In keeping with the new format for Faith Driven Fiction, author Margaret Brownley is joining us today. She has a large repertoire of publishing credits, and I was blessed to find her with her latest “Undercover Ladies” series.
I’ve now gotten to review all three: Petticoat Detective, Undercover Bride, and (today at Suspense Sisters) Calico Spy. I’m so delighted to host her here on Faith Driven Fiction, and even more blessed that she’s offering a copy of Calico Spy (either print or e-book) to one lucky comment-giver.
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Margaret. I have so enjoyed your Undercover Ladies series! Will there be more of these?
First, let me say thank you for letting me visit with you this week. To answer your question, Calico Spy is the third and last book of the Undercover Ladies series.
So what’s next on your literary horizon?
I’m currently working on a new series. Left at the Altar is the first book in my Match Made in Texas series and will be available in November. I’m working on book two of this new series and wouldn’t you know? A little bit of mystery is taking shape.
YEA! I love the way you weave your plots. And Texas is near and dear to my heart (and my house shoes)! What are the challenges or differences between writing a historical romance and one with mystery and suspense involved?
The challenge of writing my Undercover Ladies series was that it takes place before fingerprints, DNA, computers or cameras were part of the crime-solving arsenal. I read sixteen of Allan Pinkerton’s books in an effort to learn how to think like a nineteenth century detective. Those early gumshoes didn’t have the luxury of modern labs but they almost always caught their man and in some cases, their woman. The best thing about writing historical novels is that I don’t have to deal with modern technology. People can get lost without having GPS or a cellphone come to the rescue. I enjoy writing mysteries and almost every series I write includes at least one.
Wow! I knew your research had to be extensive, but that’s sheer commitment! What initiates your stories? Or do you craft inspiring characters and let them take the story into their own hands?
I never know when inspiration will strike and it’s different for each project. My Undercover Ladies series was inspired by a book about Kate Warne who was hired by Allan Pinkerton in 1856. He originally thought she wanted a job as a secretary but she straightened him out in that regard. He soon learned that women were able to do things that men could not, like befriend the wives of criminals. Kate even helped save the life of president-elect Abraham Lincoln by wrapping him in a shawl and pretending he was her invalid brother. I had no idea Pinkerton hired female detectives and after reading that book I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper.
She does sound intriguing! What would you say was the funniest thing you came across while you wrote this story?
In Calico Spy, Kate Madison is a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a Harvey Girl. Fred Harvey had an iron-clad rule about serving his guests freshly squeezed orange juice. During one of his surprise inspections, my literary chef shoved a pitcher of day-old orange juice into Kate’s hands and she gets rid of it by dumping it into the pea soup. Now here’s the funny part: I thought orange juice would ruin the soup, but I was wrong. I found out from my chef daughter that OJ is a popular pea soup ingredient and gives it a nice tangy taste. The original plan I had for the scene no longer worked, but it turned out to be a good thing plot-wise.
I loved that hysterical scene! What enhances your writing? Food, music, TV or movies, or something else? Do you have a special place where you like to write?
I write in my Monet purple office. Purple is supposed to be good for inspiration. I also sit on a balance ball chair while I write. It’s great for the back. I don’t know how much it enhances my writing but dining out with friends or taking in a good movie sure does wonders for this writer.
How do you balance your writing career with the rest of your life? What challenges get in the way of your writing? How do you avoid distractions? What does your day look like?
I’ve always treated my writing as a real job. That means that I keep strict working hours just as I would if I had to punch a card. I’m at my desk at the same hour every morning. I won’t tell you what time that is because you’ll only hate me. Family and friends know not to bother me before noon. After lunch I do an hour on the treadmill (usually while reading a research book). I take care of the business of writing, emails, phone calls and so forth in the afternoon. Evenings and weekends are for family and friends.
This night owl appreciates you not sharing your wake up time. It will only give me early-bird envy. LOL! What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
My husband and I enjoy traveling in our RV. This is when I catch up on reading. We also have six grandkiddies that we enjoy spending time with.
What is something you’ve never done but would love to try?
That’s a tough one to answer since I’ve done just about everything I wanted to. It might be fun to drive a racecar.
I’m all over that! (But I’d rather ride with a pro driver who will go faster than I will!) Finally, since we’re still in January, what plans/goals/resolutions do you have for 2016?
Right now my goal is to finish all three books in my Match Made in Texas series. I also have a novella to write. And I really do need to clean my office.
BEST-SELLING AUTHOR MARGARET BROWNLEY has penned more than forty novels and novellas. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers’ Choice and Award of Excellence. She’s a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap. She is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence. You can learn more about Margaret and her books at www.margaret-brownley.com
Calico Spy – Short Version:
Pinkerton Detective Katie Madison Makes a Lousy Harvey House Waitress. . . .
But it’s the only way she can get close enough to the scene of the murders of two of the restaurant’s servers to solve the mystery. Between having impeccable posture, a perfect Harvey Girl smile, and memorizing menu specials of the day, not to mention dealing with the temperamental French chef, her mind might be too full to make any headway in the biggest case of her career.
Sheriff Branch Whitman knows there’s something fishy about the pretty new Harvey girl with the flaming red hair, but he never would’ve guessed her to be a Pinkerton! And he’s never met a Pink he liked—but there is something intriguing about her.
Soon a tornado hits town, and a shadow from the past puts Branch’s eight-year-old son in danger. Now the sheriff has no choice but to work with Katie—or chance losing everything he holds dear. Tracking a murderer is dangerous even for a man, and he fears for Katie’s safety. But as they get closer to the killer one thing becomes abundantly clear. Protecting Katie is one thing; protecting his heart something else.
Your Turn: Want a chance to win a copy of Calico Spy for yourself? Leave a comment here with your email address included, and while you’re at it, share what aspect of a historical romantic suspense you like the most! (The History, the Mystery, or the Romance?) Random drawing will be on 2/1/16. US residents only.