Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Meet Mary, Or is it Claudia?

Today it's my pleasure to welcome to Jungle Red Writers two of my favorite authors, who happen to look remarkably alike. Twins, separated at birth, you ask? Actually one person who manages to write two very different series. Her real name is Mary Stanton, and she writes the Bree Beaufort series of mysteries under this name, but she is better known as Claudia Bishop, writing the incredibly popular Hemlock Falls cozy mysteries. She is also my good friend with whom I have great fun in Florida every spring. And as you can see from her photo, she loves animals!
Rhys: Hemlock Falls has been around a long time. How many are there?
Claudia, who is also Mary:  I just signed a contract for the eighteenth. I am, to borrow a cant phrase from your heroine Georgie, a bit gobsmacked. Back in 1994, when I first signed with Berkley, I hadn’t planned to do more than one. I don’t seem to be able to shut myself up!
Rhys: Hemlock Falls is a small village in upstate New York. You grew up in Hawaii—and when you were a youngster, Hawaii was a territory and not even a state. Why did you decide on a small American town as a backdrop for murder?
Claudia: I thought upstate New York was hugely romantic, in the same way that all those Cotswold villages in English mysteries are romantic. I read a lot as a kid—and it was mostly the Golden Age writers; Christie, Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Cyril Hare, Michael Innes—all those Oxbridgeans. Later on, I switched to Reginald Hill, Simon Brett, and Robert Barnard.
Rhys: The seventeenth book is out this month. Tell us about it.
Claudia: It’s titled DREAD ON ARRIVAL. Two competing antiques roadshow television shows come to the village. One is called “Your Ancestor’s Attic.” The other is “Pawn-o-rama.” The two hosts loathe each other on sight.  My amateur detectives are inn-keeper Sarah Quilliam and her gourmet chef sister Meg. They get pulled into the murder of the arrogant host of ‘Your Ancestor’s Attic. I had a lot of fun writing it.
Rhys: Let’s switch personae for a moment. As Mary Stanton, you also write a series featuring a young lawyer who discovers that her law practice consists of handling appeals cases for souls condemned to Hell. What on earth gave you the idea for such an unusual premise? And why angels?
Rhys: Hemlock Falls has been around a long time. How many are there?
Claudia, who is also Mary:  I just signed a contract for the eighteenth. I am, to borrow a cant phrase from your heroine Georgie, a bit gobsmacked. Back in 1994, when I first signed with Berkley, I hadn’t planned to do more than one. I don’t seem to be able to shut myself up!
Rhys: Hemlock Falls is a small village in upstate New York. You grew up in Hawaii—and when you were a youngster, Hawaii was a territory and not even a state. Why did you decide on a small American town as a backdrop for murder?
Claudia: I thought upstate New York was hugely romantic, in the same way that all those Cotswold villages in English mysteries are romantic. I read a lot as a kid—and it was mostly the Golden Age writers; Christie, Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Cyril Hare, Michael Innes—all those Oxbridgeans. Later on, I switched to Reginald Hill, Simon Brett, and Robert Barnard.
Rhys: The seventeenth book is out this month. Tell us about it.
Claudia: It’s titled DREAD ON ARRIVAL. Two competing antiques roadshow television shows come to the village. One is called “Your Ancestor’s Attic.” The other is “Pawn-o-rama.” The two hosts loathe each other on sight.  My amateur detectives are inn-keeper Sarah Quilliam and her gourmet chef sister Meg. They get pulled into the murder of the arrogant host of ‘Your Ancestor’s Attic. I had a lot of fun writing it.
Rhys: Let’s switch personae for a moment. As Mary Stanton, you also write a series featuring a young lawyer who discovers that her law practice consists of handling appeals cases for souls condemned to Hell. What on earth gave you the idea for such an unusual premise? And why angels?
Mary, who is also Claudia: My little sister is going to smack me if I put this in print, but I was inspired to create Bree Beaufort when I sat in on a case my sister was litigating. Right before my eyes, my angelic baby sister turned into a fierce and formidable advocate. (Sort of like Ziva David on NCIS, only more articulate.) She’s been a lawyer for years, of course, I’d just never followed her around to see what she actually did.
As far as the supernatural stuff—I honestly don’t know how I came up with that. As Nora Ephron famously said when somebody asked her why she wrote Michael (a fabulous movie about a visit from the archangel), she doesn’t believe in them, but they are terrific fun to write about. I think of the Beaufort & Company novels as urban fantasy. The latest one is ANGEL CONDEMNED, and that was out two months ago.
Rhys: Do you enjoy writing urban fantasy? Any plans to go back to it?
Mary: I love reading well-written fantasy almost as much as I love reading mysteries. Right now, I’ve joined the millions of readers hooked on George Martin’s GAME OF THRONES. It’s a terrific challenge for me, though. I have an idea.  I’m hoping that I’ll be up to it.
Mary, who is also Claudia: My little sister is going to smack me if I put this in print, but I was inspired to create Bree Beaufort when I sat in on a case my sister was litigating. Right before my eyes, my angelic baby sister turned into a fierce and formidable advocate. (Sort of like Ziva David on NCIS, only more articulate.) She’s been a lawyer for years, of course, I’d just never followed her around to see what she actually did.
As far as the supernatural stuff—I honestly don’t know how I came up with that. As Nora Ephron famously said when somebody asked her why she wrote Michael (a fabulous movie about a visit from the archangel), she doesn’t believe in them, but they are terrific fun to write about. I think of the Beaufort & Company novels as urban fantasy. The latest one is ANGEL CONDEMNED, and that was out two months ago.
Rhys: Do you enjoy writing urban fantasy? Any plans to go back to it?
Mary: I love reading well-written fantasy almost as much as I love reading mysteries. Right now, I’ve joined the millions of readers hooked on George Martin’s GAME OF THRONES. It’s a terrific challenge for me, though. I have an idea.  I’m hoping that I’ll be up to it.
Rhys: These angel books are so different, so atmospheric that I look forward to any new fantasy that you write. Readers--do you like a touch of paranormal in what you read? Mary is here today to answer questions.

