Susan Page Davis and her daughter, Megan Elaine Davis, are authors the Mainely Murder Series, a set of three cozy mysteries from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. Book 1, Homicide at Blue Heron Lake, released January 18. Book 2, Treasure at Blue Heron Lake, will release in August 2008, and Imposters at Blue Heron Lake will come in spring 2009.
In the northern Maine town of Baxter, marina owner Nate Holman and journalist Emily Gray seem to attract mysteries, as well as each other. In book 1, Emily returns to Baxter to prepare her mother’s island cottage for sale. But when Nate takes her to the island by boat, they find an old man dead in his summer home. Before the police can come up with a likely murder suspect, Emily finds another body.
This is a collaboration between mother and daughter. How did this story come about?
MEGAN: My mom heard about the new line of books, and when she told me about it, we decided to write one together. We have both always liked mystery novels, so we thought it would be fun to write one of our own.
SUSAN: I think we were in the car, and I was telling about a plot I wanted to submit to editor Susan Downs at Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. Megan came up with a super idea that would make it work better, and I told her she ought to write it with me.
Did you find it easy to work together on it?
MEGAN: Yes and no. The hard part was finding time when we were both ready to work on it. Most of the time we alternated chapters, but we had to spend time together planning and discussing.
SUSAN: Ironing out the synopsis together was the most intense. Once we agreed on that, it wasn’t too bad. Each of us wrote our chapters individually, then emailed them to the other’s computer. When I would get a chapter from Megan, I would read it and suggest any changes I thought were needed. Once we were agreed on her content, I would write the next chapter and send it to her.
How did collaborating with this team impact you?
MEGAN: Working on a novel from start to finish has helped motivate me for other projects. Every time I succeed in my writing, I am encouraged to keep reaching higher.
SUSAN: I loved helping Megan sell her first book, though she had already published poetry and articles. I think it’s brought us closer, showing us that Mom and daughter can work together well on things other than housework!
What is the hardest thing about writing as a team?
MEGAN: Finding time when both of us were ready to work on our book. It's hard when both people are working multiple writing projects. My mom has also had to spend a lot of time managing her dad's estate, and I am planning my wedding.
SUSAN: Yes, we had a goal of each chapter being written in a week. But sometimes the person who was supposed to do the chapter that week was swamped with other stuff. So it took us a little longer than we’d planned, but we still met our deadline just fine and had time to let critique partners go over it for us. I’d encourage any collaborative writers to “pad in” a little extra time for the unexpected.
What are you reading right now?
MEGAN: Currently I'm reading The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, and recently finished The Pirates! in an Adventure With Scientists by Gideon Defoe.
SUSAN: I’m reading a secular mystery set in Maine: Site Unseen, by Dana Cameron. On my waiting list: Twopence to Cross the Mersey, by Helen Forrester, and The Fifth Man, by John Olson and Randy Ingermanson.
How did you choose your characters' names?
MEGAN: I confess--I have a name fetish. When I write by myself, names are everything. If I don't have a love affair with the names I'm using, out they go. I prefer unusual names--Victorian and literary and flora and fauna names. However, because of the nature of the books my mom and I write together, we chose fairly common names to give the story a more realistic atmosphere. We want readers to feel like this could happen in their own small town.
SUSAN: And we actually did change the name of our heroine slightly to please another person. Me, I’m awful at names. I tend to grab one out of the phone book, but Megan has a much more contemplative approach. We used Nate and Emily for the hero and heroine, and leave the less common names (Pauli, Rocky, Raven, Truly, etc.) to the minor characters.
Would you want to work on another book together?
MEGAN: Yes. But probably not a mystery. I do prefer reading them to writing them. Maybe we could write a fantasy.
SUSAN: Oooo, that sounds like FUN. I wrote one fantasy, Feather, and loved it. I’d like to revisit that genre.
Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?
SUSAN: Yes. I joined about two years ago and have found it one of the best investments I ever made. Because most of my work is Christian fiction, it’s ideal for me. The online courses are worth much more than the annual fee. Add to that the fellowship, bank of experts ready to answer questions, publicity opportunities, e-magazine, book club, and the conference and contests ACFW sponsors...It’s one of the best buys out there, in my opinion.
What do you want to tell us about the book?
MEGAN: My favorite part of our first book is that there are two mysteries in one. I've always liked complicated mysteries, ever since I read Nancy Drew as a kid. I also really like the setting. It reminds me of camping at Moose Head Lake with my cousins, and hot summer days when Grammy Page took us down to Messalonskee Lake for a swim.
SUSAN: Yes, our Blue Heron Lake books show interior Maine from our perspective. A tiny town on a big lake, with the island we’ve always wished we could live on. It’s not a real place, but it should be! And Emily has the adventures I wish I’d had at 25. I love writing about Maine and the quirky people who live here. Book 2 will give the reader a taste of Maine in winter, too.
Where can our readers find you on the Internet?
MEGAN: You can email me at email@example.com. I do not have my own Web site at this time. You can also learn more about the books my mom and I write together at her Web site: susanpagedavis.com
SUSAN: Do visit my site and sign up for my monthly free book drawing. Our books are featured on the “Mystery” page there. I’m also a host at Keep Me In Suspense: http://www.keepmeinsuspense.com/ , a site for mystery and suspense writers. You can learn about Heartsong Presents: Mysteries and sign up for their book club at: http://www.heartsongmysteries.com/ .
Wow, Susan and Megan, thanks for spending this time with us.
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