SM: Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce author Cary Ashby to Sylvia Says. Cary (and no, his surname was never “Grant”) and I met online on one of those David Bowie forums. As we are both diehard Bowieheads, it only made sense that we’d start chatting about our hero, then one thing led to another and we discovered we were both working on novels. Cary was working on his debut novel while at the same time he maintained the very busy role of roving reporter.
Now, before we go any further, readers, being an Aussie I use Aussie spelling in all my blog posts, and being a Yank, Cary uses “U.S.” spelling (so no, you’re not seeing spelling mistakes). Okay, so I can finally welcome Cary. Therefore, without further ado: welcome to Sylvia Says, Cary. It’s such a pleasure to have you featuring on my blog today.
CA: I am quite honored you invited me to be interviewed. Thanks so much! This should be fun.
SM: Before we get into the interview, you may want to tell our readers a little about yourself (just leave out the “real” dirty laundry). LOL. But seriously, aside from the fact that you’re US-based, a reporter, and most importantly, a Bowiehead (like me), what else do you wish to share about yourself?
CA: For the past 16 or so years, I have been a newspaper reporter. I have always covered our local school districts and lately, my focus has been on doing features. Of course, I will write as many A&E (arts & entertainment) stories as my editors will let me. LOL. Since I did the “cops and courts” beat for 12-plus years it’s nice to chip away at and redeem the black parts of my soul. For some extra money, and I do mean a little bit, I also cover high school football and basketball games. In my spare time – and when the motivation hits me – I write op-eds* and reviews about various comic book projects and the related media on my Cary’s Comics Craze blog. So basically, I feel like I write, or should be writing, all the time. And that can be a double-edged sword.
[*Note by SM: meaning of “op-ed” – jargon speak for a newspaper page opposite the editorial page, devoted to personal comments, feature articles, etc.]
I grew up in the beautiful state of Virginia in a VERY small town called The Plains. I earned my B.A. in English with minors in secondary education and music at James Madison University. My plan was to be a band director and/or a high school English teacher. Life took some detours and here I am, where my late mother said I should have been as a back-up plan – working in journalism. Since September, I have returned to singing in the church choir and playing handbells, which has been great for my soul. I live in a lovely little city called Norwalk, Ohio, and it’s a wonderful place to call home.
SM: Life always seems to throw us detours, Cary, and here’s another one for you: I know of many reporters/journalists who have turned to writing books; so what was it that made you turn to novel writing?
CA: It really started with my writers group, which meets once a month. We read our works in progress to each other and get wonderfully constructive feedback.
I hadn’t done any fiction writing in years, so I started out just reading some of my nerdy blog posts. Having been a long-time mystery reader, I realized I always wanted to create my own P.I. or investigator. But it had to be original, not a knock-off of another character.
SM: And this brings us to Colt Maverick. What inspired you to invent this character? Tell us a bit about Colt. What is he all about?
CA: As I said, I wanted my character to be as original as possible. That’s tough when you’re writing mysteries. The name Colt Maverick came to me literally, when I was going to bed. It speaks to his somewhat rebellious nature and the name spoke to me, so suddenly I was ready to go! As an aside, many of my friends and readers say they absolutely love the name Colt Maverick. So if nothing else, I gave him a memorable first and last name.
I couldn’t just have Colt be a P.I., so I made him a retired pro football player who had been a Marine sniper. Colt is a bit full of himself; some of my readers have called him arrogant. Really, all this happened in just what was going to be an experimental scene, but I ended up loving this guy. He’s fun to write, and you just never know what he’s going to do or even say. But, as a P.I., he’s always going to end up pursuing justice for everyone involved. That’s why I started the hashtag on social media of #WhatWillColtDo or #WWCD for short.
SM: Well, he certainly sounds like an original character with an impressive background. Now, you released Colt’s debut novel not so long ago, so what’s coming up next for him?
CA: I have been working on a follow-up story for not quite a year. There have been several stops, starts and do-overs. The writing hasn’t been nearly as “easy” as the original. It’s been tough going and honestly, Colt and I are just off a couple-month “break.” But I’ve found something I can stick my teeth into – and it gets Colt into a mess at the same time. That’s where he shines. Colt is investigating a security breach related to the murder of an attorney. What’s been fun is bringing back supporting characters from my first novel. That’s challenging at the same time because, as my writers group told me early in this draft, I can’t assume everyone read the first book.
