By Chester Campbell
Today we're interviewing Milton Watty, whose first thriller, Curse of the Magpie, is about to hit the shelves. The book has garnered raves from several of the major review publications. A Texan by birth and a Tennessean by choice, Watty granted this interview while preparing for his first book signing tour.
MW: It involves a guy about my age, twenty-four, who murdered a man when he was twelve years old. He gets out of prison and nobody will hire him. He did a lot of reading while incarcerated and got fascinated with Egypt. He would like to be an Egyptologist but knew he couldn't hitchhike across the Atlantic. Mexico, however, was no problem. He goes to Mexico City and reads in the library about Teotihuacan and the Pyramid of the Dead. That's close enough to what he'd find in Egypt, so he heads to the restored ancient city. He discovers a valuable painting of a yellow-billed magpie has been found in a tunnel beneath the pyramid. The American archeologist who found it has disappeared, along with the painting.
CC: And that's where the curse comes in, right? What is the curse of the magpie?
MW: If I told you I'd have to kill you. Just joking, of course, but it would give away too much of the plot.
CC: Okay, what can you tell me about Milton Watty?
MW: I'm a single guy, not too long out of college. I majored in history but didn't want to teach, which didn't leave me with many options in the job market. You might say it didn't leave any. At least that's been my experience. Like my character, I couldn't find a job.
CC: How did you gravitate to mystery writing?
MW: It sure beats ditch digging or fllipping burgers in a fast food joint.
CC: Did you try those?
MW: Nope. I had heard about writers taking their laptops to places like Starbucks and banging out novels, so I took the one I used in college and staked out a table at a nearby coffee shop.
CC: Had you taken writing courses in college?
MW: I wrote a lot of history papers. Much of that was fiction, though the prof never figured it out.
CC: Where did your character T. Herb James come from?
MW: Actually, he came up to my table at Starbucks when I was knocking around some ideas. That wasn't his name, of course, but he'd just gotten out of prison for committing murder as a kid. He tried to bum a cigarette, but I don't smoke. Anyway, it's against the law to smoke in a restaurant in Tennessee. So I bought him a cup of coffee. I can't stand the stuff myself. He told me about all this reading he'd done while serving his sentence. He had studied about pyramids and wished he could go see one, especially the one in Mexico. He was also something of a nut on ornithology. Did you know that in the UK spotting a single magpie is a sign of bad fortune?
CC: All I know is my mother used to say a bunch of women chattering sounded like a flock of magpies.
MW: They are a chatty lot, for sure, and are known for pilfering from other birds. Rossini wrote an opera titled The Thieving Magpie. Anyway, that's where the character and the idea came from.
CC: Do you have plans for a sequel?
MW: Maybe I'll write Return of the Magpie. I'm working on a standalone, but if this one sells well, I may just see what else I can get T. Herb James into.
CC: I wish you good luck on your signing tour. Keep us posted on your future work.
You can read more about the author at his website: www.MiltonWatty.com