Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Party Girl

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Penny Warner. Apart from writing darned good mysteries, there's not much she doesn't know about parties. She has written books on how to host any kind of party you can imagine and demonstrated her talents on the Today Show, no less! Now she has put her talents together and started a mystery series featuring a party planner.

So welcome to Jungle Red Writers, Penny.

PENNY: Thanks, Rhys. I was on the “The Later Today Show,” with co-host Florence Henderson, AKA “Mrs. Brady.” It went off the air very soon after I appeared….Coincidence?)
Thanks for the kind introduction. I’ve been looking forward to guest blogging on Jungle Red—what a great site! And what a great bunch of mystery writers. I’ll bet you all put on some great parties—lots of jungle prints with splashes of red, poison chocolates, a game of Truth or Dare... Now, on to the interrogation…I mean, interview…

RHYS: Where did this interest in party planning come from?

PENNY: It all started when I was three and had my first birthday party. I got to dress up like a princess, invite all my friends over, open a bunch of presents, and eat chocolate cake decorated with M&Ms. I knew from that point on that parties were my destiny. Trouble was, my birthday only came around once a year, so I had to think up other reasons to party. (Don’t you love that “party” is also now a verb, as in “to party!”)

RHYS: I forgot to mention that Penny has this wonderful dry sense of humor. So Penny, tell us about your new sleuth

PENNY:Presley Parker (named after Elvis—her mother was a big fan), was recently downsized at her abnormal psychology teaching job at San Francisco State University. Her mother, once the party queen of San Francisco café society, encouraged her to try the event-planning business, since Pres often helped her mom at various functions. Reluctantly Pres gives it a try. After the City’s premiere party planner mysteriously dies, Presley finds herself hired to plan Mayor Davin Green’s “surprise” wedding on notorious Alcatraz—with a “ball-and-chain” theme. But a major party foul occurs when the bride-to-be is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates. When Presley becomes prime suspect, she gets help from her quirky co-workers, as well as the mysterious crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. She realizes that if she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

RHYS: You're not new to the mystery genre, but your former series, featuring a deaf sleuth, Connor Westfall, was serious and dealt with many social issues. This one is all fun. Which is closer to the real Penny Warner?

PENNY: I love them both, but I have to admit, since I majored in partying the first two years at the University of Oregon, I’m more like Presley. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer a degree in the subject, so I got my teaching credential and taught deaf kids and sign language for a number of years. Still, I never gave up my love for hosting creative parties, and began writing books on the subject for both kids and adults. It’s not easy juggling a life of partying with teaching and writing, but thanks to my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—Presley and I also have this in common), I manage.

RHYS: You're a lady of many talents--you've written children's mysteries and a non-fiction Nancy Drew bible. Obviously you have a strong connection with children. Were you ever a teacher?

PENNY: I’ve been teaching Child Development and Psychology at the college level for the past 30 years. My readers often question why a child development instructor would want to write murder mysteries. I think, when you raise children, it’s obvious, but I do promise my readers that no children—or cats—are harmed in the making of my mysteries.

RHYS: What is next for you and your sleuth?

PENNY: I plan to have a margarita, but my sleuth has, what you’d call “a life,” so she’s busy hosting parties. In her next book, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, she plans at Murder Mystery Party at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Naturally, someone winds up deader than a decaying artifact. When she’s finished solving that case, she’ll head to the Winchester Mystery House and learn HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE. RH

RHYS: When is the new book out in stores?

PENNY: Tuesday, February 2—any time after midnight…And it’s only $6.99!
RHYS: Thank you and good luck with the book! Maybe you can help us throw a Jungle Red party some time--and if anyone has a question to ask Penny, she's promised to stick around.


  1. Hi Penny! So terrific to see you! And many congratulations on your wonderful book..

    Party planning is such fun--until the moment that it is terrible. My mother used to call it "having party fits"--when suddenly, you think you have WAY too much food, or not enough, or no one will come, or everyone will come.
    How do you get past the party fits? Or do you just say que sera sera?

    (Our books are out the same day! Let's PARTY!!)

  2. Your book sounds like so much fun! And San Francisco is a great setting for almost anything.

    I used to plan parties for a museum where I worked. One year for a fireman-themed event we seriously considered how to rig up a fire hose that spewed bubbles. We gave up, which was probably a good thing since somebody was bound to slip on a soapy floor.

  3. Hi Hank,
    Thanks for the phrase, "party fits." Can I use that in my next book? As for getting through those fits, more champagne, of course...Congrats on your new book too! Wish we could party together!

  4. Hi Sheila,
    I could have used you on my second book, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, which is set at the de Young Museum in San Francisco! I love the bubble idea - may have to use that in a future book...and not a bad way to murder a few deserving people--slipping on a soapy floor!

  5. Knowing that Penny is such a party animal, I think this series is the perfect match. :-0

  6. Hi Simon,
    Coming from a Party Animal, that's quite a compliment!

  7. Welcome Penny.
    Party fits?? No-way. It's called the pre-party personality disorder. It's when a nice, normal human being suddenly starts screaming at anyone who touches the cheese platter or moves one of the flower arrangements before guests arrive.

    I have a lot of parties and I still suffer from this serious,misunderstood, misdiagnosed (party fits?) disease. (Walk-a-Thon anyone?)

    Your new series sounds terrific. Congrats!!

  8. Oh, Jan, exacty. I have been known to adjust pillows, arrange magazines, and rearrange books, search for dust specks and make sure none of the crackers have crumbly edges. And watch out when Jonathan takes a scrape of cheese! Then the whole thing has to be rearranged.

    And what if you get a drip of olive oil on the french leaf doily thing? Argh.

    HI Simon!Welcome! Listen, if you're still around, tell us more of Penny's partying secrets! We know about the night with the margaritas and the tuba, but there must be other stuff.

  9. Hi Jan,
    I think I'm learning more from you all than any party book. PPPD? Like I said, the only cure is champagne, with a side of chocolates (poison free.)

  10. Hank, You HAD to bring up the Tuba....I thought I paid you enough to keep you quiet about that....

  11. Yes,
    i agree with you.
    Writing can persuade the others if we are not face to face!

  12. Wonderful interview. I've loved Penny's other books - I'm looking forward to this one!

  13. I was fortunate enough to read an ARC, so I can say with gusto: "Party hardy, Penny!"

    Her book is a champagne glass full of full!

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  15. Thanks Elizabeth!
    I love your illustrations!
    We must collaborate some day!

  16. Joanna, I love your scrapbooking books and have learned so much from them. Scrapbooking comes in handy when I'm making the invitations.