Monday, February 25, 2013

Author Interview/Spotlight: The Cait Morgan Mysteries by Cathy Ace

The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

In the south of France where hatred simmers in the heat, a man seemingly admired, and certainly feared, drops dead at a dinner party. All of the guests fall under suspicion, including Welsh-Canadian professor Cait Morgan. A criminologist who specializes in profiling victims, Cait sets out to solve the murder–clear her name. Add to this the disappearance of an ancient Celtic gold collar said to be cursed and there you have the ingredients for a Nicoise salad of death, secrets, and lies. Will Cait find the killer before she too falls victim to a murderer driven by a surprising and disturbing motive?

The Corpse with the Silver Tongue is the first in the Cait Morgan Mystery series, a classic whodunit series featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

The Corpse with the Golden Nose

A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist. Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait’s companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbors is a start. But, Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

The second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries, The Corpse with the Golden Nose is a classic whodunit featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

To find out more about the books and to purchase them (and Cathy's other books), check them out at Amazon.

Author Interview

Please join me in welcoming author Cathy Ace to Socrates’ Book Review Blog.  Cathy is the author of the Cait Morgan mysteries.  The second book in the series is due out in March. 

Welcome, Cathy!  We are very happy to have you join us today!

Thanks very much for having me! It’s great to have the chance to talk to those who, like me, enjoy a good mystery.

1)         First, when did you know you wanted to write books and mysteries, in particular?

I think I started to write when I was quite young, probably around ten or so, because I wanted to tell stories. I’d always been a chatterbox, and the early influences of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, as well as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven, meant I was sucked, quite happily, toward telling stories that were about adventure, puzzles and mysteries.

I was lucky enough to gain a place at University to study English literature, but realized, quite early on, that, instead of studying how others had described the human condition, I’d rather study it myself. So, I packed in English and graduated in Psychology! My working life has been all about writing: I’ve worked in advertising, marketing, public relations and training for my whole career, so I’ve been lucky to be a “professional writer”. I had the chance to write nine post-graduate marketing textbooks, as a part of that career. Back in 1989 I wrote a short story that won a competition: “Murder and be published” was the title of the competition, so I did, and I was. But this early success came at exactly the wrong time for me: I’d just taken the leap to setting up my own business and, with no alternative source of income, I threw myself into building up my business, and writing as a part of that career, rather than my fiction writing. 

I didn’t re-visit crime writing again until 2007, following the radio broadcast, on BBC Radio 4, of that original short story of mine. By then I’d sold my business, moved to Vancouver, Canada, and was teaching marketing at universities there. I self-published two collections – one of short stories in 2007, one of novellas in 2008 - and was then delighted to be invited to write a manuscript featuring Cait Morgan. I submitted the manuscript to TouchWood Editons in December 2010, was offered a contract in May 2011, and THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE was published in March 2012.

Crime fiction is what I was brought up on – and now I cannot imagine writing anything else!

2)         Who is your greatest influence in your writing life?

If I leave out the authors who’ve influenced me (more of that later) then I think I’m left with my Mum! In fact, thinking about it…I blame her for the whole thing! She was the one who allowed me to spend hours reading books; she was the one who had Agatha Christie’s books on her shelves; even now she’s the one who is the first to read everything I write, and who cheers me, and steers me. The fact that she, aided and abetted by my Dad, brought me up with the firm conviction that the harder you work, the luckier you get, has made me who I am. So, yes, my Mum is the greatest influence in my writing life.

3)         Do you have any favorite mystery authors?   Any favorite books in particular?

In the traditional vein, which is my chosen genre, Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh and, more recently, Alan Bradley, are my favourites. Along with Conan Doyle, they give me everything I need. That said, I do sometimes enjoy reading books that are a little different, and my next-favourite genre is the British police procedural:  PD James (though I don’t really think of the Dalgliesh books as procedurals), Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, RD Wingfield and Colin Dexter have all created worlds where I enjoy spending time. If pushed, then I would certainly say that Agatha Christie is my favourite author, and my favourite books would all be by her.

4)         Do you do much research for your books?  What is involved?

“A lot depends on the book,” is the honest answer! Also, some research is practical: it sounds like a terrible waste, but I had to be certain that a woman of my girth and stature would, in fact, be able to smash a full champagne bottle…so I did it! (By the way, it’s a lot harder than you think.) That said, most is textual, or visual: I read a lot online (always multiple sources, to ensure veracity), and I “visit” places – sometimes via online maps, sometimes on the ground. Usually, I’ll eat the food and imbibe the drinks to make sure I know exactly what Cait has tasted!

