Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview with cozy mystery author Pearl R. Meaker

Welcome, readers!

I’m kicking of the new week with cozy mystery author Pearl R. Meaker. She’s chatting with me about her novel, The Devil’s Music. This is the newest in her Emory Crawford mystery series

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Pearl will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Pearl R. Meaker is an upper-middle-aged, short, pudgy homemaker, mother, and grandmother who in 2002 became a writer. Initially writing fanfiction she soon tried original fiction at the encouragement of her regular readers. She has been a life-long lover of mystery stories and automatically went to that genre for her first book, The Devil’s Music.

She and her husband of nearly 40 years live in central Illinois. They both love bluegrass music, playing fiddle and banjo and singing. Pearl also does many crafts – when she’s not reading or writing - knitting, crochet, origami, needlepoint, and cross-stitch among them. She also enjoys birding and photography and is a former fencer.

Welcome, Pearl. Please tell us about your current release.
Dr. Archibald Finlay Dawson is an ethnomusicologist, bluegrass fiddler, best selling author of The Devil’s Music: Murder and Mayhem in Western Folk Music, and the hottest thing in anthropology since Margaret Mead. The Midwest Anthropological Studies Society was thrilled when Archie agreed to be the keynote speaker for their annual conference being held at Twombly College. Archie also volunteered himself and two friends, Dr. Jebbin Crawford, chemistry and forensic science professor at Twombly, and his wife Emory, to provide the entertainment after his speech: bluegrass renditions of several of the murder songs he would be talking about.

It’s quite a shock when Jebbin and Emory, on their way home from the performance, find Archie’s murdered body in one of the gardens on the campus. The conference ends in a week and most of the suspect pool will be leaving, Jairus Aiden Merriweather Twombly VI, heir to the Twombly dynasty, tells the police and Jebbin he wants the murder solved before the conference closes.

Emory has been feeling a bit lost of late. Their youngest child will soon be off to do her masters degree and Emory isn’t sure if her time volunteering at the Twombly College library will be enough to distract her from missing her daughter.

But she gets an idea.

She’ll help Jebbin with solving the crime! She’s already met some of the conferees at the college welcome table when they were registering. She’s a nice, friendly, middle-aged lady that folks feel comfortable talking to.

When Jebbin teases her about being Sherlock Holmes, she retorts, “No. I’m a young Miss Marple.” With that inspiration, along with her knitting tote, warm smile and gift of intuition, she heads off to be a crime solving busy-body.

What inspired you to write this book?
Cozy mysteries have been my “go-to” read for most of my life. My first favorite author, when I was nine, was Agatha Christie. I started writing about three years after the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” came out. My hubby and I play bluegrass music and loved the sound track (as well as the movie itself) and I particularly fell in love with the song the Sirens sing: Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby, by writer/singer Gillian Welsh. One of the lines in the song is, “You and me and the Devil makes three. Don’t need no other lovin’ baby.” The story developed from that line. If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to Gillian, Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris, the ladies who sang it for the movie, sing it here: It’s creepier sounding in the movie with what sounds like a musical saw playing in the background.

