I'm pleased to welcome Sybil Johnson to the blog today. Sybil writes the Aurora Anderson Mystery series. Paint the Town Dead, the second in the series, was released December 8th.
Kathy: Rory Anderson is a tole painting enthusiast. Are you a decorative painter?
SJ: Yes, I am. I was first introduced to tole painting in the 90s when a group of us at work got together in one of the conference rooms during lunch and worked on projects. The most experienced painter in the group taught us all the basics. After everyone went their separate ways, I continued painting on my own. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to work on projects as I’d like, but I do attend a painting convention every year.
Kathy: In Paint the Town Dead Rory attends a painting convention. Have you attended a convention of any sort? If so, what did you like most about it? Did any of those experiences appear in some form in this novel?
SJ: I’ve attended a fair number of conventions over the years: technical conventions when I worked in the software industry, mystery conventions I now attend as a published author, Dark Shadows Festivals (yep, I’m a fan of the 60s/70s supernatural soap). Plus I’ve been attending the Creative Painting convention in Las Vegas for over ten years now. I also co-chaired the 2011 California Crime Writers conference so I have some experience in putting together a convention.
I based the trade show floor and painting classes in PAINT THE TOWN DEAD on conventions I’ve attended. I also used my experience planning a convention to create my fictional one.
My favorite thing about conventions: connecting with other people who have the same interests.
Kathy: Rory witnesses her childhood friend suddenly die. Are you in contact with any of your childhood friends? Had you remained friends through the years or did you reconnect?
SJ: I have two friends I’ve had since the third grade. We've remained friends through the years. We write letters, exchange emails and visit each other when we can.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
SJ: Reading Agatha Christie in junior high plus I like the orderliness of cozies. Horrible things happen, but order is restored and the killer is caught in the end, something that doesn’t always happen in real life.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
SJ: All of the short stories and books I’ve written so far fall into the mystery/crime genre. It’s also the type of fiction I enjoy reading the most.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
SJ: The Aurora Anderson Mystery series is set in the fictional town of Vista Beach, a quiet Los Angeles County city that hugs the coast. In Book 1, FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, computer programmer and tole painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson discovers the body of her painting teacher in her garden. When she’s suspected of murder, she sets out to clear her name. In Book 2, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD, Rory attends a local painting convention expecting to have fun, not witness a friend collapse in class and die. When the police find no evidence of foul play, she brushes aside the lies to uncover the truth and bring the killer to justice.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
SJ: Rory’s BFF, Liz, is my favorite to write. She has so much energy and is fearless, qualities I wish I possessed in greater quantities.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
SJ: I woke up one morning with the image in my head of a young woman finding the body of her painting teacher in her garden and FATAL BRUSHSTROKE was born, launching the series.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
SJ: From the start, I intended to try getting my work published. I never really considered keeping it to myself. It took a lot of years and a ton of rewrites before my dream finally came true last year.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
SJ: Elizabeth Peters, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie and Jane Austen.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
THE LOST ARMY OF CAMBYSES by Paul Sussman
THE TIME TRAVELLER'S GUIDE TO ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND by Ian Mortimer and
EMPIRES OF THE WORD: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
SJ: I'd love to! I enjoy painting and counted cross-stitch. I also occasionally do sewing projects. I’m also interested in languages and how they’re constructed, particularly ancient ones. I’ve been studying Ancient Egyptian and Coptic for many years now, and I have a bunch of books on my TBR pile on Maya hieroglyphs.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
SJ: Diet Coke, almond milk, Thin Mints (I buy a lot of boxes at Girl Scout cookie time and freeze them), and brown rice.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
SJ: I’m currently working on book 3 in the Aurora Anderson mystery series, tentatively titled TROMPE L’OEILED TO DEATH.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
SJ: Research, definitely research. I love finding out about new things. I can spend hours reading books and scouring the internet for information on a topic. Of course, I have to make sure I leave enough time to actually write!
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