MM2: Maggie, tell us about MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP.
Murder at the Book Group is the story of two women: Carlene Arness is a mystery writer who dies after drinking poisoned tea during a meeting of her book group in Richmond, VA. Hazel Rose is a romance writer who decides to find out who killed Carlene. Hazel is amazed when she finds that the refined and reserved Carlene had quite a checkered past, full of secrets, scandals, and betrayals. She’s equally amazed at what she learns about the other Baby Boomer aged book group members.
Where did you get the idea?
I love book groups and have been in many—they have a special dynamic and the members can be fascinating to observe.
I joined my first mystery book group in Santa Clarita, CA in 1993. I’d been reading Agatha Christie for years but there was a whole world of other mystery authors out there and I was ready to dive in. The women in the group were lovely—almost too lovely. I hadn’t yet started my writing career but I knew I was on my way when the what-if scenarios came to me unbidden—
What if these women weren’t really so nice?
What if this was all for show and they harbored secrets, agendas, hatreds?
I held unto these ideas for many years. When I started Murder at the Book Group in earnest I gave these women backstories and they became the story prototypes.
I also like to write and read about people at a crossroads in their lives. In Murder at the Book Group both the sleuth and the victim are standing at a crossroads—Hazel Rose is at loose ends in her life, stuck in a rut. She isn’t unhappy but she isn’t fulfilled either. As for Carlene Arness, the victim, she’s recently published her first mystery but her marriage to Hazel’s first husband is falling apart. Carlene probably wasn’t cut out for monogamy and her eye has started to wander.
Unfortunately, Carlene doesn’t get to cross the road—but solving her murder gives Hazel the opportunity to grow and get out of her rut.
How long it took you to write the book?
About ten years. At least. I’d been writing variations of the story for many years before.
MM2: Do you belong to a book group?
Not at this time. I’ve been in several over the years, often two at a time. Ironically, the only way I could finish Murder at the Book Group was to give up book groups!
MM2: For you what comes first, the setting or the characters, plot such as the murder?
For Murder at the Book Group and for my second Hazel Rose mystery (as yet untitled) the plot came first, and the setting and characters complement the plot. For “A Not So Genteel Murder,” published in the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology (Koehler Books, 2014), the setting came first because a Virginia setting was a requirement for submission. I developed the plot around the setting and the characters followed. The same holds true for the story I submitted to the Virginia is for Mysteries II anthology, due out April, 2016.
MM2: What advice do you have for mystery writers?
Write every day, even for a short time, and make it a priority. Find a schedule that works for you. It’s important to get into the habit of writing. Walk a lot (that’s when I get my best ideas). Read mysteries, especially in your sub-genre (cozy, thriller, police procedure, etc.). Read books on craft, but don’t let reading interfere with your writing.
MM2: How do you combat the stress of writing a book? Which of course is a huge undertaking?
I try to stay healthy by eating right, walking, stretching—and remembering to breathe! If I feel overwhelmed I tell myself “It’s one chapter at a time.” Sometimes it’s “a page at a time,” “a paragraph at a time,” “a sentence…” you get the idea.
MM2: Tell us a little about your family life, friends, writing support group and your favorite meal?
I have a loving husband, Glen, and two cats named Morris and Olive. I treasure the time I spend with them. Glen and I dine by candlelight, drink coffee in bed, and watch mysteries on DVDs that we rent from the library.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and had a lot of jobs so I’ve acquired many friends over the years. I enjoy connecting with all of them.
I belong to the Sisters in Crime Central Virginia chapter. We support each other at each stage of our writing careers and we have fun going “on the road” to promote our anthology.
My favorite meal? Anything Italian!
MM2: Leave us with words of wisdom for your protagonist?
Hazel, develop your writing talents and maintain your compassion for others. Learn from your past mistakes and then move forward and embrace love.
MM2: Please direct us to any websites or blogs?
http://www.maggieking.com my author web site
https://www.facebook.com/maggie.e.kingmy Facebook page
https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthrmy Twitter account
http://annerallen.blogspot.com a great blog for writers
https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com Buried Under Books: Tales of a Former Indie Bookseller
http://www.virginiaisformysteries.com Virginia is for Mysteries anthology, collection of seventeen stories penned by members of the Sisters in Crime Central Virginia and Mysteries by the Sea chapters.
Maggie King is the author of Murder at the Book Group, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” in the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor.
Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.