Excerpt from The Devil’s Music:
Moments later a man and woman came around the corner. I had the voice right. Dr. Archibald Finlay Dawson, whom Jebbin and I know from jams at bluegrass festivals, was at the registration tables in a couple of strides along with a perky-looking young lady. Currently he is anthropology’s biggest shining star since Margaret Mead and he looked the part. Archie’s a tall, broad, former football player whose resonant voice and size seem to fill any room he’s in. I ducked behind the stand-up poster with smiling Twombly College students on it. Archibald is an all right guy, I guess, but he’s more Jebbin’s friend than mine and I didn’t really want to talk to him.
“Myra!” Archie’s voice echoed down the long hallway. “Myra, my M.A.S.S. conference sweetheart. How are you?”
“Sweet of you to say, as always, Archie dear, but it’s hard to be your conference sweetheart when you always have another woman with you. And how is your wife these days?”
“Sonya’s home ill again. I’ll let her know you asked after her. At any rate, women make everything better, Myra, you know that.” He laughed heartily. “Oh!” He caught his breath. “Oh you do know how to charm us men. And, while we’re talking about charming women, let me introduce my teaching assistant, Ms. Naomi Malkoff.”
I peeked around the stand-up poster as he wrapped a muscular arm around the shoulders of the tan and fit young lady standing beside him. She didn’t seem entirely comfort- able with the gesture, but she didn’t move away either.
“Naomi, this is Myra Fordyce, the heart and soul of our annual conferences. She’s always at the registration table to make us feel welcome … and to see whom we’re with.”
Myra was beaming. “True. Very true.” She didn’t let Naomi get a word in edgewise. “I must know who’s who and with whom and everything else one can learn when you’re the first person people see at the conference.” She handed the young lady her badge. “Welcome Naomi, I hope you enjoy your first conference with us.”
“Thank you, Ms. Fordyce. It’s so wonderful to be here with Dr. Dawson.” Naomi was a gusher. Everything about her screamed CHEERLEADER.
“Of course it is, dear.” Myra turned back to Archie. “Here you go, Dr. Dawson. I loved your book and I’m looking forward to hearing you speak about it.”
“Of course you are, I’m the best speaker in the society.” Archie puffed himself up.
Myra shoved a map at him, pointed out Oglethorpe Hall, and after a few more self-promotional comments from Archie, the pair left.
“Pompous ass.”
I heard Myra’s mutter and stifled my own giggle. It was exactly what I was
“He really is the most arrogant man I know.”
The voice made Myra and I both jump. I knocked over the stand-up poster, felt myself blushing as I picked it up, made some apologetic noises, and then busied myself arranging the already tidy items on the Twombly College table.
“Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
I looked at the woman. Straight, shoulder length brown hair framed a pleasant face
that showed genuine concern. I glanced at her feet. Birkenstocks peeked from beneath her long moss-green shift dress. No wonder she’d snuck up on us.
“No problem. Welcome to Twombly College.” I smiled. “We hope you enjoy your visit to our campus.”
“Thank you.” She smiled in return before turning to Ms. Fordyce at the registration table. I sat down and watched them over the top of another brochure.
“Arrogant barely scratches the surface of Archibald Finlay Dawson, Cameron.” Myra lowered her voice just a bit. “He’s arrogant to the point that he never notices how many people hate him.”
“People don’t hate him.” The younger lady tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear. “They envy him.”
“I’m not so sure there’s a difference between the two, Cam.”
Cameron chuckled. “Well, they can produce similar results.” Her voice was lilting, like delicate mezzo soprano wind chimes.
The two of them chatted for awhile, then there was a long pause and I looked up.
“Is there something wrong, dear?” Concern creased Myra’s brow. “You’ve turned a
bit pale.”
Cameron was staring at the large flower arrangement centered on the right hand table. I had noticed it earlier. It wasn’t the usual florist-mix of carnations and gladiolus but rather was a huge vase of wildflowers, some of which were artificial, and herbs. I recognized the airy white heads of Anise flowers and Queen Anne’s Lace, and the yellow ones of Fennel, Marigolds and, oddly enough for early summer, Holly leaves and berries. There were others I wasn’t sure of.
“This arrangement, did you bring it, Myra?” Cameron whispered.
Myra hefted herself off her chair to get a closer look at the large bouquet.
“Lands no, girl! It was already on the table when I got here to set up. I brought a dried flower arrangement that is much smaller and rather bedraggled looking.” The heavy older woman reached awkwardly under the table, held up a droopy flower arrangement in a cheap basket, and then stuck it back under the table. “I thought this one was prettier so I left it.” She looked back at Cameron. “Why? What’s the matter?”
“I’m not sure about all of them …” Cameron paused, taking a breath to gather her composure. “I don’t know them all but some I recognize from my work with Revolutionary War era folk tradition. They’re plants that have to do with the devil. Well,” she hastened to add, “for keeping the devil and evil away, if I’m remembering correctly that is.”
Myra’s eyebrows went up. “Oh! Oh my! Well at least they’re for keeping him away instead of inviting him to pay a visit.”
“True! You’re right about that, Myra. It could have been made of the sorts of plants that represent him.” She leaned in for a closer look. “Still it’s odd that someone put it on our registration table. Hope they aren’t saying we need that sort of protection.” Cameron looked relieved.
“At least I don’t believe in such things. God or the devil and all that.” Myra shivered, making her statement less convincing. “But I think I’ll send a text to a few of my Hutterite friends. They are avid prayers and I do think that positive energy is a helpful thing. Everything connects to everything, so to speak.” She plopped back down in her chair at the middle of the tables.
“Send a text?” Cameron looked surprised. “I thought they weren’t into phones, let alone cell phones.”
“The Schmiedeleut are into technology. They have computers and everything well, tightly controlled and they still don’t have televisions, but there is a lot they’ve embraced.”
“Who’d have thought it?” Cameron grinned, shook her head, picked up the rest of her conference goodies and shoved them into the tote. “Well, I’ll be on my way. Oglethorpe dorm, right?”
Myra nodded.
“Okay. You make sure you text your friends. Some positive energy would be a good
thing, and prayer is positive energy.”
 I believe that too, and said a short prayer of my own. The bouquet was giving me that feeling I often get before something goes wrong. The odd shiver up the spine like something’s run over my grave. Both my Grannies used phrases like that for the odd shiver that sometimes crawls up one’s back, settin’ spine and skin to feelin’ prickly and sometimes making your whole body twitch. To them, it was a part of “gettin’ a knowin’” about something. A whisper in their soul about somethin’ a comin’, be it good or ill, they knew. I tamped it down like I always did when the whisper of “a knowin’” would try to sneak its way into me.
“I’m calling right now, dear. See you at dinner. Where is that dratted phone! You should just carry a smaller purse, Myra Fordyce.” Myra spoke into the depths of her large purse as she dug around for her cell phone.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Actually, I’ll soon be starting work on the third Emory Crawford mystery. Book two in the series, The Devil’s Hook, is already in production with my publisher.

