Kathy: Julia Lanchester is the manager of a tourist center in a small English village. What made you choose this job for her?
MW: Being tourist manager gives Julia access to the entire Fotheringill estate - which includes the village, Seaton-under-Lyme. So many possibilities for trouble!
Kathy: Aside from her boss, Julia doesn’t mix well with the aristocracy. What are your thoughts on class differences?
MW: I enjoy the idea of titles and think that nowadays, the aristocracy are quite down-to-earth, probably because so many of them have had to figure out how to keep hold of their house and lands. I know an estate in Scotland where they’ve turned part of the manor house into a hotel and they have cottages to rent on the estate (you can stay for free if you weed the garden!).
Kathy: There's some birding going on in the Birds of a Feather Mystery series. Do you go birding yourself? Do you have a favorite bird?
MW: I’m the kind of birder Julia is - I enjoy the birds of gardens, woods, and fields, but I’m not looking to create some earth-shattering life list. In England one of my favorites is the pied wagtail - he’s a cutie. In the States, I think the winter wren is my favorite.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MW: I think cozy and traditional mysteries allow an author to tell characters’ stories as well as the mystery - and we also build a setting which is practically a character itself. When I read Christopher Fowler’s books (The Peculiar Crime Unit mysteries), I feel London as an important part of the story.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MW: I’ve written non-fiction (how-to garden books), but cozies are my only fiction - at the moment!
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MW: Empty Nest is the second in the Birds of a Feather series, which follows Julia Lanchester, tourist center manager. She’s the daughter of a well-known ornithologist (think Indiana Jones), which is where a lot of the birding comes in. She’s also a bit brash and loves chocolate cake. In the Potting Shed series (#4, The Skeleton Garden, will be out in March!), Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener, has moved to England. Pro gets involved with a Detective Chief Inspector in London, digs up a murder or two, and moves around the country a bit (#1 - London; #2 - Sussex; #3 - Edinburgh; #4 - Hampshire).
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MW: My favorite character seems to be the one I’m writing about at the moment. In Empty Nest, I have a great fondness for Willow, the intern at the tourist center.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MW: I’m a gardener and I love England - it wasn’t difficult to go from there to the Potting Shed mysteries. And because those books have to do with the outdoors, there’s always a mention of a bird or two. So, Birds of a Feather - set in one of my favorite places in England: Suffolk.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MW: I like to tell a good story, and storytellers always need an audience.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MW: Ray Bradbury - he first inspired me when I was thirteen years old
Louisa May Alcott - what female writer doesn’t want to be Jo?
Alexander McCall Smith - have you heard him speak? He’s like a stand-up comic
Jo Rowling - I love the new PI series
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MW: Just finished Career of Evil (Rowling) and have started on Ian Rankin’s newest Rebus book.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MW: Gardening, travel, writing. That about says it all!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MW: Olive oil, butter, several kinds of cheese, milk for tea
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MW: I’ve already got Birds of a Feather #3 forming in my head - getting Julia into more trouble - and I’m just finished Potting Shed #5, which will be out in autumn, 2016. More to come for both!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MW: These characters who seem to appear, fully formed, in my head. I love getting to know them.