My guest today is fellow mystery writer and Oak Tree Press author, Marilyn Levinson. Her varied published works and fascinating background provide some interesting insights into the writing life. Welcome, Marilyn.
1. Why did you become a writer? Was it a lifelong dream or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina. In high school, an English teacher managed to stifle my creativity, and I became a Spanish teacher instead. I found myself writing fiction when my sons were small. They’re now in their forties, and I’ve been writing ever since.
2. What was the inspiration for your latest work?
Once I decided that my sleuth would lead a mystery book club, I knew that I wanted the book club to read and discuss various Agatha Christie novels. To me, Dame Agatha is the founder of the cozy mystery. Murder a la Christie is my tribute to her.
3. Do you base your characters on real people, or are they totally from your imagination?
I don’t base my characters on real people—at least not consciously. My characters arise wholly from my imagination and take on a life of their own.
4. What kinds of research do you do, and where do you go to do it?
I do whatever research is necessary as I write my book. I’m lucky to have friends who were in police departments. I seek their advice when I’m not sure about police procedural. As for other research, I first go to the internet and learn what I can online. Then I turn to people, many of whom are my fellow mystery writers.
5. What was the most interesting research you’ve done?
Learning how a building is demolished. I needed this information for Murder in the Air because a body is discovered that was hidden 70 years earlier.
6. Are you currently working on any new projects?
Right now I’m editing Murder the Tey Way, the sequel to Murder a la Christie. I’ve also begun work on a new mystery series about a Connecticut librarian in charge of Programs and Events.
7. Do you have any writing advice for beginning writers? What about promotion?
Write, read, critique. Promotion is necessary for every author. Discover how you enjoy connecting with readers and your fellow writers, since they are readers too, and promote that way.
8. What is your favorite book and why? Do you have a favorite author?
Among my favorite books are Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. I’ve no idea why these two books, of the thousands I’ve read, come immediately to mind. They are very different from each other, but alike in that they’re both beautifully written and have unforgettable stories.
I don’t have a favorite author, but many of my favorite mainstream authors are British. As for favorite mystery authors, I love Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Tana French, Katherine Hall Page—to name a few.
9. What are you currently reading?
I read a few books at a time. One is a wonderful mystery entitled An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson. Interesting, that the sleuth in this book is Josephine Tey. I’m also reading Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl.
10. Do you have a writing schedule? When do you find time to write?
I find I write best in the late afternoon. Promotion and internet activity often cut into my writing time.
11. What was your journey to publication? How did you find your publisher?
My first book, a children’s novel, came out in 1986. My agent sold And Don’t Bring Jeremy to Holt. It received a good deal of attention, and I assumed that everything I wrote from then on would be published. Hah! No such thing happened, though one children’s book remained in print for 18 or 19 years, and another was named a “Children’s Choice.”
Some years ago I started writing mysteries. My first few came out with e-presses. The first, A Murderer Among Us, my first Twin Lakes mystery, was awarded a Best Indie by Suspense Magazine. Murder a la Christie, a Malice finalist, came out this February with Oak Tree Press. I am delighted by the wonderful acclaim it has been receiving.
12. Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies? Any routines or rituals?
Oddly enough, I can’t settle down to my writing first thing in the day so I go through my email first.
13. Are your friends and family supportive of your writing?
One friend is especially supportive of me as a writer, and often tells me I don’t realize how much I’ve accomplished. My kids and my non-writing friends are proud of me, but that’s not the side of me uppermost in their minds. Frankly, I prefer it that way. I receive a great deal of mutual support from my writing friends.
14. What’s your most challenging aspect of writing?
Occasionally I’ll have a plot problem. A good thing I’m in a small group of mystery writers for this. We brainstorm plot problems, ways of murdering people, titles, etc.
A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids.
Her latest mystery, Murder a la Christie, is out with Oak Tree Press. Untreed Reads has brought out a new e-edition of her first Twin Lakes mystery, A Murderer Among Us—a Suspense Magazine Best Indie—and will bring out a new e-edition of the sequel, Murder in the Air, in April. Her ghost mystery, Giving Up the Ghost, and her romantic suspense, Dangerous Relations, are out with Uncial Press. All of her mysteries take place on Long Island, where she lives.
Her books for young readers include No Boys Allowed; Rufus and Magic Run Amok, which was awarded a Children's Choice; Getting Back to Normal, and And Don't Bring Jeremy.
Marilyn loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her granddaughter, Olivia, on FaceTime. She is co-founder and past president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Her books are available on her Amazon page: http://amzn.to/K6Md1O and her website: www.marilynlevinson.com
Read her blog on Make Mine Mystery the first and third Mondays of each month: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com