Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting Organized with Mary Jane Maffini.

RHYS: What is not to like about Mary Jane Maffini--she's a little bundle of positive energy, she keeps dachshunds (my favorite dogs),she's a well-known, well-respected figure in Canadian crime circles (not on the most wanted list),winner of Arthur Ellis awards, former president of Canadian Crime Writers and now Agatha winner. And in addition she's my good friend and roomie at conventions.

First of all, welcome MJ, congratulations on winning the Agatha teapot for best short story!
Malice must have been a bitter-sweet occasion for you. You and I had a chance to do a presentation on the life of our dear friend Lyn Hamilton. This was the hard part. But then the good part was that you won the Agatha teapot. Tell us about your feelings, looking back on this Malice.
Do you have a special Lyn story?

Mary Jane:Lyn was usually my roomie at Malice and I had so much fun with her that it is always bitter-sweet, as you say. I wish she’d been there to hear our presentation and to see the room full of her friends, readers and admirers. Of course, she was there in spirit and must have seen that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Lyn and I had a lot of fun at Malice and, over the years, every time I had a panel, I would look into the audience and see Lyn smiling encouragement. We would fit in a shopping jaunt too and the game was to see who could find the best jacket or the best shoes. We spent a lot of time hooting with laughter and we both came back refreshed and ready to roll again.

RHYS: You write about a person I desperately need in my life--a professional organizer,who would probably die of shock if she saw my office.
Is this character close to you? Do you have experience in organizing peoples lives? Has writing about her helped you to become more organized or were you already super neat and tidy?

Mary Jane: I wish! For most of my life, I suppose you could have described me as ‘a professional disorganizer’. When I first discovered the type of help that professional organizers offer, it made a big difference. I now own a towering stack of organizing books and magazines (all tax-deductible, thank you very much) and they’ve helped immensely. The writing and promoting life is hectic and irregular, with tons of paper, travel, as well as research material. I would have drowned in debris without organizing tips. I came to realize that organizers have a lot of power. They also have access to their clients’ homes and lives and can draw insights from the way people handle their ‘stuff’. I decided that an organizer could make an excellent sleuth and Charlotte Adams was born. I often still ask myself, “What would Charlotte do?”

RHYS: Tell us about the latest book in your series.

Mary Jane: The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder is the fifth Charlotte Adams mystery. Charlotte is stunned to get a call for help from her ‘regular’ 911 operator, Mona Pringle. Mona is hysterical over the return of Serena Redding, the beautiful, clever, popular bully who, along with three followers, had terrorized her in high school. Mona threatens to run her old enemy down with her car. Charlotte offers soothing words until the first of several fatal hit and run accidents. As bullies begin to bite the dust and Mona goes into hiding, Charlotte needs to find Mona, stop to killing and, just maybe, deal with her own guilt at not stopping the bullying when it might have made a difference. As usual issues with the police mean she’s often on her own. Small naughty dogs and organizing tips included!

RHYS: I gather you have a new project underway--a new name, writing jointly with your daughter? Tell us about that and what it is like writing with a partner, especially a daughter.

Mary Jane: I am very excited about the new series written with my daughter, Victoria. As Victoria Abbott, we’re enjoying watching the book collectors mysteries unfold. We get a kick out of the crotchety collector, Vera Van Alst, and Jordan Bingham, the young assistant with the smart mouth and the shady relatives, of course, Jordan would do well to avoid the police. We are feeling our way around the process. It’s great to work with someone who is younger and funnier. We do some of our work together, some scenes are written separately and often we create a scene together on the phone. I like the high energy of those meetings and the laughter. They never feel like work. The first book is tentatively entitled The Christie Curse, but time will tell if that lasts.

RHYS: You've been touring around to promote this book. Any particular experiences you'd like to share?

