Saturday, June 1, 2013

Featured Author: Ann Marie Stoddard

I'm happy to have Ann Marie Stoddard here as part of her Cozy Mystery Book Tour to talk about Murder At Castle Rock, her mystery/thriller that was just released.

About the book:

As the manager and booking agent for Atlanta’s famous Castle Rock concert venue, Amelia “Ame” Grace is ready for the most exciting week of her career: she’s booked three shows and a live DVD-filming for the comeback tour of none other than the eighties Pop Rock Prince himself, Bobby Glitter! Before the rock star can take a bow on the first night, however, trouble steals the show as Castle Rock’s owner takes a deadly tumble from atop the venue’s rear tower. To make matters worse, the police suspect foul play—and all signs point to two of Castle Rock’s own employees. Ame is in a race against time to clear the names of her friends and uncover the truth before the killer decides it’s curtains for her too!


Interview with Ann Marie Stoddard:

Welcome, Ann Marie! Murder at Castle Rock is your debut novel. Do you have another job outside of writing? 

I have two, actually. I work for an Internet software company in north Georgia that builds rewards club websites for radio, tv, and print media across North America, and I’m pretty convinced I have the best job at the company: I get to write music trivia and surveys and build contests and giveaways. The only downside is that I can’t ever win anything!
Getting to research and write trivia about music that I love every day makes up for it, though!

Also, I recently embarked on a new adventure--I've partnered with my book designer, Tiffani Hollis, to start Ampersand H. Book Design and Marketing. I love meeting and helping other self-published authors—-there’s such a tremendous amount of talent out there and so many great books being written every day. Getting those books in the hands of readers (including me, I love to read!) is so rewarding.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Well, I’ve always been a mystery lover, but I’ve rarely read one that’s centered around the music industry. I have a background working in radio and the music industry, so I got the idea to write a mystery set in a concert venue. Once I started writing, the plot just sort of came to me as I went. It just felt natural.

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

It depends on the project, but for the most part, a mix of all the above. With Murder At Castle Rock, I started without an outline, but while I never officially wrote one, I did make little notes as I went along for scene ideas and changes to the plot. Confession:  The killer in the book changed from when I first got the idea. The more I wrote about that particular character, the less he or she felt like the guilty party. The unplanned scenes I wrote with the character ultimately changed my mind. The funny thing is that when I went back to the beginning chapters for re-writes, I had subconsciously already placed a few clues pointing in the direction of someone else. It was as if the characters in the book knew their roles and gave me a gentle nudge in the right direction.

I swear that happened with my second GPJ book! It's so cool when the characters take over. What about your cover art? Did you have any say in it?

I was able to select my cover art, and I won the cover artist lottery with Tiffani Hollis.  She listened to my ideas for a design that was a little more rock n’ roll than your typical mystery cover, and I was so thrilled with the design she came up with! The color scheme is so me, and I love the skull and cross guitars. (Forgive me for the shameless plug!) Tiffani is a talented artist and partnering with her to start Ampersand H. has been a really exciting opportunity.

What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

Ooh! Quite a few-—there are just some books that need to be relived over and over Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, definitely. Also any of the Harry Potter books, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, the Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly novels from Charlaine Harris. Any collection of short stories that Stephen King has every published. This list goes on and on!

When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be? 

Definitely not. I have an idea about the few main characters for the central part of the story, but other characters pop into existence the more I write. I let most of them stick around, as long as they promise to behave. (Of course, some of them don’t always keep that promise, which is where the stories get interesting!)

Which character did you most enjoy writing? 

There is a definitely a tie, between Bobby Glitter and Bronwyn Sinclair. Bobby is a bumbling, aging rocker, and Bronwyn is a spunky, fearless teenager who’s not afraid to speak her mind. 

Who are your favorite authors?

Agatha Christie and Stephen King have always been favorites, but lately I’ve read a lot of Madelyn Alt, Charlaine Harris, and Victoria Laurie.

Name one thing you couldn’t live without.

Korean BBQ tacos! (Do they count as one thing?)

Your last meal would be...

Death by chocolate! After some Korean BBQ tacos.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

A bookstore—-most of them have cafes inside nowadays, and the second thing I couldn’t live without (besides those delicious Korean tacos) is coffee!

