Kathy: In the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series Natalie Barnes leaves Texas for Cranberry Island in Maine. What made you choose Maine as the location for your series?
KM: I originally wanted to set it in Newfoundland, where I spent summers at my grandparents’ house on a small island, but have an interesting dialect and use words like “yaffle,” which means “an armload of dried fish,” so I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. When some friends invited us to visit them on Little Cranberry Island, in Maine, it reminded me enough of Newfoundland (but with vocabulary I understood) that I knew I had found the home for my series.
Kathy: Have you ever dreamed of opening your own inn or B&B? Do you think you'd run it like Natalie, or would you be more of a Basil Fawlty?
KM: If the current condition of my house is any indication, being a B&B owner is not in my future. I do have a friend who runs the Country Place Hotel in Fayetteville, Texas, and I like to visit her inn and pretend I am as domestic as she is and could pull it off. But I know better.
Kathy: Natalie cooks some wonderful dishes, especially breakfasts and baked goods. Do you like to cook?
KM: I do like to cook, and my family sometimes complains that I rarely repeat recipes, as I’m always experimenting. But I try not to bake too much, because I have a weakness for sweets!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
KM: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and graduated to Agatha Christie, followed by Susan Wittig Albert, Diane Mott Davidson, and all the other great mystery authors out there. I guess I loved the genre, and it was the first type of book I read and felt, “I could do that!”
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
KM: I write a humorous mystery series, called the Margie Peterson mysteries, that features a stay-at-home-mom-turned-P.I. and is similar to Janet Evanovich in style; the first book, Mother’s Day Out, was released last month and is selling like wildfire! I also wrote a paranormal romance trilogy called Tales of an Urban Werewolf, set in Austin, and have lots of other ideas up my sleeve.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
KM: The Gray Whale Inn is set on a small island off the coast of Maine, and is a favorite fictional retreat for me as a writer. I love the characters, the community, the wild and beautiful setting, and the yummy treats Natalie bakes for her guests. The Margie Peterson series, on the other hand, is about a stay-at-home mom turned private eye who gets herself into all kinds of hilarious situations. They’re both fun to write, but very different!
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
KM: Margie Peterson is probably the favorite character I’ve ever written; I love how she responds to the crazy situations she finds herself in. As for the Gray Whale Inn series, I relate most to Natalie – she’s the most like me (fancy that). And I have to say that the island and the setting are almost a character in their own right, and I have a particular fondness for that part of the world.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
KM: I knew I wanted to write a cozy mystery, but couldn’t figure out where to set it until my parents returned from a trip to the Lost Whale Inn in California. As soon as I saw the recipe book they brought back and heard about the idyllic setting, I knew I was going to set my series in an inn.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
KM: Like most authors, I wanted to share my vision and my story with readers – to transport them to the world I had imagined.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
KM: J.R.R.Tolkien, Robin Hobb, P.G. Wodehouse, and Vladimir Nabokov.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
KM: What am I not reading, might be a better question? “You read anything,” according to my husband, “from caravan tales of African nomads to Janet Evanovich. And don’t forget to add a few parenting books.”
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
KM: I love, love, love to garden; it’s very restorative. Obviously I enjoy cooking, and reading. A few years back, I took up karate, and it’s surprised me how much I enjoy it – particularly sparring! I recently started a watercolor class, and I love it – I’m trying to do a little painting sketch each day.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
KM: Chocolate, wine, olive oil, and pasta.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
KM: Next up is probably another book in the Margie Peterson mysteries, and I am also working on a new cozy mystery series set in Buttercup, Texas, called the Dewberry Farm mysteries. It’s set in a beautiful part of the world, and I get to learn about Czech and German history and write about cooking AND gardening. There’s plenty of room for more stories in the Gray Whale Inn, too; in fact, I have so many potential ideas in my head I don’t know where to start. I suppose will write whatever is burning hottest when I finish my current project!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
KM: Freedom to follow my fancy wherever it takes me!