Sunday, May 29, 2016

Interview at a Fixer Upper

I'm pleased to welcome Sarah T. Hobart to the blog today. Sarah writes the Home Sweet Home Mystery series. Death at a Fixer Upper was released earlier this month.

Kathy: Sam Turner, like you, is a real estate agent. How have your experiences influenced Sam's fictional ones?

STH: All kinds of crazy things can and do happen in real estate, so there’s no shortage of material when it comes to Sam’s learning curve as an agent. One of my first clients was a self-described psychic who spent most of our time together trying to pick up the “emanations” of the homes we toured. I remember one particular house where she walked in, went pale, threw out her arms dramatically, and said, “Someone has died in this very spot.” Okay, that creeped me out a little! And then she made me research all the previous owners to see which one might have met their end in the front hall. That incident inspired a key scene in Death at a Fixer Upper. I’ve also been bitten by dogs, twice. But I love dogs.

Kathy: In Death at a Fixer Upper Sam's trying to drum up interest in a neglected Victorian home that is possibly haunted. Do you think possible hauntings help or hinder real estate deals

STH: I believe the presence of spirits is much less of a concern to potential buyers than whether or not the seller might pay to have the septic tank pumped. That being said, there are certain houses that just seem to have a negative aura, and an accompanying pattern of bad luck. Death, divorce, job loss—and bam, the home’s back on the market a year later.

Kathy: I love Victorian style homes. Do you have a favorite type of architecture?

STH: Victorians are lovely. Here on the North Coast, we have a lot of gorgeous Victorian homes, including the Carson Mansion, one of the most photographed houses in the world. But they’re also high-maintenance. I happen to love the house we live in now, which is not a Victorian, but has stucco siding we’ve never had to repaint. Of course we’ve had to do everything else – but that’s just the nature of houses. It’s a long-term relationship.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

STH: I enjoy all types of mysteries, not just cozies. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, and she was a master at creating intimate settings stocked with memorable characters, all bound together with a first-rate plot that leaves the reader guessing right till the end. That’s what a great mystery is all about.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

STH: The Sam Turner mysteries are the only books I’ve written. I write nonfiction humor stories as well. But I only share those with my family, because I don’t want to embarrass my kids. Any more than usual, that it.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

STH: Writing as Muriel Wills, I published two books in the series, Good Bones, and  Like a House on Fire before writing Death at a Fixer-Upper. All three follow the missteps of new real estate agent Sam Turner, a feisty, independent single mom who seems to run into trouble—and dead bodies—with every sale she pursues. She has a lot of baggage in her personal life, but muddles through with naïve enthusiasm and a sense of humor. I’m currently working on A Killer Location.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

STH: I enjoy Max, Sam’s teenage son, who has a lot in common with my own teenage boys. It’s a great age where their personality begins to blossom, plus they grow tall enough to reach things on upper shelves. That’s an unexpected perk.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

STH: I was challenged by my family to write a full-length novel before a certain milestone birthday, and that’s how it started. Then I had an idea for a sequel. The sequel had a cliffhanger ending, which necessitated another book. You see how it goes.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

STH: I was encouraged by the owner of our local bookstore, who thought a lot of mystery fans would enjoy reading about Sam’s misadventures. Can I name names? Thank you, Courtney Blake of Blake’s Books!

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

STH: Harper Lee, naturally; Agatha Christie, of course (though I know she’s bashful, but so am I); Mark Twain; Sue Grafton.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

STH: Carolyn G. Hart’s Bailey Ruth series. What fun! And twice I’ve been surprised when the culprit was revealed.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

STH: Dogs, Giants baseball, and geocaching. If you haven’t tried geocaching, get out there! It’s a blast.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

STH: Beer, cheddar, peanut butter and beer. That’s four, right?

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

STH: Yes. Wait, you want more? I have a half-formed plot for the next in my current series in my head, and a lot of other ideas percolating.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

STH: The hours. And the dress code.

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