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

1) Heavy Mental by P.J. Morse. It’s another rock n’ roll mystery and it’s fabulous! (Read P.J.'s A Blue Million Books feature here.)
2) Head Case by Jennifer Oko. It’s told from a very unique point of view, and it’s a real page turner!
3) Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. It’s not so much a mystery as it is a paranormal/fantasy novel. It’s another one of those books that’s hard to put down.

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

While I’m not a fan of the cold at all, I would really love to go somewhere up north and see the Northern Lights. They’re absolutely breathtaking. Either that, or some private beach in the Mediterranean.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got several projects going on right now: I’m currently writing the second book in the Amelia Grace series, and I’m also doing re-writes for the first and second book in another series I’d like to publish. I’ve been very busy!

Tess talks to Bronwyn Sinclair:

Note: For those of you who haven't read Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction, Tess Tremaine is the main character. She likes to drop by now and then to talk to other authors' imaginary friends. For those who have read the book, may the sun shine upon you. For those who haven't yet read GPJ, I'll see you after class.

About the character:

Bronwyn Sinclair is the booking intern at Castle Rock, one of Atlanta’s hottest concert venues. Bron is nineteen, short and spunky with pink pixie cut hair and an attitude. Despite her devilish appearance, she’s Daddy’s little angel. Bronwyn has her police sergeant father wrapped around her finger—-and good thing, too, because she has to play him like a Gibson Electric to keep Castle Rock open when the owner, Parker Deering, is murdered on the night of a big show. Bronwyn becomes the unlikely sidekick to Amelia Grace as she tracks down Parker’s killer.

Bronwyn, how on earth did you first meet Ann Marie?

She just kind of barged in one day and started asking questions and looking over our shoulders while we were working. And on the same day that Parker was murdered, no less!  If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she killed him.

Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?

Well, I figured at the very least I’d have my own talk show or made-for-TV movie one day-—of course, in my scenario I get to be the lead role, not Ame. I think I did all right at graciously stepping out of the spotlight and settling into the sidekick role for this book...just this once. 

Absolutely. Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Any scene with me in it, duh! There should definitely be more scenes with me in them.  *cough* Anne Marie Stoddard, I’m talking to you! *cough*

And while I’m at it, would it be pushing my luck to ask for more scenes with Bryce?  Perhaps a kissing scene?  Pleeeeease!

Atta girl, you gotta take things into your own hands now and then. So you have a hard time convincing Ann Marie to write particular scenes for you?

Apparently. Did you happen to read any scenes where I got to kiss Bryce? Yeah, me neither. She should’ve skipped writing Laura Holly into the picture altogether and just put Bryce in the role of my super-hot bouncer boyfriend instead. Why do you think I work at Castle Rock --the money? The free concerts? (Okay, yes, that is a big reason, actually.) It’s mainly because of Bryce. Call me boy crazy if you must, but I get paid to stand outside and talk to a guy so smokin’ he could pass for Justin Timberlake’s more muscular older brother. What more could a girl ask for (besides a little lip action with that hot bouncer, at least)?

What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?

I like getting into a little mischief when I can. My dad, the Sarge, likes to bring work home with him, so from time to time I listen in on his conversations about his cases at work. That’s how I found out a lot of good intel for Ame when we were trying to get to the bottom of who killed Parker. Other than that, I like to hang around at Castle Rock when I’m not grounded from spying on the Sarge and sneaking off to help solve mysteries. I enjoy sitting in the box office and reading Cosmopolitan. (Hey, I’m nineteen! I can read women’s magazines if I want!)

I like listening to our local rock station, 95Rox, a lot too—-unless Tim Scott is on the air. That dude thinks he’s so cool just because he used to be a roadie with Led Zeppelin or some other classic rock band. Newsflash, Tim: you’re old. And you’re arrogant. I’d rather listen to 95Rox’s other DJ, Charlie Chill, any day.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be? (Besides moonin' and smoochin' with Bryce.)

Well, for starters, I’d be the star of the show, not Amelia. And Bryce would be with me instead of Laura, of course. 

Tell the truth. What do you think of your fellow characters?

I think Ame and Kat are pretty cool. You already know I’m crazy about Bryce. Laura—-not so much. Yeah, she’s nice and all, but I think she’s all wrong for Bryce (mainly because he’s so right for me, duh!). I think Bobby Glitter is just a washed up old hack with a guitar, and his manager, Shawn, gives me the creeps. I’m not a fan of Tim Scott either. And I swear, if Tony Spencer calls me ‘Half Pint’ one more time...

