Friday, May 20, 2016

Interview with Mystery Writer Marilyn Levinson

My guest today is mystery and children's writer Marilyn Levinson. Marilyn and I are lucky enough to share a publisher, Uncial Press and I'm very happy to have the chance to interview her today. Here's Marilyn!

Where did you get the idea for your new novel, MURDER A LA CHRISTIE? 

I thought it would be fun to have my sleuth lead book club discussions about some of  Agatha Christie’s mysteries as she investigates the murders of various book club members.

Why did you choose this genre?

I love reading and writing mysteries. I adore secrets. They add intrigue and depth to a plot. All of my characters have secrets that rise to the surface as Lexie questions the members of the Golden Age of Mystery book club.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?

I had to spend time rereading many of Dame Agatha’s novels in order for me to create interesting discussions among the club members, discussions that often reveal aspects of their own lives, their values, and their reactions to the murders taking place in their wealthy community. Of course rereading the books wasn’t difficult, only time consuming.

I love Agatha Christie's mysteries and I've read a ton of them, but not for several years. I'd have to reread them too! Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I write in the late afternoon. It seems I have to go through my emails, take care of other writer-ly business before I’m able to settle down and write.

What do you want readers to come away with after they read MURDER A LA CHRISTIE?

I hope they’ve been entertained, as I think that is fiction’s primary purpose. I also hope my book will encourage readers to read a few Agatha Christie novels.

What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?

Though I’ve included ghosts and witches in some of my novels,  I think a full-blown fantasy would be fun.

When were you first published and how did that happen? Was it a long or short journey?

My book, And Don’t Bring Jeremy, a novel for kids that would now be considered YA, was published back in 1986. I was thrilled because it was reviewed in Publishers Weekly and was a nominee for six state awards. This was the third novel I’d ever written.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I plot out my novels, meaning I know the direction in which the book is going. That said, I create as I go along. My characters provide conflicts, actions and reactions, which help further the plot. Having everything planned out would be boring. I think we writers require elements of surprise.

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

I live on Long Island, New York, where I’ve lived most of my life. I started writing in early elementary school, then allowed myself to be discouraged by a high school English teacher. I started writing seriously when my sons were very small. They’re now in their mid forties.

I think many of us allow ourselves to be discouraged by others, so you're not alone in that. Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it? Does it help you with your writing?

I was a Spanish teacher for several years. I can’t say that it helps with my writing.

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing?

I think every fiction writer draws on his or her life experiences. Having been a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a friend; having traveled and lived in various countries provide me with many plot ideas and help me develop my characters and their relationships.

If you could get rid of something in your life that would give you more writing time, what would it be?

Email. So much of it now consists of messages from companies trying to get me to use them to help me sell more books, write faster, write better. I can’t resist checking them out until I come to their prices.

Do you have any pets? Are you cat person or a dog person? Or are you into totally different pets, like goldfish? What do you like best about your pet?

I love my red tabby Sammy, even though he had a tendency to bite at times. He’s a wonderful companion and is usually stretched out close by. I love dogs, but I LOVE cats. My Pinterest cat and kitten boards are filled with pictures of the furry felines.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I read novels, have recently started to knit again, watch foreign films, and dine out elegantly with my significant other, I also love to see my grandkids on FaceTime.

What did you want to be (occupation-wise) when you were a child?

I wanted to be a writer or a ballet dancer.

Name two authors we might find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.

A mystery by Ann Cleeves or by Charles Todd.

What are two (or more) of your all-time favorite books in any genre?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

What do you like best about your heroine in MURDER A LA CHRISTIE?

I love Lexie Driscoll. She’s smart and funny, but she makes terrible decisions when it comes to men. Her first husband left her when she was pregnant with their son. It irks her that now father and son are great pals, living in California near one another. Both are musicians. Lexie’s second husband, a fellow professor, proved to be as mad as the proverbial hatter. He burned down her house with himself inside it. In Murder a la Christie,  Lexie meets two eligible, sexy men, both of whom find her attractive. Will she pick the right one this time?

How do you choose the names and physical characteristics of your characters? Do you base them on real people?

I choose names that I feel suit the character. Most of my characters have nicknames. Lexie’s real name in Alexis; Gabbie’s is Gabriela. My characters are not based on real people. I get to know their personalities, strengths and weaknesses as the book develops.

Tell us a little about your current work in progress.

Not everyone is pleased when Carrie Singleton is named director of programs and events in her hometown library. Carrie’s first guest is a retired detective who promises to expose Laura Foster’s murderer, the case he couldn’t solve fifteen years earlier. He’s poisoned before he can share information with the audience. With too few clues,  Carrie and Laura’s younger son, Jared, set out to solve both murders.

If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?

I’d start with Giving Up the Ghost because it’s a fun mystery. Cameron Leeds, my ghost, is one of my favorite characters. In life he was a sexy, good-looking romeo and a wheeler dealer. You can imagine how being a conniver and a ladies’ man has made him several enemies. When Gabbie Meyerson rents the Leeds’ cottage, Cam badgers her until she agrees to find out who murdered him. She unearths many secrets and indiscretions before coming face-to-face with Cam’s killer.

How can readers reach you or find you online?

My website is: I’m also on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. I’ve my own blog and I blog on Make Mine Mystery twice a month.

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