Imagine being stranded in an 1880 ghost town or dining with the Bogey Man. Author Marja McGraw tells all, including a disastrous first novel whose title she later stole as a vital clue.
1. Which of your books makes you the proudest? Why?
Old Murders Never Die actually required a lot of research because it’s about a P.I. and her partner becoming stranded in a ghost town. I had to find out what things were like in 1880, how people might have spoken, and how items they found in the town, like wood-burning cook stoves, worked. It was actually quite interesting. Imagine yourself being stuck in a ghost town with no way to leave, and only the items left behind by Old West residents to use to live day by day. And then you discover records of a series of murders.
This story, in particular, brightened my day and made me feel like I’d done something worth feeling good about.
2. Is there a book that you've written which may never see publication? Or one which surfaced after years from the closet onto the bookshelf?
The first book I ever wrote was a total disaster. I had no idea what I was doing so it was corny, poorly written and has mysteriously disappeared over the years. Well, maybe it’s not a mystery to me. However, I was able to use the title (Summer’s Ghost) as a clue in another story titled My Name is Ace (due to be released in January, 2013).
3. If you've had another career, how do you think it affected your work? If you could go back and pursue a different career, what would you choose?
When I was younger I worked in both civil and criminal law enforcement, although in a clerical capacity, and the things I learned on those jobs have certainly influenced my writing. Back in the day we didn’t have female deputies, and those of us who were clerical occasionally filled in when a woman’s touch was needed. From searching a women’s restroom for a bomb to receiving a death threat from someone who wanted a job with the department, it was interesting, to say the least.
If life hadn’t gotten in the way, I would have studied archaeology. A few of my books involve old crimes, so maybe in the back of my mind I still wish I could have followed my heart.
4. If you could spend a day, dinner included, with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do or talk about together?
I’d spend a day with Chris Cross, the Bogey Man, simply because he resembles Humphrey Bogart, including talking the slang of the day and Bogey’s mannerisms. (The latest book in this series is Bogey’s Ace in the Hole.) We’d have to dine at his 1940s-themed restaurant and we’d talk about his cases, the people he’s met as an amateur sleuth, and why he enjoys mimicking Bogart.
I’d have to ask him what I’m missing when I write about him. What does he feel I’m neglecting that he’d like people to know about him?
After that I’d invite myself to his house to meet his wife, Pamela, his stepson, Mikey, and Sherlock and Watson, his two yellow Labrador Retrievers.
5. Name three necessary personal qualities a writer needs to succeed.
Patience -- In most cases, things aren’t going to happen in the timeline you set for yourself. I sometimes find myself feeling frustrated, so I have to turn my attention to other things, like marketing and promoting. We belong to a time when people want Instant Gratification. The only way I feel Instant Gratification is when I open and eat a chocolate candy bar. Writing and publication? Forget it. Be patient.
Tenacity combined with common sense – If a publisher turns down your work, try another one, and another one. If your stack of rejections becomes too thick, take another look at your book. Maybe it can be improved on, or maybe not. Then try again.
A sense of humor – Things aren’t always going to work out the way you’d like, so learn to find a funny side. I’d rather laugh than cry, and in this business there are plenty of things that can bring tears to your eyes. Although if your first book has just been published, that’s a whole different kind of tears.
At the end of this tour two names will be randomly selected from those who've left comments and they'll each receive a copy of Bogey's Ace in the Hole. BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITH MARJA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lou, Thank you so much for inviting me to share my thoughts today. I’ve really enjoyed visiting.