Today cozy historical mystery author Maia Chance makes a return visit and sits down for an interview. Learn more about Maia and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I started writing stories when I was five, and never stopped. In the back of my mind I always knew I’d be a novelist someday, but I actually came to it in my thirties, after a career as a professional musician and then a PhD program in English lit. I think I was working up the nerve and building up a stash of ideas.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Well, I published a few really iffy romance novels in my twenties, while still a working musician, but it wasn’t until years later that I had the realization that if I was reading mysteries for fun then, um, yeah, I should write mysteries. So then I wrote a mystery, and no agent would touch it because it was too weird (picture Frankenstein meets the Pink Panther movies). However, my current agent liked that book enough to ask me to send along my next project, which turned out to be Snow White Red-Handed, my first published mystery. From the time I started writing my first mystery to the day Snow White Red-Handed came out, it was almost three years.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Right now I’m traditionally published. However, that Frankenstein meets the Pink Panther movies mystery? It’s actually a really fun book, so once I have the bandwidth I’m considering self-publishing it. It wants to be read.
Where do you write?
Oh, boy. I have two little kids, one in half-day preschool and one in kindergarten, so I work in the craziest places to get some peace and quiet. Coffee shops and libraries are OK, although they’re usually too noisy. My all-time favorite place to work is at the kitchen table, but that’s not possible most days. These days I get the most peace and quiet working in my parked car. I started doing that when my first child was a newborn and I had one hour to work per day and didn’t want to use up any of that precious time driving somewhere or, you know, changing out of my pajamas.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence. And it’s SO hard to find. Sealed up in the car works great. Otherwise, I listen to pink noise on earphones OVER foam earplugs.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Nothing in my crazy plots is drawn from life, but there are bits and pieces of all the people I’ve met in my characters, and definitely the more emotionally loaded relationship moments in my books are drawn from my own experiences.
Describe your process for naming your character?
Naming characters is so fun. Since I write historical books, I often find character names on old census lists. I also have copied down names from cemetery headstones, and sometimes I leaf through my biographical dictionary looking for names. Recently I named a character from the inscription on a statue in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. I was trying to think of a great French lady’s name that day and—there it was!
Real settings or fictional towns?
Both. Sometimes a real place works for the story and sometimes it doesn’t.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Honestly, my books are totally populated by quirky characters, but two quirks that spring to mind are my Discreet Retrieval Agency heroine Lola Woodby’s habit of stashing important clues down her brassiere, and the way that my Fairy Tale Fatal romantic lead Gabriel Penrose’s fingertips start feeling all buzzy when he sees a fairy tale relic.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I had to ask my husband about this, and he said it’s how I laugh to myself while I’m writing.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Anything by P. G. Wodehouse, because his work is the gold standard for comedic writing that uses language itself as a vehicle for the laughs.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I’d gotten serious about writing earlier, without being so scared to take the plunge.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People with road rage! I just moved from Seattle to a much smaller town in Washington, and I’ve been breathing a sustained sigh of relief to be out of the aggressive driving.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Sunscreen, hat, Agatha Christie short story collection.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Front desk clerk at a hotel. It’s a job where you’re the lightning rod for complaints for problems throughout the entire hotel. Problems that you have no ability to actually fix. True story: I habitually looked at cuteoverload.com on the front desk computer to lower my blood pressure.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I could never pick one. One that permanently influenced my worldview, though, is Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkeheimer and Theodor Adorno.
Ocean or mountains?
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country boy, for sure. My husband is from a farming region in southern Idaho, and he seems like he is.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m just going to keep writing more mysteries and raising my kids.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’ve got four books coming out in a six-month period! Cinderella Six Feet Under (Fairy Tale Fatal #2) came out September 1st and Come Hell or Highball (Discreet Retrieval Agency #1) came out September 15th. Then on, I have two short stories in a “mysterious speculative fiction” holiday anthology called Joy to the Worlds that comes out on December 1st, and Fairy Tale Fatal #3, Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, will be released on February 2nd.
Cinderella Six Feet Under
This Cinderella goes from ashes to ashes in the new Victorian-era Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery by the author of Snow White Red-Handed . . .
Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax’s plan to reunite her friend Prue with her estranged—and allegedly wealthy—mother, Henrietta, is met with a grim surprise. Not only is the marquise’s Paris mansion a mouse-infested ruin, but Henrietta has inexplicably vanished, leaving behind an evasive husband, two sinister stepsisters, and a bullet-riddled corpse in the pumpkin patch decked out in a ball gown and one glass slipper—a corpse that also happens to be a dead ringer for Prue.
Strangely, no one at 15 rue Garenne seems concerned about who plugged this luckless Cinderella or why, so the investigation is left to Ophelia and Prue. It takes them through the labyrinthine maze of the Paris Opera, down the trail of a legendary fairy tale relic, into the confidence of a wily prince charmless, and makes them vulnerable to the secrets of a mysterious couturière with designs of her own on Prue’s ever-twisting family history.