Author Mary Angela Introduces Passport to Murder

 

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Death never takes a holiday, but it certainly can take away one. Will Professor Prather find out who killed her Parisian plans before the end of spring break?

 

 

 

 

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

 

 

About the Author

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more information about Mary or the series, go to MaryAngelaBooks.com.

 

 

Book Blurb

Passport to Murder (Professor Prather Mystery #2)

 

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.
When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure.

 

 

 

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  1. What was your process for creating English professor Emmeline Prather?

I knew I wanted to set my series in a small college town in South Dakota, so I imagined a young professor relocating to the area. The landscape had to be a draw for my protagonist because the pay is definitely not. I like that she’s an outsider looking in. It heightens her awareness of the region.

 

 

 

 

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  1. What do you like about an amateur sleuth versus a professional one? 

I like that an amateur sleuth is not paid to solve crimes. It’s not her job, so she doesn’t have any police experience to help her. The amateur sleuth allows me, as a reader and a writer, to become intimately involved. I like to imagine what I would do in the same circumstances.

 

  1. What are some characteristics of Emmeline that help her solve crimes?

She is an excellent researcher, which helps her dig up information. She also has a degree in French literature, so she’s great at analyzing stories. Combined, these characteristics make her a tough sleuth to beat!

 

 

 

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  1. You affectionately call her “Em.” Describe your relationship to the protagonist. 

Em is so much fun, and I do think of her as Em as I’m writing. I enjoy writing her because she can be incredibly passionate when it comes to education, students, and crimes. Sometimes I get a chuckle out of her antics.

 

  1. What are the dynamics like between Emmeline and her sidekick Lenny Jenkins? 

There is a strong dynamic between Em and Lenny; they balance each other nicely. Em can take herself too seriously, and Lenny—doesn’t. They both challenge each other to see the world from another viewpoint, which is incredibly advantageous for crime fighting.

 

 

 

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  1. Describe some challenges writing Passport to Murder. 

Moving a group of thirteen characters was hard. I had to talk to the airport police in Minnesota and South Dakota. I also had to read about police procedures and what can and can’t be done when police investigate a suspicious death.

 

 

 

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  1. What did you learn while researching this book? 

I learned that the FBI has jurisdiction involving any crime committed in the air. I thought that was pretty interesting! I also learned that a plane can’t land on a full tank of gas.

 

 

 

Seriously, Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky, Clouds and Sunburst.

 

 

 

  1. Is it challenging writing a mystery? 

Yes, it is challenging, but that’s exactly what I like about the mystery genre. It works both sides of my brain. I spend lots of time making my characters and settings interesting, but I also spend an ample amount of time creating a clever and believable plot. All loose ends have to be tied up by the end of the novel. It takes great attention to detail.

 

 

 

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  1. Do you outline your novels? 

No, I don’t, but I do create a timeline and plot some events before writing them.

 

  1. Imagine yourself as Professor Emmeline.  Given the criminal circumstances, would you make the same choices as her? Why or why not?

That’s a tough one! I think I would. I might try to reveal the murderer in a less obvious way, but if I thought I could solve the crime, I would have to try, especially if it benefited my campus or friend.

 

 

 

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  1. Have you ever been to France? 

Yes, I have been to France and loved my time there. I would like to go back and spend the summer in a little French village. That’s my hobby: looking at vacation rentals in wine country. Maybe some day!

 

 

 

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  1. What’s next for you?

I’m writing book three in the series, A Very Merry Murder. It’s a holiday mystery, so I’ve been spending most of my days dreaming about baking sugar cookies and eating fudge. Not a good omen for the impending holidays!

 

 

 

Connect with Mary Angela

 

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

 

 

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Maryangelabooks.com

 

 

 

Thanks for ridin the train folks! Come back and see us. Peace out.

 

 

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Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

www.mysterythrillerweek.com

 

 

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Chatting Books and Writing with Author Deborah Raney

 

Deborah Raney

 

 

DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she’s still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the friendly city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Find out more about Deb’s newest release—Home at Last, the fifth and final novel in her award-winning Chicory Inn Novels series—at her website: www.deborahraney.com

 

 

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Looking back, who influenced you the most to read books?

First of all, my mother. Not only did she set a great example by being an avid reader herself, but we loved sharing books and talking about books, and even reading to each other—not just when I was a child, but even after I was grown and living away from home. In a roundabout way, my kids influenced me to read as well, because I always wanted to be aware of what they were reading in school or in their leisure time. And my husband gets a shout-out for never making me feel guilty while I was engrossed in a novel—even if it meant supper was late…or burned! :}

That sounds like a wonderful surrounding to be in! 



Kids Reading Books




Which books or characters had the most impact, and why?

The summer I turned twelve and read the entire Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the year I knew I wanted to grow up to be a writer, so definitely her characters had a great impact on me. I also read Catherine Marshall’s novels, Christy and Julie around that same time and was deeply impacted by the messages of those books. Messages about being strong, living life in a way to make a difference in others’ lives, and holding tight to faith in God, even when it seemed He was silent.