In The Devil’s Hook, Emory is teaching a short, one month long, crocheting class for Twombly students in her home. Jairus Twombly’s wife, Amy, and their youngest child, fourteen year old Madison, are also taking the class. In class one morning, a couple of the girls mention that red objects have started showing up in some of the students rooms in their dorm, and isn’t it odd that things are appearing instead of going missing. Soon a student from that dorm has been kidnapped and Jairus’ personal assistant has been murdered. Emory and Madison team up to see if they can help Jebbin, the police, and the sheriff’s department solve the crimes.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess toward the end of the seven years that I wrote fanfiction based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

In 2002, I read a Tolkien fanfiction story and really enjoyed it. I’d never heard the term “fanfiction” and had no idea it was so popular. I mentioned to that author, Shirebound is her pen name, that I had thought up Hobbit stories for years, just never wrote them down. She encouraged me to write one and put it on She said, “You never know, people may like your stories.” So I did and people did like my story, so I kept writing them. Eventually I was writing at least one story a month for a challenge group and often working on a multiple chapter story at the same time. I have around 200 stories on three different archives. Everything from flash fiction to a couple that are novel length. When readers started to encourage me to write original stories, stories that I could try to get published, I started thinking “Wow! I guess I’m a writer.”

I took a couple of writing classes, worked with my writing coach, Mary Rosenblum, and now I have a real book that’s for sale online.

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?
Technically, I write full time. But . . . I have ADD and chronic depression and am not the most consistent person in the world. My workdays are irregular both in the days of the week themselves and then also in how any given day itself is scheduled. (I’m using “scheduled” loosely, I rarely schedule at all.) I work in bursts. I might work one day from about 8:00 AM until I have to make dinner at around 6:00, then sometimes going back to it again until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. The next day I might work just in the morning or just in the afternoon – or not at all. Really, I’m amazed that I have two books finished.
Note to new writers reading this: don't work this way if you can avoid it. I wish I was organized and able to stick to a schedule.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I guess it would be the aforementioned lack of a writing schedule along with having learned to type with a cat moving around on my lap or laying on my shoulder. I have four cats and two of them are cuddlers.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was going to be an artist or art teacher and a horsewoman. I was a good artist but not as good as I needed to be to compete with other artists in college. I never ended up living anywhere that I could own and keep a horse.

That said, I’ve always done various kinds of art for hobbies and I’m cool with that. My life took different turns than what I’d dreamed of, but I’m happy with how my life has gone. I’ve done some things I never thought I’d do, been good at things I never thought I’d be good at - like being a mom or fencing or playing fiddle or writing stories. It’s all been more good than not.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t be afraid to admit there are things you can’t do, or can’t do well. Nobody can do everything well, we all have things we can’t do. But focus on the things you can do well and the things you enjoy doing. You never know where they’ll take you.


Buy links for The Devil’s Music:      

Thanks for being here today, Pearl!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

Good Morning, Lisa!

I'm happy to be here today and look forward to chatting with your readers.

Mai T. said...

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Unknown said...

Hi Mai,

Thank you for your question. ;-)

Agatha Christie.

I've read her autobiography and she was a fascinating person. Like me, she didn't start out thinking she'd be an author, she wrote her first book because, when they were young, her sister had told Agatha she could make up stories as good as any author they had read and that she should give it a try some day.
She led an amazing life and I'd love to talk to her about it.

Sandy said...

thanks for the 'excerpt' and interview. Always a pleasure to meet the author.Congratulations on the new release.

Unknown said...

You're welcome, Sandy. :-) I'm enjoying getting to meet fellow cozy mystery readers. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello.

MomJane said...

I really enjoyed the blurb and then the great excerpt. What a fun and fascinating story and series this is.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, MomJane. :-) It's been a lot of fun to write. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Anonymous said...

I loved the excerpt and how its written. Seems truly exciting.

Cali W. said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I like the excerpt. :)

Unknown said...

@ Amanda
Thank you. :-) I hope you'll enjoy the book, and thank you for being here today.

Unknown said...

@ Cali
You're welcome and I hope you like the rest of the book too. ;-) Thank you for stopping by! :-)

bn100 said...

nice interview

Unknown said...

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing it. :-)

Christa Nardi said...

Series sounds interesting... will add to my TBR list! Thanks, Lisa for hosting this!

Unknown said...

Thank you for adding me to your TBR list & for the retweet! :-) I hope you enjoy my book.

Patricia said...

Nice interview - the author seems like a very interesting person.

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview. :-) Thank you for coming by.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed everything about this post! The longer description of the book in the interview and the excerpt in the interview were great! Hmmm! Maybe I should say the interview was great! Thank you!

Unknown said...

@ Ree Dee

You're welcome and thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the whole post. Thank you for stopping
by. :-)

Unknown said...

sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.