Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Author Interview with Meg

Authors usually start these things off by saying, “Readers often times ask me these questions…” Well, I’ll be honest: I haven’t had a lot of readers ask me any of the following questions! But I thought I’d make a blog post out of it in case any of you readers were wondering more about where Cinnamon Peters, Bitters Loveless, and Freddie Wolf come from. Anyway, I hope you find some interesting tidbits here and that you enjoy this er... self interview!

Meg, what’s your background?

I grew up in Oregon, and I grew up loving to hike, canoe, and kayak in the great outdoors. My other big passion growing up was reading. You know when a book really gets to you? When your whole world suddenly becomes consumed by it? Well, I was lucky enough to have that experience early on, and I’ve really never been the same since. My love for reading eventually turned into a passion for writing and a desire to write books that did that for other readers. I started out by writing (bad) poetry and short stories in my teens. But, convinced that a realistic future in creative writing was a pipe dream, I decided to go into journalism instead. I received a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and shortly after, got a job as a reporter at a newspaper in Bend, Oregon. I spent five years there, writing about everything from educational policy to craft brewing to pet rescue stories. I was nothing if not a typical small town general assignment news reporter.

But throughout my time at the newspaper, I realized that there was something missing. I wasn’t happy being confined to writing news stories. There was something in me dying to get out. Characters, I realized – the same characters that would later fill up my Christmas River, Cozy Matchmaker, and Dog Town USA cozy mysteries. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. After work, I got home, sat down at my laptop, and started writing. The words “I’m not sentimental. I’m not sappy or soft or gooey,” came out, and I knew I had a very special character on my hands.

Three months of sitting down at the computer after work, and I had Murder in Christmas River, the first book in the Christmas River Cozy Mystery series.

Since then, a lot has changed in my life. After writing ten books, I was able to quit my job at the newspaper this past November and dedicate myself full-time to writing cozy mysteries. And I’ve never been happier. Writing fiction is what I’ve always wanted to do, even when I was convinced that it wasn’t possible to make a living from. The fact that I get to do this every day as a living is an absolute dream come true – even on the tough days.

Where do your ideas come from?

I subscribe to the old adage, “Write what you know.” And while I have never worked in a bakery like Cinnamon Peters, or in a saloon like Bitters Loveless, I do feel like I know a lot about the worlds they live in. I’ve lived in a small to mid-sized town for most of my life. As a reporter, I covered one, meaning I understand a lot about the good and bad parts of living in a small town.

My ideas for the mystery aspects of the books come from a mix of real life and imagination. I draw a lot upon my past as a reporter. Newsroom chit chat was one of my favorite parts of being a reporter. In addition to hearing loads of laughter (and lots of profanity), you also heard plenty of real-life, fascinating stories in the newsroom. Many of these tidbits have gone through my own imagination wringer and have come out the other side as the mysteries in the different series I write.

What inspired you to be a writer? 

My mom and dad. They're both writers as well – and amazingly talented ones at that. Growing up, I always thought it would be so cool to be like them. There’s so much mystique around being a writer. I didn’t find out until later that very little of that mystique is real. Being an author takes a lot of hard work, effort, stamina to be alone at substantial lengths of time, and courage to dream big. Not to mention having a solid backbone for when the times get tough. Luckily, I’ve found that even after going beyond the glamour of what I thought it was to be a writer, I still love writing. Seeing characters jump from your imagination onto the page is something indescribable. I love it, and I am certain there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing!

What are some of your favorite books?

I love mysteries! I’m a sucker for hardboiled mysteries with style – I love Raymond Chandler and authors like James Ellroy. I also love Westerns. This year, it’s been my goal to finish Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series. My other favorite books include Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, Light in August by William Faulkner, and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Additionally, I enjoy reading paranormal romance books – the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris are a big reason why I became a writer. I also LOVE the 44 series by Jools Sinclair. I also dabble in historical nonfiction and love to read anything about the American West. As you can see, I like to read all sorts of things! Basically when I read, I’m open to just about any genre so long as the story moves me – whether it be a hardboiled thriller, a cozy mystery, or a riveting true tale from the past. 

Why did you choose to write cozy fiction?

