Interview with mystery author Charlotte Stuart

Campaigning coverMystery author Charlotte Stuart joins me today to chat about her new book, Campaigning Can Be Deadly.

During her virtual book tour, Charlotte will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart has a passion for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. Her first discount detective mystery, Survival Can Be Deadly, was a Foreward INDIES finalist. Why me? Chimeras, Conundrums and Dead Goldfish was a semi-finalist for the Chanticleer Murder and Mayhem contest before it was published. She began her career in academia with a PhD in communications. Then, she and her husband decided to build a commercial boat and go fishing for salmon in Alaska. Currently she is the VP for Puget Sound Sisters in Crime and lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. She spends time each day entertained by herons, seals, eagles and other wildlife.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
Campaigning Can Be Deadly is the second in the Discount Detective series about a detective agency located in a shopping mall. The protagonist, Bryn Baczek, is a single mom who has been with the agency about a year. Although the agency caters to locals with small problems, what appears to be a simple assignment often morphs into something larger. For instance, when Bryn and her colleague, Yuri, are assigned surveillance on a lot where campaign signs are going missing, they anticipate a boring evening of eating junk food and fighting to stay awake. But when they catch the thieves in the act and follow them to their cache, they discover a body next to a pile of stolen signs. That becomes the catalyst for an investigation that proves Campaigning Can Be Deadly.

What inspired you to write this book?
Some time ago I spent a year as a speech writer. Then I worked on a Congressional campaign. Both experiences provided behind-the-scenes insight into what it’s like to run for office. Combined with my interest in communications and political strategy, this topic was a natural for me.

Excerpt from Campaigning Can Be Deadly:
Billed by the press as “the carpetbagger versus Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” the contest between the two opposing candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives demonstrated the power of money in a campaign.

. . . .

Chapter 1 – The Case of the Vanishing Yard Signs

A new crop of campaign signs had magically appeared overnight along the highway. To me they were symptomatic of the superficial bent our political system had taken recently. Flashy slogans and graphics in lieu of policy discussions. Did anyone honestly think a potential voter was going to make a decision about a candidate based on a yard sign? The only possible good I could imagine coming from the money and effort spent on signs was to serve as a reminder of the upcoming election. Although I doubted anyone unaware of the election would be persuaded to vote as a result of being bombarded by dozens of signs bearing the names of people running for everything from Congressional representative to county clerk. I dismissed the signs as a waste of money and gave them little more than a brief glance as I drove by.

It wasn’t until I got within three blocks of the mall that a tight grouping of campaign signs actually did catch my attention. They were on a vacant lot next to a small house that had somehow survived all the development in the area. It was a busy corner with open space and no visible owner, an easy target for volunteers eager to get their candidate’s name in front of the public. Just yesterday, I remembered seeing a row of bright green signs with dark green print—Nathan Knight for Congress—sticking up out of the uncut grass that blanketed the property. Today, however, the row of bright red signs screamed Vote for Bobby Mann in large navy-blue block letters superimposed over a U.S. flag. The transformation was both startling and strange. As I waited my turn at the stop sign, I wondered what had happened to Knight’s signs. Maybe they had been moved to another location. Or maybe someone supporting Mann had tossed them in the bushes at the back of the lot. It seemed possible. Emotions were running hot in the run for this seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My first book in the Macavity and Me series was Why Me? Chimeras, Conundrums and Dead Goldfish. The book was a semi-finalist in the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem contest before it was published. The draft for the second in the series is tentatively titled Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite. The series features Bryn Baczek, an amateur sleuth who lives on her sailboat in an urban marina with her cantankerous cat, Macavity. One night she overhears an angry argument on a boat two slips away. When the woman involved in the argument goes missing, Bryn tries to track her down. She soon discovers that more than one person is glad the woman disappeared.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Before I published my first mystery, I never referred to myself as a writer. I was someone who spent time writing, as a hobby, not as a profession. But when I started seeing my name on books, it felt different. Different and very good.

What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?
The best part of being an author is that you have an excuse to write and to talk to people about writing. I’m particularly engaged in research on what makes us laugh at different things. In my presentation, Getting Serious About Humor: Murder Mysteries that Bump Your Funny Bone, I look at the impact of brain dominance on an individual’s sense of humor and connect types of humor to Myers-Briggs profiles and the Big 5 model of behavioral traits. I’ve also explored the evolving cozy mystery in several guest posts. I find speculation and discussion about topics like these to be energizing and enjoyable.

The worst part of being an author is having to market your books. Doing a virtual tour is fun, but being constantly on social media and running promos is time-consuming and complicated. And it’s hard to tell if you are getting your money’s worth.

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’ve only been writing full-time for a couple of years. A couple of glorious years. I try to stick to a schedule of writing in the morning, taking a walk in the early afternoon, and returning to writing or marketing to round out the day. But this summer I confess to taking a day off here and there to go to the lake to swim and kayak. The days seem to rush by, and even with a full-time commitment to writing I don’t get as much accomplished as I would like. I really admire people with jobs and children who also manage to find time to write. They are super human!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure I have one. Even though my twitter handle is @quirkymysteries, I think my actual writing persona would be labeled as boring. I don’t pace or make faces or talk to myself. I don’t need stimulation from music or whale sounds. I don’t haul my computer outside to some secret location or retreat to a coffee shop. I just sit in front of my computer and allow myself to fade into a make-believe world of my own creation.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I confess that I didn’t think too far ahead as a child. And when it was time to make career decisions, I had several unfortunate detours before landing on something I enjoyed. I even got a PhD in order to pursue a teaching career only to find it wasn’t for me. Eventually I discovered that being a management consultant provided me with the variety and problem-solving challenges that had been missing in other jobs. But writing full time is even better.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read about me and my book. It was fun to write and, hopefully, fun to read.

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Thank you for being here today!

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5 thoughts on “Interview with mystery author Charlotte Stuart

  1. Audrey Stewart says:

    Charlotte Stuart is one of my favorite authors. I just enjoy reading her books, and always look forward to a new release.

  2. Eva Millien says:

    I enjoyed following the tour and getting to know you a little bit and learning about your thrilling book! Thanks for sharing and I hope the tour was a success!

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