Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guest Interview with Mystery Author Marilyn Meredith

Today my guest is mystery writer and good friend, Marilyn Meredith. We met at a writers’ conference several years ago and have since become good friends. We also discovered we share the same birthday! (Maybe that’s why we are so compatible!) So I’m delighted to welcome Marilyn today.

And I’m delighted to be here. Lorna and I have a lot in common besides our birthdays.

We know each other pretty well, but I never asked where you grew up.

I was born in Glendale but lived my whole growing up years in Eagle Rock which is located between Glendale and Pasadena. During my childhood we actually had lots of vacant lots and a hill behind us with no houses. (A freeway is there now.) Streetcars were plentiful and as a kid and teen I utilized that transportation a lot to go downtown to the main library, shopping, and sometimes, making transfers, all the way to the beach.

I’m a bit younger, but I remember the old ‘red cars’. They brought them back at Disney’s California Adventure. And we took them to my grandmother’s once or twice. 

What kind of childhood did you have? Were there siblings?

I had a great childhood. That was back in the day where we could do whatever we wanted as long as we were back home by 5. (That’s when my dad got home and we had dinner.) Mom never had a clue where I was all the rest of the time. Of course we walked to school and back. Junior High we walked sometimes and sometimes took the bus part way. I suspect it was about four miles each way. High School was a long walk, a bus, transfer to the streetcar and another long walk. There was another way, up over the hill behind out house but that really wasn’t safe—but we did do it once in a while.

My sister was five years younger than me and looked like Margaret O’Brien, the child star. It was during the war and I told everyone that she was a princess from Europe who had been sent here for her safety. The one who believed the story the longest was my sister and she truly thought our parents ended up adopting her. See, I was a big story teller back then too.

My dad always thought I could do anything, and I think that probably affected me more than anything. I’ve always felt like I could do anything I set out to do.

You sound like a great storyteller, indeed! When did you first realize you could write? Did you always enjoy it?

I started creating stories before I could write—drawing pictures that told a story. I always wrote stories while I was growing up. I wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to perform during the long summers. I knew I was a good writer and when I grew up I always volunteered for writing jobs like the PTA newsletter as an adult. I also wrote plays for my Camp Fire Girls to star in. Because I had five children and a husband who was often gone (he was a career Seabee) I didn’t have much spare time for writing, though I always had a book to read. I attempted writing books without much success until most of my kids were grown.

What other jobs have you done during your life? Did they influence your writing?

Babysitter from the time I was 10 (crazy people leaving a kid with their babies), did inventory for a big department store, worked at filing for the phone company, telephone operator including information off and on for years, 10 years as a teacher in a pre-school for developmentally disabled kids, 3 years as a day care center teacher, twenty plus years as an owner and administrator of a licensed care home for six developmentally disabled women.

Everything influences my writing. All the people I’ve met along the way, of course, are a part of characters I’ve created. Experiences I’ve had help me to create experiences for my characters and to know how they feel when things happen to them.

What was your first book? Was it published? Is it still in print?

My first full length book I wrote I sent out to a publisher, it was rejected and I gave up and threw the whole thing away. (Dumb.) The first full length book I wrote that was accepted was called Trail to Glory. It was a family saga based on my own family’s genealogy. I wrote and rewrote it many times. It was rejected nearly 30 times before it was accepted by a New York publisher. No, it’s not still in print. I hope to redo it for Kindle one of these days.

You should! I’d enjoy reading it. 

Many of us (yours truly included) have a stash of unfinished or simply older manuscripts sitting around. Do you? 

I used to, but no longer. I got rid of them—recycled the paper and they are no longer on my computer.

I keep hoping to get back to at least one of mine.

As you know, I love your Tempe Crabtree series. How did you come up with her, or did she come to you and demand to be written? (My characters frequently do this.)

Tempe evolved from three women I met after I moved to the foothill community where I live now. The first was a female police officer I did a ride-along with who literally poured her heart out to me about being the only woman on that department. The second was the resident deputy of our area who I interviewed for a newspaper article. She told me a lot about her experience as a female in a male dominated job—plus what kind of things she was called upon to do. The third was a Native American woman I met at an event where we had a lot of time to talk. I based Tempe’s looks on her.

