Sunday, January 22, 2012

Interview with Marja McGraw

My guest this week is Marja McGraw, mystery author. Welcome, Marja, and please tell us something about yourself.

Good morning, everyone! I’m delighted to be Pat’s guest today. I write mysteries that are lighter with a little humor. I write two series; The Sandi Webster Mysteries and the Bogey Man Mysteries. Sandi Webster is a female P.I. who’s constantly learning and growing, and for some odd reason dead bodies keep showing up on her radar. The Bogey Man is actually a man named Chris Cross who’s a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart, and he’s a family man. He seems to have the same radar problem as Sandi, but he has a wife and young son who want in on the action. And there will be more action in February, 2012, when the Bogey Man’s latest adventure is released. Watch for Bogey’s Ace in the Hole from Oak Tree Press.

1) What kinds of books do you like to read?

I enjoy mysteries more than any other genre, but I’ll read just about anything that’s humorous, too. One of my favorite books is Marley & Me by John Grogan because it made me laugh, and cry, and then laugh again. Occasionally I read biographies and other non-fiction books, but you’ll usually find me with a mystery in my hands.

2) Who are your favorite authors, past and present?

Harper Lee tops the list. There are so many. Rhys Bowen, Janet Evanovich, Mary Higgins Clark, Clive Cussler, Dorothy Bodoin, Elizabeth Peters, Marilyn Meredith, W.S. Gager, Beverly Connor… The list is so long that I can’t list everyone. I’m hooked on Stuart Palmer from the 1930s. I just finished one by Stuart Kaminsky and started one by Carolyn Hart. Rita Lakin, Earlene Fowler and James Harriot. Oh, I don’t know where to stop. I used to read only the books by big name authors, and finally branched out. I’m discovering some wonderful writers that I would have missed if I hadn’t started paying attention to what’s new and who’s new. You’re a great example.

3) Are there any authors who have inspired you to write and, if so, who are they?

Harper Lee in particular. Her characters felt so real to me. Also, any author who creates characters I can relate to and any author who includes humor in their stories inspires me. A reader has to like the characters as well as the story or it just isn’t memorable, in my opinion.

4) How do you choose your characters’ names?

Interestingly, for the most part I wanted names which people could relate to, because (and this is just me) I can relate to a character named Susan easier than I can relate to a character named Esmeralda Hickeltoff. Okay, the story behind that is when I was a kid my sister and brother convinced me they went to school with a girl who had a tail, and her name was Esmeralda Hickeltoff. Siblings! Although, you’ll notice I never forgot the name.

5) Do you plan your novel from beginning to end either in your head or by outline or jotting down notes? Or, are you a “pantser”?

I’m more of a pantser. I know the general direction I want to go, but I always have to figure out as I go along how I’m going to get there. I do keep copious notes as I write or I’ll forget details. I always know the beginning and ending, but I have to figure out what comes in between.

6) What kind of writing schedule do you have?

Generally I work about five to six hours a day, seven days a week, but that includes marketing and promoting. Occasionally I remember that I have a family who’d like to see my face once in a while, so I come up for air. Lately we’ve been taking trips out into the desert on an All Terrain Vehicle. That’s both a fun and interesting trip to make.

7) How do you choose your titles? Do you have a title in mind before you start writing or does something occur after you have begun to write or after you have finished?

I usually find the title somewhere in the book. For instance, in A Well-Kept Family Secret, at one point Sandi comments on something being “a well-kept family secret”. Occasionally my husband comes up with a great title, such as Old Murders Never Die. It was perfect because that particular book was about a ghost town and its murderous past.

8) Do you base your characters on real people or are they completely from your imagination?

I wouldn’t say they’re completely from my imagination, but I don’t base the characters on real people either. I find myself looking at traits in people I’ve known over the years, and then I mix them well and serve them up as a whole new personality.

9) Have you used real life experiences in your novel or is everything from your imagination?

I’ve actually led a relatively interesting life, so many times I call on experiences on which I can base a scene or story. I used to be extremely shy and learned the great art of listening. Sometimes the stories are based on things I’ve heard about. And, occasionally, my imagination runs away with me. I did a lot of research for the ghost town book I mentioned, but the story didn’t come from anything I’d ever heard about. Bubba’s Ghost, about a woman who’s being harassed by a bum, was loosely based on something that happened to me many years ago.

10) When did you realize that you wanted to write novels?

I honestly can’t answer that. I’ve always loved writing letters and notes and telling stories in those letters, and suddenly it just seemed like the thing to do. Well, in all honestly, one of the women I used to write letters to talked me into trying my hand at writing because she said the letters entertained her. I enjoyed writing and now it’s a huge part of my life.

11) Where can readers find your books?

I have two publishers. My Wings eBooks (Sandi Webster) can be found on the Wings website, and, and just about anywhere else where ebooks are sold. They’re also available in paper format, not just ebook format.
The Oak Tree Press Books (the Bogey Man) are available on the Oak Tree website, Amazon, on the Barnes and Noble website, and any bookstore can order them.

Pat, Thank you so much for having me in for a visit today. I really enjoyed the questions you asked. It’s been a lot of fun.

And thank you, Marja, it's been a pleasure having you here. I am looking forward to reading Bogey's Ace in the Hole.


hotcha12 said...



Theresa Varela said...

Nice interview, Marja. I can only imagine riding on an ATV returning home to write. Happy adventures.

Palmaltas said...

Linda, thanks for dropping by.

Palmaltas said...

Theresa, Marja does have interesting adventures.

marja said...

Theresa, Thanks for stopping by. It is an interesting life sometimes.

marja said...

Linda, I think you'd really like Who'll Kill Agnes. Good story. Thanks for stopping in.

Jean said...

Best laugh of the afternoon, Esmerelda!!!! Great anecdote. Love your titles, too. Super interview. I'm going to check out your books now.

Jean said...

I just bought Bogey Nights. Looking forward to reading it.

marja said...

Thanks for stopping in, Jean. Yeah, good ol' Esmeralda. They had me convinced. Talk about a gullible kid. Hope you enjoy Bogey. He can be a lot of fun.

Palmaltas said...

Jean, I'm sure you'll enjoy Bogey Nights. Marja has a flair for the Bogey lingo.

Camille said...

Marja, I love that your husband comes up with titles! that is wonderful! And the title for so well too. Interesting about the names and how you choose them...I always want a character's name to be unusual, bigger than life--so it was great to hear another view point--you have given me something to think about!

marja said...

Hi Camille, Good to hear from you. I'm all about wanting readers to be able to relate to the characters, including their names. And, yet, when I read books by other authors, I always enjoy new names. Thank you for stopping in.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Great post, Pat and Marja. Marja, I'd love to hear about some of your adventures.

ME! said...

LOL - love the choosing of character's names! You're so right, readers need to be able to indentify with the main character, and sometimes a weird name can jolt us out of a story!

marja said...

Marilyn, I was a divorced parent for thirty years, and I have a feeling if I hadn't been single for so long I would have missed a lot of interesting, funny, and not so funny life adventures. All things happen for a reason. Thank you for commenting.

marja said...

Hi, ME!, Glad you stopped by. Can you imagine how it would throw people if I'd used Esmeralda Hickletoff as a main character in one of my books? Hmm. Maybe I'll have to use her as a one time character someday. I do believe names can make a difference. Look at Stephanie Plum. She's so popular, and yet her name is pretty simple.