Wednesday, February 25, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Connie Archer


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hello, Connie!  Welcome to The Gal.  It's great to have you on.
            Let's start off with something easy.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Connie Archer:
I was born on the east coast, in Boston.  I grew up and went to school there.  In college, I majored in biology and spent a few years working as a lab technician.  The work was interesting, but I knew it really wasn't for me.  I wanted to do a lot of other things.  I wasn't sure what those things were, I just knew I wanted something different.  I've held all sorts of jobs - laboratory technician, medical secretary, you name it.  One of those most fascinating jobs I ever had was a two-week temporary assignment that turned into a two year job preparing autopsy reports for a big city hospital.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Connie Archer:
Let's see ... have to think about this one.  Okay:
  1. I love old furniture and antiques, and am pretty skilled at stripping and refinishing furniture.
  2. I'm a purse freak.  I don't know what a shrink would say about that, but the first place I browse in a store is the handbag section - not clothes, not shoes, not kitchenware.  I rarely break down and buy one, but I never get rid of any and have a large collection now.
  3. I love to sew.  I taught myself when I was still in school and really enjoyed it.  I've made drapes, slipcovers, pillows, jackets, dresses, you name it.  The thing is, I have to be in the mood.  So when I'm not in the mood, all my projects, half finished or just beginning, are stashed away in a closet with my sewing machine so I won't feel as if a chore is hanging over my head.  I love to work on those things, but I do have to be in the mood.
  4. I'm fascinated with the subject of espionage, particularly the beginnings of American spy craft at the start of World War II.  I've read all sorts of non-fiction and fiction books on the subject over the years.  Can't get enough!
  5. One guilty pleasure of mine - my family groans - is catching TV shows about UFOs and aliens.  Don't laugh!  I love those shows.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Connie Archer:
I think it would have to be The Borrowers.  I did learn to read at a very young age, so I'm sure there were earlier books, but the one I most remember is that magical book about the tiny people who lived under the floorboards and used wooden thread spools as tables.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Connie Archer:
Right now I'm starting The Secret Place by Tana French who is such an amazing writer!  I'm a huge fan.  I also just finished Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (an espionage novel by the way) and can't say enough great things about it.  I'm very much looking forward to reading his second book.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Connie Archer:
Not that long ago, really.  I guess I started writing about nine years ago and I know it grew out of creative frustration.  It's strange but in a way it feels as if I started only yesterday.  I've always been in love with mysteries and thrillers of all sorts and had toyed with the idea of writing one for a long time.  I wasn't sure how hard it would be or if I could even do it, but I did manage to finish my first book and was very luck to find a wonderful agent.  I wrote two more books in that series and hopefully these will find a home in the near future.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Connie Archer:
I need to be at my computer in a tiny cubbyhole at home.  I can't seem to write anywhere else.  Well, I guess if I had to I could cope.  Maybe it's the habit or the discipline of sitting in the same chair in the same spot at the same time of day, but I do feel I'm better able to focus if I follow the same routine - no distractions, no email, no music, no sound.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Connie Archer:
I open the document I'm working on and then I play three (only three, no more, no less) games of Freecell on the computer.  There's something about that particular game that helps me move out of linear thinking and jogs the (if you pardon the expression) little gray cells.  I'm forced to let go and not concentrate on any particular card in order to win and I'm convinced that helps me switch gears and get ready to write.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Connie Archer:
Oh, all sorts of places.  Sometimes the plot grows out of working backyard from the murder victim.  Who did that person wrong?  What relationship did he or she have that could have caused a death?  That's how the plot took shape in A Spoonful of Murder, the first book in the Soup Lover's Mystery series.  Sometimes ideas come from daydreaming.  What if ... what if a crime took place many years ago, but nothing was ever really resolved and the repercussions are still felt in the present.  That was the basis of the plot in A Broth for Bretayal.
            And, of course, the best source of deadly ideas is the news.  I always look for a crime story with a twist, something unexplained or something that makes no sense, and I fill in the blanks.  Thats where the core idea for the plot in Ladle to the Grave came from.  I can't say any more about the seed of that idea because it could be a bit of a spoiler.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Connie Archer:
All well-written stories and characters inspire me.  I admit I gravitate toward mysteries and thrillers, always have, but occasionally I break down and read something outside those genres.  I've been affected by stories that stay with me for a long time, ones in which the characters have literally come to life and follow me around like ghosts.  I've loved the Sue Grafton alphabet series.  Overtime I've picked up a new book in that series, I've felt as if I'm joining an old friend on an adventure.  I stand in awe of Tana French, an amazing style, particularly Faithful Place, although I've loved all her books.  Whenever I'm in a bookstore, I head for the mystery section and look for someone I've never heard of.  That's how I discovered Zoe Ferraris, her saudi Arabia series and her first book Finding Nouf.  Needless to say, between purchases and gifts and conference freebies, my bookshelves are overflowing.  But there are select book that I will never give away.  Books I want to read many times over, sometimes just to sink into the world one more time and sometimes to study style and plot and figure out how an author accomplished a particular thing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Connie Archer:
Well, most of it is challenging if you stop to think about it.  And then there are moments that feel as if you're flying, as if you've literally left your body and entered another world.  I'd say the hardest part of writing is the flow process of trusting that your story will take some sort of organic shape and blossom.  It's difficult to hold on to that internal trust when you're pounding out words on the keyboard and struggling with where exactly to end a chapter while you're fighting with all sorts of little details.  I've heard very well-known and accomplished writers say that each time they begin a new book, they're sure they can't possibly do it again.  And it can feel like climbing a mountain if you start to focus on word count or worry whether what you're writing is any good.  You can outline and plot and work on details and be sure you know where you're going, but sometimes those plans need to be thrown out because you discover something more important is taking shape.  My solution is just to acknowledge that maybe what I'm writing isn't any good, won't keep a reader turning pages, but just to keep on going.  There'll be plenty of time later to rewrite and revise - just get to the end, then go back and start to make it better.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Connie Archer:
The emotional aspect is the most important thing for me.  I do believe all readers want to identify with and connect to a character.  They want to feel.  Is structure important?  Absolutely.  If it's a unique story or a clever plot that also adds to the mix but without characters that readers can truly connect with, it can be a shallow experience.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Connie Archer:
Someone once said that we all, all of us, have hundreds of characters in the gallery of our minds.  I think that's true.  So that being said, they're all me, they all come from me, my perceptions, my connections, my memories, my observations.  So is my protagonist Lucky a lot like me?  Yeeeeees, I think so.  She's maybe the angel of my better nature.  But to tell the truth, I think her best friend Sophie is most like me.  I can have a lot of fun with Sophie.  She's the dark foil to Lucky.  She can be cynical and sarcastic.  She's not mean or evil, I don't mean to say that, but she can speak her mind and say the things that would be inappropriate for my protagonist.  So, yes, I'd have to say Sophie is most like me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why did you pick this particular genre?

