I'm pleased to welcome Marla Cooper to the blog today. Marla writes the Destination Wedding Mystery series. Terror in Taffeta, the first in the series, was released earlier this year.
Kathy: Kelsey McKenna is a wedding planner. Have you, or would you, use a wedding planner for the big day?
MC: I didn’t! I’m more the DIY type, and I loved planning my wedding. But I imagine if I were as busy as I am now, I might have been happy to have someone else take over. The right wedding planner will make sure the event really reflects who you are. Plus, they come in handy if you need someone to help solve a murder.
Kathy: In Terror in Taffeta, Kelsey is working a destination wedding in Mexico. Destination weddings are quite the thing. Would you consider having one? If so, where would you go?
MC: I would love to get married in Italy. I was invited to a destination wedding on the Amalfi Coast and, in retrospect, I can’t believe I didn’t go! My other choice would be a castle in Ireland. And also, the castle would be haunted, because what could be cooler than having a ghost at your wedding?
Kathy: I must ask. What is a tequila donkey?
MC: What, you mean everyone doesn’t have a tequila donkey at their wedding? It’s actually a Mexican tradition in which a burro leads the wedding procession through town. In addition to colorful blankets and flowers, he also comes bearing bottles of tequila from which the guests can do shots—errr, sip daintily.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MC: I like the idea of mysteries because it’s much easier to keep the plot moving along when there’s a murderer on the loose. And I chose cozies over other types of mysteries because it’s almost impossible for me to be too serious for too long. I like to incorporate humor into everything I do, and cozies are known for having a lighter touch.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MC: This is my first foray into fiction, but I have written lots of other things. I’m a copywriter by day, which means I’ve written web copy, radio spots, print ads… you may have even seen a TV spot I wrote at some point. I also spent many years writing travel guidebooks, which meant weeks on the road followed by a month or so writing about it. I got a couple of gigs ghostwriting nonfiction books for Chronicle Books—one of which led to me writing a mystery! (More on that in a minute…)
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MC: Terror in Taffeta is the first book in the Destination Wedding Mystery series. As you may have guessed, the main character, Kelsey McKenna, is a destination wedding planner, which means each book takes place in a different locale. Kelsey is a problem solver by nature, so when one of the bridesmaids drops over in the middle of the wedding ceremony, naturally she ends up getting involved (against her better judgment). The second book, Dying on the Vine, which comes out next March, finds Kelsey in the California wine country.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MC: I love Kelsey’s best friend, Brody. He’s a wedding photographer so they get to work together a lot, and the two of them have great banter together. He’s based on a couple of my real-life friends, so writing a Brody scene is kind of like getting to hang out with them.
I also loved writing the mother of the bride, Mrs. Abernathy. She’s totally pushy and demanding, and I imagine most wedding planners have encountered someone like her in the line of duty. For some reason, she was really easy for me to picture, so her scenes were always so easy to write, and she always made me laugh.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MC: I did! Several years ago, I got a job ghostwriting a nonfiction book on how to plan a destination wedding. While the wedding planner was telling me about her job, I remember sitting across from her thinking, "Going off to foreign countries with people you don't really know? Everyone expecting you to fix things when they go wrong? This is the perfect setup for a murder mystery!"
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MC: It’s tempting to name some of the fabulous, warm, funny and awesome authors I’ve met who are part of the mystery community, but I’m going to go with people I don’t actually know.
Short story author Aimee Bender, because her brain fascinates me. Carolyn Keene, so we could talk about the Girl Detective. Armistead Maupin, because his Tales of the City books were what made me think it would be fun to write a book someday (and I’m sure he has some great stories!). And Agatha Christie, because if I didn't everyone would say, "Why didn't you invite Agatha Christie?"
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MC: I’ve been hard at work on my second book, Dying on the Vine, so I haven’t had much time for reading lately. But I do have a pretty juicy collection waiting for me on my Kindle—not to mention the stack of books I brought back from Malice Domestic. It’s going to be hard to know where to start!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MC: Sure! When it’s time to take a break from writing, I pick up my ukulele. I’ve never played a musical instrument before, so it’s been really fun using a different part of my brain. I love being able to pick it up and just play. I don't have to be good at it. Nobody will ever hear it. It's just for fun. And there's no physical proof left behind if I fail—unlike pottery or knitting or any of my other abandoned craft projects.
I’ve also been a little obsessed with genealogy lately. I have a great grandmother who seems to have just appeared on this earth at the age of twenty, because I can’t find any evidence of her existence before she married my great grandfather. I can spend hours on ancestry.com hunting down leads. I sure hope one of these days I have a breakthrough that will make it all worthwhile!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MC: Half and half, because coffee is essential to my job. String cheese, because it’s great for those moments when I’m suddenly ravenous because I forgot to eat. Peanut butter, because I like to eat it with apples. And a bottle of champagne because you never know when you might need to celebrate.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MC: Yes! Part of the fun of writing about destination weddings is thinking about settings. So after I finish Dying on the Vine, which is set in the California wine country, I get to start thinking about where to set Book Three. A couple of people have mentioned Reykjavik, which would be great because I’d “have to” travel there for research, but a haunted castle in Ireland would also be pretty fun!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MC: Connecting with readers. It makes my day when I get an email from someone who read the book and liked it. It’s one thing when your friends read it, but it’s kind of mind-boggling to think about some stranger reading it and enjoying it. I also love hearing about my book getting to go on vacation with people. So far this summer, I know it’s been to Canada and France. I hope at least someone read it on a beach!