Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Interview with Rosemary Harris

Our own Rosemary Harris has a new book out this month! Slugfest, the fourth in her Dirty Business gardening series, has been garnering rave reviews: Publishers Weekly called it, "Lively," Kirkus said it was "Hilarious!" and Romantic Times gave it a 4 1/2 star review, declaring it "an absolute treat."

I met Rosemary at Malice Domestic the year her debut, Pushing Up Daisies, came out. We were seated at the Minotaur table, talking titles, and Rosemary asked me what I thought of The Dirt Nap. "Teriffic!" I said. "Like sleeping with the fishes, right?" "Yes! Exactly!" she said. She had been having trouble finding people who recognized the reference. Then and there we bonded over a fondness for tough-guy metaphors. (The title was saved when Minotaur's Very Tall Publicist, Hector DeJean, suggesting The Big Dirt Nap, and that became Rosemary's second "dirty book.")

Despite running all over the US on book tour, Rosemary agreed to answer a few questions about her work, her schedule, and her Gladiator fetish:

JULIA: I well remember your sensational debut, PUSHING UP DAISIES. How many
books have you now written in your Dirty Business series? Tell us a little bit about SLUGFEST?

ROSEMARY: Thanks for the kind words!
Pushing Up Daisies did seem to strike a chord with readers looking for an edgier cozy. Slugfest is the fourth book in the series and in this one Paula goes back to her roots (I couldn't help myself..) and returns to New York City where she agrees to exhibit at a legendary flower show for a reclusive garden sculptor. When a gatecrasher is found floating in the Hudson Paula realizes that she accidentally holds the key to his identity and the reason he was murdered.
JULIA: I love your protagonist, Paula Holliday. How has she grown over the series?

ROSEMARY: In Daisies Paula is the complete fish out of water in her new environment. She's used to working 24/7, counting every gram of fat and wearing black at every opportunity. After three years in the suburbs, she's lightened up! She's also explored new definitions of friendship, success, work and tolerance - all while keeping her street-smart sense of humor.
JULIA: What is one character trait in Paula that is most like you?

ROSEMARY: Paula's a wiseguy - I guess I'm a bit of a wiseguy, too. What trait is the opposite of you? You mean apart from the fact that she's younger, thinner and more adventurous? She's a better gardener than I am - her plants never die.
JULIA: You have such a gift for colorful characters. Are they based on real-life acquaintances? Any tips for writers on keeping characters fresh and the series fresh?

ROSEMARY: Thank you! There's probably one trait or mannerism in each character that comes from someone I either know or have eavesdropped on - how scary is that? Seriously, I love my secondary and tertiary characters. Maybe that's it - I don't just ask them to walk on and deliver a line or a snippet of information. I hope I flesh them out as much as I do the main characters. Even if their backstories get cut in the editing process, I know who they are.
JULIA: Are you working on your next book? Research? Writing?

ROSEMARY: My WIP is a slight departure. It's written in the third person and Paula is in the book, but she's not the main character. There's a bigger crime than an amateur can handle on her own, but it's still laced with her trademark humor. That's all I'm ready to say right now!
JULIA: Where will you be over the next month, and where can we find you outside of Jungle Red?

ROSEMARY: Lots o' places! Malice Domestic, Festival of Mystery, San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Poisoned Pen, all over the triangle area with the marvelous Molly Weston and dozens of libraries. Anyone interested should check my website www.rosemaryharris.com
JULIA: Now for some fun questions. Are you an outliner or an organic writer?
ROSEMARY: Outline...but only 2-3 chapters ahead..I like to surprise myself.

JULIA: Your favorite book/s as a child?
ROSEMARY: I've already gone on record declaring my love for all the dog and horse books but I also loved biographies. Most memorable..Story of My Life by Helen Keller and Born Free by Joy Adamson. I wasn't a real mystery buff as a kid and have still never read a Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden.

JULIA: Your favorite classic movie/s? Movies in the past year or so?
ROSEMARY: I'm such a movie freak! I don't think anything holds a candle to The Godfather, although I love The Shawshank Redemption almost as much. For the real old-time classics...Now, Voyager, Double Indemnity and It's a Wonderful Life. New movies..not much in the last year or so. Last one to make a lasting impression on me is probably close to 10 years old, the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice. And of course, Gladiator. You may not want to get me started on that.