21 comments:

Lucy Burdette said...

Hi Mary/Claudia! So happy to have you visiting! My question is about how you keep a long-running series from getting stale--for your readers but especially you?

mary stanton said...

Hi, Lucy:

That's a great question. With all my series, I try to create a basic premise that demands my amateur detectives get a fresh supply of corpses in a more or less believeable way. Meg and Quill have and inn, where guests check in, but they don't check out. Bree Beaufort has a law practice with new clients popping out of the depths on a routine basis. Austin McKenzie, in my veterinary series, has enough new cases to keep his mortgage up to date. And since like most mystery writers I draw their ideas from the endlessly awful problems in real life, I usually don't have a problem with inspiration.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Mary/Claudia! Welcome..and I, too , am a big Game of Thrones fan. (We can compare notes at Malice,okay?)

Do you ever have trouble keeping your worlds separate when writing multiple series? How do you stay organized?

Linda Rodriguez said...

Welcome, Mary/Claudia! Like you and Hank, I love the George RR Martin books from which Game of Thrones is made. All that fabulous world-building!

I'd also be interested in how you came to this point of writing multiple series. Did you start the Bree Beaufort series to give your brain a break from the tenth or eleventh Hemlock Falls book, or what?

Hallie Ephron said...

So in awe of you, Mary -- I'm lucky if I can write a book a year. Share any secrets about how to come up with fresh ideas and meet deadlies??

mary stanton said...

Whoa. Jungle writers are a terrific bunch. I'm lovin' bloggin'.

Hallie: I'm awful about deadlines. It's a major character flaw. My editor at Berkely is a peach to put up with it. My agent has the patience of several saints. As far as fresh ideas--that's not so much of a problem. I read the papers and watch the news and I have NO problem finding people that should be killed off.

Linda and Hank: I love world building. I just love it. I'm kicking around an idea for a urban fantasy trilogy that would require I do lots of it. I just wish I had Martin's talent. He is awesome. And good world building is an awesome responsiblity.

As far as keeping the series' in their own little universes, I haven't had much of a problem switching back and forth until just recently. I think ANGEL CONDMENED (a mary stanton book) and DREAD ON ARRIVAL (a claudia bishop book) are way to similar in tone, characterization and technique. Phooey. Phooey. Phooey. That hasn't happened to me before. I think it's a signal that I need to stop with the angel books (which, alas, sell more than Hemlock Falls) and swtich to something else. Hence the idea for the trilogy. (I can't believe I just used 'hence' in a sentence, but there you are...)
Thank you for those great questions, guys.

Jan Brogan said...

Hi Mary/Claudia,

LIke Hallie, I'm in awe of your productivity - also your risk-taking in considering the switch to urban fantasy.

I say GO FOR IT!

Reine said...

Hi Mary!

I am hugely excited to discover urban fantasy here on Jungle Reds! I never heard of it before, but I'm still fairly new to reading fiction as an adult. Your angels sound fascinating. Holy! Unusual premise. And world-building... what a concept! I hadn't thought of such a thing. But yes, of course. It must be that.

