Friday, August 14, 2009
Carolyn Hart Interview
by Jean Henry Mead
With more than three million copies of her mystery novels in print, Carolyn Hart is best known for her Henrie O and Death on Demand series. Her most recent series features red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma, Carolyn's home town.
Carolyn, when did your Death on Demand mystery series originate?
In 1985, I attended a meeting of the southwest chapter of MWA in Houston and visited Murder by the Book. I had never been to a mystery bookstore and I was enchanted. I had just started a new mystery set in a bookstore. I immediately decided to have a mystery bookstore named Death on Demand.
Tell us about Dare to Die.
Dare to Die is the 19th title in the Death on Demand series which is set on an idyllic South Carolina sea island. My protagonists are Annie Darling, who owns the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, and her husband Max Darling, who runs Confidential Commissions, a small business devoted to helping people solve problems. Annie and Max’s move into a refurbished antebellum home is on hold after water damage and they are staying at Nightingale Courts, the resort cabins managed by Ingrid Webb, Annie’s clerk, and Ingrid’s husband Duane. Annie and Max agree to take care of the Courts when Ingrid and Duane are called away by a family emergency. As they are leaving, Duane asks Annie to keep an eye on the young woman who checked in yesterday. "She came in the rain. Alone. On a bicycle." Annie befriends the young woman. When she is murdered, Annie and Max are plunged into fear and danger.
How much of your series is autobiographical?
Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins, a retired newspaper reporter, is the protagonist of the Henrie O series. Henrie O is taller, thinner, smarter, and braver than I but she reflects the author’s attitudes.
I’m intrigued with your impetuous red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma. How did the series come about?
I loved the Topper books and films when I was growing up. I see ghosts as reflections of the person who lived. I always wanted to write about a fun-loving, energetic, impetuous ghost returning to earth to help someone in trouble and Bailey Ruth answered the call.
You’ve received an amazing number of awards including the Malice Domestic Lifetime Achievement Award. Has the recognition resulted in increased book sales and reader awareness of your work?
I hope that the awards, which I very much appreciate, help to attract readers. It’s hard to know whether such awards increase sales but any mention of a book or books is helpful to an author.
What's your writing schedule like and do you aim for a certain amount of words each day, no matter how long it takes?
I try to write five pages a day (approx. 1,500 words) when working on a book. Some days I meet that goal. Some days I don’t. When I am stuck, I take a long walk and usually something will occur to me.
Tell us about your writing background.
I worked on school newspapers and majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. When we started a family, I didn’t return to reporting but decided to try fiction. I wrote juvenile fiction, then YA, and in the 1970s began writing adult suspense and mystery.
How much research do you conduct before you begin a novel and do you always visit the locale?
The novel dictates the amount of research. I wrote several early novels, preceding the Death on Demand books, which had World War II backgrounds and required extensive research. I’ve visited the locales of all the books written since Death on Demand. Once I set a book partly in the Philippines which I have never visited and a woman who grew up there asked me how many years I’d spent in the islands and I knew my library research had been successful.
What lies ahead for your well-known character Henrie O? How did her character come about?
My original ambition was to be a foreign correspondent. Henrie O enjoyed the career I didn’t have. One of the joys of writing fiction is living out lives that appeal to you. I am currently committed to write one Death on Demand and one ghost book each year so Henrie O is currently "resting," as they say in Hollywood.
Advice for novice writers?
Care passionately about what you write. If you care, somewhere an editor will care.
Copyright © 2009 Jean Henry Mead