Today we sit down for an interview with cozy mystery author Mary Ellen Hughes. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
After writing a few short stories, I realized I wanted to write longer, more in-depth stories.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
About five years after my first short story was published.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally published, but I’ve reissued earlier books that I regained the rights to.
Where do you write?
Upstairs in a spare room, next to a window where I can watch the seasons change as the book progresses.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Definitely silence. I enjoy music too much to be able to ignore it.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I don’t write “ripped from the headlines” plots, but since I also don’t write science fiction, some things have to come from real life, just hopefully with added drama and twists.
An inspiration for my Keepsake Cove series came from something that happened to friends. They had bought an 18th century house, and as they moved in, they were greeted by the faint sound of music. They tracked it to a music box, found locked inside a roll-top desk. How it got wound up or turned on, they had no idea.
In A Fatal Collection and A Vintage Death, my protagonist, Callie, seems to get messages through a family heirloom music box that plays on its own at critical times. Warnings? Confirmations of clues? Callie is never 100% sure.
Describe your process for naming your character?
I’ll search through baby-naming books and also the Social Security list of popular names by decade to find the perfect name for a character. If she’s 60-something, she probably shouldn’t be named Ashley, and a teenager is unlikely to be named Hilda. I also avoid having names start with the same letter, which tends to confuse the reader.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I create fictional towns, but place them within reach of real cities.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Tabitha, the part-time assistant in the music box shop, has a thing for dressing, um, creatively. She might show up to work looking like a 1940s Joan Crawford or Wonder Woman’s alterego, Diana Prince. Luckily, Callie’s music box customers enjoy it.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I don’t think I have any, but since we all think of ourselves as normal and everyone else as a little odd, I’m probably not the best one to ask.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Ohhh, so many. But more recently, I would love to have written the Harry Potter books or Stephen King’s 11/22/63 about the time traveler who tries to stop the Kennedy assassination. Such impressive imagination in both!
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I might have majored in English instead of science, which might have led to writing much sooner.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
In the grammar category, the increasing misuse of “I” in sentences, as in, “He gave directions to Harry and I.” (shudder)
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Assuming I have food, water, and shelter, I’d require a cell tower, iPad, and a solar-powered charger (if that exists.)
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Believe it or not, it was in a bookstore (a now-extinct chain.) I thought it would be wonderful to be surrounded by books, but I was usually too busy to open them!
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
That changes from month to month as I enjoy one good book after another.
Ocean or mountains?
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country (but with a city within reach.)
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently polishing A Curio Killing, the third book in the Keepsake Cove series.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Just that it’s been an amazing ride, having ten books published with the eleventh on the verge. It’s hard work, but for me, the best job in the world. And hearing from a reader who’s enjoyed them or getting a positive customer review is absolutely the icing on the cake.
A Vintage Death
A Keepsake Cove Mystery, Book 2
As the new owner of a music box store in Keepsake Cove, a quaint town full of collectible shops on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Callie Reed is eager to get more involved in her community. So she volunteers to plan the fall street decorations and welcome a visiting author who's come for a special book signing. But the celebratory mood is cut short when the local B&B owner is found dead, killed with a pair of vintage scissors.
Suspicion is cast on the victim's estranged wife, Dorothy, who owns Keepsake Cove's vintage sewing shop. Callie is sure Dorothy is innocent, and the visiting author agrees. Together, they begin their own investigation, only to discover that many people in Keepsake Cove have secrets. Secrets that are worth killing to keep.