Love Game of Thrones, too. The violence on the TV version this season, though... hard for me to watch. My favorite shows seem to have done this, this season. Increased the intensity and volume of violence.

I enjoy cozies - a lot - so will be starting your series very soon. Should I start from the beginning, do you think? Or can a reader jump in anywhere and have the same experience?

Thanks again to JRW for introducing me to another new-to-me author.

Deb said...

Hi Mary/Claudia! I'm a big urban fantasy fan. I love Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books (pre-order months in advance), have recently discovered Ben Aaronovitch in the UK, and just picked up A Little Night Magic by Lucy March (not quite so hard-edged, but fun) so can't wait to read your books!

(Embarrassed to admit I haven't yet read The Game of Thrones, or the Hunger Games...)

And you have a series about a vet? I'd love those, too. And I am so in awe of someone who can write three series, when I struggle with one....

mary stanton said...

Hi, Deb:

I've been meaning to pick up the Dresdan files. And run, do not walk, to the nearest independant bookstore to pick of GAME OF THRONES! Then cancel everything on your schedule for the next month. (Five novels, about 800 pages each...)

I like the vert series a lot--unfortunately, it's just me and two fans. My agent hates it. My editor is charmingly unenthusiastic..so there you are. But I had fun while it lasted.

And Reine---thank you so much for volunteering to read Claudia! Her favorite among the (gulp) eighteen is TOAST MORTEM. Or maybe GROUND TO A HALT.

Thank you, Jan for the support. (Now if you could just write the darn urban fantasy novels, too....)

Linda Rodriguez said...

I love urban fantasy also, Deb.

Mary, Dresden's great. (Jim Butcher lives a few miles from me.) Patricia Briggs has several wonderful series also, the Mercy Thompson books and the Raven series.

One of the very best out there is Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series (Working for the Devil, et al) and The Demon Librarian and her Watcher series. Tanya Huff has the delightful Enchantment Emporium series, and then there's Ilona Andrews' Magic series (Magic Bites/Burns/Slays,
etc.). And of course, there's Charlaine!

Lots of good urban fantasy out there right now.

Reine said...

I am so confused about who is who! Did you know the blog paragraphs are kind of mixed up and patchwork repeated a bit? You are the same - um - Mary & Claudia? OK... got books to hunt down!

Deb Romano said...

I have begun to read and enjoy paranormal stories within the past year. When I was growing up I occasionally read stories with a touch of paranormal, and I guess I'm returning to that!

Cute: doubling up on the paragraphs to introduce us to "The Twins"!

Mary/Claudia: I've read some Claudia books and I will now look for Mary!

Reine said...

Ohhhhh... I am just toooo confused. Deb, I'll have to hire you to interpret for me.

AnnOxford said...

Oh dear, Mary/Claudia, now I'm driven to book a trip to Hemlock Falls! Enjoyed your visit, thank you.

Deb Romano said...

Reine,

I have no idea if I'm correct - I may have my own confusion going on! At first, I thought that exhaustion from working overtime finally caught up with me and caused me to see double. Then I thought: "oh, look! Twins!" (I also briefly thought I had become psychic and already "knew" what was going to be in the next paragraph.)

Okay, this over-tired person should start getting ready for bed. (Just let me read one more paragraph...twice.)

Sih...capcha doesn't like me tonight.

Reine said...

Too funny, Deb. I need some of that. xxx

Deb said...

Mary, will save Game of Thrones for when I finish the WIP:-)

Which twin wrote the vet books? Can I find them?

And Linda, I wrote Jim Butcher's publicist this time last year, to see if there was any chance we could get an interview with him on JR when Ghost Story came out, but got no response. I can understand that he might not think we were worth bothering with, but bad manners on the publicist's part.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Deb, definitely bad manners on Butcher's publicist's part. I'm not sure he was even told about the request. I don't know him personally, just met him briefly once. But I know lots of folks who do. (He's still living in the area where he grew up and went to school.) Almost everyone who knows him has nice things to say about him as a person. To the point that he's been burned and his wife and publisher kind of protect him. That may have been what you ran up against.

And how could you think anyone could see JR as not worth bothering with? We'll hear no more of such talk! :-)

Reine said...

Seconding Linda here, "And how could you think anyone could see JR as not worth bothering with? We'll hear no more of such talk!" JR is great.

mary stanton said...

Hi, Deb: Claudia wrote the vet books. And Linda..thank you for the tips on the the urban fantasy writers. I've lost touch with my friends at SFFW (The Science Fictiona and Fantasy Writers of America) and it's good to know about the other urban fantasy out there.
(As for the doubling, remembering poor Faye Dunaway...."My mother,my sister. My mother, my sister...")