 It’s amazing how much influence a simple story can have on an individual. 



Hand with marker writing: Words Have Power


If you could write one character into your life from your books who would it be?

Audrey Whitman, from my five Chicory Inn novels, would be an inspiring friend for me. She’s far more energetic and driven than I am, but I think she would inspire me (or already has!) to make the most of the gifts I’ve been given. So many of my characters are patterned after people I actually know (or are amalgamations of several people) that I feel in some ways my characters ARE “written into” my life!

 That’s so awesome 🙂





What’s your creative process for characters?

Being a very visual writer, I always have to have a photo of each character before they really begin to come to life. After that, I just sort of follow them through the story (I’m sure that sounds a little woo-woo to anyone who isn’t a writer) and see where they lead me, and how they grow and change through the story. Often, I get to the middle of a book and realize that the character I wrote in the first few chapters doesn’t resemble the character that has developed toward the end, so I spend some time rewriting him or her to match the “person” they’ve become in my novel. It’s rather a backwards way of doing things, but it works for me.

That’s a very interesting approach. As long as it works for you, that’s all that matters. I’m still trying to figure out what my mine is. 



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Did you read a lot when you were raising kids?

My husband and I are both avid readers and placed a high priority on story time and books when our kids were growing up. For instance, our rule was that toys and games had to be put away at bedtime, but as long as it didn’t interfere with homework or grades, you could read until midnight if you wanted. We read to each of our four kids from the time they were infants, and they’re all readers to varying degrees today.

 Oh, I love this. A book reading family! The emphasis on reading is very fascinating. 

 



Name some pet peeves, or things that bother you as a reader.

• It drives me nuts when the character on the cover of a novel doesn’t match the description inside.

• I don’t like it when two characters can’t stand each other through most of the book, and then fall into each other’s arms madly in love in the final chapter. Um…no.

• I prefer—as a reader and a writer—fewer speaker attributions (he said/she said). I’d rather SEE what the characters are doing and hear the tone in their words or actions than be told they said a line “quietly” or “angrily.”

 I love seeing the answer to this question. All are valid points worthy of remembrance. 

 


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How do you determine what motivates a character?

As my story begins to unfold, I always have to ask myself what each character has to lose and to gain if the plot goes one way or another. Sometimes those questions aren’t answered until much later in the book, and again, I have to go back and rewrite to bolster my discovery about motivation. I always try to have a positive motivation (because it’s the right thing to do or because she/he loves someone and wants the best for them) along with negative motivation (because selfishly, doing the right thing will cost her/him or because pride keeps her/him from doing the right thing.)

 Great! This will help me determine more of my own character motivations, thank you.



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Describe your intuitive approach to writing as opposed to outlining.

I’ve touched on this, but being an intuitive writer means that while others are still outlining and figuring out their plot, I’m barreling ahead with a story I don’t even know fully yet. So often that means I write myself into a corner and have to delete 2 chapters and start over. It’s frustrating, and yet it works for me. Those chapters I throw away likely didn’t take me any longer to write than the outline process took a plotting writer. It’s just the way my mind works best.

 I find that so interesting, probably because I’m more of an intuitive writer than a plotter. Perhaps somewhere in between.

 



Have you ever wept while reading?

Oh, my goodness! If a book doesn’t make me cry (or laugh or cheer or get angry) I’m not sure it’s worth reading! When I’m reading, I want to feel all the feels. And if I don’t feel them when I’m writing a book, I know my readers won’t feel them either. It’s usually in the rewrite process that I begin to be objective enough to read/edit my work and see things more clearly, more like my readers will. When I cry over my characters then, I know my readers probably will too. And that makes me happy! 🙂

 That’s wonderful. That’s what it’s all about it, right? Having that emotional response is key. 

 


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Name some of the best books you’ve read recently.

• The Memory of You by Catherine West

• Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

• To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

• The Village that Slept by Monique Peyrouton de Ladebat (translated from French)

 Thanks!




What’s next for you?

I’m writing a novel set in Winterset, Iowa, home of the covered bridges of Madison County. This will be the first all-new novel published by the small press my husband created to re-release about twenty of my backlist titles, formerly published by Howard/Simon & Schuster, WaterBrook Press/Random House, Steeple Hill/Harlequin, and Bethany House/Baker. That novel will release next spring about the same time my first book in a new three-book series for Gilead Publishers is due on my editor’s desk. That series, The Chandler Sisters Novels, opens with Reason to Breathe. After writing five books in my Chicory Inn Novels series, I’m excited to be playing with all new characters and settings.

 Wonderful. That sounds like great idea. Especially since you get to team up with your spouse.



A Nest of Sparrows

Because of the Rain

Insight


The Face of the Earth

Almost Forever


DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she’s still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the friendly city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Find out more about Deb’s newest release—Home at Last, the fifth and final novel in her award-winning Chicory Inn Novels series—at her website: www.deborahraney.com

 




CONNECT WITH DEBORAH RANEY

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Website

 

 

 

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Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

http://www.mysterythrillerweek.com