We will pause, for a moment, while you look at this classic moment in Ephron history.
And now, just when you think nothing could possibly be any more wonderful--I kind of feel like standing up and cheering for today's guest. Carolyn Hart! Is there any mystery lover who doesn't know and adore her? (Yes, I'm the sappy one, but please.)
And listen, she's got a new book out. Which for all authors is a joyous occasion. But for Carolyn, it's also downright remarkable. Guess how many published books she's written? Nope. It's more than that. (And she;s giving a copy of the new one away to one lucky commenter!)
HANK: Fifty! Fifty books! We are in awe. Tell me about that. When you got to thirty? Forty? Did you think—huh. Wonder if this mystery thing is gonna work? What does it mean to get to fifty—is number fifty still as wonderful to you as number one? (Hmmm. What was book number one? Did you write that on a typewriter? Do you still use it? Do you still have it?)
CAROLYN HART: Fifty - it's amazing to me and rather daunting. I remember the first book, The Secret of the Cellars, a children's mystery, and how excited I was to have a book in print. I was 27. Over the next few years, I sold several books, then had a run where I wrote seven books in seven years and didn't sell one. (They later sold to a small house in England and since have been reprinted in the U.S. ) My 'career' seemed at a dead end.
HANK: Looking at you now, with all your success, that's so hard to believe...! So then what?
CAROLYN: I decided to try one more time. I wrote the kind of book I love to read, a traditional mystery. When Death on Demand sold, I was again astonished, and very grateful, to be published. Since then I haven't thought in terms of numbers so reaching the 50th book to be written (Dance with Death, Spring 2013 which was written after Hijacked Ghost Fall 2013, if that makes sense)) makes me incredibly grateful for the good luck, good health, and wonderful readers who have made this possible. I wrote my first 14 books on an Olivetti Lettera 22 and I still have it, though it no longer works.
CAROLYN: Anything by Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Patricia Wentworth, Selwyn Jepson, Mary Collins.
HANK: And do you remember the first moment you had the first nugget of the idea for Death on Demand?
CAROLYN: I definitely do. This was during my doldrum period. I couldn't sell any books, but I was invited to join the professional writing faculty in the journalism school at the University of Oklahoma. Trying to be a good academic, I knew I was supposed to attend professional meetings. For a mystery writer, this translated to Mystery Writers of America, which had (and has) a wonderful Houston chapter. I attended a meeting in the spring of 1985. At a cocktail party, I met Bill Crider, who had just sold his first mystery. He asked if I'd visited Murder by the Book. I said no, what was it. He said it was a wonderful mystery bookstore. I had never heard of a mystery bookstore.
I took a cab from the hotel and walked in and fell in love with MBTB. I was enchanted. I was too shy to introduce myself and besides I felt that despite eight or nine published books I was a failure. Instead, I drifted around the store, loving everything about it. I came home. I had just started a new book which was to be set in a bookstore. I changed it to a mystery bookstore and that was Death on Demand which was published by Bantam in 1987. I was only on the faculty for three years but that trip in the spring of 1985 changed my life.
HANK: And you have persevered with your distinct voice and style. People have been trying too hard to do un-traditional...or many I should say, un-do traditional. Have you battled any efforts to try to get you to change? Or do something--"new"?
CAROLYN: I have written both traditional mysteries , suspense novels, and several WWII novels. Although the earlier books differ from traditional mysteries in their objective and scope, all of the books are a product of my interests, my past, and my convictions.
Once an editor suggested that the deaths in an Annie and Max ms. would alienate my readership. I replied that I have a clear sense of what readers expect. I never underestimate mystery readers. They are highly intelligent and they will know if a book is honest.
HANK: So! When I ask—what’s new? The answer is: a lot! And April 3—today! is a big day—the release of DEATH COMES SILENTLY! Tell us all….
Carolyn: In DEATH COMES SILENTLY, Annie Darling drops by a local charity to check on the woman who took her shift, then peppered Annie with calls hinting at scandal. Annie finds her dead of multiple wounds and the handyman's axe nearby. Convinced the police are seeking the wrong man, Annie and her husband Max follow the trail of an overturned kayak, a stolen motorboat, a troubled love affair, a reckless teenager, and a missing friend. Annie believes she is close to an answer when she sets out in the fog, but Death is waiting in the swirling mist.
This is my first Death on Demand novel for Berkley Prime Crime. I am excited and honored to join Berkley's amazing and wonderful list of mystery authors. Everyone has been kind and welcoming and I feel I have reached safe harbor.
HANK: Ebooks. Love? Hate? Why?
Carolyn: It is always exciting to have books reach readers whether on papyrus or flying (somehow) through ether. My personal preference is to hold a paper book in hand, but I am thrilled to have readers who read the books as e-titles. Moreover, because of the publication of my backlist as e-books, some of those titles are now reappearing in print editions. Out now from Oconee Spirit Press is ESCAPE FROM PARIS, which is the first full publication of the book. (A shortened version came out in 1982.)
Escape from Paris tells the story of two American sisters caught in Paris after it fell to the Germans in 1940. They help British airmen escape capture, but the Gestapo is only a step behind. (Also out from Oconee is RENDEZVOUS IN VERACRUZ , a suspense novel set in Mexico, and coming soon is BRAVE HEARTS, a WWII suspense novel set in the Philippines. Seventh Street Books will reprint SKULDUGGERY and THE DEVEREAUX LEGACY next winter.) None of these publications would have occurred except for the reappearance of the books as e-titles so I am very grateful and excited.
HANK: And dare I ask—what’s on your to-do list? (I hope some of it includes time for receiving all of our applause, acclaim..and gratitude for your inspiration and wonderful books.)
CAROLYN: The gratitude is mine for all the kindness and encouragement I have received from my fellow writers through the years and from the wonderful readers who make it possible for me to be a writer.
On my to-do list: Complete the current ms. DANCE WITH DEATH, which will be the 23rd Death on Demand title. Respond to the CE of WHAT THE CAT SAW, a Berkley suspense novel set for October 2012, and revise an old-new-never-before-published standalone suspense novel set in Mexico City in 1982. (I found the ms. box in my office closet.) Berkley will publish CRY IN THE NIGHT as an e-title only. And then I intend to take a holiday . .
HANK: I guess so! Yikes. Your list is…daunting!
So—a bookstore changed Carolyn’s life! This week we’ve been talking about life-changing moments—what bookstore changed your life? Or what amazing thing has happened to you in a bookstore? An author you met? A book you found? A friend you made? (I’ll never forget the first time I saw my actual book in an actual bookstore—PRIME TIME in Brookline Booksmith—right next to Dennis Lehane. Whoa.)
And I have a lovely copy of ESCAPE FROM PARIS for a lucky commenter!
Carolyn Hart is the author of 47 mysteries. DEATH COMES SILENTLY is the 22nd in the Death on Demand series. Hart’s books have won Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, Phil. She loves mysteries, cats, happy ghosts, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.