Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Interview with cozy mystery author duo J.C. Eaton

Today’s special guests are the writing duo behind J.C. Eaton (Ann I. Goldfarb & James E. Clapp). We’re chatting about their new cozy mystery, Botched 4 Murder.

New York native Ann I. Goldfarb spent most of her life in education, first as a classroom teacher and later as a middle school principal and professional staff developer. Writing as J. C. Eaton, along with her husband, James Clapp, they have authored the Sophie Kimball Mysteries (Kensington), The Wine Trail Mysteries (Kensington Lyrical Underground), and coming in August 2018, The Marcie Rayner Mysteries (Camel). In addition, Ann has nine published YA time travel mysteries under her own name. Visit the websites at:
When James E. Clapp retired as the tasting room manager for a large upstate New York winery, he never imagined he’d be co-authoring cozy mysteries with his wife, Ann I. Goldfarb. Non-fiction in the form of informational brochures and workshop materials treating the winery industry were his forte along with an extensive background and experience in construction that started with his service in the U.S. Navy and included vocational school classroom teaching. Visit the website at

Welcome! Please tell us a little bit about Botched 4 Murder.
Amateur sleuth Sophie (Phee) Kimball is at it again, only this time at the Sun City West bocce courts when her mother’s friend, Myrna, is convinced she killed someone with a lobbed bocce ball that managed to get into the adjoining golf course. Naturally, there’s a dead body, but it wasn’t a bocce ball that felled the victim – it was a bow and arrow!
To make matters worse, the community is all a-buzz with the latest proposal from one of its board members – turn the golf courses into eco-friendly parks. With more threats than imaginable, Phee’s worried the golf course victim won’t be the last.

What inspired you to write this book?
This is the fourth novel in our Sophie Kimball Mysteries, set in the retirement community of Sun City West, Arizona. We’re always seeking out potential “hotspots” for murder as well as motives. The motive came easy for this one – we read an editorial from someone in our community who wanted to turn all of the golf courses into eco-friendly parks. Imagine the outrage it caused! Then, while walking our dog near the bocce courts, we watched one lady lob her bocce balls all over the place. Jim immediately announced, “She could kill someone with one of those!” and that’s how the novel began!

Excerpt from Botched 4 Murder:
That particular Saturday in February was unlucky. It wasn’t that the ladies were more annoying than usual, it was the men seated at the table across from them. Mom’s neighbor, Herb Garrett, was surrounded by his pinochle buddies–Bill, Kevin, Kenny, and Wayne. I got to know them this past fall when my mother decided she and her book club would take part in the local theater production of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap. When the men weren’t playing cards, they worked on construction and lighting for Sun City West’s theatrical troupe. And when they weren’t doing either of those things, they were complaining.
The men had their noses buried in newspapers, and all I could see were a bunch of bald heads with one exception–Wayne’s. He was the only one who still had all of his brownish gray hair. There was less conversation at the men’s table but more grunting. That was, until they noticed my mother. It seemed each one of the men suddenly had a beef they thought she should deal with. It started with Bill Sanders, who got up from his seat just as I was about to bite into my toasted poppy bagel with cream cheese.
“Psst! Harriet! I need a word with you. Good. Myrna Mittleson’s not here yet.”
My mother said “excuse me” to the group and swung her chair around.
It didn’t matter. Bill’s voice was loud enough to be heard in Idaho. That was three states away, no matter which route you took from Arizona.
“You’ve got to do something about Myrna. She’s destroying the bocce league. Not to mention the havoc she’s wreaking on our team. For criminy sake, Harriet, can’t you talk her into quitting? Maybe convince her to take up knitting or something?”
“Knitting? Are you nuts? Myrna’s all thumbs. Besides, she loves bocce.”
Bill let out a groan that made Cecilia Flanagan flinch and pull her black cardigan tight across her chest. Louise Munson and Lucinda Espinoza furrowed their brows and gave Bill nasty looks before returning to their food.
“Yeah,” he said. “She may love bocce, but she can’t toss the blasted ball. Lofts it all over the place. Last week it bounced into the miniature golf course next door and took out one of the blades on the windmill. And the week before, it bounced out of the bocce court and wound up on the garden pathway. That’s right next to the pool. Luckily it didn’t hit someone in the head or they might have drowned.”
“It can’t be all that bad. Besides, these things happen,” my mother said.
“Not every day! Not every time people play! Look, I hate to be blunt, but Myrna’s a menace. She’s a regular Amazon. All of us are scared to death when it’s her turn. She tromps up to the start line as if she’s about to throw a javelin. And no matter how many times we tell her to gently toss the ball, she heaves it like a shotput. I’m begging you, Harriet, please get her to quit. The Sun City West Bocce and Lawn Bowling Tournaments begin in three and a half weeks and she’ll get us disqualified.”
“You know I can’t do that. Plus—”
“Forget about Myrna and bocce ball,” Herb shouted, throwing his newspaper on our table, nearly knocking over glasses of water and cups of coffee. “We’ve got real problems in Sun City West. Did you read this article? Did any of you read this article?”
Then he motioned to his own table. “Check out Sorrel Harlan’s editorial on page fourteen. The one that says ‘Turn those golf courses into eco-friendly parks.’ That woman is insane. I always thought she had a screw loose, but it was her own screw. Now that she got appointed to the recreation center board of directors, she’ll be turning it on all of us!”

