I'd like to welcome Jeanne Quigley to the blog today. Jeanne is the author of All Things Murder, the first in the Veronica Walsh Mystery series.
Kathy: Veronica Walsh starred in the daytime drama Days and Nights. Are you a soap opera fan?
JQ: I’m not a regular viewer these days, though I’ll tune in to The Young and the Restless and General Hospital once in a while to see what everyone’s doing. However, I do have a long history of soap watching. I started in grammar school with All My Children and One Life To Live and went through General Hospital’s Luke and Laura years with my sister, who was a big fan of the show. My best friend in college got me hooked on Days of Our Lives. I have a long history of watching daytime drama!
Kathy: After her series is cancelled Veronica faces the sad truth-while men of a certain age are still desired for prime acting roles, the same cannot be said for women of a certain age. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: Betty White, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren, for example, but, is the older woman relegated to character roles and "commercials for "hotflash herbs" and the like? Or can she make a comeback to starring roles?
JQ: I think the older actress can definitely make a comeback. Actresses who are middle-aged have so many opportunities these days. Broadcast and cable channels offer many roles out there for older women to showcase their talent, and since television is no longer considered film’s ugly stepsister, both actors and actresses move back and forth between the two mediums. And Netflix has opened another door. Look at Sally Field: an Emmy winner for Brothers and Sisters and an Oscar nominee for Lincoln. Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates are two more examples of older actresses doing great work and winning recognition for it.
I do, though, think soap actresses face a challenge winning new roles. As in All Things Murder, the real world of daytime television has shrunk. There are now only four soap operas on the air. Roles are limited for the actresses (and to be fair, the actors too) whose soaps are canceled. There are only so many parts on the surviving shows for people over fifty; these shows already have longtime cast members fighting for air time. Though there are actresses who started on soaps and moved on to successful film careers, Julianne Moore and Demi Moore are two, and Susan Lucci certainly transcended soaps, daytime drama for years was unfairly stigmatized as lacking in artistic merit. It was hard for both actors and actresses to break out of the soap box. Someone like Veronica, who played the same character for more than thirty years, can have a hard time convincing a producer to give her another role and an audience to accept her as that new character.
Kathy: All Things Murder is set in the Adirondacks. What made you decide on this setting for your series?
JQ: When I was a kid, Lake George was usually my family’s vacation destination. It was then, and still is, a beautiful and wonderful place for families to relax and have fun. I’ve gone there in recent years with my mother and my siblings and their families; we’ve enjoyed it every bit as much as we did when we were growing up. And so the Adirondacks is an idyllic locale to me; a spot I’ve always thought of as a place of escape.
The Adirondack setting works well for the story. Veronica works in New York City and lives in a nearby suburb. Her hometown of Barton is close enough that she can visit on a regular basis, but also far enough away that she sees the village as a place of respite and escape from her daily life.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JQ: A few years ago I wrote a commercial novel about a small-town journalist investigating the theft of a letter written by George Washington. One of the agents who read it referred to it as a cozy, though there is no murder in the story. I wasn’t familiar with the genre, so I picked up one of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen books at the library and was immediately hooked. I knew I had found where I belonged. I like the series aspect of cozies; so often I read a novel and wish I knew what happened in the characters’ lives after the last page. It is fun as a reader and writer to re-visit our fictional friends.
By the way, a few characters from that commercial novel are now a part of the cast of All Things Murder. The canasta club‑Ella, Madeline, Sandy, and Dotsie‑are just as they were in the original story. And the journalist who was the main protagonist is now a minor character.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JQ: Not after a few failed attempts!
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JQ: The series stars Veronica Walsh, an unemployed soap opera actress who returns to her hometown seeking peace and quiet and instead finds her controversial neighbor’s bludgeoned body. Veronica is worried that two friends are involved in the murder, so she takes on the role of amateur sleuth to find her neighbor’s killer.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JQ: I really love them all, but I’ll mention two. Dotsie for the simple reason that she cracks me up. And I’m very fond of Sandy. Yes, she’s a bit obsessive-compulsive, but she doesn’t put up with nonsense, is a good friend, and knows when to ask questions and when to be quiet! I hope readers find her as endearing as I do.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JQ: I don’t know if I can call it inspiration, but the cancellations of All My Children and One Life To Live gave me the idea to cancel Veronica’s soap opera. In an early draft, only Veronica lost her job due to budget cuts on the show. And, of course, the Adirondacks inspired the setting.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JQ: Writing started as a creative outlet for me. My job at the time wasn’t very stimulating and writing gave me a way to exercise my brain and challenge myself. Writing is an incredible source of fulfillment and entertainment; I felt sharing my work was the natural next step and thus publication became a new goal. Despite all the “no’s” I received from agents over the years, I found the process of querying agents and submitting manuscripts an enjoyable challenge.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JQ: Anne Tyler, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and Charles Dickens.
Kathy: What are you current reading?
JQ: Perfect by Marne Davis Kellogg. It is Kellogg’s third in the Kick Keswick series. Kick is a “retired” jewel thief who in this story tracks down the person who stole the queen’s jewels. This series could be categorized as Fantasy: Kick has a beautiful farmhouse in Provence, travels to Europe’s most exclusive locales, and has a multi-million dollar stash of jewels hidden in her house.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JQ: I love reading and probably spend too much time doing it. I also enjoy watching sports. There aren’t too many better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching a Yankees game. And the world stops on autumn Saturdays when my alma mater’s Fighting Irish are on the football field. I also enjoy baking (I’m a cookie person). I’m known in the family for the candy cane cookies I bake each year. For decades my grandmother made them every Christmas, using a recipe she found in a Betty Crocker cookbook. I assumed the tradition when she passed away in 1983.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JQ: The freezer is where the good stuff is: Turkey Hill Vanilla Bean ice cream, homemade blueberry muffins, marinara sauce, a few slices of pizza.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JQ: I’m about finished editing the second Veronica Walsh Mystery and hope to submit it soon to Five Star. I have written an outline and a few pages of the third book and plan on spending a good amount of quality time on it this summer. I’ve also recently started thinking about a second series. It’s slowly coming together in my head.
Kathy: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
JQ: I can do whatever I want! I work with numbers, spreadsheets, and databases all day in my job. I don’t have many choices on how to do the work; I can’t be creative with formulas. In writing, I get to decide everything: character names, physical descriptions, “who done it,” how many inches of snow fall overnight. I get to create fictional villages and no one tells me I can’t put the drugstore on the corner or must give a street a different name. There are times when I stop myself and ask, “Can I do it this way?” I still get a kick out of my answer: “Yes, I can!”
Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would be the foundation of her debut novel. Her love of characters—real and fictional—led her to study Sociology and English at the University of Notre Dame. Jeanne has never been a soap star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She lives in Rockland County, New York, where she is writing her second Veronica Walsh Mystery.
Jeanne Quigley will give a copy of All Things Murder to one lucky reader. To enter leave a comment on this post telling us if you watch soap operas and, if so, your favorite OR your favorite actress of a certain age! Comments must be received by 11:59 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014. US addresses only. Please leave a working e-mail address as well, so that I am able to contact you should you win!