Wednesday, October 26, 2016



In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution—and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.

Book 1 in a new cozy mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Professor Prather.


Mary, what's your favorite thing about the writing process?
My favorite thing about the writing process is that you get to create your own world and then jump in it. Most days I feel like I’m walking around with a wonderful secret. I know what these characters are doing or planning, and sometimes it’s a fantastic retreat—or distraction—from the real world. 

Do you have a writing routine?
Since I’m a teacher, my routine depends on the time of the year, but I always write early in the morning. In the summer, I set my alarm for six o’clock so that I can write before my kids get up. During the school year, I write on my days off campus after dropping off the kids at school. I write for about four or five hours (when I’m not dealing with an unexpected crisis, which unfortunately, happens more often than you’d think). In the afternoons, I edit or work on other writing, like my blog.

How often do you read?
I read every day for work and every night for fun. I look forward to climbing into bed with a book; it’s one of the best parts of my day. I’m prone to terrific tangents where I read certain writers or genres. For two years, I read everything I could find on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. My latest tangent included the Elena Ferrante novels—a month of pure bliss!

What do you think makes a good story?

I love stories that immerse me in their settings. I love the thrill of escaping into a world that is new and foreign. When I shut off the light and forget what time it is or what’s for hot lunch tomorrow, I know it’s a good book. I also love mysteries with clever plots. I don’t mind when the author tricks me!

What do you love about where you live?
I love the wide open spaces of the Great Plains. Although I live in a city of about 165,000, I can get in my car and within ten minutes be surrounded by farmland. My family and I went to southern California last summer, and I was agog at the traffic between LA and San Diego. I’ve never been in a car so long without moving. 

What is one of your happiest moments?
Hands down, the day after my daughter Maisie was born. I remember sitting in the hospital eating apple pie with my husband and our other daughter, Madeline. At that moment, I felt completely happy. 

What’s your least favorite chore?

Laundry. My daughters are eight and ten, which means they pretty much wear the same size undies, socks, and other tiny things I don’t like to fold. Still, I have to sort them so that someone doesn’t accuse someone else of wearing her underwear at seven o’clock and cause a before-school meltdown.  

What is your most embarrassing moment?

After I had my first daughter, Madeline, I went back to teaching full time. But being a first-time mom, I constantly had Maddie on my mind. One day, I was teaching a literature class and discussing Edgar Allan Poe. In the course of the conversation I said, “Edgar Allan Pooh.” I kept talking for a moment because nobody said anything. Then I stopped and asked, “Did I just say Pooh?” The entire front row, the ones actually listening to the lecture, nodded their heads! 

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson. I love this quote and wish I had followed the advice sooner. The idea for the Professor Prather Mysteries came to me years ago, but instead of following what I thought was great, I followed what others thought was great. Although this is a much better time in my life for the series, I still wonder what life might have been like if I had written the novel sooner. 

Who is your favorite fictional character?
I adore Ariadne Oliver, the mystery writer who shows up in Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels. She is the opposite of the great detective; she makes up things as she goes. Yet she’s bright and curious and a fun amateur sleuth when she gets involved in Poirot’s cases. 

What are you working on now?
I am working on the second novel in the Professor Prather series, Passport to Murder. It takes place during spring break when 13 unlucky passengers book their flight out of Copper Bluff—and into murder and mayhem!


Like her protagonist in the Professor Prather mystery series, Mary Angela lives on the Great Plains and teaches college writing and literature. When she’s not grading papers (when is she not grading papers?), she enjoys reading, travelling, and spending time with her family. She and her husband have two amazing daughters, one adorable dog, and a cat who would rather not be limited by an adjective. For more information, go to

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