Friday, July 23, 2021

Why I Write Mysteries by Cate Conte

Jenn McKinlay: One of the blogs that we Reds love is The Wicked  Wicked Good Mysteries, and I am so pleased that we have one of them here with us today to tell us all about her latest! Please welcome Cate Conte, aka Liz Mugavero.  

 


Cate Conte:

Readers often ask me how I started writing mysteries. I think sometimes the real question they want to ask me is, why are you so obsessed with crime and murder, but regardless, it’s a valid question. 

 

In any event, I never really thought about it much at the beginning. I loved mysteries, had always (to my parents’ chagrin) been fascinated with serial killers and other high profile murders, and that was really as far as it went. But when I started writing the Cat Cafe Mysteries and my protagonist Maddie’s Grandpa Leo was born, I had to rethink that answer. 

 

In the books, Grandpa Leo is the former police chief of Daybreak Harbor, retired for a few years and still unwilling to let go of his job. He’s an integral character from the beginning, and the main reason why Maddie decides to return to her hometown. Through a series of events (some unfortunate) in the first book, Maddie not only ends up returning home but also decided to move into Grandpa Leo’s house, where she actually spent the first few years of her childhood. Her grandpa is her favorite person, she often says. 

 

Readers seemed to really like Leo, and as the series went on it became obvious that he was Maddie’s true sidekick. She has her animal rescue friends, her lifelong best friend, her business partner, her sisters, and some men in her life, but no one is better at looking at the murders that keep popping up in front of her and helping her figure them out than her grandpa. Yeah, his former job has a lot to do with it—not to mention his current job, the PI firm he opened to keep his head in the investigative game—but also it’s the way they each approach things, how well they bounce ideas off one another, get on each others’ nerves, and ultimately come together to put things to rights. 

 

So back to me and my twisted obsessions with murder. At some point on this journey, I realized I didn’t get there on my own. That my love of crime, mysteries and even storytelling is courtesy of my own grandpa. Like Leo, he was a cop at heart - a detective, not a chief - and took great pride in his work. Unlike Leo, he worked days as a mason and nights as a cop. Like Leo, he had a full head of white hair up until the day he died at 85. Also like Leo, he had a particular fondness for his granddaughter (that would be me).

 




 

My grandpa was my favorite person. He was funny, patient, brilliant, modest, hardworking. He loved to watch me practice piano and try out new dance moves - those never made it out of the basement - and he taught me and my brother how to play 45s, a card game that was unique to our particular area of New England. Those card games got pretty lively for sure. He had a great sense of humor and was super loyal to my grandma. They were married for 60 years. 

 


 

But most of all, he was a storyteller. I never thought of it that way until much later, when I’d started writing my own books. I mean, he never wrote anything. But he loved to literally tell stories. Tales from his police beat, tales about the characters he came across in his other life, stories about him and my grandmother from their early years together. He loved to captivate people with his words. Make them laugh. Make them care.

 

I hope all these years later I’ve done him justice in my own storytelling. And these days, when a reader asks where I picked up my crime writing habit, I tell them I got it from my grandpa - the best storyteller in the family. 



 

What about you, Reds and Readers, who was the storyteller in your family?

 

The latest Cat Cafe Mystery, Claws for Alarm, is out on July 27. 



Here’s a blurb:

 

Its the heart of the busy season, and JJs House of Purrs is booming―until a killer is let off the leash.

 

Maddie James has finally given in to her friend Katrinas pleas to open up her cat cafe to more than ten felines: theyre now up to fifteen purring friends. In fact, JJs House of Purrs is making such a splash that shes getting national attention. The East Coast Animal Rescue League is quite interested in the cafe, and so Maddie accepts a request to meet with Jillian Allen  the executive director. Jillian shows up at the cafe and asks Maddie if they can partner on a fundraiser to support the local rescue efforts―and she offers up her celebrity endorser and her celebrity cat to sweeten the deal. Maddie, caught up in the prospect, offers up her sister Val to help plan the event.

