The first interview was so wildly popular that I decided to post a follow-up. This is all part of the celebration around the launch of book 2 in the Ozarks Lake Mystery series—Swimming with the Fishes.
Q. How’d you get the idea for the Ozarks Lake Mystery series?
A. My wife has felt a little cheated that no character in my other books was based on her—even in some exaggerated fashion. As I started thinking about starting a second series, I thought it would be fun to set it in a small town in Arkansas so it would feel very different from my Silicon Valley Mystery series. My wife’s grandparents lived in Arkansas on a small ranch and I grew up in the south, spending time in and near Arkansas. That gave me the setting. I used some names and personalities of different relatives for characters in the stories. Although she contributed a number of the Southern sayings and conversations in Swimming with the Fishes, there’s still no character based directly on my wife. I’m pretty confident this has been a wise decision for my marriage.
Q. What’s the most exciting research you did to help you write this book?
A. Wingsuit flying, jousting, and bullfighting are all examples of crazy things that I’ve avoided doing in the name of research for this—or any—book. I’ve also not attempted tree shaping, extreme ironing, or competitive duck herding despite these being actual things that I’ve stumbled across during my internet searching. Instead, as I wrote this book entirely during the COVID pandemic, I spent most of the time in self-isolation—also known as normal author behavior. Besides hiking, walking the dog, and participating in way too many Zoom calls, the crazy research for this novel was mostly confined to internet searches. Fortunately I haven’t had any visits from law enforcement. But I’m hopeful that crazy research (although still excluding the wingsuit flying, etc.) will return to my life. After all, I’m planning to write more books so inspiration is always appreciated.
Q. There are several references to fishing, from Elizabeth’s last name to the title and more. Is fishing a hobby of yours?
A. No, I don’t fish. The closest I come is that I eat fish. I actually thought of the title of the first book, Fish Out of Water, as a way to explain how one of the protagonists (Jonas) experiences Arkansas as a life-long West Coaster. It stuck with me when I was brainstorming titles and then I immediately had ideas for future books in the series that would use a similar fishing phrase. Swimming with the Fishes seemed perfect for a book 2 with characters who may be part of the Mafia. Not sure if I’ll be able to use phrases like Keeping it Reel; Bottom Feeder; Hook, Line, and Sinker; or Holy Mackerel! But it sure sounds fun to try.
Q. What makes your cozy novels stand out from the rest?
A. I’ve become bored by cozies where the protagonist runs a bakery, bookstore, or bed & breakfast and this supposedly amateur sleuth gets extensive help from the police. So I made sure my characters don’t work with the police and have different jobs. Having both a male and female protagonist with different point-of-view chapters in Swimming with the Fishes also allows me to show very different takes on suspects and other characters and go to different places.
My Silicon Valley Mystery series is especially unique with its male protagonist who’s not particularly competent, nor especially brave, as the amateur sleuth. Setting it in Silicon Valley is also unusual for cozies but worked well for this series. Despite finding himself thrust into challenging situations, Marty isn’t exactly hero material. He has a wonderful combination of wit, irreverent humor and sarcasm mixed in with nerdy insecurities, absent-mindedness, and fumbling but effective amateur sleuthing skills. He’s got an active inner voice and doesn’t do a lot of advance planning. Instead he throws himself into solving problems. Sometimes, he even succeeds.
Q. Will you share any other upcoming books?
A. I’ve started writing book 5, Huh? Why? and Punch (say it aloud a few times quickly) in the Silicon Valley Mysteryseries. And yes, it takes place in Hawaii. A recent vacation to the Russian River region of northern California gave me an idea for another series starring a recent widower who retires and moves to the small mountain river town because he and his wife had always planned to run a bed and breakfast. The only problems: he doesn’t like people; he’s no good at fixing things; and dead bodies keep turning up. I’m thinking of calling the first one: Rivers and Creaks. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think of this. And yes, I often come up with the book titles before I’ve finished figuring out the story.
Q. What’s with the graphic at the top of this page? That guy has hair and doesn’t look anything like you?
A. Being a fiction author is the best! We get to invent just about anything we want.
I love to hear from readers as that motivates me to keep going on the next blank page.