JULIA: I know you're well-traveled. Just how many continents HAVE you visited? And where to next?
ROSEMARY: Only five..would love to add Australia and Antarctica to that list but the timing's never been right. Next up is a return trip to Tanzania in August to visit the Chalula Community library which my husband and I founded five years ago.

JULIA: One fact about you that most people don't know?
ROSEMARY: After three years "on the stump" I feel as if everyone knows more than they ever wanted to about me - I once produced a video on the Greatest Moments in College Basketball.

Thanks, Rosemary! For those of you who'd like to start at the beginning if the Dirty Business series, Minotaur is offering the ebook of Pushing Up Daisies for only $2.99 - less than a bag of potting soil! - at Amazon, B&N and the iBookstore.


  1. Yay, RO! Reds, Rosemary is busy beyond description--I'm not sure how she manages everything she manages---and also consistenly writes great stuff.

    Ro, what's something you wish yiou have known when this all started?

    And congratulations on the knock-out Slugfest!

  2. Hi Ro! Your books have such great titles (and covers, and words in between the covers). Your gladiator thing is new to me. Care to elaborate? Best of luck with Slugfest!!

  3. Congrats on Slugfest. Fab title. I'm hoping you'll sign my copy at Malice!

  4. Hi guys...
    What do I wish I'd known? I wish I'd taken a few computer courses. I didn't even know how to put the numbers on the pages when I started! I still have issues.
    Seriously...I think I used my time and resources pretty well before I got published. Now I'm never sure. ..

  5. Yay, Ro!! What fun to have new books by you and Julia at the same time. And you obviously CAN give us all packing lessons . . .

    Someday I want to hear more about the library in Tanzania. And I have a friend, by the way, who grew up on a coffee plantation in Kenya, and later wrote a biography of Joy Adamson.

  6. Hooray for Slugfest. Hope you sell a zillion copies, Ro.
    We are certainly celebrating Jungle Red triumphs in April: Julia and Rosemary with new books on the asme day, Hank with an Agatha nom. Jungle Red Babes will soon dominate the world!
    Actually we're demure and well behaved, aren't we??

  7. Congrats upon the Amazon e-special, so lots of people can dig into this series (no, I couldn't help myself either).

    Though I'm preety sure that year-round gladiator sandals led to abused-looking feet, the armored boy-skirts are pretty kickin'.

  8. Demure and well behaved? Rhys have you been tippling again?? And Hallie has a new book too--I know because she's coming to RJ Julia's in Madison next week...

    Ro, Congratulations on Slugfest! It is a good title. And I'm fascinated by the new book you're writing with Paula on the side. Tell us more when you can...

  9. Hey, Ro, Congratulations on the new book! I'll be talking you up at Borders in Sacramento Thursday for the Bee Book Club.

    Ro writes: "Paula's a wiseguy - I guess I'm a bit of a wiseguy, too." YOU THINK SO? It's one of the things I love about these books.

    It's hard to believe you're not that computer savvy because YOU're the one I go to with my questions, and I worked for ages in high tech.

  10. Hi Ro, congratulations on the new release, and the subsequent book tours! I've really been enjoying my new copy of Dead Head (thanks again!), and I agree with Alan that the covers are really eye-catching (I especially love the one for Dead Head). I'm with you in feeling a bit behind the curve on some of the computer stuff. I'm married to an embedded Linux systems engineer, and what he knows about computers makes my knowledge seem worse than a 5th grader's. I finally feel comfortable with headers and footers in Open Office now that he's shown me what to do (admittedly more than once), but spreadsheets still intimidate me. I'm sure you know about those than I do! :p

  11. Hi Ro -

    Congrats on the new book, and I can't wait to start it.

  12. you have peaked my interest on your new WIP.

    I read Slugfest and if you haven't yet, what are you waiting for.

  13. Thanks all..Hallie, I gave myself a crash (poor choice of words?)course in computers once I got started. That's my m.o. for everything. Now I can paginate with the best of them.
    Thanks Dru - will buy you a drink at malice!