 In THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE I didn’t need to do much “location” research as I have lived in Nice, France, so I know it well. I also didn’t need to do much research into the Roman, Belle Epoque or Nazi Occupation history of the city, but I did spend some time researching exactly how snails are raised for food, how the Druids were treated by the Roman armies in Wales just after the birth of Christ, and that sadly necessary task of breaking a champagne bottle! Hopefully that shows how diverse fields of research can be for just one book!

For THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE, again I knew the location well: Kelowna is British Columbia’s wine country and I’ve visited often. However (and this is where the violins should start up, please) I did have to do a fair bit of wine-drinking research, as my titular victim is a wine taster. I know it’s tough, but someone has to do it! I also had some wonderfully informative conversations with a Coroner in the area, and found out a lot more than I thought I would need to about the box-making industry in Scotland in the 1700’s. Again, research is as varied as your storyline.

For THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB, which is the third in the Cait Morgan Mysteries series, and which will see the light of day in 2014, I can’t say too much . . . but I will tell you that a Mexican location, and a tequila-producing co-operative are involved. I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions about what sort of research I’ve been carrying out for that one!

5)         Where do you do most of your writing?  Can you describe the setting for us?

When it’s hot I try to write outside on my deck: there’s an awning for shade, my dogs can lie in the sun until their fur is too hot to touch, and I can feel the life and strength that I get from being out of doors. BUT, given that I live in the wonder of the world that is the north-western rain forest, I usually write indoors! My study is a fair-sized room, painted in a strong eau de nil, with black curtains, brushed steel blinds, black furnishings and carpet. It’s very art deco. I LOVE art deco. I enjoy symmetry. The bookshelves are stacked (sometimes tidily), the walls are covered with dozens of prints, some of which have lived with me for about forty years – they are old friends.

6)         Is Cait Morgan based on either a real or fictional character?

She’s my height, my weight, went to the same schools I went to, dresses the same as me . . . get the picture?  Yes, Cait is based on me, but only insofar as we are similar – we are not one and the same. She’s had some tough stuff happen to her in her past, she has a photographic memory, and she seems to trip over corpses wherever she goes. Luckily, these are not true of me!

8)         Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

This is so difficult to answer, as there are so many ways to approach it. Generally: be a better reader, and you stand the chance of becoming a better writer. More specifically: practice writing, it’s not something that comes easily, or overnight. Very specifically: if you’re looking for an agent or publisher, do your research, and pick your targets carefully. Finally, even though it’s now relatively easy to self-publish, don’t let that make you think it’s easy to self-edit: if you’re going to spend money on anything, spend it on a good editor.

9)         Are you an e-book or print book reader?

I don’t own an e-reader…though I should add “yet” to that statement, as I think there’s one in my future.

10)       Can you give us a sneak peek at your next release?

THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE was published in March 2012, which means that *drum roll* my next book, THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE, will be launched in March 2013. Thus, this interview gives me the ideal opportunity to whet people’s appetites for the second Cait Morgan Mystery. I should mention that my aim is to have the titular corpse on the first page of each book: that way, readers don’t have to wade through a lot of background before they get to their first dead body (something I’m not too keen on as a reader).

So here’s the first page (and a bit) of THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE:

Champagne and orange juice

Bud slapped the photograph onto the table in front of me as though it were a gauntlet.
            “This photo showed up in my email a few days ago. From someone I . . . know. What do you read in it, Cait?” he looked grim.
            I held the photo at arm’s length, and squinted at the blurry image. I could make out two women, both with dark, curly hair. They were smiling.
            I felt my multi-purpose right eyebrow shoot up as I asked, “Is just one of them dead, or both of them?”
            “How’d you guess?” Bud asked, grinning.
            “Oh, let me see, now . . . maybe it’s something to do with me being a criminologist who specializes in victim profiling and you being an ex-homicide detective? And the hope, on my part, that you’re unlikely to show me a photo of a woman, especially two women, in whom you have anything other than a professional interest. Those facts, when taken together with my amazing powers of deduction have helped me reach the conclusion that I’m looking at either one or two victims, or, if not victims, then at least dead people.” I hurled a bright smile toward Bud and waited for him to tell me off for my cheekiness.
            Bud shrugged. “You know me too well, Cait.” His voice warmed, and he looked pleased about something. Then his smile faded. “The taller of the two died about a year ago. The other one’s her older sister. But that’s all you get.”
            “So there’s no point my asking if it was an accident, a suicide, or a homicide?” I punted.
            Bud paused, refreshed our glasses and took a sip from the champagne flute that looked almost too delicate in his large hand. “I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know, Cait, I can only be certain it wasn’t an accident. The whole local community, the cops, and the coroner, all say suicide. The sister says no way. I have no idea. There was a note, and the sister says the cops won’t look into it any further as there are no grounds to suspect that anyone else was involved.”

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Thank you, Yvonne, it’s been a pleasure.

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