As hoped, I was able to interview the author of this issue’s Book Remarks book, local writer Jean Harrington. As the title suggests, Jean writes mysteries, but she’s also published Irish historical romances. At a fellow author’s suggestion, Jean connected with her agent at the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. She has been seriously pursuing publication for fifteen years, and is a member of three writers’ groups: Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. “Murder on Pea Pike” is her eighth published book.
After reading “Murder on Pea Pike,” I had writer questions and book questions, and Jean was gracious enough to indulge my curiosity!Marisa: What’s your typical writing day/process?
Jean: I write every day, every day, first thing in the morning in my ratty robe. Two hours max, and then in between putting in the wash and taking out the wash, off and on for most of the day, I rewrite what I had written.
Marisa: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Jean: Have confidence in yourself and understand that marketing is tougher than writing.
Marisa: How many books did you start that will never see the light of day?
Jean: Let me see… without looking under the bed, I have, in total, written fifteen stories, seven unpublished, though two of the seven are currently under contract.
Marisa: What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Jean: Write for the love of the craft and not simply to be published.
Marisa: Why do you write in the genre in which you write?
Jean: I love putting together the pieces of a puzzle and that “ah ha” moment when the last piece is inserted and chaos gives way to order [it] is what a mystery novel is all about.
Marisa: Did something specific happen or occur to inspire this novel?
Jean: Well, not to be boring about it, but yes, I wanted to strive for a new, fresh voice in my books, and Honey Ingersoll with her untutored street smarts was a whole creative departure for me.
Marisa: How do you decide on titles of your books?
Jean: The title should reveal something about the story. In this book, Honey discovers the murder victims on properties off Pea Pike.
Marisa: How do you decide on names for your characters?
Jean: Oh, names are such fun to choose and so important in the way a character is viewed by the reader. In “Murder on Pea Pike,” I chose Honey for my heroine’s first name because it’s warm, a little sassy and hints at a likeable personality. I mean, who ever heard of someone named Honey who was icy cold and irritable? And her last name, Ingersoll, has an elegant vibe—the very thing Honey is striving for.
Marisa: What’s your favorite part of this book?
Jean: My favorite part of “Murder on Pea Pike,” is the heroine, Honey Ingersoll. She’s a girl who grew up in a double-wide and has made a few mistakes along the way. Now she’s determined to remake herself into the best realtor Eureka Falls, Arkansas, ever did see. But it isn’t easy—she has so much to learn—what to wear, what to eat, what to say. The world of the polished woman is a jungle to her.
Marisa: What is your favorite line from this book?
Jean: When I found out Saxby didn’t want his momma, Miss Eloise, to know about me, I realized I had to change into the kind of girl a man didn’t hide behind the barn like a pile of manure.
Marisa: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Jean: One year, without rushing, and including revisions.
Marisa: This wouldn’t be an author interview if I didn’t ask… Where do you get your ideas?
Jean: Actually, fiction is autobiographical by nature, so the ideas are hidden in your own life. You just have to uncover them.
This book was just the right fit for my travels to Boston at the beginning of this month. As someone not particularly comfortable when flying, this book’s theme – overcoming adversity with courage and humor – entertained me from start to finish. Jean created a cast of characters I wanted to know, and honestly, long after I’d finished the book, I wondered what other adventures they were up to.
The story is told in the first person point of view, and the way Jean writes is like reading someone’s diary. The voice is fresh and fun, and that quirky sense of humor kept me scrolling through the e-book, deep inside the narrator’s witty reactions to the serious situations. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments to lighten the murder aspect of the plot.
“He looked so small and skinny, I doubted he was the killer, come back to polish me off.”
By the very nature of writing a murder mystery, Jean touches upon our own mortality, but she manages to include the brilliance of life and love within the pages of “Murder on Pea Pike.”
So, dear readers, are there any authors you’d love to be able to sit down and drill with questions? Who are they? Which books did they write?
As always, thanks for your time!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: www.marisacleveland.com or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.