Interview with cozy author Liz Stauffer

Today’s guest is cozy mystery author Liz Stauffer. She’s touring and talking about her new novel Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club.


Blurb: Things
are not always what they seem in Liz Stauffer’s fast paced book of murder,
mystery, and intrigue. When the “breakfast club” ladies of idyllic
Mount Penn see bruises on Clare Ballard’s pretty face, they suspect her
hot-headed husband of abusing her, but the truth is much more complicated. When
violence disrupts this Appalachian village’s lazy routine, the ladies, led by
the irascible Lillie Mae Harris, jump feet first into danger as bodies appear,
neighbors disappear, and Clare is arrested for murder. Follow Lillie Mae and
the other “breakfast club” ladies, who, armed with casseroles and
pastries, help the police uncover the deep secrets this town hides beneath its
perfect facade.


Bio:
After some
thirty years writing everything from political encyclopedias to software
manuals, Liz Stauffer retired from corporate life to write fiction, travel, and
play on the beach. Since that time, she has traveled extensively throughout the
United States and the world. Liz lives in Hollywood, Florida, with her two dogs
where she owns and manages a vacation rental business.
Welcome, Liz. Please tell us about
your current release.
Thursday Morning Breakfast (and
Murder) Club
is an
American village mystery, with a younger, feistier, Miss Marple-like
protagonist, named Lillie Mae Harris as the leader of the club. In some ways
I’ve mimicked a traditional British village mystery, but have given it an
American flare. The Thursday morning breakfast club, a group of village ladies,
has been meeting in Mount Penn, my fictional mountain village on the eastern
slope of the Appalachians, in rural Maryland, for many years. News of neighbors
and local events, and gossip have been the main topics of discussion at the
weekly gatherings. But when murder comes to the village, and one of their own
is arrested for the crime, they ban together, despite differences and
misgivings, to make things right again. Thursday Morning is a story about
friendship, community, and love, written in a traditional who-done-it style.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was
actually my sister-in-law who inadvertently gave me the idea for Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club.
She has belonged to a ladies breakfast group that has been meeting,
incidentally, on Thursday mornings, for many years. I attend these gatherings,
on occasion, when I am staying in the area. While my Thursday morning breakfast
club is not the same as my sister-in-laws Thursday morning breakfast group, the
idea came from this weekly meeting.
I love
close knit communities, and I believe we’re moving away from them in our very
busy modern lives. Relationships in cyberspace have replaced relationships down
the street. I’m guilty of my own complaint. I, too, love having friends all
over the world, and Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter
Excerpt:
“Clare’s
dead!”
When
she spoke the words, her voice was so low it was barely above a whisper. The
sturdy woman with short, curly red hair dropped the handset back into its
cradle and began to pace, the phone still ringing on the other end of the line.
Lillie
Mae Harris stopped at the front window, taking no notice of the white buds that
were just opening on the two Bradford pear trees in her front yard, or the
spring flowers peeping through the freshly hoed soil in the close- by flower
bed. Her thoughts were of Clare.
She
had the best view in Mount Penn from this window. On a winter’s morning she
could see for some thirty miles out over the valley with the big blue sky as
the backdrop. The night view was even more amazing, offering a shower of
dancing lights in the distance competing only with the brightest stars.
It
was now early spring and the vista had already begun to shrink even though the
trees were just beginning to bud. Once the trees were filled out with big green
leaves the view would pull in even more until fall when the colors exploded and
the view once again took one’s breath away. But today the scenery did nothing
to still Lillie Mae’s pounding heart or quell her shaking hands. She couldn’t
stop worrying about Clare. Rushing back to the phone, she scooped it up, and
punched in a familiar number.
“Hello.”
Alice Portman answered in her sweet Southern drawl, after just one ring. Her
Jack Russell terrier, Alfred, barked in the background.
“Clare’s
not answering her phone this morning,” Lillie Mae said. “I’m so worried about
her, Alice. I’m not sure what to do.”
“Settle
down, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, shushing Alfred. “Why are you more concerned today?”
“You
were at the water meeting last night,” Lillie Mae said. “You saw how Roger was
acting. Yelling and screaming like an idiot. When he’s gotten that riled up in
the past, Clare’s been his punching bag.”
“Well,
yes,” Alice agreed, deliberately slowing the pace of the conversation. “But, Roger
was just being Roger last night, dear. Just showing off. I didn’t see anything
unusual in his behavior. Certainly nothing to make you so worried this
morning.”
“He
was acting worse than usual,” Lillie Mae insisted, still pacing the living room
floor. “And I’m sure he drank himself crazy when the meeting was finally over.
