Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Interview with author Marilyn Meredith

Today, my guest is multi-published author, Marilyn Meredith. Today she's talking about her latest release, Angel Lost, #7 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series.

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?       

I’ve been writing since I was a kid everything from short stories, magazine articles, and plays. However, I didn’t get published until 1982 with a book that had been rejected nearly thirty times. It was an historical family saga based on my family’s genealogy. I wrote another about the other side of the family. Wondering what I should write next, since I loved reading mysteries, I decided that would be next. Since then I’ve mainly written mysteries, though I’ve strayed off a few times and written some horror novels and a romance with a touch of the supernatural.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

Angel Lost is #7 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. I do write each one as a stand-alone so it isn’t necessary for them to be read in order. The story is set in a fictional small beach community located between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Though the story centers around Officer Stacey Wilbur and her upcoming wedding to Detective Doug Milligan, what is happening with the other officers and their families play an important part in what happens during the week before the wedding.

What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?

When I read a book as a kid, I liked to write a similar one, my own version of the same     book. The first book I wrote as an adult that was published came about because my sister      did our family genealogy and there were so many unanswered questions, I decided to do     some research and as I did, I decided to write a fiction book and fill in the blanks.

Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I always begin with the characters. Because the I always write about the officers on the
Rocky Bluff Police Department, the first thing I do is decide who is going to be the major
character the book is going to focus on and what problem he or she is going to have to deal with, often a crime, but it could be a family crisis. I begin collecting ideas about all the crimes that the officers are going to have to deal with, some big some small. The plot comes out of that. Sometimes it’s something I witnessed or heard about that is the nucleus for the story.

Which of your characters do you  love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I don’t think I’ve ever hated or feared a character. It’s fun to write about a villain. When it comes to pity though, I feel sorry for a character called Gordon Butler who has been in the latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries. Nothing ever goes right for him, and though I do feel sorry for him, I have a lot of fun writing about his problems.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Getting started is always hard for me. I have to think a lot about all the ideas I have to decide exactly where I want to begin.

Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

Every book takes some research, nothing like when I wrote my historical novels though. I     do have friends in law enforcement who I contact for help, but my stories are definitely fictional. Rocky Bluff P.D. is a small department with little money and no high-tech equipment. Most of their detecting is done the old-fashioned way. As for the family dynamics, I have relatives and friends in law enforcement and I’m a good observer.

It takes me about six months to write a book.

What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

Because promotion is such a big part of writing these days, finding the time to just write is a big challenge.

Describe your writing space.

I’m fortunate to have an office with two desks, the one with my computer and another     right behind it. I’m surrounded by bookshelves and lots of books and office materials. I     have a big window, but usually keep the curtains closed so I don’t spend too much time gazing at the great view of the hills and mountains.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have a big family and I like to spend time with them. Recently, one of my     granddaughters got married and it was such a fun wedding and of course a lot of relatives came. Once a year, my sister’s and my family all get together for a weekend reunion. We play games, eat great food,  and the kids put on a talent show. Of course I love to read     and watch movies.

What books or authors have influenced your writing?
When I first began writing mysteries I was fortunate to have attended a small mystery
conference that Mary Higgins Clark came to, and she was such a charming person and so     helpful to everyone. I’ve also admired the way James Lee Burke and Wm. Kent Kruege
described the settings in their books. Of course there too many women writers that over     the years I’ve enjoyed reading and probably influenced my writing in one way or another.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

Things are changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. I’ve been published electronically for years, first when there was no such thing as an e-reader. Then the Rocket e-Reader came along and it was great. Now there are so many readers to choose from, but I have a Kindle. I still buy regular books too, but the Kindle sure comes in handy in waiting rooms and on airplanes. E-books are only going to become more popular, but I don’t think that means regular books are going to disappear.

What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up forrelease?

Angel Lost is of course my latest book. In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series the latest book is Invisible Path. Bears With Us will be out this fall. I’m editing the next Rocky Bluff P.D. novel, and writing another Tempe mystery.

What is your marketing plan?