Connie Archer:
I am a lover of the traditional mystery, and even though the Soup Lover's Mystery series is considered a culinary cozy, I personally think of these stories as dark village mysteries, mysteries in which the reader is taken for a ride with some chills and thrills, with red herrings and the ultimate (hopefully unforeseen) unmasking of the murderer.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your book different from others out there in this genre?

Connie Archer:
Many readers expect "cozies" to be light-hearted or even humorous.  This series, although it incorporates the necessary elements of a cozy or traditional mystery, is anything but.  I do my best to create characters that readers will really care about and to describe crimes in as realistic a manner as possible.  After all, murders arise from the darkest elements of the human psyche.  I don't think it's possible to contemplate the internal pain of a character who could commit murder without being realistic.  It just won't work for me to treat the characters or the crime(s) in a light-hearted manner.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Connie Archer:
The next book in the Soup Lover's Mystery series, A Clue in the Stew, I just love that title (!), will be released in the spring of 2016.  In Clue, a famous mystery writer with some dark secrets comes to the village and events unfold from there.  I don't have an exact date for that release as yet.  And if my publisher decides to continue with this series, I'll keep on writing about Snowflake, Vermont.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Connie!!  It's been great learning more about the author behind the book.
            One more thing before you go.  Where can we find you?

Connie Archer:
My website and blog can be found here, where anyone can sign up for my newsletter, announcing events, giveaways and recipes.  I can always be reached at my email address.  I'm at Twitter @SnowflakeVT and on Facebook.  On the 15th of every month, you can hear from one of my characters at Killer Characters.


About the book:
Title: Soup Lover's Mystery 4: Ladle to the Grave
Genre: Mystery, Cozy, Culinary, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: 3.3.2015
Pages: 304

By the Spoonful is Snowflake, Vermont's most popular soup shop, but owner Lucky Jamieson doesn't have any time to enjoy her success - she's too busy trying to keep a lid on false accusations against her loved ones...

It's almost May, and some of the local ladies have organized a pagan celebration in the woods to welcome spring.  But the evening goes terribly wrong when one of the attendees winds up dead, apparently poisoned by an herbal concoction prepared by Lucky's grandfather, Jack.
            Lucky's sure her grandfather could not have made such a tragic mistake.  But before she can clear him of suspicion, her best friend, Sophie, is diverted from planning her wedding to By the Spoonful chef Sage DuBois when she finds a dead man floating in the creek on her property.  Now it's up to Lucky to get both Sophie and Jack out of hot water before a killer stirs up more trouble...

6 comments:

Patricia T said...

Interesting interview...thank you! I'm looking forward to reading "Ladle to the Grave".

angelhwk68 said...

Great interview. I agree about characters that make you feel like you are coming home for a visit. I also love Kinsey and Henry. Can't wait to read your series!

Connie Archer said...

Hi Patricia ~ Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you really enjoy Ladle!

Connie Archer said...

Hi Barbara ~ Thank you! Henry is such a great character, you can almost believe he really lives in Santa Barbara . . . oops, I mean Santa Teresa! LOL!

Carol N Wong said...

I just finished reading your book, A Roux for Revenge and loved it. Lucky is a great cozy main character, smart, plucky and would to know her in real life!

holdenj said...

Looking forward to more soup and mystery in Snowflake. Great review!