That’s the real reason I’m worried, Alice.
You know how he is when he drinks. What he does to Clare.”
“Roger
playacts, you know, when it suits him, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, her voice still
soft and cool. “He knows he’s going to make a lot of money hooking people up to
the public water in a few short months, but
he wants to come across as the good guy to his neighbors, not the money
grubbing fool that he is. He’ll use every wile that he has to seduce the
community. If the project fails, which it won’t this time, he looks like he’s
the man who stopped it. If it passes, he wins big time.”
“You’re
probably right, Alice,” Lillie Mae said, calming a bit. “I know Roger is
shrewd. If he wasn’t always out there trying to make a deal, he wouldn’t be
Roger, I guess.”
“So,
stop overreacting, Lillie Mae. What’s brought all this on anyway?”  
 “I’ve been calling Clare’s house all morning
and nobody answers the phone,” Lillie Mae said. “It’s stupid, I know, but I
picture Clare lying on her kitchen floor, needing my help. Dead, even.”
A
sigh escaped Alice’s lips. “You’re way over dramatizing this morning, Lillie
Mae,” she said. “Roger’s not even home. He drove by me in that stupid yellow
Hummer of his while Alfred and I were out on our early morning walk.”
“That’s
good to hear,” Lillie Mae said. “Stop imagining the worst, Lillie Mae. Clare’s
probably out, too. It’s such a warm spring day. Doesn’t she usually go grocery
shopping on Wednesday mornings?”
“Maybe,”
Lillie Mae conceded. “Or she could be in her garden, I guess.”
“She’ll
call you back when she gets to it,” Alice said, a hint of impatience in her
voice.
“I
doubt if she does.” Lillie Mae’s voice broke. “She rarely calls me anymore.
We’ve been such good friends for so many years and I miss her, Alice. I wish I
knew what I did wrong.”
“Clare’s
changing, Lillie Mae. She’s getting stronger. Give the girl some space.”
“I’ve
noticed a change, too,” Lillie Mae said, “since Billy went off to university.
She does have more confidence, I’ll give you that.”
“Have
you written your article on the water meeting for the Antioch Gazette, yet?” Alice asked. “I thought it was due today.”
“Not
yet,” Lillie Mae confessed. “I’ve been too worried about Clare.”
“Maybe
being busy will take your mind off things that are not really any of your
business,” Alice said.
“I
guess you’re right,” Lillie Mae said. “Clare’s a big girl and can take care of
herself.”
 “I know that well,” Lillie Mae said, then
suddenly turned serious again when her thoughts returned to Clare. “I’m walking
down to Clare’s to check things out before I start on the article. I need to
make certain she’s all right, or I won’t be able to concentrate on my work. Do
you want to come along?”
“No,
you go on, if it’ll make you feel better,” Alice said. “You can fill me in on
the details at dinner this evening.”
* * *
What exciting story are you working on
next?
I’m currently
writing my third Thursday Morning Breakfast Club mystery. My second one is in
the done pile, and hopefully, will be released in or before early 2014. I also
have another mystery series that I’d like to publish, but I’m not going to
tease you with what it’s about.
My grand epic,
not even nicknamed yet, set in 1920s Pen Mar against the advent of the mass
produced automobile and the demise of the railroads, is under construction.
Henry Ford is a central character. This book, based on a lost history, is going
to be so much fun to research and write, and, I hope, equally fun to read.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
I’ve always
been a writer. My first job out of graduate school, where I did lots of
writing, was writing political encyclopedias. Then I moved to the world of high
tech where I wrote marketing literature, before moving into the world of
technical documentation and content management. All of these different types of
writing, plus learning the importance of the deadlines, have contributed to my
mystery writing in one way or another.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I retired
from the corporate world to write books and travel, so I have the luxury of
writing at leisure when I’m not traveling the world. Since publishing Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club,
my debut novel, I spend half of my day on marketing tasks. The other half I
spend working on my next book.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I talk to
my characters, and strangely enough, they talk back to me. It’s often my
characters who create the story. I can’t tell you how much fun that is.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
I grew up
at a time when women were either teachers or nurses. Since my dad was a
teacher, that’s what I assumed I would be. I actually only taught school one
year. By the time I was out of graduate school, there were so much more
opportunities available to women. That said, I loved my year of teaching and
would love to try my hand at it again sometime.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
Besides
writing and traveling I love being outdoors. I bike, swim, walk, play with my
two dogs Mattie and Jakey, and spend time with friends. I also own a vacation
rental business in Hollywood Florida which keeps me busy.

Links:

Thanks for stopping by, Liz!

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