is. The protagonist and killer are on parallel paths that will eventually intercept—can the protagonist solve the mystery before coming face to face with the killer?
Ally: Why do you write, and I presume read, mysteries? What is the lure?
JUDY: I write cozies because I’ve read them all my life and like them better than any other genre. It’s less plot than character that draws me to them—I like to get lost in the world of the book. I don’t think I have the stomach for violence or the imagination for the paranormal.
Ally: Describe your typical writing day - where, when, daily goals.
JUDY: When I’m actively in the midst of a novel, my goal is a thousand words a day. But that gets interrupted a lot. I like to write in the morning or late evening—but mornings are sometimes taken up with grocery trips, doctors’ appointments, and the like, plus I frequently have lunch with friends. Afternoons are devoted to one of my grandsons—I pick him up at school and we do homework together. Long answer short: I write when I can.
Ally: Your latest book, Murder at the Tremont House, has a paranormal aspect. Can you tell us about grandma?
JUDY: Gram raised her twin granddaughters from early childhood, ran a café all their lives. When she dies suddenly, Kate takes over the café, and she often hears Gram advising her from the beyond. Since Kate is the only one Gram talks to, it’s frustrating. She can’t say to her troublesome twin, “Well, Gram said….” Gram’s advice is often cryptic, and she fades away before Kate can start a discussion with her. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to writing paranormal.
Ally: Let's try some quick Answer Questions:
- sneakers or sandals: sneakers
- favorite nail polish color: don’t wear nail polish; if I did it would be subdued colors
- favorite writing tool: writing in Word and getting that first sentence down, which unleashes thoughts I didn’t know I had
- what comes first, characters or plot: characters definitely come first—in writing and in reading
- last vacation destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico; love it, might live there if I could afford it.
It’s the second in my Blue Plate Café Mystery series. It all begins when free-lance journalist Sara Jo Cavanaugh comes to Wheeler to do an in-depth study of Kate’s town for a feature on small-town America, Kate senses she will be trouble. Sara Jo stays at the B&B, Tremont House, run by Kate’s sister, Donna. Unwittingly, Sara Jo drives a further wedge into Donna’s marriage to Wheeler’s mayor Tom Bryson. And soon she’s spending way too much time interviewing high school students, one young athlete in particular. Police chief Rick Samuels ignores Kate’s instinct, but lawyer David Clinkscales, her former boss from Dallas, takes it more seriously.
Sara Jo arouses so much animosity in Wheeler with the personal, intrusive questions she asks, that when she is found murdered, the list of suspects is long. But Kate heads the list, and she must clear her name, with the help of David and Rick. A second murder confirms that someone is desperate, and now Rick is convinced Kate is in danger.
There’s a love triangle, a cooking school, a kidnapping, a broken marriage, and a lot of adventure before the ingredients of this mystery stew are discovered, and Wheeler can go back to being a peaceful small town. If it ever does.
UPDATE: Amazon buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Tremont-House-Plate-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00IOC6YAQ/