I'm happy to welcome Mary Angela to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Mary writes the Professor Prather Mystery series. An Act of Murder is the first book in the series and was released October 15th.
Kathy: Having worked on a college campus for many years, I know the intrigue and drama that can be found there. Have you had similar experiences and did they influence An Act of Murder?
MA: Yes, I’ve found college campuses to be worlds within themselves, which, to me, is inherently intriguing. They play by their own rules and follow their own traditions. Certainly that mystique influences An Act of Murder.
Kathy: You and your protagonist, Emmeline Prather, are both English professors. Do you have a favorite period in literature? Or a favorite "classic" author?
MA: That’s a hard question! So many of my favorite authors crop up in the Modernist period, especially the 1920s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and E.M. Forster. I am equally fascinated, though, by the Transcendentalist period. Recently, I had a chance to travel to Concord, Massachusetts, so had you asked me this question then, my answer might have been Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Kathy: In An Act of Murder a student dies while working on the fall musical. My undergraduate degree is in theatre. Do you enjoy musicals?
MA: I adore musicals! I first saw Les Misérables at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Chanhassen, Minnesota, many years ago, but I distinctly remember the effect it had on me. After reading the tome the entire summer (pre-children days), I attended the performance and cried during the majority of it. More recently, I saw an outstanding production of Mary Poppins by the Sioux Empire Community Theatre group. My daughters were thrilled to see their tap teacher play a chimney sweep.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MA: I was originally drawn to cozy mysteries by their distinctive settings. I love learning about new places and professions, and it’s wonderful to escape to a place like a West Coast winery or an East Coast clambake when I’m landlocked here in the Midwest.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MA: Yes, I write short stories, and I am also interested in writing a new children’s series.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MA: The Professor Prather Mystery series is set on a quiet college campus in the fictional town of Copper Bluff, SD. My protagonist and her sidekick are both English professors, but that’s where their similarity ends! They are both smart, compassionate people; they just see the world differently, which makes their banter terrifically fun to write.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MA: Gosh, I can hear each of the characters singing his/her own praises as I try to answer this question. I suppose it’s like my children; I don’t have a favorite. They are all special to me in their own ways.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MA: Yes. As an undergraduate, I attended a small university much like the one in Copper Bluff, and despite its quaint exterior, it was filled with fiercely intelligent, competitive, and passionate people. That contrast is what I’ve attempted to capture in An Act of Murder.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MA: I decided to publish An Act of Murder because I think the book is a beautiful place to park your mind for a few hours—at least it has been for me. The characters are unforgettable and propel me every day to write their stories.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MA: Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald would have to be at the top of my list because of all the crazy stunts they pulled at dinner parties—and everywhere else. Besides, I know Scott could make me a mean Gin Rickey! I would also invite Dorothy Parker, who knew the Fitzgeralds and was herself a great wit, and Agatha Christie, my all-time favorite mystery writer.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MA: I am reading Salem’s Cipher, which is more Da Vinci Code than cozy. But so far I love all the strong female characters. I’m also reading The Golden Age of Murder (non-fiction) and would highly recommend it to fans of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Finally, I’m reading Silence for one of my English classes. A new film is coming out about the novel this December.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MA: I love to read, of course, but I also love to travel and bake. I especially love to bake with my kids during the holidays. Besides adding to my waistline, baking adds to the quality time I spend with my daughters.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MA: Ketchup, noodles, pistachios, and sprinkles. My husband and youngest daughter are ketchup fiends, and my oldest daughter is very finicky, so I make a side of plain noodles with every meal. I admit I love to eat pistachios while reading late at night, and the sprinkles? Well, everything is better with sprinkles.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MA: I am working on the second book in the Professor Prather series, Passport to Murder, right now. It’s been great fun to spend time with the old characters and meet some new ones as well.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MA: I love the act of creating. When I walk downstairs to write, my daughters say I’m “going down into the rabbit hole,” and in many ways, they’re right. I feel a lot like Alice in Wonderland, escaping to a wonderful world of make believe.
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