Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Double Mother Trouble

Maybe you've heard writers say the people they put in their books ''speak'' to them. In some cases, the characters demand to be heard. Authors Cricket McRae and Deborah Sharp decided that giving in is better than going crazy. They allowed two particularly insistent characters from their series to sit down for an interview. To have their say. Meet Anna Belle Watson and the newly married Rosalee Provenza.

Interviewer: Welcome, ladies. It's an honor to get the chance to talk with both of you.

Rosalee (Mama): Well, all I can say is it's about time. Miss Fancy Pants Author grabbed all the glory for putting out my first two stories. At last, someone has finally noticed that my name is in all the titles: Mama Does Time, Mama Rides Shotgun, and now, the latest one, Mama Gets Hitched. I'm thrilled to be here with Anna Belle, too. My understanding is her daughter, Sophie Mae, can be just as headstrong as my middle gal, Mace.

Anna Belle: I'm delighted to be here, especially with Rosalee. Even though her father was a journalist for years, these days it's usually Sophie Mae who gets all the press in our family. True, in the last two years she did find two dead bodies and prove a case of fatal botulism was really murder. But let's face it: Behind every great woman is another great woman. Sophie Mae is the strong, smart person she is mostly because of me. And Rosalee, headstrong is too mild a term for Sophie Mae. She's managed to almost get killed four times now. Mace seems to show a bit more common sense.

Interviewer: You know, your daughters are actually a good place to start. Anna Belle, why don't you go first? If you could change one thing about Sophie Mae, what would you change?

Anna Belle: Oh, I would definitely change her propensity for finding dead bodies and then feeling like she needs to dig out the truth. I say leave that sort of nonsense to the professionals. And it's not like her new husband, Barr, isn't a perfectly capable police detective. I must admit, though, I tricked her into coming back home to Spring Creek after I discovered her brother's suicide note precisely because I knew she'd get to the bottom of what happened two decades ago. But now that she's done that in Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, I wish she'd settle down and concentrate on her business and her marriage.

Mama: The one thing I'd change? I'd definitely have Mace be hitched by now. That ''will they-won't they? Are they-aren't they?'' rigmarole with her detective beau, Carlos, is purely exhausting. It's obvious they have the chemistry. Mace thinks I don't know what went on between the two of them the day of my bridal shower. Maybe she shouldn't be so willing, if you get my drift. I always told my girls: A man won't buy the cow when he can get the milk for free.

Interviewer: Rosalee, you appear in Deborah Sharp's ''Mace Bauer Mystery'' series. Anna Belle, you're in Cricket McRae's ''Sophie Mae Reynolds Home Crafting Mysteries.'' What role would each of you say you have in the books?

Mama: I believe that snippy author would say I'm the comic relief. As far as I'm concerned, though, I'm the star. Honey, there wouldn't be any books without Mama! For example, the latest one is all about me getting married to Sal. He's from the Bronx, in New York City -- a Yankee! -- but I love him anyway. Everyone in Himmarshee, Fla., said it was the Wedding of the Century. My girls wore sherbet-colored Scarlett O'Hara gowns, complete with ringlet curls and ruffled parasols. My sweet little Pomeranian, Teensy, was the ring bearer. We found him the cutest little satin vest and doggy top hat off that Wide World of the Web on the Intra Net. Of course, it did put a crimp in things when the caterer's corpse turned up in the kitchen at the VFW, even before the first pig-in-a-blanket was passed.

Anna Belle: My, Rosalee, your wedding sounds ... very Southern. Do you know how hard I had to work to keep Sophie Mae from going to the courthouse up there in Cadyville, Washington where she lives? So what if she'd already had one big wedding -- her first husband died several years ago, you know. So I guess I'd say my role is twofold. On one hand I was the reason Sophie Mae came back to find out why her brother killed himself, and on the other hand she was in desperate need of a wedding planner.

Interviewer: Both of you are originally from the South. Can you tell us a little bit about where you' come from?

Anna Belle: I'm originally from Franklin, Tennessee, a little town outside Nashville. It's infused with Civil War history, and my family has lived there since way back then. I earned my undergraduate business degree at Vanderbilt, and then went on to Tulane for my advanced degrees in marketing. Soon after, I moved to Spring Creek and began my teaching career at Northern Colorado University. I'm currently the dean of the marketing department, and my husband, Calvin, is a tenured journalism professor there. I've become quite westernized over the years, but can still turn on the southern charm as needed. I love where I live now, but oh my stars, I miss good barbecue something awful! And every time I go back to Tennessee for a visit I have to go to Puckett's in Leiper's Fork for a dose of their sweet potato fries.

Mama: I was born on the Fourth of July (we don't mention exactly what year) in Himmarshee, Fla., which is barely a bump on the road north of Lake Okeechobee. When folks think of Florida, most of them think of the beaches or Disney World. Well, we're sixty miles from the nearest ocean breeze, and far enough south of Orlando to be out of Mickey Mouse's big ol' ear-shaped shadow. We're the rodeo-and-ranching part of Florida -- all sweet tea and Southern drawls; citrus groves and church barbecues. I do aromatherapy at Hair Today, Dyed Tomorrow beauty parlor; I teach Sunday School at Abundant Forgiveness church; and I indulge very occasionally in a box of sweet pink wine from the Booze 'n' Breeze drive-thru liquor store. And ya'll, I am happier than a pup with two tails to call Himmarshee home.