I’ve been on a month long blog tour which I am continuing this month. Of course I use Facebook and Twitter. I’ll have a table or booth at  several book and craft fairs, I’m attending Mayhem in the Midlands and the Public Safety Writers Association’s conference. I’m also going to be an instructor at Cuesta College’s writing conference.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Read what you want to write. Write on a regular basis. Find a good critique group to join. Attend writing conferences so you can learn more about the craft of writing. Join groups like Sisters in Crime to keep up with what’s going on in the writing world.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

My website, has all my books and the first chapters of most of them. On my blog I share a lot about my personal and writing life as well as hosting other authors.

“Officer Wilbur, are you listening?” Detective Doug Milligan fixed his blue eyes on Stacey.
            She squirmed in her seat and felt the heat rise up her neck to her cheeks. The honest answer was “no” because she’d been thinking about plans for their coming wedding, certainly not the topic being discussed at the shift change briefing. She quickly back-tracked to what she last remembered—the man who exposed himself to female joggers on the beach. Since she figured they might have gone onto another subject without her realizing, she decided to be honest. “Sorry.”
            The others in the room stared at her. Doug’s partner, the nearly bald Frank Marshall had a bemused expression on his face. He unwrapped a stick of gum, folded it, and put it in his mouth. Chewing gum had replaced a smoking habit. He winked at her.
            Stacey figured he guessed what she’d been thinking about. Having everyone speculating about her private life had been one of the reasons Stacey vowed never to date anyone on the Rocky Bluff P.D.—a vow she’d broken when she and Doug had been mutually attracted to one another.
            Handsome Ryan Strickland, the public relations officer for Rocky Bluff P.D., reached over and patted her hand. “We know you have more important things on your mind with your wedding less than two weeks away—but since there’s a pervert who decided to make jogging on the beach an unpleasant experience for females, maybe you ought to pay attention, since it does fall under your job description.”     
            Shrugging and grinning, Stacey said, “What can I say? You’re absolutely right, my mind was elsewhere. Sorry. I’m listening now, but I did hear most of it.” She absently caressed the tear drop diamond in her engagement ring.
            The group around her murmured and she heard a few chuckles. In attendance besides Doug, Frank and Ryan, were most of the patrol officers on the daytime shift, including Gordon Butler. Sergeant Abel Navarro and the men who worked the evening hours were still there too.
            Stacey was thankful Chief McKenzie was absent. He might regret making her head of the Vice team—a team that so far consisted only of her.
            “We’ve had our third complaint in the last two weeks about a man on the beach exposing himself to unsuspecting female joggers.” Doug glanced at the notes on his desk. “It’s probable that the same thing has happened to others, but they haven’t bothered to report it.”
            He looked so much younger since he’d shaved his mustache. Stacey remembered when she first came on the department almost every officer had a mustache; now most were clean-shaven. Without the mustache, Doug’s dimples were even more prominent. She shook her head, time to pay attention and stop admiring her future husband.
            Doug continued. “This guy is a real scumbag. He usually fondles himself and talks nasty to the victims. None of them could remember exactly what he said because they immediately ran away. The last young woman, a Claudine Graham, reported that the man started following her. I think this pervert is getting braver and may attack a woman.”
            “Is there a pattern? Does he do this at any particular time?” Stacey asked. “Do you have an accurate description?”
            “That’s what I was talking about when you spaced out on us.” Doug’s grin softened the sting of his words. “This has always happened early in the morning, between 6:30 and 8 a.m. Seems all three victims like to jog before going to work. Yes, we do have a description, a white male, anywhere from late twenties to early forties, close to six foot tall and around 200 pounds. Wears a watch cap so don’t know his hair color.”
            “What do you want to do about the suspect? Put someone on beach patrol? Maybe I could start jogging during that time period and catch the pervert in the act.” Stacey knew if anyone but Doug was in charge he would jump at the chance to use her as a decoy. She could tell by Doug’s hesitation that he wasn’t thrilled by the idea.
            Abel Navarro spoke. “That’s a great idea, Wilbur.”
            “I suppose it is,” Doug smoothed back his dark hair and tapped on the desk with his pen. “We’ll provide you with back-up.”
