Kathy: Kate McKenzie is an organizational expert. Do you follow in her footsteps. Is your home organized?
RA: My home stays as organized as it can be with an active family, but there’s always room for improvement. I do many of the things I have Kate discuss in the book, like let the people who helped make the mess help clean it up. My family has always had weekly cleaning nights on Thursdays, and with everyone working a couple of hours we can have everything completely done and not have to worry about cleaning over the weekend.
But I am the “finder of all lost things,” since I’m the one who automatically picks up wayward objects as they are left in the house and puts they back where they belong. Part of this is being a mom, and part is just the fact that one of my biggest pet peeves is to really need something and not be able to find it. I don’t necessarily have a “place for everything and everything in its place” but I do always know which drawer, cabinet, or room an item should be in at any time.
Kathy: What's Kate's best tip for collectors and other pack rats?
RA: Probably the one I mention in her task note at the very beginning of Chapter One. The memo reminds Kate of what she needs to discuss with her newest client, Amelia Nethercutt. Kate writes, “since she’s a collector, offer the ‘One-In/One-Out Rule’ so if she buys something new, she must throw out an item it is replacing.” If it’s too good to throw away, give the old item to someone who can use it, or donate it and take a write-off.
And on a related note to donations, my best friend is a CPA, and she told me a great trick I use all the time. Before she buys anything new, she always figures out how many hours she has to work to pay for the item—with after-tax dollars. Once she figures that out, she often puts back a collectible or anything else that doesn’t justify for her the hours she has to spend behind her desk to meet its price. I’ve used this tip many, many times to truly decide if I wanted to take an item from the store to my home.
Kathy: I understand that you enjoy spending time in the art world. Do you have a favorite period? Who is your favorite artist?
RA: Yes, I write two mystery series, and the Bodies of Art Mysteries feature an art recovery expert as my main protagonist. If I had to choose a favorite period of art, I would probably have to say the impressionists because of the calm feeling I get from the works of Monet and Renoir, and the farm scenes about the same time by Corot. But at the same time I can spend hours looking at amazingly detailed renaissance period work by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian. Luckily, with the series I write, I don’t have to choose. Art is such a broad category, and my character works to recover everything that any museum considers priceless--all to keep art available to the public. She has a high and exciting mission, and I just hang on and enjoy the ride.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
RA: A favorite aunt gave me my first Trixie Belden book when I was in 4th grade. While those aren’t truly cozies, they have the amateur sleuth angle and the inclusive community covered pretty well. So by the time a family friend left behind an Agatha Christie when she visited a couple of years later, I fell right into Miss Jane Marple’s world and never looked back. I was hooked on American authors like Katherine Hall Page and Carolyn Hart as soon as they started their series in the mid-1990s, and I’ve lost count on all the cozy authors I read every year.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
RA: My first book Counterfeit Conspiracies is considered a mystery, but not a cozy, because it moves from Italy, to London, then to France and back to London. But I’m pretty settled on the mystery genre. I’m a voracious reader, and devour whatever books interest me, but when I write it always seems that mystery takes the forefront.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
RA: The Bodies of Art Mysteries start with Counterfeit Conspiracies, which is a wild, fun, fast-paced ride with a lot of plot twists and turns, great settings, and witty banter. I have two characters who are tops in their fields, but have their own flaws to work through the series story arc, and must save art from disappearing at the same time.
In the Organized Mysteries, Kate McKenzie is starting a new business in a new town, while her husband transitions into a new career, and they raise twin six-year-old daughters. Kate stumbles into mysteries related to her business, and solves crimes because she has to, not because she’s nosy.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
RA: I would love to have Laurel Beacham’s life, but it would likely exhaust me. The character I most relate to is Meg Berman, Kate’s neighbor and sidekick in the Organized Mysteries. Where Kate is careful and works more inside the box, I tend to process things pretty quickly, like Meg, and figure out just how to get the job done. I sometimes don’t even see the box sides at all.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
RA: You know, I really can’t say just one series, but rather all of the great series I’ve read through the years. The late Elizabeth Peters was one of my favorite authors, and I learned so much about plotting from seeing how she developed her three series: Amelia Peabody, Vicki Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby. And I read every Jenny Cain book by Nancy Pickard, and newer series like the Wine-Lovers Series by Michele Scott, Kate Collins, Nancy Martin, and every wonderful series written by Heather Webber/Heather Blake.
I can’t really point to one so much as I can the joy of having such great writing resources to read, and let the ideas of how to develop a series work into my brain. If I have to give some particular credit, however, I’d have to say the early two series I mentioned, Trixie Belden and the Miss Marple series. Those two set the tone for me in all my future reading and writing.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
RA: I finished Organized for Murder, and started working on the manuscript that became Counterfeit Conspiracies. I had a good working synopsis and was about forty pages into the story when I saw a contest blurb in an author’s newsletter, offering a first-chapter writing contest with a grand prize of a Kindle Paperwhite. I entered, hoping for a Paperwhite, and a couple of weeks later received an email from the author, Gemma Halliday, wanting to know if I had more of the manuscript to submit, as she was interested in publishing it with her new boutique press. I sent what I had by then, about five chapters and the synopsis, and she sent me a contract. Then picked up the cozy series when I pitched it right after. So, I lost out on a Paperwhite, but I gained two book contracts instead. I’d say I was the winner, hands down.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
RA: Oh, wow, this is tough. Equally difficult is not the fact that I would want to keep each of them for myself, for one-on-one dinners instead of a dinner party. I love hearing stories, and if I have to only pick four it would be my favorite storytellers. Mark Twain would top the list—what stories that man could tell! A few years ago, I got to meet Pat Conroy, whose Prince of Tides is probably the most over-read book in my personal library, and I still have the pen he used to sign my newest copy (I’ve only used the pen since to sign my book contracts). I think he and Mr. Twain would be excellent dinner companions.
Elizabeth Peters would definitely be one of the four. She had so many great stories to tell, and I’d love to hear her talk about the Whimsey Foundation she was a member of with Joan Hess, Carolyn Hart, and Dorothy Cannell. The last is probably the one I am most in awe of, and that would be Frederick Forsythe. I still remember reading the Omega File in high school for the first time, and how my jaw dropped at the big surprise point of the novel. That’s what I will always be working toward in my own writing.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
RA: I always read two books at the same time—one paper, one Kindle. On my Kindle I’m reading Magic Mirror by Michaela Thompson and in paperback I’m reading Inherit the Word by Daryl Wood Gerber.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
RA: I love photography, and at one time thought I would major in that in college. Instead, I’ve stayed an enthusiastic amateur. I also love to knit. I started when I was five, when my mother decided to take knitting lessons. I can’t remember not knowing how to knit or not knowing how to read. Both are just a part of me.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
RA: Always—pasta and cheese. Usually at least four kinds of cheese. I also always have green tea and honey. Oh, and nuts. That’s five, but those are my “always” things.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
RA: Yes, both of my series are ongoing. I’m doing final revisions on the second in the cozy series, while also pretty far into the sequel for the art series. I also have another cozy series outlined, and the story arc built with character sketches. That was all started just before I got the book contracts last summer. When I get the time, I’ll get the first of that series written and see what my beta readers think of it.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
RA: So many things. Get to network with some of the most interesting and supportive people anyone could ever ask for. I can read and daydream and people-watch without feeling like I have to make any excuses. I can work any time of the day—so if I prefer to get up at three in the morning and be done before noon, that’s cool, or if I’d rather sleep until noon and work until three in the morning, I can do that, too.
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