Though Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series isn’t categorized as cozy fiction, that’s where I really got my start in the genre. When I found those books several years ago, I became completely absorbed by them. And while I enjoyed the vampires, werewolves, and fae, my very favorite parts about those books weren’t the supernatural parts: I loved the small town feel of the series, the romance, and the strength of the main character. The books whisked me away from my own troubles and worries, and I found myself immersed in this completely new and fun world. And I realized that was the same exact thing I wanted to do with my writing: I wanted to take people away from their troubles and worries to another place entirely. Ultimately, I wanted to give people a happy escape, if only for a few hours of the day. And I wanted to make them feel something while I was at it. I think there’s something pretty special in being able to do that.

Cozy fiction seemed like the perfect avenue for that. In addition, I love pets, and I love writing about them. If you’ve read my books, then you know animals are always playing important roles in the story lines.

On top of that, I’ve got to be honest: I’m a huge sucker for Hallmark movies! Especially the Christmas ones. I’ve gotten loads of inspiration from those. All I can say is I can’t wait for November when all the Christmas specials start up again!

Finally, in case you haven’t noticed, I have a rabid sweet tooth. I am convinced that pie is the eighth wonder of the world. I'm so glad I get to write about it all the time in my Christmas River series :)

What inspired the Christmas River series? 

The short answer is a rescue dog named Nala that I wrote about as a reporter. I based Huckleberry, the Australian shepherd in the book, on Nala. (I will have an entire blog post dedicated to this topic soon with the full story!)

Who's your favorite character in your books? 

Cinnamon is obviously very close to my heart because I’ve spent the most time with her, but if I had to choose one favorite character, it would be her grandfather, Warren. Warren is the kind of old man that everybody wishes they had in their life. He’s a good friend, a wise advisor, and someone you can always lean on, no matter what. He approaches life with humor and compassion. He knows more can be accomplished with a smile than with a frown. And though he’s seen his share of hardships, he’s always come out on top. He’s unconventional and spunky and does things against the grain. Cinnamon loves him dearly and knows she can always count on him, and I think that that granddaughter-grandfather relationship is a huge cornerstone of the Christmas River series.

Who designs your book covers? 

One of the most talented people I know -- my sister! She's an amazing artist who in addition to designing awesome book covers, has her own business making beautiful wooden wedding art as The Lumberjill. If you're ever looking for a beautiful rustic wedding gift, check out her store!

What do you think makes a good main character?

I think a good main character should be complex. I always like characters who have been hardened by some sort of life event and have built walls around themselves in an effort to keep the pain out. But despite that, there’s still a little bit of hope in them -- a little bit of light that they can’t keep from shining through. Additionally, I like to write about characters who do their best to be strong, even when they have every reason to crumble.

I think the best main characters are paradoxes. They believe one thing, but find that they can’t help but do another. I believe those kinds of characters are honest because they're based on how people really are.

In addition, I think a good main character is someone who always leaves you as the reader wanting to know more.

What do you like to do in your free time? 

Free time has been hard to come by as of late, but when I get a chance, I love to be outdoors (much like Cinnamon does!) I also love baking. I’m a Pacific Northwest girl through and through, meaning I love craft beer. I like trying out new breweries when I can. I love traveling, especially to old Western towns like Deadwood, South Dakota. I love alt country music (much like Bitters does!) Additionally, I enjoy drawing, and love getting my creativity out in ways outside of writing when I can.

What are you currently working on? 

Right now, I’m neck-deep in the follow-up to the first Dog Town USA Cozy Mystery book. Bulldogs & Bullets will be out this September. After that, it’s the seventh Christmas River Cozy Mystery, Magic in Christmas River, which will be out in October. There will also be another Christmas River book out in time for Christmas. Later on down the road, the third Matchmaker Cozy Mystery, Buried in Broken Hearts Junction, will be out in early 2016. In addition, there’s plenty more in the works! I’ve got so many ideas for books and series – I just wish there was more time in the day!

Have another question? Feel free to join me on Facebook and ask!

Meg Muldoon is the Amazon bestselling author of ten books. She loves bourbon bread pudding, red cowboy boots, and craft glue guns. 

She lives in Central Oregon with an Australian cattle dog named Huckleberry. 

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