            “Probably won’t be necessary. It’s cool in the morning. I can carry my gun and cuffs in my jacket.” Though Stacey was small, five foot four and one-hundred five pounds, people still talked about the time she took down a nearly three-hundred pound would-be bank robber. Luck had played a big part in the arrest, plus the suspect had been shocked by a petite female having the guts to confront him. All the men in the bank, including the security guard, had cowered. No matter, the incident had given her a status in the department she was quite happy to have.
            “At least call in before you head out. That way, a unit can be close by if the suspect crosses your path.” The scowl on Doug’s face made it obvious he wasn’t pleased with the idea.
            One of the uniformed officers, a recent transfer from LAPD, raised his hand. Stacey had to think a moment to remember his name. Vaughn Aragon, that was it. She didn’t know much about him except that he’d told a couple of guys that he wanted to get away from big city crime. Sandy-haired and lightly-freckled, he wasn’t as short as Abel Navarro, but was at least three inches under six-foot. She guessed he was at least thirty, maybe older. She’d heard he was recently divorced. Although he didn’t look Hispanic, he could speak Spanish, the main reason he’d been hired.
            When he was acknowledged by Doug, Aragon said, “I worked a similar case in L.A. at Venice beach.”
            Doug nodded. “Why don’t you and Wilbur work on this together.”
            Swell, she was going to be saddled with someone she didn’t even know. Aragon turned in his seat and grinned. Without any enthusiasm, she smiled back.
            The meeting continued as a rash of burglaries in the wealthiest part of Rocky Bluff were discussed. In each case, the thief had found easy access to the expensive homes. Possibly the owners felt unwisely secure because of the location.
            Some of the oddest happenings of the day were also brought up, from the report of a poisoned squirrel dying on a front lawn, two peacocks strutting down a residential street interfering with traffic, and a woman who thought her boyfriend was missing but was found asleep in their bed.
            When the meeting was over and those on the late shift headed toward their police units,
            Aragon approached Stacey. “How should we go about this?” He seemed nervous.
            Stacey motioned to the chair near hers. “Why don’t you tell me how the similar case you were on was handled.”
            He turned the chair around and straddled it. “It was a lot like this one. Pervert approached from the opposite direction on the beach like he was taking an early morning stroll. When he neared the female jogger, he’d open his coat and grab himself. Usually made some kind of nasty suggestions, though most of his victims didn’t hang around long enough to hear what he said.”
            “Did your guy ever try to attack any of these women?”
            “No, we caught him right away.”
            “How did you do it?”
            “Pretty much like you suggested. One of the female cops jogged along the same stretch of beach and the very first time she did it, the guy approached her. I’d been sitting farther up the beach watching with binoculars. She exchanged words with him and I got there in time to help with the arrest.”
            Stacey nodded. “Hopefully, it’ll go that way for us too. Tomorrow’s my day off and I have too much to do to give it up.”
            “Stuff for the big wedding day, right?” Aragon displayed his full set of slightly crooked teeth in an enormous grin.
            She decided to ignore his question. He didn’t know her well enough to tease her, but the police department was like a small town, everyone liked to gossip. Right now, her upcoming wedding to Doug was the hottest topic. Too bad there wasn’t a gruesome murder to grab everyone’s interest. She couldn’t believe such a thought popped into her mind. She shook her head.
            “We’ll start day after tomorrow. Meet me at the condemned pier at seven a.m. I’ll point out the places where each of victim had her encounter with this jerk. That should help us choose the best spot for you to watch while I jog. If nothing else, I’ll get some exercise.”
* * *
            Doug caught up with Stacey in the parking lot. “How about coming back to the house for awhile?”
            Stacey grinned at him. “As much as I’d like to, I think I better get home. I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.”
            “I know, but do you have time for a cup of coffee at least? We could stop at the diner. I wanted to talk to you about this pervert. I’m not so sure I want you to be a decoy.”
            “Okay. A cup of coffee.”
            Though Doug suggested she ride with him, she declined. Driving her yellow VW, she followed his black SUV. When they’d met, Doug drove a red vintage MG he’d restored. The SUV didn’t seem like the right vehicle for him Unfortunately his pride and joy had been sunk in a lagoon by a suspect. Though it had been fully insured, he’d replaced it with the SUV, reasoning it was more suitable for a family man. Perhaps he was right as there was plenty of room, even for the times his two children might visit.
