Please welcome Mary McHugh to the blog today. Mary writes the Happy Hoofer Mystery series. The first, Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses, was just released this past Tuesday!
Kathy: When I was in college I had to take classes in several styles of dance, including tap. I was horrible at it! Have you ever taken tap dancing lessons? How would you rate yourself as a tapper?
MM: We have to meet, Kathy!! I’d love to show you some basic tap steps and I promise you’ll love it! My mother took me for tap dancing lessons when I was a little girl and when I was grown up, married and had my own children, I went to tap classes wherever I could find them. I also went to Macy’s Tap-A-Thons every year until they stopped having them. I would definitely classify myself as an amateur, but I’m pretty good. Here's a link to me dancing my troubles away on youtube:
Kathy: In Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses, the Happy Hoofers perform on a cruise ship. Have you ever been on a cruise?
MM: Yes, many, I’m happy to say. Some with my husband and some as a travel editor for a national magazine. Besides the cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg that my heroines in Chorus Lines take, I’ve sailed up the Rhine from Switzerland to the Netherlands, gone up to Alaska from Vancouver on a cruise ship, seen the Hawaiian Islands on a cruise, and hopped off a boat to see the rain forests in Costa Rica.
Kathy: It's a video gone viral that launches our ladies on their adventure. Have you ever been on a popular Youtube video?
MM: I've never gone viral – wish I could! – but I've had several thousand viewers for my YouTube about my humor book, “Good Granny/Bad Granny” in which good grannies do what their daughters want them to do when they babysit, and bad grannies who do what the children want to do. Here's my youtube about it (I tap dance in this one too):
Kathy: Five fabulous friends find murder in Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses. Are you a fan of alliteration?
MM: Now that you mention it, all the cozies in my Happy Hoofer series have alliterated titles: Besides Chorus Lines, the second one being published in February, 2015, set in Spain, is called Flamenco, Flan and Fatalities; the third one coming out in November 2015 set on a bateau mouche in Paris, is titled Cancans, Croissants and Caskets; the fourth, in Rio, is Bossa Novas, Bananas and Bodies; and the fifth will be in Scotland but has yet to be alliteratively named.
Kathy: You include recipes as well as travel tips in your book. Do you enjoy cooking? How do you come up with your recipes?
MM: Actually, I'd rather write than cook, but I have a husband who likes to eat, so I've learned to cook from Jacques Pepin, Julia Child (love her!) New York Times' cooking writers, Lidia Bastianich, and from a wonderful little cookbook called The Parisian Cookbook. Each book in my series has recipes from the country it's set in. Try the Chicken Pojarski in “Chorus Lines.” You'll love it.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MM: A wonderful editor at my publisher, Kensington Books, Michaela Hamilton, their executive editor, showed me how to transform my mysteries into cozies.They are so much fun to write, I wish I had discovered them long ago. In “Chorus Lines” besides the recipes, there's a stray dog whos follows them on the subway in Moscow, travel tips from Tina, the narrator and travel editor at a bridal magazine, love stories, and lots of other things you can put in a cozy.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MM: Yes, before I found out how much I love writing cozies, I wrote 19 serious and humorous non-fiction books.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MM: My Happy Hoofer series stars five beautiful women in their fifties who get hired to dance on cruise ships, luxury trains, and resorts and manage to solve a couple of muders while they're at it. Each one is narrated by a different dancer, and each dancer has a distinctive personality.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MM: I like all my dancers, but I tend to like Gini, my documentary film maker, the best because she just says whatever she feels like saying, no matter the consequences. I've always wanted to do that, but was brought up not to hurt people's feelings. I let Gini do that for me, and it's really fun.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MM: I just wanted to write about dancing and what a joy it is. Besides tap dancing, there's flamenco, jazz, tangos and slow dancing.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MM: I've always wanted to publish my work since my short stories were published in the school newspaper when I was in first grade. But it wasn't until I was a young mother with two little girls that I started sending short articles about babies out to diaper magazines and sold stories and my own photographs to them. That led to articles in Cospomolitan, where I was a contributing editor for 10 years and got to interview all the interesting women with great careers I wanted to. Then came articles in Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Magazine and books on subjects from “How Not to Become a Little Old Lady” to “Special Siblings: Growing up with Someone with a Disability.” And now cozies!!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MM: Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and P.D. James.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MM: Poison – Sinister Species with Deadly Consequences, by Dr. Mark Siddall; By Cook or Crook: A Five Ingredient Mystery, by Maya Corrigan; and Even This I get to Experience, by Norman Lear.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MM: I have loved working as a hospice volunteer because some of the people I've read to and talked to and ministered to gave me an insight into what is really important in life as they were living the last six months of their own lives. I have also enjoyed recording for the blind and dyslexic in New York City at Learning Ally. My own daughter became blind because of diabetes when she was 22, and I know how much she valued listening to books and magazines that were recorded.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MM: Peanut butter, almonds, Afrika chocolate cookies (very rich and only 20 calories), and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MM: I'm writing the fourth book in my series about murder in the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, and thinking about murders in a gloomy old castle in Scotland for the fifth one.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MM: That I was able to write at home while I was bringing up my children, and when they were grown, I worked as an editor at several magazines and as a researcher at The New York Times. Writing has made it possible for me to meet some of the most interesting people on earth and to travel all over the world. And now to have a whole new experience writing cozy mysteries. What could be better!