Today I welcome mystery author, Rebecca M. Douglass, to talk about Death by Trombone, the second installment in her Pismawallops PTA mystery series. Welcome, Rebecca.
Why do you write cozy mysteries?
I have been reading cozy mysteries for years, so when I set out to write a mystery it was natural that it would be a cozy. That also fits with my sense of humor — I just can’t take things too seriously, so I wasn’t likely to pull off a thriller or even a good police procedural. I like to keep the tone light, and I like reading books where the setting, people, and community are as important as the mystery, so that’s the kind of book I try to write.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Death By Trombone is the second book in the Pismawallops PTA mystery series, so the main characters and setting were developed with Death By Ice Cream. Writing about a PTA was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer to the constant advice to “write what you know,” as at that time I was fully immersed in running a PTA (a task for which I’m not really any better suited than JJ MacGregor is). Pismawallops Island is in part based on Vashon Island, the Puget Sound “Rock” where I grew up.
The idea for DBT came from the title, which I’m pretty sure I selected just because it was a bit absurd. Having the title, I simply went looking around my brain for a trombonist, and the rest followed! JJ struggles with her impulse to investigate, because she knows it can be dangerous, and she’s a single mom. She is also at least half in love with the police chief, so if she forgets she shouldn’t be interfering, he’s always willing to remind her. But as she herself would say, things just happen to her, and she can’t ignore them, can she?
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
I don’t think I have an ideal reader in mind, exactly. I do keep a certain type of audience in mind, as much as anything to keep me from wandering too far into non-cozy situations (violence, cursing, or sex). My mom (I admit it!) is in many ways that audience, and I sometimes run things by her to see if I’ve gone too far. Because this is a series about a PTA, I’m also thinking of the PTA parents who often share the same frustrations as JJ and her friend Kitty: the difficulty of finding volunteers, too many expectations, and the way that kind of work can keep drawing you in deeper. On reflection, that pretty much explains how JJ got started sleuthing, too!
Please describe your writing routine.
I wish! On an ideal day (I’m pretty sure I’ve had one of those, sometime), I would see the kid out the door at about 7:20, finish my breakfast and read the paper, and at 8:00 start working. I’d work for 2-3 hours, break for a workout and lunch, and then go to my job at the library. Evenings are for social media.
What really happens is that I have to run to the grocery store after breakfast, and then I just have to peek at Facebook, and someone wrote a great trip report on the backpacking forum where I hang out, and I need to run a load of laundry and bake some bread and… I do usually try to work for 1-2 hours each morning on writing or editing, and to spend some time at Goodreads and reading and commenting on other people’s blogs each day.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Read. Read, read, read! And write. If you haven’t internalized English grammar, read more, and study it, because having the mechanics come without thinking really helps. Read in your genre and in others, including at least some of the time in genres you don’t really like. Pick a book in your genre that you like and dissect it — re-read, listen to the audio, figure out why you like it, and what works or doesn’t work. And write a lot. Don’t expect your first novel to be any good, but do finish and revise it. That’s all part of learning the craft. Finally, if you don’t enjoy the process, and I mean most of it (we all have something we struggle over), then it probably isn’t for you. Writing is unlikely to make you rich, so you need to love it.
More about Death by Trombone:
JJ MacGregor’s very bad day has just gotten a lot worse.
JJ thought starting the day without coffee was a disaster, but now there’s a dead musician behind the Pismawallops High School gym. His trombone is missing, and something about the scene is off key. JJ and Police Chief Ron Karlson are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, but will they be able to work harmoniously or will discord ruin the investigation? With the music teacher as the prime suspect, JJ could be left to conduct the band, and then graduation might truly end in a death by trombone, or at least the murder of Pomp and Circumstance!
Grab your copy here: [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B019HK8VI6]
How to connect with Rebecca:
Email address: Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
Other places to buy Death by Trombone:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-by-trombone-rebecca-m-douglass/1123153621?ean=2940152530179
Thanks for letting me come chatter on your blog!
My pleasure, Rebecca. I make my home in western Washington, so Vashon Island is just a hop and skip away. How delightful to know that’s the setting for Death by Trombone. My husband, a trombone player, told me this morning he had to have a copy of your book for the title alone.