SM: Well, I can relate to that with my Mia Ferrari series. I believe there is a fine balance between not telling too much about the characters, but enough so that if a reader comes in at say, novel number three, they can still relate to the main protagonist and to the regular characters. This is not easy to do.
The same goes for continuity. Recently, I read the third book in a mystery series (written by a well known author) and a character this author had appearing in novel one ended up with a totally different name in novel three. This put me off as a reader, and it isn’t the first time I’ve come across inconsistencies in the novels of bestselling authors. If I may be so bold as to suggest a method I use for consistency: I keep a file of white cards for each character, which come out of the file every time I start a new novel—this way I’m reminded of the little things that I may no longer remember from two novels ago.
CA: That’s a great idea. I may steal that tip from you. Continuity is tough; I can’t imagine what you face with your Mia Ferrari books. I actually have a Colt Maverick sourcebook of sorts. I started a notebook devoted to the world of my novel, which details everything from who is related to whom to what they drink. It’s been helpful.
SM: That’s a great idea, Cary. I think all authors have their own methods so they can remember and ins and outs of their characters. I could go on about this topic as it would be interesting to see what other authors out there do to remember all the details when they’re giving life to their characters, but now we’re running out of time; therefore, before we conclude I have a couple of quick questions: 1. Do you have a release date for the next Colt Maverick novel? 2. Is there anything you’d like to tell potential readers out there?
CA: No release date on the sequel. Or even a tentative completion date. Not even close! I really am taking it slowly, mainly due to finding time with my work as a professional writer, but most importantly, so I can do it well. Lately I have taken to writing during my lunch break. SO many people who have read my novel have an immediate question when they see me: How is the next one coming? It’s incredibly exciting to know people want to read more about Colt, and honestly see my debut novel as the first in a series. Guess I must have done something right! Hahahaha.
To any potential readers, it’s a blessing that you support authors, especially independent ones like Sylvia and me. Also, once you do read someone’s book, please post a review or send the author an email and/or direct message on social media and let him or her know what you think. Give us shoutouts! Constructive feedback is very helpful. Personally, there’s also nothing better than knowing you enjoy what I wrote. I have taken to heart the constructive criticism on my first book; that’s only going to help push me to make the next one even better.
SM: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today. I really enjoyed learning about Colt Maverick and I look forward to reading about his adventures.
Cary, I wish you all the best with the Colt novels, and please make sure you cut me into the deal when those film options come knocking at your door. Did I tell you I’m really good with continuity? LOL.
CA: Good try, Sylvia! Hahahahaha. It has been a pleasure to be on Sylvia Says; thank you!
For more information on Cary Ashby and where you can purchase Colt Maverick’s first mystery please CLICK here.
Author Nancy Lynn Jarvis decided to step out of plotting murder for a while and to dabble into what drives all authors (besides coffee, that is): FOOD! Yes, creativity must be fed and not only with murder mystery plots. So Nancy did the next best thing, she brought together 128 mystery authors (including yours truly) and everyone contributed a recipe toward Nancy's new book "Cozy Food".
As a foodie, I couldn't resist but invite Nancy for an interview regarding her latest culinary creation put together with contributions from some hungry murder-and-mayhem-plotting authors.
So, here we go ...
SM: I was really impressed with your idea to publish a cookbook with recipes from 128 mystery authors. How did this idea come about?
NLJ: My Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries fall under the category of cozy mysteries, but their book covers and titles are a bit harsh for the category. I was looking for graphics I might use for the next book with a softer feel and happened on the cover graphic for Cozy Food. I absolutely fell in love with it and thought if ever there was a perfect graphic for a cozy cookbook, I was looking at it. So that’s what first got me thinking about a cookbook.
SM: Tell us how you compiled the book. I mean, is it in sections such as starters, mains and desserts? Are there any graphics in it?
NLJ: The cookbook is in sections, each introduced by a cozy mystery writer graphic. The categories cover everything from starters to desserts and all meals from breakfast thru dinner with a Quick, Easy, Quirky, Saucy & Even Pet Treats section for everything else. The final third of the cookbook is devoted to contributing author biographies. In many ways that’s my favourite part of the book because what some of the writers have to say is so interesting and there are a couple of pages of humorous outtakes. I say almost, because there’s that big bulge in the middle of the book for sweet things, which is where my heart is.
