ABOUT THE BOOKMary MacDougall’s first case of 1902 seems simple enough.
Just before the 19-year-old heiress leaves for a summer holiday on Mackinac Island with her Aunt Christena, she’s hired to stop in a little town along the way and make inquiries. Did Agnes Olcott really die there of cholera? Or were there darker doings in Dillmont?
Mary’s mentor, Detective Sauer, thinks it’s merely a case of bad luck for the dead woman. But Mrs. Olcott’s daughter suspects her detested stepfather played a hand in her mother’s untimely death.
With the reluctant help of her aunt and her dear friend Edmond Roy, the young detective struggles to reveal the true fate of Agnes Olcott. As she digs ever deeper, the enemy Mary provokes could spell disaster for her and the people she loves. But in the end, it’s the only way to banish a daughter’s doubt.
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD AUDRY
Richard, how did you get started writing?
I began my writing career as an arts journalist, and as I got older, decided I’d like to make more money. So I became a freelance copywriter for business clients, and I also did a stint in a corporate cube. Along the way I started writing fiction, and now do it full-time.
What do you wish you’d done differently when you first started the publishing process?
I wish I had written more books earlier in my life. I was discouraged back in the ‘80s and ‘90s by lots of rejections from agents and publishers. If I had had more than just one novel in good shape when I began indie publishing, I could have gotten up to speed much sooner.
What’s more important—characters or plot?
Characters. Good characters can carry a book without a good plot. But a good plot without good characters is a pretty bland reading exercise, IMO.
How often do you read?
I’m usually reading two or three books at a time. Right now it’s a hardboiled mystery set in Oregon and a biography of Raymond Chandler. And that doesn’t count reading the magazines I subscribe to (New Yorker, Esquire, Wired, Car and Driver, etc.).
What books do you currently have published?
There are now two novellas and a novel in the Mary MacDougall Mysteries. There are two novels in the King Harald Mysteries, which are canine cozies. My middle-grade series, the Johnny Graphic Adventures, has two books in it so far. There’s a freestanding mystery called Smoking Ruin. And I also have two short books of literary commentary—Travis McGee & Me and Four Science Fiction Masters.
Is writing your dream job?
It always has been. I’ve done journalism and business writing. But the dream of dreams, you might say, was to be a novelist. And I’ve been living that dream the last four years or so. Fame and fortune have not yet ensued, but I figure there’s still time.
How do you feel about Facebook?
I belonged for several years before I really started to explore it. It’s not only useful for keeping up with friends and family, but for getting word out about my adventures as an author. I can’t say, though, that I’ve entirely mastered its complexities. Sometimes stuff happens and I have no idea why. In other words, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me.
Would you make a good character in a book?
No, I think I would be rather boring. There’s no drama whatever in my life, and that’s just fine. I save the drama for my fictional characters.
What’s one thing you never leave the house without (besides a phone)?
Actually, I don’t carry a phone. I have one, but it’s in the car’s glove compartment, for emergencies only. I almost always have a little Canon camera in my pocket or on my belt. You never know when a good shot is going to come along.
What do you love about where you live?
We live in the middle of a big city, with all the perquisites that includes—shopping, dining, the arts, education, etc. But we’re just blocks away from the Mississippi River gorge and its wonderful parks and trails. In warm weather we’re out walking every day. We also live near the best neighborhood movie theater in town, with its $2-3 flicks and terrific popcorn. A three-minute walk and we’re there.
What’s your favorite thing to do on date night?
We’ll go out to a neighborhood café that’s operated by a young woman from France. She does a great job combining French and American styles of comfort food, at a very reasonable cost. Then we’ll go to a little jazz club that we frequent and sip on wine (her) and beer (me), as the music flows.
What’s your favorite beverage?
I love beer, ales and stouts, preferably from a small brewery. I enjoy a well-made gin martini. But I could live without beer and gin. The one drink I couldn’t do without is coffee. If you want to be more particular, a no-foam latté would be number one.
Name one thing you’re really good at and one thing you’re really bad at.
Good: Cooking, especially omelettes. Bad: Keeping track of stuff. My desk looks like the typical writer’s desk—piled high with papers and books.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
The North Shore of Lake Superior, not far from where I grew up. There’s a place called Cascade River State Park and that river comes tumbling down through a rugged bluestone gorge of rapids and falls, then into the big lake. We love to watch the roaring water and hike the trails alongside it, thick with pines and birches and poplars. A little piece of heaven on earth.
Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
Not bad traits, per se. But I sometimes give them the aches and pains that I live with—chronic back pain, bum knees, things like that.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee
You have a personal chef for the night. What would you ask him to prepare?
I think I would request seared giant scallops with a shallot/butter sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. To accompany it, a micro-greens salad, a really good baguette with small-creamery butter, and a chilled bottle of the best Vouvray available. And since I’m eating so lightly, he can whip up a nice tiramisu for dessert.
How do you like your pizza?
Basic and simple. That means a crisp, thin crust, sauce from real Italian tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil.
What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing?
Though I enjoy writing, the process is physically sedentary. I sit in front of the computer quite a lot. Not really healthy. I have a standing desk that I use to write first drafts. But for revisions, I find it works better to be at my regular desk.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
In terms of achieving anything worthwhile, there is no free lunch.
What are you working on now?
Having just finished the third Mary MacDougall story, I’m going to be hanging out with Andy Skyberg and King Harald for the next six months or so—for the third King Harald canine cozy. Harald and his boss get snowed in at a local resort and are dragooned into hunting down a very valuable piece of jewelry that’s been stolen. But it turns out there’s a lot more going on than mere thievery.
ABOUT THE AUTHORRichard Audry is the pen name of D. R. Martin. As Richard Audry, he is the author of the Mary MacDougall historical mystery series and the King Harald Canine Cozy mystery series. Under his own name, he has written the Johnny Graphic middle-grade ghost adventure series, the Marta Hjelm mystery Smoking Ruin, and two books of literary commentary: Travis McGee & Me and Four Science Fiction Masters.
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