             They parked in front of the diner located on Valley Drive, the main street of Rocky Bluff. A favorite with cops and civilians alike, the diner, aptly called The Gathering Place, stayed open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. According to the newspaper clipping framed on the wall, the establishment opened its doors in 1939. It was laid out like many diners of an older era, with a counter down one side and booths on the other. Through the years, each new owner had rejuvenated it with a paint job, new curtains and decorations.  Though everything was fresh and clean, the latest version reflected an earlier time with blue and white gingham curtains and shelves filled with old-fashioned kitchen equipment like old toasters, mixers, bread boxes and cheese graters. The waitresses wore blue and white gingham aprons, though underneath most wore white blouses and dark slacks.
            Once Doug and Stacey settled in their favorite booth at the back of the room, with steaming cups of coffee in front of them, she said, “Don’t say anything about the pervert on the beach. It’s my job to take care of these kinds of cases now.”
            Reaching across the blue and white speckled Formica table-top, Doug took one of her hands. “That’s not what’s bothering me. We really don’t know much about this new guy, Aragon. I’d be much happier if someone else was going to back you up.”
            “Like who? Gordon?” Stacey’s blue eyes twinkled.
            “No, as much as I like Butler, he’d probably botch the whole thing.”
            “Sounds like Aragon has a lot more experience than Gordon. I really don’t see how anything can go wrong.”
            “Something can always go wrong.”
            Nodding, Stacey squeezed his hand. “Yes, and it can go wrong with weddings too. That’s why I have to go home early tonight and really concentrate on everything that I still have to do. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.”
            Doug sipped some coffee. He’d be so happy when he and Stacey were finally married and she and her son Davey lived with him. “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t agreed to a big wedding.”
            She shook her head. “You didn’t and we aren’t having one. This is a small ceremony in the church with only our relatives and close friends.”
            “Close friends meaning all the police officers who don’t have to work along with their wives and kids.”
            “And my mom and dad and Davey.”
            “Of course.” He sipped his coffee and swallowed hard. “It just seems the plans keep expanding.”
            Stacey raised her eyebrows and tipped her head. “Sounds like you’re getting nervous. You aren’t having second thoughts are you?”
            “Absolutely not. I can hardly wait.” They’d already picked out matching wedding rings and gotten their marriage license. He wished they could have a simple ceremony at the court house, but Stacey and her parents were adamant that their wedding be performed by their minister and in the church.
            He studied Stacey. Her short honey colored hair curled slightly around her elfin face that was nearly devoid of make-up. She was so different than his first wife. Though beautiful, Kerrie couldn’t stand the fact that he was a policeman. When one of their best friends was killed on the job, that was the end of the marriage. Stacey filled the void left by his divorce. Of course he missed his kids, but Stacey’s six-year-old son, Davey, helped ease that pain. He was eager to be a full-time father again.
            She frowned. “That’s good because I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to make everything perfect.” When she broke into giggles, Doug knew she was teasing.
            “I thought we weren’t planning anything extravagant.” Every time she started talking about what she was doing, it made him nervous. No doubt their ideas of a small wedding weren’t the same. He hadn’t been asked to foot the bill for anything and, so far, had only paid for the rings. It wasn’t the expense that was bothering him. He’d already experienced one big wedding and the outcome wasn’t good. He was hoping a much smaller event and their love would result in a lasting commitment.
            “Trust me, sweetheart.” A smile lingered on her full lips. “It will be far from extravagant, but I do want it to be nice. My plan is to make our special day something we’ll both remember.


  1. Hi, Penny, thanks so much for hosting me today. This was a fun interview.


  2. Marilyn, it's always a pleasure having you here. You are an inspiration to me.

  3. Wow, being an inspiration for someone is quite awe-inspiring.

  4. Enjoyed the interview and the book excerpt. It was nice learning about Marilyn. I'm going to have to get my hands on some of her books. I think I'll enjoy reading them.

  5. Susanne, thanks for stopping by. I've read a couple of Marilyn's mysteries and enjoyed them. She has a nice easy writing style and great character development.