Mary Jane: What a great trip! Vicki Delaney, Elizabeth Duncan and I spent a week in North Carolina with the amazing mystery woman Molly Weston. Molly had arranged events at a dizzying rate in bookstores, libraries and even the Carolina Club where an expat Canadian showed up with a giant flag! We loved meeting the readers and librarians. Then we were off to Malice where the tribute to Lyn was a special to me. Festival of Mystery is run by the amazing folks at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA was next. This is an experience that is a dream for every writer and no reader should miss it! After a fifteen day road trip having fun, it’s always great to be home, surrounded by real dogs and family. Time to get back to writing.

Thanks for interviewing me, Rhys. It’s always fun to spend time with you and Molly and Lady Georgie!

RHYS: An organizational tip please?

Mary Jane: Here's a tip to make life better: never go anywhere without a book
(print or e-reader) in your pocket or handbag. Other people may be bothered by lineups and slowdowns, but you'll get to enjoy the found reading time!

RHYS: Amen to that! I'm off with my Kindle full of books tomorrow!

Thank you for visiting, MJ. Good luck with your new ventures.

RHYS: And thank you, MJ. Now please come and rescue my office from clutter!


  1. I think it is so wonderful that you are your daughter are working on a book together. Speaks volumes of the relationship you two have. Hats off - can't wait to read the book.

  2. Thanks, H.L. It's been so much fun and I feel very blesses to have the chance.

  3. Hey, Mary Jane! Applauding in Boston--what a wonderful list of short story nominees--you rocked!

    We had a fun disucssison here the other day about de-cluttering--any tips for what to toss?

    See you soon..

  4. Hi, Mary Jane - congratulations on the Agatha! Hopefully you'll have to deal with the "what I do with all these awards?" problem. I'm so jealous-- if only my one of my daughters wanted to write with me. I can't think of anything more fun. I'll have to settle for cooking together.

    Love your tip: bring a book! I always do.

  5. Welcome MJ, yes tips on de-cluttering please! And how about a tip on organizing promotion?

  6. Thanks, everyone. It's fun to be here today!

    Organizing promo? I wish! There should be an Organizing Promo Fairy.

    However, Charlotte Adams (more prosaic) says: We wear 20 per cent of our wardrobe 80 per cent of the time. If you haven't worn it in a year (your wedding dress doesn't count here) consider giving it to someone who can use it. You'll both feel better.

  7. Hi, Mary Jane! We met at the Festival of Mystery, and then saw one another again at breakfast at the hotel the next morning. It was a great pleasure to meet you, and I'm glad to know you had such a grand trip.

    Organizing, to me, isn't as difficult as staying organized. My husband is the Oscar to my Felix, if you get my drift.

    Good luck with the new series. What fun, to work so closely with your daughter.

  8. MJ ~ Congrats again on your award. Now, could you please send Charlotte over to my house ASAP to help de-clutter? I promise a delicious meal with adult beverages of choice.;)

  9. Karen, it was fun to meet you at Festival of Mystery, that amazing place. Hope to see you again.

    Lynn - you had me at adult beverage of choice. I'll tell Charlotte to get on it.

  10. Karen, it was fun to meet you at Festival of Mystery, that amazing place. Hope to see you again.

    Lynn - you had me at adult beverage of choice. I'll tell Charlotte to get on it.

  11. Professional disorganizer, Mary Jane? That describes a lot of us! I'm trying to learn from Charlotte, though. Great interview!

  12. Hi MJ,

    Congratulations on winning the Agatha award! I actually used a professional organizing company once, with success. Two of their organizers came to my house for a weekend to help my husband and I set up a system for organizing paper (it's like a virus, it multiplies!). While I would have loved more than one weekend, the experience was incredibly helpful. I still try to use the paper organization system, even though I'm currently not keeping up with the stack of "to shred" and "to recycle" documents.

    I enjoy your Charlotte Adams novels, and will definitely by looking forward to reading the latest! My mom and I pass your books between us and have fun discussions about them afterwards. ^_^

  13. Thanks, Janet!

    Glad to hear that it worked for you, Rebecca. I think they are amazing. I also like that you and your mother share books. My daughter and I often pass them back and forth too.

  14. That would be the best bonding time for a mother and daughter which happens very seldom that both have the same interest, specially in writing ..I think that would be the best collaboration for a book..and wishing you a lot of success for this..

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