SM: I hope none of the mystery authors got carried away and decided to throw in a pinch or a few drops of arsenic in their recipe. Hehehe. We don't want the cops to come sniffing around.
NLJ: Nothing lethal has been reported by any readers...but then, how would we know if eating a recipe killed them?
SM: Exactly! Let's hope the coppers don't catch on. LOL
SM: Did you get any “strange” recipes like bugs on rice or something equally weird?
NLJ: Just a few (can you hear me laughing?) My favourite recipe title hands down is “Mammoth Meat Jerky Adapted for Cro Magnons and Modern Humans.” Some other great titles are: Pimento Cheese For Dummies, Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini, Dispatcho Gazpacho, The Poet’s Recipe for Salad, (which came with an original recipe in verse), Hot Grudge Sundae Cake, and (Don’t Let Lady Macbeth Near The) Lemon Posset.
SM: Wow, there are some excellent names here. I now wish I'd called my recipe for Hazelnut Pesto Tagliatelle something like "The Hazel Nut Scissor Killer Pesto". After all, tagliatelle comes from the Italian word "tagliare", meaning to cut. So my killer would have used scissors to kill his victims--hazelnut scissors! Might as well keep it tasty, right?
SM cont'd: I read Murder House, one of your Regan McHenry mysteries. Would you say Regan is food oriented in the novels? I noticed she likes a fine wine.
NLJ: Regan is definitely a foodie. She has an original recipe for Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies (in the book) and keeps dough frozen ready to bake at open houses and to take to friends and clients accused of murder. She has an herb garden and citrus trees in pots so she can pick items for food. Mostly, though, she likes to experiment with recipes. Sometimes she creates great meals, and sometimes they don’t work out well. Fortunately her husband Tom is almost a saint and doesn’t complain; he just drinks more wine with dinner if there’s a flop served.
SM: Well, I was tickled pink when you asked me to submit a recipe. So I did a quick one with an Italian origin as befits my protagonist, Mia Ferrari. She loves Italian food and coffee. But she doesn’t have too much time to cook when she’s out there solving murders. My question here is, did you identify any trends among the recipes submitted by all the authors? You know, like going for pastas and other starchy foods (as these things feed the soul of creative people), or did they go for the healthier trends with loads of salads and vegetables?
NLJ: More writers submitted dessert-type recipes than anything else. I thought that said a lot about cozy writers until I looked through “The Joy of Cooking” and discovered it was heavily weighted there, too. I had to ask for salads and veggie recipes, but I don’t know if cozy writers avoid them personally or worried that readers would because there are many other “healthy” recipes.
SM: I think without coffee and sugar of all kinds we probably wouldn't be as creative. Mind you, I still love my pasta and pizza!
SM: So we established a trend of dessert-type recipes contributed for the book, and we can safely acknowledge authors usually favour coffee, coffee and more coffee, plus chocolate or other sugars for creativity. I definitely fall into this category. But what is your “poison”?
NLJ: My poison is anything salty and spicy. While I love chocolate, if I had to chose between a plate of brownies and a bowl of corn chips and salsa, I’d reach for the chips every time. As for beverages, for me it’s good black tea brewed like my grandfather taught me to make it, which is almost as dark as coffee.
SM: Where is the cookbook available and in what formats?
NLJ: The cookbook is available on Amazon in print, for people like me who want to write in the margins of my cookbooks, and for eReaders like Kindle and iPad. The e-version is priced at only $3.99 U.S. We want to get readers to discover new cozy writers while they cook so it’s priced very reasonably.
SM: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
NLJ: Writers who contributed recipes have writing histories that are all over the board from multiple-time New York Times Bestsellers to writers doing their first book. There are recipes from writers with big traditional publishers, small presses, and indie authors. I love that everyone contributed and that this is a cookbook full of more than 220 great recipes from all sorts of cozy writers. Oh, and while doing this cookbook, I learned that cozy writers are some of the nicest, most supportive people out there.
SM: Nancy, a big thank you for putting this yummy book together and for being a guest on Sylvia Says--the blog. It's wonderful when so many authors come together and contribute to such a great idea. Those of you who have contributed, you know who you are--but if you've eaten too much chocolate and are in a frenzied state of writing, you will find your name below in this list of contributors.
Buon appetito everyone!
Author Sylvia Massara's: