Are you ready for a little ghostly murder? Join me in welcoming mystery writer Fran Stewart, who brought her latest book, A Wee Homicide in the Hotel.
What do you prefer to drink, Fran?
FRAN: The only time I drink coffee (decaf) is in a restaurant so I can warm my hands on the cup. Otherwise, I like hot tea or hot chocolate (even in the summertime)
Ally: A spot of tea it is. Meanwhile, please introduce yourself to readers.
Fran Stewart is the author of the ScotShop Mysteries, including A Wee Dose of Death and A Wee Murder in My Shop, and the Biscuit McKee Mysteries (seven books so far), as well as a standalone mystery A Slaying Song Tonight and the non-fiction From the Tip of My Pen: a workbook for writers. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Atlanta Writers Club, and the National League of American Pen Women, and lives simply in a quiet house beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, with various rescued cats. She reads, knits, gardens, volunteers in her grandchildren’s school library, and manages quite happily without a television set.
Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "I’m addicted to Sudoku, and the harder they are, the better I like them."
Visit her online at http://franstewart.com
http://facebook.com/FranStewartAuthor or email: email@example.com
Ally: What kind of books do you write?
FRAN: Traditional mysteries. Definitely PG-13 with no overt anything!
Ally: Discuss your writing process, your schedule, and goals.
FRAN: You can tell I’m balanced between my left brain and my right brain. I love spreadsheets and use them in multiple ways, not just for finances, but for to-do lists, gas mileage, book club selections, book character lists, and daily writing goals.
I generally start my writing early each morning. I have my manuscript on the left side of my screen and my spreadsheet on the right. It tells me how many days I have left until my deadline, how many words I’ve written so far, how many words left until I meet the word-count goal for the entire book, how many words I need to write each day in order to meet my deadline.
After I’ve written a bunch of words, I plug the word count into my spreadsheet, and it tells me how I’ve done. If I haven’t met the goal, I just keep writing. If I pass it, I can either choose to keep going (which is almost always my choice, especially if I’m on a roll, or stop for the day and do something else (which I choose if the writing seems to be lagging).
I have another section of the spreadsheet where I list the chapters as I write them, along with a short reminder of what’s in the chapter. If the chapter line is highlighted in green, it means I’ve actually written it. If the row is gray, that means this is a chapter I’m considering or simply haven’t written yet. Sometimes I skip those gray rows and go back and write them later, depending on how my brain is working that day. There have been times when I’ve written the last chapter (green) before I’ve written the first (gray), although I don’t recommend that as a usual way to write a book.
Ally: Do you have a writer's cave? Describe where and under what conditions you do most of your writing.
FRAN: I have a wonderful office off the den, but I hardly ever use it. I prefer to write at my dining room table where I can watch birds fluttering around the multiple feeders in my front yard, and keep an eye out for the two cats who found that I’d feed them (sucker lives here!) if they peered in through the front window. I never have music playing or anything electronic plugged in (except for my laptop). I haven’t had a TV for 24 years, and silence is by far the best inspiration for me. That said, I am also quite capable of blocking out all conversations around me and writing in a noisy coffee shop. When story ideas pop up, I try always to listen, even if it’s just to jot down the general gist of what I’ve thought of, no matter where I am.
Ally: Do you prefer to read standalones or series? Which do you prefer to write?
FRAN: I prefer to read series, definitely. Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache, Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Claire Ferguson, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody are all people who intrigue me, as I have watched them and their friends and families grow through the years. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that I love to write series. Years ago, when I finished my first published book, ORANGE AS MARMALADE, several of the characters stood up and said, “I have more to say for myself. You’d better get busy writing it down.” So I did.
Ally: Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?
FRAN: Definitely, although I certainly hope it’s not too obvious. There are a number of experiences that are just too good or too important not to share. In my Biscuit McKee mysteries, for instance, I created a character who was bipolar and used my experiences growing up with my sister, whose bipolar disorder had not then been diagnosed. I see it as part of my responsibility as a writer to educate gently about such issues, so I include suicide prevention, long-term effects of abuse, and other such social issues in each of my Biscuit McKee mysteries. I also give toll-free numbers and websites in a resource list at the end of each book.
In the ScotShop mysteries, I drew heavily on my experiences having seen three ghosts (the first when I was in my early twenties and the next two when I visited London in my thirties). The way in which Peggy is able to see through the otherwise substantial Dirk is a direct description of how I saw a wall in the Tower of London through the green dress of a female ghost.
Peggy’s almost juvenile anger at Dirk’s constant proximity in the second ScotShop book, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, is based on a very low time of my life, while the almost lyrical death scene of the elderly Wallace Masters in INDIGO AS AN IRIS, my 5th Biscuit McKee mystery, nearly duplicates the gentle death of my father as I experienced it sitting beside him.
Ally: What is your next writing project and when will it be available?
FRAN: WHITE AS ICE, summer 2017
All seven of my Biscuit McKee mysteries so far have been set in the fictional town of Martinsville, which was founded in 1745. Everybody knows Homer Martin was the founder, but nobody knows the real story -- until the biggest ice storm of the century hits Martinsville and 20 people take refuge in Biscuit and Bob’s big old rambling house, which is heated by a woodstove. The men all stay in the kitchen playing cards, while the women head up to the crowded attic and begin going through old trunks and hatboxes, exploring dim corners, and searching through armoires. When they find a diary written by Mary Frances, whom everyone knows was the wife of Homer Martin, they uncover the biggest mystery of them all. And of course, as with any mystery, there are a few dead bodies strewn here and there.
Ally: Let's try a few short answer questions.
- a. Book you're currently reading: Cronkite’s War: His World War II Letters Home by Walter Cronkite Jr. (living room book); Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (reading nook book); The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (book club selection for this month—audio book in car) and Seeing a Large Cat by Elizabeth Peters (bedtime book) – Yes. I generally have four books going at once, and yes, I can keep them all straight in my mind.
- b. An author (living or dead) you'd love to take to lunch: Dorothy L Sayers, although I’d have to brush up on my Latin and French first.
- c. Favorite quote: from Louisa May Alcott – “I am no longer afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my own ship.” (Little Women, chapter 44)
- d. Your pets: I am owned by three cats, all rescues. Callie (strictly indoors) - tortoiseshell; Fuzzy Britches (outside, although she comes in to eat twice a day. Sleeps under my porch usually) – champagne and white tabby; BeeCeeAyTee (accent on the third syllable) – black, which is how she got her name “B for black-C-A-T” (outside, sleeps in the soft cat bed on my front porch bench)
- e. Favorite after-five drink: Glenfiddich single malt Scotch, although I imbibe only once or twice a month, since I love the anticipation almost as much as the drink itself.
Ally: It's been terrific getting to know you. Good luck with your writing. Before you go, please tell us a little about A Wee Homicide in the Hotel...
Book Blurb from Back Cover:
The annual Highland Festival in Hamelin, Vermont, means caber tossing, sword dancing, and just a spot of murder...
Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customer’s family names to their clan plaid.
Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer—because another death would really blow...
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