 

But when Val shows up for a site visit at the venue, she finds Jillian strangled with a fancy cat leash―a piece of swag they were intending to use for the fundraiser―leaving Maddie with a lot of questions to answer. Was her death a tragic one-off event, or is there something more sinister going on? Maddie has to figure it out fast, before anyone else in the rescue community is jeopardized.

 

 

Cate Conte writes the Cat Cafe Mysteries and the new Full Moon Mysteries. As Liz Mugavero, she writes the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the first of which was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. She lives in Connecticut with her rescue pals.  

45 comments:

  1. What a sweet story, Cate . . . you are so fortunate to have had such a wonderful grandfather in your life . . .
    It must be the job . . . my husband has a seemingly endless repertoire of stories from his police days . . . .

    “Claws for Alarm” sounds exciting, Cate . . . I can’t wait to find out who did the dastardly deed!

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan. I wish I’d been able to get more stories out of him before he left us!

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    2. He does sound like a wonderful grandpa and police officer!

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  2. Welcome to JRW, Cate and congratulations on your new book. I love the cover.

    The stories about your relationship with your grandfather are heartwarming. It is really wonderful to have memories like that. His jobs certainly gave him the sources for stories but not everyone has the gene for telling them. Lucky you seem to have inherited that gene. It's lovely that you have created a character so like him in your books.

    My dad was a great storyteller! And he remembered the jokes he heard, too. In his line of work he met people from all ethnic backgrounds. He was a terrific mimic of accents and even of animal voices. He used to entertain us with stories and jokes until we'd be holding our sides laughing. It sure makes good memories.

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    1. Judy, I love the description of your dad! Do you have his storyteller gene?

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    2. I do have the gene but can't do those fabulous accents. I don't really have a talent for invention, but I can make almost any awful, embarrassing, horrible moment howling funny. (Just a little time and perspective. )

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    3. Thanks Judy! I love that your dad did animal voices :) Definitely makes for great memories.

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  3. I love these memories, Cate, and how lucky you were to be close to him.

    My grandfather was also a storyteller, and he could do magic tricks! But I'm sure I got my writing gene from my father. He didn't write fiction, but oh, the letters he wrote. Long, funny, interesting observations on life and what was happening in the world. I cherish the ones I have saved.

    I can't wait to read the new book! Mine's on preorder at Jabberwocky.

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  4. Welcome Cate/Liz! What a lovely memory and how lucky you were to have your grandfather! It makes total sense that he came alive in your series, even if you didn't plan it that way.

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  5. Good morning, Liz. What a lovely post about your grandfather and his impact on your work. Congratulations on Clause for Alarm - it sounds terrific!

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  6. Congratulations on the book, Liz. My paternal grandfather was a storyteller too. I loved listening to him, whether it be stories of growing up, his time in the steel plant, or in WWII (although he only told the funny stories from the war).

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    1. I love that, Liz. Grandpa stories are the best, right? Thanks!

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  7. What a sweet wonderful story! Thank you! I love that he presented himself in your stories, and allowed you to realize it on your own! So very very special. And hooray for the new book! — I was thinking about Daybreak Harbor as I read this post, and where did that name come from? It is so absolutely perfect!

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    1. It is a fabulous name - makes me want to visit.

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    2. Thanks Hank and Jenn! It just kind of came to me when I was brainstorming the proposal - kind of sounds like what an island is supposed to be, right?

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    3. Exactly! Just so perfect. That it instantly becomes real.

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  8. Is there anything better than a grandfather story? I don't think so. My maternal grandfather was a great storyteller and then one of my aunts, his daughter, could also tell a tale. I have just now remembered that she used to earn a little bit of money by writing stories for true confession-type magazines. And if you met her you would never guess that.

    Looking forward to reading the books, Cate!

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  9. This is THE SWEETEST! Thanks so much for sharing those wonderful memories of your grandfather. So lovely that you had a good long time to get to know him.

