I’m thrilled to have agency mate and partner-in-crime Marianne Harden on the blog today for a quick interview about her debut novel MALICIOUS MISCHIEF. Stay tuned after the Q&A for her brand new book trailer and an excerpt from the book!
Can you summarize your debut novel in one line for my blog readers?
College drop-out and P.I. wannabe Rylie Keyes must solve the murder of a grumpy retirement home resident entrusted to her care, all while she juggles the attentions of two very hot, very dissimilar police officers and meets the madcap needs of pie-demanding seniors.
What was your inspiration for Malicious Mischief?
This first Rylie Keyes mystery, just as many other stories, started with a disturbing TV news report, a picturesque city, and a writer wondering what if. Therefore, it is way up north, in Bellevue, Washington, where I challenged evil to meet its delightful match: Rylie Keyes.
The suburbs of Seattle are a dynamic backdrop for a mystery book. What can you tell readers about your choice in the story's setting?
God, what breathtaking landscape. That’s what I think each day living here in Western Washington. As a small state, with barely half the population of New York City, soaring mountains and rugged terrain restrict our urban sprawl. And then there’s our climate, rainy and cool, if not downright chilly most of the year. But Washingtonians love what torrential rainfall begets: majestic evergreens, pristine lakes, and plentiful wildlife.
Great mysteries have no less than three things in common: they puzzle the reader with clever twists and turns, they gladden the hearts with satisfying characters, and they take the reader on a journey to memorable places. I put forward in Malicious Mischief my world: the stunning Pacific Northwest.
Are there any plot twists you can talk about without giving too much away?
I look back on the book now, at my need to give Rylie love, at my willingness to make her struggle for it and how eager yet afraid she was to break out of her shell of insecurity. Is that a twist? Maybe. Assuredly, it was for Rylie. Writers torment no characters more outrageously than those who resist. Change is everywhere. Change is frightening. Change is exciting. Those are the basic elements at the heart of a good love story. I engulfed Rylie in all three. And I know it sounds crazy, but I think she enjoyed it. I know I did.
What challenge, if any, did you face turning your story into fiction?
Sarcasm is tricky. You must toe the line of humor and insult.
Why Romantic Mystery?
Good grief! Who wants to be unloved? Nobody! So as Winston Churchill so wisely decreed, “Give them what they want.”
Malicious Mischief is the first in a series - tell us about what's next.
Nothing but the stars in heaven could stop me from writing more Rylie. And since I’m a nervous flyer, the likelihood of me traveling into space is slim if not zero. So, yes! I’ll be writing many more tales of Rylie Keyes!
And now, here's Marianne's super cute new book trailer for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF:
Excerpt from MALICIOUS MISCHIEF:
I took off in a run, the fire swelling around me in a wide circle. As I drew near, Zach recovered enough to fish out the fire extinguisher from among the trash bags. He stumbled back, pulled the safety pin, and squeezed the handle. The force threw him to the ground.
I tried to grab the extinguisher but he fought me off. “Get the hell out of here.”
I tried again. This time I managed a better grip and yanked it free. Budding raindrops had me scanning the sky as I smothered the fire with dry foam. I barely took in the wet against my skin as the rain swelled to a downpour. Then out the tail of my eye, I saw something unbelievable: Zach shaking with laughter. I blinked, turned. His eyes were glued to my backside.
My mind was already shrieking when I twisted for a glimpse. The fire had left my skirt a no-show over my ass, and the scarcity of my pink thong made it a shiny moonbeam.
Zach climbed to his feet, shrugged off his jacket, and tied the sleeves around my waist.
“Could this morning get any worse?” I asked, sighing.
Bad thing, questioning fate. I heard a loud gasp. My lifting gaze tracked Solo’s raised and pointing finger as he drew near in hurried steps. A hairy forearm hung out of the van. By the age spots, I knew it was a senior, almost certainly male. A round scar, silver dollar size and ugly, marred the back of his hand. It was familiar, yet no other thoughts gelled together.
Zach rushed to the van. Solo froze, his finger still suspended. My head filled with a boatload of promises to God as Zach lifted the man’s limp wrist. I started praying big time, pondering and zeroing in on my worst habit. I mumbled bargaining words about not screwing up at work for a day, maybe two days if the G-man needed a bigger carrot. Please don’t let the guy be dead.
“Alive?” I didn’t blink, couldn’t.
Zach shook his head, pushed aside the trash bags, and leaned in. “He’s an old dude, small and bald. He has a mustache and white beard. And he’s very dead.”
My mind clicked. A Nazi bullet had caused the scar. “It’s Otto Weiner, isn’t it?”
“The Jewish guy from FoY?” Zach asked. “The one who wears the beanie?”
“Kippah,” I said, and drew his puzzled gaze. “It’s called a kippah.”
“He isn’t wearing one now, but it’s him. It looks like he suffocated. A plastic bag is taped over his head.”
I stared blindly at the ground. I heard a squeak like a chew toy and cut my gaze to Solo. His eyes were bright like doppelganger comets.
“I’ve heard baking soda helps, or rubbing alcohol.” Not only could I not bring myself to believe Otto Weiner was dead in the van, but I was babbling like a stooge.
Solo wagged his finger. “Rylie, this is bad, really bad. What if they think you did it because of that fight?”
I sucked in air; it froze in my throat.
“That’s ridiculous,” Zach told him. “What fight? Rylie never fights.”
I inched my eyes his way. “I might have once.”
“With who?” Zach wanted to know.
My ears rang so loud they ached. “Otto Weiner.”
Is it strange to have the unemployment office on speed dial? Not for twenty-four-year-old college dropout Rylie Keyes. Her current job at a small retirement home is worlds more important than all her past gigs, though: if she loses this one, she won’t be able to stop the forced sale of her and her grandfather’s home, a house that has been in the family for ages. But keeping her job means figuring out the truth about a senior citizen who was found murdered while in her care. Explain that one, Miss Keyes.
Marianne Harden, writer of fun, flirty, romantic mysteries:
I love making people laugh. True, I should probably spend time on an analyst’s couch, but I’d rather spill loads of fun into my books. I’m rarely at a loss for words, which is wicked cool for a writer. And it would be poppycock to say I didn’t laze away my wonder years dreaming of far-off places.
Over the years, I’ve traversed the insanely fun back roads of Australia and New Zealand, trekked the wildly exotic landscapes of Asia and Africa, soaked up the blistering Caribbean sun, survived bitter Arctic cold to witness the Northern Lights, and lost a wee bit of my heart to the awesomeness of Europe.
My goals in life are simple: do more good than harm and someday master the do-not-mess-with-me look. I roost in Washington State with my husband and our two children.