Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interview with cozy mystery author Marilyn Leach

Today I'm happy to host mystery author Marilyn Leach as she tours her novel Up From the Grave: A Berdie Elliott Lenten Mystery. This novel is a cozy mystery available now from Harbourlight Books/Pelican Book Group.

As a special treat, Marilyn will be awarding an e-book copy of her first book, Candle For A Corpse to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop, plus a grand prize of a $20 gift card to the Pelican Book Group website to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To be entered to win either or both prizes, make sure to leave an e-mail address with your comment below. And if you'd like to increase your chances of winning, visit other stops and leave comments there.

At the age of nine, Marilyn wrote her first work with a childhood friend. It was a mystery. And she has been writing ever since. A graduate of Colorado State University, she taught art to underserved children and co-authored several plays and screenplays. Marilyn is a dyed-in-the-wool British enthusiast after "discovering her roots" in England. She lives in a lakeside cottage on the Denver outskirts.

Welcome, Marilyn. Please tell us about your current release.
Up From the Grave offers all the elements of good British suspense: village setting, British English vocabulary, a local constabulary, glowing romance, an amazing sleuth and shadowy figures. But there’s more. One reviewer said of the writing, “it’s a Jan Karon meets Agatha Christie style with energy.” Berdie Elliott intrepidly combines both church service and crime solving in the small village of Aidan Kirkwood where a whisper on one end of the village becomes a roar on the other. When a sod-turning ceremony in the church back garden exposes bones, the whole village sets to on uncovering the mystery. But Berdie Elliott, vicar’s wife and sleuth, digs deeply and comes up with the truth. Who is the visiting contessa that appears at the sod-turning, along with her aide? How do Swithy Hall and the beautiful nuptials of a Presswood niece come into play? And in what way do plants and herbs spell out a divine message? All becomes clear when Berdie unearths the answers. Up From the Grave is a modern times soft suspense laced with romance and a dash of humor along with inspirational uplift. As Berdie might say, “Up From the Grave is a jolly good read.”

What inspired you to write this book?
My writing partner and I finished a successful screenwriting project and he decided to write a novel. I said, “And what will I do?” He suggested that I write an English mystery since I was such a big Miss Marple fan. I thought and prayed about it and decided to give it a go. In the process, I really enjoyed creating the Berdie Elliott character, a sleuthing vicar’s wife. Then it followed, after the first book which took place during Advent, I’d write more mysteries aligned with the liturgical calendar of the church. Up from the Grave is a Lenten mystery. The more I work on the stories, the more I feel I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what was designed for me to do.

Berdie read aloud. “Doktor Herman Schultz, twenty-five Morgan Strasse, Heidelberg.” Curiosity getting the better of her, Berdie lifted the thin airmail envelope up to the morning sunlight that flooded through the glass doors. She tried to scrutinize its contents.

Cherry spotted the backside of the envelope and emitted a quick gasp.


“It’s slightly open.” Cherry looked at Berdie, chin down and eyebrows raised.

Berdie tried to adjust her ‘vicar’s wife hat. “This is a personal correspondence,” she advised. And then the vicar’s wife hat went askew. “Is there a chance he may have intended the letter for you?”

Cherry grasped the envelope from Berdie’s hand and gingerly moved her finger along, lifting the flap of it ever so carefully. Then, with great concentration, she pulled out a single tri-fold sheet of office paper and unfurled it.

Berdie made every effort to stay glued to her seat. She tried desperately not to be overly eager.

“Oh, it’s a bill,” Cherry informed with a bit of disappointment. Then her eyes enlarged. Berdie held back the impulse to grab the paper and read it herself.

“A bill for thirty thousand pounds,” Cherry all but shouted.

“Thirty thousand pounds?” Berdie lifted her well-kept brows.

“Hang about.” Cherry ran her finger over the paper. “This is a confirmation of payment. It’s a receipt. He’s paid thirty thousand pounds.” Cherry was agog.

Berdie calmly nodded while grasping the arm of the sofa.

What exciting story are you working on next?
In the Berdie Elliott series, I’m working on an Ascension Sunday mystery, Into the Clouds. At a village Ascension Sunday fete, someone goes missing. Berdie and the whole village get involved in trying to find the missing person and, like an onion, peel back layers to discover who committed the crime. It takes lots of twists and turns as Berdie uses her divine gift of sorting truth from fiction to find the perpetrator.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I co-wrote my first play when I was nine years old, and it was a mystery. I’ve written most my life as an avocation, and now as a vocation. It wasn’t until I sat in the back of a performance venue and watched the audience react to the words written in a play I was a part of writing that I realized how this could be a skill I should pursue. It actually touched people’s lives and was incredibly rewarding. I thank God for the opportunity.

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 now write full time, although I substitute teach occasional days as well. I taught art to underserved populations for several years before writing full time. After my meditative quiet time, exercise, and breakfast, I write for at least one hour before I do anything else. Then I sprinkle marketing, more writing, household chores, and idea boosting in integrated plots of time. Since it’s only a couple of years that I’ve been writing full time, I’m still working out my writing rhythm in the day to day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Probably one of my quirky habits is to watch Miss Marple and Poirot DVD’s every Sunday afternoon. I actually take notes about things that strike me such as plot twists, hidden clues, character development, and think about my current writing project as I view them. Just recently, I’ve begun watching them in the order they were created by Agatha Christie. Murder at the Vicarage was her first Miss Marple mystery; her second was The Body in the Library. Though screenwriters add their own bit, I like to track the development of story from project to project. Watching the DVD is a quick study.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I hardly gave a fleeting thought to becoming a grown up. I lived very much in the minute. My major in college was psychology, until I changed it to art, until I changed it to education, then I settled on art education. I minored in French until I switched it to English, and eventually got certified as a language development specialist. Do we see a pattern here? But enjoying writing has been consistent all the way through.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you enjoy a good brain-tickle that includes humor, romance, village life and genuine uplift, I think you’ll enjoy reading any of the books in the Berdie Elliott series. Up from the Grave is an especially great spring read.

Thanks, Marilyn.

Readers, don't forget: Marilyn will be awarding an e-book copy of her first book, Candle For A Corpse to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop, plus a grand prize of a $20 gift card to the Pelican Book Group website to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To be entered to win either or both prizes, make sure to leave an e-mail address with your comment below. And if you'd like to increase your chances of winning, visit other stops and leave comments there.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

marilyn leach said...

Thank you for the interview, Lisa, I hope the viewers enjoy it.

Catherine Lee said...

I love those British words...like constabulary. LOL. You were an art teacher...It sounds like you have a healthy creative side.
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

marilyn leach said...

Catherine, thanks so much for following the blogs and leaving your comments. It's been fun learning British English. I have friends in England who review my manuscripts just to make sure the vocabulary is appropriate. I would say I have a healthy creative 3/4. Sometimes the practical feels about 1/4. Thanks.

marilyn leach said...

Lisa, thanks so much for hosting today. Have a great week. Cheers.