The author herself (great necklace, by the way!)
As you know, I review a lot of the books I read. But this time I'm mixing things up by interviewing an author! I finished reading Ann Summerville's cozy mystery, A Graceful Death, last week. Cozy mysteries, for the uninitiated, are, well, cozy. They take place in small towns. The characters tend more toward shop owners and librarians than prosecutors and medical examiners. As for the gritty, gory details associated with urban mysteries, you won't find them here. Reading a cozy is like being wrapped in your grandmother's afghan with a cup of tea (or, if you're like me, hot chocolate); the tales are so familiar, so homey, that you hardly even notice a murder has been committed. The intrigue comes from trying to find out which seemingly amiable local yokel is secretly a cold-blooded killer. And what could be scarier than that? Whether you're crazy for cozies or looking to check out something new, you're in luck. Ann is giving away three copies of her new book, High Tide! All you need to do to enter is follow her blog, Cozy in Texas, http://www.cozyintexas.blogspot.com/, and leave your email address in a comment. Best of luck! Now, let's get to know Ann.
1. The Tote Trove (TTT): Murder is gruesome. What techniques do you employ to ensure that your murder mysteries stay cozy?
Ann Summerville (AS): Although there is a death, cozy mysteries don’t usually contain a lot of gruesome aspects. The stories are more like those in movies such as Arsenic and Old Lace. My books not only cover the mystery, they also delve into the relationships within a small community.
2. TTT: In A Graceful Death, the main character, Giovanna, quits her London office job to open an antiques shop in Cornwall. Did you or someone you know ever make such a drastic life change? What appeal do you think this plot element holds for readers?
AS: Although I didn’t open an antiques shop, I moved to Cornwall from London and opened a bed and breakfast. The way of life and slower pace was so different from what I was used to, but I loved walking along the cliffs and getting to know the villagers in the local pub. It was such a contrast to life in a major city. I think deep down we would all like to experience village life and belong to a place where, as in "Cheers," “everyone knows your name.”
3. TTT: The theme of family is strong in A Graceful Death. Did your own family experiences influence the relationships in the book?
AS: Experiences were not taken from my family, but from observations of how people interact with each other. For example, some people embrace newcomers whereas others are threatened by them.
4. TTT: What made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
AS: I have always enjoyed writing. As a child I’d sit with my grandmother when she wrote letters to her sister. Eventually I joined in and wrote to aunts and uncles, embellishing the letters to no end. A few years ago I began to put stories down on paper, which resulted in three cozy mystery novels.
5. TTT: Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you use an outline, planning the plot first, or do you just start writing and see where the story takes you?
AS: I’ve written stories with and without an outline. Two of my novels were written during National Novel Writing Month, which stresses writing each day and letting the story take shape without editing, correcting, or spending time on an outline. Most of the time, I’ll do an outline after the first draft to see where I need to make changes.
6. TTT: What's the biggest challenge you face as a writer? Conversely, what's the most rewarding thing about writing?
AS: A lack of knowledge about the publishing industry presented a challenge. I'm fortunate to have a wonderful critique group at Trinity Writers’ Workshop; I've learned a lot through the members and writing conferences. The most rewarding thing about writing is receiving the proof of the finished novel in the mail and, of course, hearing from my readers.
7. TTT: What are your interests outside of writing?
AS: I’m always trying new things, but my most consistent interests are reading, gardening, quilting, and knitting.
8. TTT: You're a native of England now living in Texas. That's a big move. What do you miss most about England? What was the best thing about your move? The worst?
AS: The one thing I miss about living in England is its history. When I worked in London, I loved the old architecture and the stories behind it. Jean Plaidy and Anya Seton were my favorite authors, and I spent many hours searching for places that were mentioned in their historical novels. The change in weather is both the best and worst thing about living in Texas. Although I escaped the rain in England, the Texas summers are brutal.
9. TTT: Do you read other mystery writers? Who is your favorite author, and why?
AS: I do enjoy other mysteries, particularly those that are cozy. My favorite author is M.C. Beaton. I love her character, Agatha Raisin.
10. TTT: And now for the just-for-fun question I ask all my interviewees: If you were stranded on a desert island and had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
AS: It would have to be hamburgers from In-N-Out Burgers. I’ve missed those hamburgers since moving to Texas from California; on one visit we ate there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Fortunately, one is due to open in Fort Worth in the near future.
P. S. Don't forget to enter her book giveaway at http://www.cozyintexas.blogspot.com/ :)