Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Interview with novelist G.A. McKevett

Mystery author G. A. McKevett joins me today to chat about her new cozy novel, Murder in Her Stocking.

Since publication of her first novel in 1986, Sonja Massie has authored over sixty published works, including the highly popular and critically acclaimed Savannah Reid Mysteries under the pseudonym G. A. McKevett.

Sonja's novels range from Irish historicals to contemporary thrillers. Her earthy humor and fast-paced plots delight her fans, while critics applaud her offbeat characterizations and incisive observations on human nature.

Irish by ancestry, Sonja has authored two non-fiction books on the history of Ireland: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Irish History And Culture and Irish Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You're Irish. Both books impart detailed knowledge of the complex and controversial Irish story with a light hand and plenty of humor. Her Irish novels include: Dream Carver, Daughter Of Ireland and the bestselling Far and Away - the novelization of the Ron Howard movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

On nationwide tours, Sonja lectures to published and "pre-published" authors in her workshop, "The Novel Approach," a seminar which covers such topics as: story structure, characterization, plotting, pacing, and marketing manuscripts.

Sonja has taught numerous courses at university and adult continuing education facilities including: general fiction, historical research, and mystery writing. She was managing editor at "Single Living" magazine and has functioned as a manuscript doctor and storyline editor for major publishers. Earlier in her career, she was a prolific ghostwriter, authoring both fictional and non-fictional books for celebrities and professionals.

Having lived in Los Angeles, Toronto, and County Kerry, Ireland, she now resides in New York.

Welcome, G. A. Please tell us about your current release.
Murder in Her Stocking is the first book of the new Granny Reid Mysteries. This new series is a prequel to the Savannah Reid Mysteries, which I’ve been writing for the past 25 years.

What inspired you to write this book?
From the beginning, fans of the Savannah series have told me how much they love Savannah’s grandmother, who is in most of those books. (When Granny doesn’t appear, I hear about it!) Throughout the Savannah stories, we’ve heard bits and pieces about how Granny Reid raised Savannah and her eight siblings. Though how this came about has never been fully explained.

Since Granny has been so popular with my readers, I thought she deserved a series of her own, and happily, my editor and publisher agreed. Certainly, there will be a murder mystery in each book, but what I find most satisfying about writing this series is the chance to explore the backstory of characters we’ve only known as adults in the Savannah Mysteries. Plus, it’s fun to go back to the 1980s, to a quaint little town in rural Georgia, to the “good old days” of big hair, shoulder pads, and disco music. Though of course, people being people, there was plenty of skullduggery going on, even in little McGill, with its three block long Main Street and one stoplight.

Being blessed with the darned-near-spiritual gift of Divine Nosiness, Stella “Granny” Reid finds herself in the thick of the tightknit community’s various scandals, from the dastardly “desecration” of Christmas decorations, to rumors about the school principal’s Grinch-bedazzled boxer shorts floating down the street (after his wife tossed him out the door and his belongings out the window), to the murder of the town’s preeminent floozy, Prissy Carr, who dies in Stella’s arms in a cold, dark alley.

What exciting story are you working on next?
At the moment, I’m writing the second of the Granny Reid Mysteries, Murder in the Corn Maze. It’s a Halloween book, in which Granny and her friend, Elsie Dingle, uncover some disturbing facts about their own family histories.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day I received a phone call from a New York editor, offering to buy my first book and make me a real, grownup, published writer! We didn’t have caller ID in those days, but long-distance phone calls had a certain, distinctive, buzzing sound to them, sorta like when you were a kid, talking to your friend with two oatmeal boxes and a string tied between them.

I was living in California at the time, and as soon as I picked up the phone, I heard the buzz and knew it was either the publisher I’d sent my manuscript to in New York or my southern grandma.

I’ll never forget one word of that call until the day I die. Here’s how it went….

Me: Hello?
Her: Hello. Is this Sonja Massie?
Me: (My heart pounding so hard in my ears that I could hardly hear.) Yes.
Her: (With a playful tone) This is Phyllis Lefkowitz, calling from Silhouette Books.
Me: Ye-es!
Her: (Practically giggling) Well, we read the manuscript you sent us….
Me: (gulp) Ye-e-e-es?
Her: And we would like to make you an offer on it, if you –
Me: (screaming, totally incoherent shrieks, dropping the phone, wild dancing, finally picking the phone back up) Oh, oh! I’m so sorry I dropped you. (crying) It’s just that I’ve never sold a book before. This is the first time that I…(sobbing so hard I’m hiccupping)…I didn’t mean to scream in your ear like that!
Her: (laughing) No apology needed. I learned long enough to hold the phone away from my ear after delivering the news to a first-time author. In fact, we editors fight over who gets to make these calls.

“First time author?” I remember thinking, Oh, my goodness, she called me an “author!”

Please believe me when I tell you it was far better than winning the lottery. I know many, many people dream of authorship. I’ll be forever grateful for this gift.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full time. I’m self-employed and have a mean, relentless boss. What I put up with from that woman, I’d never tolerate from anyone else. I work until very late at night (3:00am), so I sleep in late. I’m not good for much until I have a lot of strong coffee in me. So, I spend what’s left of my morning on correspondence and personal business. In the afternoon, I turn off electronic communications (only receiving calls from my kids, grandkids, and agent) and I write. I have an early dinner, then go back to work. Sometimes, I break to watch a television show with my husband. (I love the BBC productions.) and then I crank out some more. Some days the pages add up. Some days they don’t. But it’s my duty to show up, and I do. However, I take time for family. I have five grandangels, who are the lights of my life, and I set aside time for them whenever they’re available. Their schedules are even busier than mine. They come over and spend the night. We have dinner together, a session of “Arts and Craps” (their term, not mine) a movie and decadent snacks. Ahhh, those times are the best!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know how interesting or quirky it is, but I definitely have my ritual. Before I begin, I eat one piece of high-quality chocolate to get the brain working. If it’s winter or the AC is a bit much in the summer, I cover my lap with a super soft blankie, and light a candle. I’m not sure why the candle. Probably something in my genes left over from the days when my storyteller, Irish and Native American ancestors shared their tales with their neighbors around campfires, stone hearths and coal stoves.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A nurse, until my mother gave me a description of bedpan duty that was far too graphic for a five-year-old. A ballerina, until I saw a movie that showed a dancer bandaging her bleeding toes. A rock star, until I saw a picture of Kenny Rogers sitting asleep in an uncomfortable airport chair with rollers in his hair. A cowgirl, until I found out that Michael Landon (Little Joe on Bonanza) was already married. For a while, I wanted to be a go-go dancer, wear white boots, a mini-skirt and wriggle in a cage. Let’s just say, it took a while for me to settle on “author.”

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I want to thank them. Without their faithful readership, I’d never be able to make a living eating chocolate in my pajamas and feeling as though I’m making a difference, however small, by allowing people a few hours of escape from their troubles.

Without them, I’d just be an overaged go-go dancer, smelling faintly of Bengay and popping ibuprofen, while attempting to wriggle in a cage. (Heaven forbid.)


Thanks for joining me today, G. A.

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