What exciting story are you working on next?
We’re juggling another Kensington series for Lyrical Underground and are finalizing Sauvigone For Good.

It’s winter in the Finger Lakes and time for the annual Chocolate and Wine Festival. Reluctant winery owner Norrie Ellington is counting the days before her sister and brother-in-law return from Costa Rica so she can relinquish the winery reins to them. Meanwhile, she’s got a chocolate festival to run and this year the winery association invited three master chocolatiers from Europe to do presentations at the wineries. Unfortunately, no one told Norrie they were rivals of the worst sort. When one of them is found dead with an empty glass of Two Witches’ Sauvignon in his hand, Norrie must scramble to find the killer before her winery’s reputation melts like the fine chocolates they planned to serve.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Ann’s been writing for eons, but for Jim, it came the moment they decided to collaborate on Booked 4 Murder, the first novel in the Sophie Kimball Mysteries.

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?
We write constantly! Sometimes on pieces of scrap paper or napkins when we go out to eat, but most of the time at home – Ann at her desk in our spare room and Jim on the laptop or tablet paper, or anything he can find. We don’t have set hours but try to maximize the time we have. Sometimes it’s only a half hour but other times, it can be the entire day. Living in Arizona where it hits the triple digits from June – August, we write in the afternoons because it’s impossible to go outside!

We thought we’d have lots of time on our hands as retirees, but we were wrong – dog park activities, exercise classes, swimming, eating out, book clubs…it never ends and we love it!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
More like styles, than quirks. Ann has to work in absolute silence in her office. Jim can have a marching band in front of him and it wouldn’t matter. He writes with the TV on or music playing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ann always wanted to be a teacher or a writer. She’s thrilled she was able to do both. Jim is still deciding…

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Co-authoring our cozy mysteries continues to be the greatest fun for us. We had to work around some kinks, like Ann preferring first person POV and Jim wanting third person POV. (Ann won!). We toss around ideas like crazy, practice ad lib dialogues that eventually get into print, and come up with the looniest characters based on composites of family, friends, and neighbors. For us, humor is paramount in our books. We want to keep our readers laughing and guessing. We’re both avid pet lovers and share our home with a neurotic Chiweenie that we based Streetman (Sophie Kimball Mysteries) on, as well as five quirky cats who drive the dog nuts. The goat and Plott Hound in the Wine Trail Mysteries are based on two of Ann’s brother’s pets. We’re got enough animals in the family to keep us going for a while!


Thanks for being here today! All the best with your writing projects.

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