Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Interview with Penny Clover Petersen

MM: Penny give us the backstory on how you became an author?

   P: I’ve always loved books, but never really thought about writing one until I was fifty-nine and retired. Up to that point I had written a few short stories for my children, tried some poetry, and taken some creative writing classes, but nothing really clicked. After I retired I had time on my hands and was looking for a hobby. My husband suggested that I write a book. So I began writing a cozy mystery that I thought would just be a time filler, but as it actually turned into something I might want to read, I got more serious about it.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?
   P: I write in my office at the computer. I make notes anywhere, but can’t really write unless I’m in my chair looking at the screen.

MM: Tell us about your writing schedule?
   P: I have a terrible writing schedule. Each week I plan two hours a day for writing and by day two, the plan is a complete shambles. Life keeps getting in the way.

MM: If you could invite five authors (living or dead), to sit down to a meal with you. Who would they be and what would you want to know?
   P: This is quite a question. I think I would love to have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because my great-aunt actually knew him and I do love Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie because she is the original cozy writer and Miss Marple is my hero. Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker because I am fascinated and awed by their wit. And Dick Francis because he told such a good tale. I don’t know that I would ask them anything. I would serve a lovely dinner, keep their glasses full, and just listen and learn.

MM: Tell us about your latest book/s?

   P: I am the author of Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My and Roses Are Dead, My Love, a cozy mystery series. My leading ladies, Daisy and Rose Forrest, are sisters who inherited an old house in fictional Old Towne Bostwick Maryland at a time when they both needed a change. They moved into the upper floors and opened a gift shop downstairs. These ladies, along with their irrepressible mother, Angela, seem to attract trouble and love it! Curious and persistent they never let pesky things like police tape or locked doors deter them from getting to the bottom of blackmail, threatening letters, missing diamonds, childish pranks, or murder.

   In Roses Are Dead, My Love, released last May, Daisy and Rose find themselves inadvertently caught in the middle of a nasty blackmail plot in Old Towne. When their dog house goes up in flames, Rose is whacked on the head and Malcolm, their beloved pooch, is duct-taped, and they practically trip over the body of the woman who runs the post office they are hot on the trail of a murdering lunatic once again.
MM: Why do you like writing books?
   P: It’s great fun to write characters that can do all the things I either can’t do or never would do. Daisy, Rose, and Angela have an enormous amount of energy, don’t mind sticking their noses in other people’s business, and have absolutely no hesitation breaking into attics, dark houses, and post offices. They also dress extremely well and mix a mean cocktail.
   I also love being able to write witty banter between sisters or finding the perfect words for every situation. In life I so rarely come up with the best comeback when I need it. In books, I have the luxury of getting the dialog just right. 

MM: Is there an author, teacher, mentor, or group that has inspired you?
   P: Of the many books and authors I’ve read, I think Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird made the greatest impression on me. I just fell in love with the words. I still read it yearly and always marvel at the fact that to me it’s still as beautiful as the first time I read it.

MM: let's talk about 2016? What are you looking forward to in 2016?
   P: Well, I hope to have finished my third book by the spring. And I am planning to attend the Malice Domestic conference in April and the C3 Conference in the fall.
   On a personal note, my husband, Tom, and I will be celebrating our 45th anniversary. We have never been on a cruise and are planning one for the occasion. Other than that life should continue on as usual with lots of family and friends.

MM: Give us a little backstory on you and your childhood? Were you a reader and what were some of your favorite authors and titles?
   P: I grew up in Washington DC and College Park, MD. I was the fourth of six kids. My dad was a lawyer for the government. My mother stayed home and kept everything going. There were a lot of noisy family dinners and laughter in the house.
   My mother instilled in us a love of books. My earliest memories are of my mother reading to us before bed or at lunch on a cold afternoon. My father and brother were poets. My sisters are all very artistic.
   My mother, also, introduced me to three of her (and now my) favorite authors; P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers.
   In addition to Harper Lee, I am a devoted fan J.R.R. Tolkien and would have to say The Lord of the Rings is probably my favorite book.     

MM: Okay now for some fun questions. What is your favorite song, movies, place to vacation, comedian, dessert, meal, binge television shows, artist and do you collect anything or have a hobby?
   P: Del Shannon’s Runaway; Love Actually; Nags Head, NC; Trevor Noah or Jon Stewart; Yellow layer cake with chocolate icing; Thanksgiving dinner; Leverage and Pride and Prejudice (6 part BBC series); Monet; I am a docent at historic Riversdale Mansion and I love to bake.

MM: What comes first the character, the plot, the setting or the situation?
   P: The basic plot comes first, then the characters. But I lean most heavily on the characters.

MM: What would your characters tell us about you?
   P: A fair amount. Daisy and Rose Forrest are loosely based on my sisters and me. We are all very close and have a great time when we’re together. Angela Forrest is based on my mother, my mother-in-law, and my best friend’s mother and as such is my favorite character.

MM: Do you have a favorite quote?
   P: I had to think about this for quite a while and I would have to say “No matter how dark the night is, you can always break a window with a hammer.” My brother used to say this and it sort of sums up our family’s philosophy.

MM: What one life lesson have you learned that you can apply to writing books?
   P: If something is supposed to be enjoyable and it ceases to be, then it’s time to stop. I write for fun. When it stops being fun, I will stop writing.

MM: In closing what would you like to say to your readers, your village of friends and family and of course your bloggers?
   P: A big thank you. I began writing as a hobby. I never dreamed that anyone would buy my books or read my blog. When I hear from family, friends, or people that I’ve even never met that they love Angela or Malcolm or can relate to a post I’ve written I am delighted and honored. It gives me the incentive I need to keep writing.

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