Why do you write cozy mysteries?
Cozies are my favorite crime fiction subgenre. I’d wanted to write a cozy for several years before I started work on the Movie Club Mysteries, but it was hard to fit in another genre on top of my romance writing schedule. Now that my youngest child is in pre-school, I have four kid-free mornings a week, and I decided it was the perfect moment to dig out my mystery notes and flesh them out into a viable series concept. And so the Movie Club Mysteries came into being.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Dial P For Poison is the first book in the Movie Club Mysteries. It introduces us to Maggie Doyle, a former San Francisco cop, who moves to Ireland after her marriage falls apart. When the most hated woman on Whisper Island is poisoned at her aunt’s Movie Theater Café, Maggie and her rock-hard muffins are hurled into the investigation.
I had a blast writing this book. I’m Irish, so the setting details came easily to me. Whisper Island is loosely based on the Aran Islands, an area I’ve visited many times. My mom was born and grew up in San Francisco and moved to Ireland when she was nineteen. With Maggie, I was able to play with the culture shock/fish out of water element that my mother experienced.
Like Maggie, I’m a huge fan of old movies, and I loved the idea of incorporating that interest into the story. The book’s name comes from the Hitchcock movie, Dial M For Murder. In Dial P For Poison, the murder occurs while the movie club members are watching Dial M For Murder. I’m also a cocktail fan and I was able to get that into the book in the form of the murder weapon. Be sure to check out the back of the book for a recipe of the fatal cocktail—minus its deadly ingredient!
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
Honestly? My ideal reader is me, at least at the writing stage. I strive to write the sort of books I want to read: heavy on humor, rich on setting details, and filled with characters I’d like to hang out with in real life. I’ve tried to write to market, but unless the idea genuinely fires me up with enthusiasm, it’s a recipe for misery. All that said, I am aware of the market and of what’s currently selling well in the cozy mystery genre. As a business person, it’s smart to keep an eye on trends and figure out how to best place your books so that readers looking for the sort of stories you write can easily find them.
Please describe your writing routine.
I work somewhere between part-time and full-time hours, depending on the week. My morning routine is very predictable, but afternoons vary. Once I’ve packed the kids off to school and kindergarten, I sit down at my computer and get to work. I write from 8:00 to 10:00 and then take a break. Three days a week, I use this break to go jogging. I’m usually back at my computer by 11:00 and I work for another hour before the kids come home for lunch. We live in Switzerland—school kids come home every day for a ninety-minute lunch break. There’s a reason I work from home! When the kids go back to school, I get about two hours of writing time between 13:00 to 17:00, depending on what after school activities and appointments we have. Unless I have a pressing deadline, I use the time between 18:00 and 20:00 to take care of admin, marketing, and other tasks. I try not to work on weekends, but I sometimes use the time to work on book covers or teasers if those need to be taken care of.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Write the story that excites you and FINISH IT! Twenty-five perfectly polished first chapters will teach you far less about storytelling and creating compelling characters than one hot mess of a finished first draft. If the idea of finishing an 80,000-word book seems daunting, try writing a novella. Focusing on just one plot thread is easier than juggling a main plot and a few subplots and it’ll teach you to keep your writing tight. This is a valuable skill for when you tackle a longer more complex story. Good luck!
More about Dial P for Poison:
Movies. Muffins. Murder.
Maggie Doyle moved to Ireland to escape her cheating ex and crumbling career in the San Francisco PD. When the most hated woman on Whisper Island is poisoned at her aunt’s Movie Theater Café, Maggie and her rock-hard muffins are hurled into the investigation.
With the help of her UFO-enthusiast friend, a nun, and a feral puppy, Maggie is determined to clear her aunt’s name. Can she catch the murderer before they strike again? Or will her terrible baking skills burn down the café first?
Cozy, quirky, and fun, this tongue-in-cheek mystery is a delicious introduction to the Movie Club Mysteries Series. Grab a cocktail and join Maggie as she takes her detective skills across the pond in Dial P For Poison.
Grab your copy here!
How to connect with Zara:
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org