Well, Half Pint, what impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while?

I think when people first meet me, they don’t see past my short spiky hair and eyeliner.  Or maybe it’s my constant scowling and dry humor that scares them off. Deep down I’m just an emotional teenager who’s “trying to grow up too fast,” according to Ame and my dad. I think I’m plenty grown up. Now if only I could convince our bartenders of that so they’d stop serving me cokes without the Jack in them..


What aspect of your author’s writing style do you like best?

I like that she tells the story of our ‘Little Venue that Could’ through the voice of one of our staff. Now if only she had told it from my point of view instead...

If your story were a movie, who would play you?

If ChloĆ« Grace Moretz could rock a hot pink pixie cut, she’d be my first pick for sure.  Who wouldn’t want to be played by Hit Girl from “Kick-Ass”?!

Will you encourage your author to write a sequel?

You bet—-and I’ll be encouraging her to give me a little more face time with Bryce the next time around. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Well...good luck with that.

Watch the book trailer!

Excerpt from Murder At Castle Rock:

Sighing heavily, I flipped around to lean my back against the door and stared out into the open courtyard. The vast green lawn stretched on for at least a quarter-mile and was enclosed by a grey ashlar wall that matched the structure of the castle. The wall was lined with alternating hickory and maple trees, each spaced about twenty feet apart. The trees were my favorite part of the courtyard, especially during the fall. During the spring and summer, their leaves made a solid wall of vibrant green, and in the winter the brittle, bare branches jutted in every direction like protective barbs to ward off those punk neighborhood kids who might dare to climb the wall and sneak in the back door for a free concert. It was in the fall, however, that the trees gave their most breathtaking display. As the red maple and orange hickory leaves danced in the wind they looked like a moat of fire hovering above the castle wall.  


Most of my co-workers took their breaks from work in Piedmont Park just a few blocks away, but not me—this courtyard was my own private park. I often took walks along its perimeter when I needed an escape from my constantly ringing office phone. Sometimes I’d pretend that this was my castle and courtyard, and I’d pace the length of the fence, mapping out in my mind the additions I would love to make. Lately I had been envisioning an outdoor stage along the wall, facing inward to the lawn. While our capacity in either High Court or the Dungeon was one thousand, we could easily fit up to two thousand or more concert-goers in this space. This would allow us to book bigger, better acts and maybe even double our business. I had been working up the nerve to pitch these concepts to Parker, and if all went well with Bobby Glitter Week, that success might be just the thing to butter him up before I approached him with my ideas.


Sometime later I could feel the bass and the roar of the crowd vibrate through the door as Bobby and his band returned to the stage upstairs for their encore. One show down, I thought, pulling a cigarette from my jacket. Two to go. I fished a lighter from the depths of my jean pocket, then lit my cig and took a long, slow drag. It felt good to finally have a few moments to myself, just me and my thoughts in this dark and peaceful courtyard.

I blew a smoke ring and tilted my face upward to watch its progress as it slowly drifted higher and higher into the night sky. Through the haze, a dark object appeared to be falling from the heavens—no, it was falling from the rear tower! What the..


Time screeched to a halt, and in an instant that felt like a lifetime, the shape of the dark, falling mass came into focus. It had arms and hands with open palms and splayed fingers. It had legs that were eerily limp even as they moved downward in a rapid free fall...and in the moonlight, I could just make out a head of thinning chestnut hair...         

Before I could react, Parker Deering’s body careened into the flat ground of the loading dock with a sickening splat, a mere fifteen feet from where I was standing. The horrible sound of bones crunching upon impact sent my lunch on a mad dash back up from my stomach.


I doubled over and retched.


Then I screamed.

From the author:

Aside from my friends and family, I'm passionate about two things: writing and live music. When I can bring the two together, my life feels complete. I was fortunate enough to win the 2012 AJC Decatur Book Festival & BookLogix Publishing Services, Inc. Writing Contest with my manuscript for Murder At Castle Rock. Being published has been a dream of mine since kindergarten, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share my stories. I am currently working on several other projects, including a sequel to Murder At Castle Rock and another mystery series.

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Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble: Coming soon! (Follow me on Facebook of Twitter for updates!)