Interviewer: Both Mace and Sophie Mae have unusual professions. In fact Sophie Mae would probably like to sit down with you, Rosalee, and talk about aromatherapy. What do you think about what your daughters do for a living?

Mama: Mace works in a nature park, and traps nuisance critters on the side. She gets calls from newcomers who think they want country living, until the country comes to call. Now, I haven't always thought that was much of a job for a female. But the fact that Mace once hauled an alligator out of the pool of a northern transplant who didn't picture an 8-foot reptile with razor sharp teeth as a guest at his pool parties . . . well, let's just say Mace's particular skill set came in handy when I came up against a 'gator in Mama Does Time, and I'll always be grateful.

Anna Belle: I'm proud of Sophie Mae for having her own successful business. I know she works her tail off and has made a lot of sacrifices, but she was never happy with her job at the school administration building, or even in that bookstore. After her first husband died she was at such a loss. Thank goodness her best friend, Meghan, swooped in and asked her to come live with her, and then offered to let her use the basement as her workroom. Now, I don't know that I would have chosen for her to make soap for a living, but she seems quite happy about it. After all, she always was strangely curious about the ins and outs of colonial home crafts.

Interviewer: Whether it's preparing it, eating it, or using it as a weapon, food plays a large role in both series. What, if anything, do you think that says about your authors?

Anna Belle: My husband is a wonderful cook. I'm no slouch in the kitchen. My vegetable garden is one of my greatest joys, and we eat from it all summer. Sophie Mae and her housemate, Meghan, are both skilled in the kitchen and, yes, a bit obsessed about food. So what does Miss Cricket expect? She's the one who decided to write about home crafts. Something Borrowed, Something Bleu is a cheese making mystery, for heaven's sake. It's no wonder we're all interested in food, and Miss Cricket has no choice but to go along with it. I kind of wonder whether she's a good cook, though. For all I know she puts the good stuff down on the page and then eats a bowl of cereal for supper.

Mama: Food is one of the joys of life, isn't it, Anna Belle? Of course, I don't approve of the way Miss Fancy Pants Author always has us rolling around and fighting in the food in the ''Mace Bauer Mysteries.'' In real life, that doesn't happen all that much ... well, there was the time that the girls' Uncle Teddy got drunk and wound up in a vat of Ida's potato salad at one of our family reunions. Of course, if you'd ever tasted Ida's potato salad, you're realize that was no great loss.

Interviewer: What's coming up for the two of you next?

Mama: Sal and I haven't had a proper honeymoon yet, what with all the excitement at the wedding. The big news in Himmarshee is that a Hollywood movie company is coming to town. Not to sound immodest, but I've told my girls this is the chance I've always known I'd get. I hear tell that Ms. Author is coming along for the ride, and she's fixin' to write something about the whole shebang. She's calling it Mama Sees Stars. If you ask me, I think Mama BECOMES a Star would make a better title. But since when has she ever asked me?

Anna Belle: Well, after finally discovering the truth about my son's death and then attending Sophie Mae's wedding, my marriage has taken on new life. I've tried to tell Sophie Mae about it, but she always shies away from the gory details, bless her heart. Anyway, Calvin and I are going to Mexico for a second honeymoon. When I get back I'll start working on Sophie Mae to have a baby sooner than later. She's my only shot at becoming a grandmother, and she's not getting any younger. But from what I understand she's involved with another one of her "cases." At least this time she's tryng to prevent a murder before it happens instead of stumbling across corpses left and right.

Interviewer: Thank you both. I understand Mama Gets Hitched and Something Borrowed, Something Bleu will be officially released tomorrow, July 1st. With mothers like you in them, they're sure to be well received.

Anna Belle: It's been a lot of fun. And Rosalee? If you're ever out in Colorado, give me a ring and we'll have dinner.

Mama: Well, thank you, too, honey, for finally giving us our say. Anna Belle, I'd sure like to come by for dinner. You sound like my sort of gal. I'll bring my famous butterscotch pie for dessert.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mama Finally Finishes Her Newsletter

Not sure if this is going to work, but Mama insists I TRY to spread the word about her getting married (It's Husband No. 5; you'd think she'd be used to it by now). Here's the link for the newsletter, I hope:

Summer 2010: Mama Gets Hitched!

Deborah Sharp

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mama Demands Doo-Dads

I shopped for wedding doo-dads today. Not favors for my OWN wedding, understand. Favors for a woman who doesn't really exist, and a ceremony that won't ever happen. The things authors do for their fictional characters!

With the launch of MAMA GETS HITCHED right around the bend, I've got weddings on the brain. And why wouldn't I? I just spent a year writing a mystery novel set around the Wedding of the Century in tiny (fictional) Himmarshee, Fla.

My Mama character loves weddings. So much so that she's tying the sacred knot for the 5th time. But what's a Bridezilla to do when her caterer winds up dead in the VFW kitchen even before they pass out the first pig-in-a-blanket? Daughter Mace must find the killer, or Mama's Special Day could turn especially deadly.

At some signings, we'll do fun, book-and-wedding-themed events -- women in fashion-mishap bridesmaid frocks, men in pastel tuxes and boutonnieres. I haven't actually found a Pomeranian ring-bearer, complete with satin tux and top hat, like the book's Teensy. Give me time, though. Mama would insist on nothing less.