How did you come up with her name? It’s unusual and memorable without being weird—and that’s the trick
Tempe Crabtree was my great-grandmother’s name. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet her, but she grew up and lived in the area where I live now. I loved the name and it fit the character I created.

Wow! What a great gift! You didn’t even have to go looking for the name.

Tempe lives in a locale similar to your own. Does that make it easier to write about the place?

Bear Creek has a strong resemblance to Springville. The big difference is I moved Bear Creek into the mountains a 1000 feet mainly to have better trees. Springville has the Tule River running through it; the town of Bear Creek is named after the river running through it. Springville has an Inn like Bear Creek and some of the same restaurants and stores. I don’t use the actual places because unfortunately, businesses have a hard time making it here. I can see Bear Creek in my head and though it’s similar there are some big differences.

I know that your son-in-law was in law enforcement. Did that spark your interest in that profession, or were you interested before?

When we lived in Oxnard we had a lot of neighbors who were police officers. We partied with them and the wives and I became friends. This gave me a lot of insight into how the job affected the families and vice versa. I didn’t become interested in writing about law enforcement until my son-in-law became a police officer and stopped at our house every morning for coffee and told me his tales about what he did on his shift. I also went on my first ride-along with him.

Which came first, the Rocky Bluff series or the Tempe Crabtree one?

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series came first, though it wasn’t long before I was writing one and then the other.

You told me that the same son-in-law was the inspiration for your EPIC eBook Award winner, Lingering Sprit. Do you ever draw inspiration from other family members or friends?

I’ve never written another book that was inspired by something that actually happened in our family. I have been inspired by many true events. And I must confess, I put a lot of people I know or have met into my books, fortunately they never recognize themselves.

Speaking of family, we couldn’t leave out your darling husband, Hap. Does he ever inspire your characters? 

Hubby has never been an inspiration for a character, however many of his attributes show up in Hutch. Though Pastor Hutch, Tempe’s husband, is not based on my husband, many of Hutch’s beliefs and convictions are a lot like my hubby’s. 

Before you leave, tell us a little about your new Tempe Crabtree mystery, Raging Water.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.
Can’t wait to read it!

Thank you for stopping by today. We look forward to seeing you in person soon.

Thank you for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to spending time with the both of you in the near future also.
Contest: The person who leaves comments on the most blogs will have his/her name used for a character in my next book—can choose if you want it in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery or a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Raging Water from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel us No Bells, the forth from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
I know there are some people who like to read a series in order, but let me reassure you that every book is complete. Though the characters grow through each book, the crime is always solved. Here is the order of the books for anyone who wants to know: Deadly Trail, Deadly Omen, Unequally Yoked, Intervention, Wing Beat, Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Bears With Us, Raging Water.


  1. Hi, Lorna, it's so nice to be visiting you today. Visiting with you is one of my treasured pleasures whether it be on line or in person.
    Thanks for having me on your blog.

  2. This sounds like a mutual admiration society because it is! Larry and I are very fond of both you and your husband, Hap. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

  3. Wow, I'm learning so much about you that I didn't know, Marilyn. Your poor sister, thinking she was adopted. :) AT least your storytelling has come in handy.

    Wishing you the best,


  4. Fortunately, my sister forgave me. We're great friends. I'll get to see her this weekend when we have our family reunion.

  5. 'Everything influences my writing.'

    Marilyn, I so love this statement. I think as a new writer, we're so afraid of letting our personal lives dribble into the story, but what interests us is going to be what interests our characters. :)

    Great interview.

  6. Always something new. Your sister must have felt special since she was a princess. Great story you should think about a childrens story based on this event.

  7. Marilyn, I think I enjoyed this interview more than any other you've done. You shared such interesting stories, and I learned a bit more about you. BTW, my great-aunt and uncle lived in Eagle Rock for most of their married life.

  8. Thanks for finding me again, Jake. I'm not sure my sister felt particularly special, she just wondered why our mother never told her about being adopted.

    Marja, Eagle Rock was a wonderful place to grow up. There were so many individual neighborhoods--it was nothing like Los Angeles as a whole.

  9. Marilyn and Lorna together! Wow! Fun interview! Thanks for the heads up so I could stop by and say hi to you both!

  10. Hi, Pauline, hope to run into again one of these days. It's been awhile!

    1. It has! Been sticking closer to home while the hubs works out some health issues. ditto the hope!