    My family is full of storytellers. Parents. Sisters. Talk at our dinner table was a fierce competition for airspace.

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    1. Haha - I can imagine, Hallie!! Would have loved to be at dinner at your house ;) Thank you for your kind words.

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  10. Welcome Cate/Liz. Thank you for sharing your memories of your grandfather. Like Hallie, all of my family were great storytellers. My parents were also great listeners, and they were the ones that allowed my sister and I too shine around the dinner table. A few years ago I googled cat + cozy mystery. I have been enjoying this series since then. Looking forward to Claws for Alarm which is heading to my TBR pile even as I type.

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    1. I love that, Coralee. And I’m so glad you’re enjoying the books! That makes me so happy :)

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  11. I love your grandpa stories!
    My mother was born and grew up in the SF Bay area, spending summers at her uncle's Napa Valley farm. Lots of stories about her girlhood and UCB years, so different from our New Jersey childhood.

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    1. Thank you Margaret! I’m sure your mother’s stories are lovely!

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  12. I love your memories of your grandfather!
    My maternal grandmother was our family’s storyteller. She told us her own versions of the traditional fairy tales. Hers were very funny, and sometimes she herself would laugh so hard that she couldn’t go on talking for a few seconds! She got her storytelling ability from her grandfather, who also had his own versions of fairy tales.

    DebRo

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  13. I so recognize your Grandpa, Cate/Liz. I was blessed with a family of storytellers, who could share tales of the 18th century and the Civil War era as if the events had happened to them. One of our favorite activities when we get together - still! - is to play cards and talk, talk and play cards.

    My dad is in a care facility, and is beginning to have short-term memory issues, but he can recall and tell me wonderful, detailed stories about his childhood, his Great-Lakes-ship-captain grandfather, courting my mother when he was in the Air Force. Daily tasks may get harder and harder, but the power of storytelling remains.

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    1. Oh, I love this Julia. Storytelling is so obviously in the genes.

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    2. Julia, that’ s lovely. Sending love to you and your dad.

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  14. Welcome Cate/Liz! I loved hearing about your grandfather. So sweet! And you have the mischievous grin. I never knew either of my grandfathers. and neither of my parents liked to talk about their families. My uncle by marriage, the writer A.C. Greene, was the storyteller and oh, I loved listening to him! It was only when I was grown up that I realized some of those family stories were quite embroidered!

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  15. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather.

    Got your new book pre-ordered. Looking forward to it!

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  16. I never got to know either of my grandfathers as they died when I was very young. This is such a wonderful post. I love that you appreciate your grandfather so much and I love that you keep your connection to him thought your work. Thanks so much for visiting us today, Cate/Liz. Congrats on the latest release! Can't wait to get my claws on it :)

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  17. Mom was a great story teller about family and her adventures growing up and moving to Galveston to pursue training as a medical technologist. She was a social butterfly. She probably got the story gene from her father though I don't recall Grandpa spinning tales to us kids. My husband is also a good story teller; my problem is I've heard those stories too many times over the years! Your grandpa sounds like he was a real gem. Lucky you!

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  18. Dad told us stories, to settle us down for bed and give Mom a break. He later wrote some of them down. I typed them up as practice when I took typing in summer school and have put some on my website. He encouraged me to become a teacher, and storytelling made my classes better. <3

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    1. That is so lovely, Mary! Storytelling makes everything better, I think…

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  19. I love these photos and your story about your grandfather! I don't think I knew this! My dad was a great teller of jokes and stories. He always made people laugh.

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  20. Becky Sue EpsteinJuly 24, 2021 at 8:54 AM

    Not being from a great storytelling family, I will have to live vicariously through Cate Conte. AND major thanks for introducing me to this cat-centric series!

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  21. Awww I love that story about your grandpa! He definitely sounds like someone I would've wanted to meet. I guess the storyteller I remember best in my family was my dad who had a story or corny joke for any occasion. My own grandpa had a few stories up his sleeve too. Grandpa Leo's been my fave character in this series from the get-go ;)

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