I'm pleased to welcome Morgan C. Talbot to the blog today. Morgan pens the Moorehaven Mystery series. SMUGGLERS AND SCONES is the first book in the series and was released last month.
Kathy: In SMUGGLERS AND SCONES we meet Pippa Worthy who runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast. Is Moorehaven based on an actual house, or is it purely fictional?
MCT: It’s based on my love of Victorian homes in general—when I was twelve, I convinced my mom to help me measure the exact dimensions of all the rooms in a Victorian house because I wanted to draw an exact floor plan out of sheer, geeky curiosity. But I did see a picture for a mansion for rent on the East Coast, and it had three turrets. The not-quite-symmetry felt like a great match to a quirky little town where people die a little more often than they’re supposed to.
Kathy: At Moorehaven guests come there to write their own crime novels. Have you ever attended writing retreats or gone away to work on your own writing?
MCT: If you count the coffee shop downtown, then yes, I get away twice a week! I guess that, since I tend to zone out pretty heavily when I write, I haven’t specifically sought out a proper writing retreat yet. When I do get away, I do things like put on headphones and zone out in hotel rooms, by pools, in guest rooms, etc. I can always write when I travel, and sometimes, my writing is my retreat from the travel. I’m pretty introverted, and every now and again, I just need to take a break from all the festivities and go hang out with my characters.
Kathy: I've always been fascinated with Prohibition. If you were alive at that time in history, do you think you'd have been going to speakeasies?
MCT: Speakeasies were bastions of equality. They were some of the earliest places that women and African-Americans were allowed to drink in public with white guys. That’s probably just the greedy owners being practical, but it had an effect on society, and once a thing has been experienced, no one can truly wipe it from memory or existence. I’d definitely have gone, if just to say I’d been there, and I bet I’d have met plenty of like-minded folks there, too.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MCT: My favorite part of the cozy is the everyday female sleuth. My first lady sleuths were Miss Marple and Mrs. Pollifax. They’re so fearless, taking off on trips and spotting something amiss and just diving right in. I relish the idea that a woman can go anywhere and do anything, even interact with dangerous criminals, and succeed with the power of her own cleverness. The concept that a woman’s brain is her sharpest weapon is delightful. And true.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MCT: I have a couple of epic fantasy series out there, under the pen name Jasmine Giacomo. My series genre ideas tend to tag team me.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
Moorehaven Mysteries, this newest series, follows Pippa Winterbourne, owner of Moorehaven B&B, which caters exclusively to mystery writers and their works in progress. Moorehaven was once the home of world-famous author A. Raymond Moore, so the town of Seacrest is well-steeped in the lore of his books and the tricky ways of murder. I also include some recipes that the B&B serves, as well as a historical tie-in to the plot: in Smugglers & Scones, the historical period involves Prohibition. In the upcoming sequel, we go back a bit farther.
My previous mystery series, Caching Out, follows Margarita and Bindi—her Aussie roommate—as they tackle murders in their small Oregon town with the skills they learned from their hobby of geocaching: clues can hide in plain sight, and sometimes you just need to dig a little deeper to find the answer.
My first fantasy series, Immortality Archive, follows a 15-year-old archivist with eidetic memory as she struggles to understand the true motives of her jaded guide, an immortal woman named Meena, who drags her, a young prince, and his bodyguard halfway around the world to the distant land where Meena’s secrets—and enemies—lie in wait, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
My second fantasy series, Seals of the Duelists, follows Bayan, a lad groomed for farming rice who discovers at the worst possible moment that he can wield magic. He’s taken to the heart of the empire and enrolled in the Duelist Academy, where he meets friends and enemies, and discovers that his magic is not quite like everyone else’s, and that his exalted status is not the gift it seems. As the series progresses, he and his classmates find their true power in unexpected places and learn that power is not what they thought it was.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MCT: Right now, my favorite character is Pippa. Every main character I write, I spend so much time with that we feel like best friends. I used to be BFFs with Marg and Bindi, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. They’re still awesome and clever and hilarious, but I guess I’ve changed in the years since I created them, so Pippa is different from them in a way that reflects that. Pippa is practical, and I’m really not, so I created her as a purposeful foil to my own thought processes. I’m more like the authors that Pippa shepherds, but I can still think like her, so in a way, I’m training myself to be Pippa. It’s working well. She’d be proud of me.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MCT: I grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and we’d drive out to the coast on summer weekends all the time. I love the smell of the cool salt air, the swooping curves of the sandy, gray-gold beaches and the sharp humps of endless headlands along the shore, the singing sand dunes with their sharp-bladed grasses, the shells and jellies that wash ashore. The Pacific along the Oregon Coast was my very first ocean, and it’s near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share its unique qualities with everyone.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MCT: Having a second child made me want to hold onto something of my own. I’d been writing again since my first was born, so I decided to work at improving my writing and, eventually, to find someone to publish something of mine. Over the next few years, I met some wonderful people in the industry, and I connected with Red Adept Publishing. I figured I’d send in my first mystery and see if they wanted to work with me, and they did! I’ve been very happy with them ever since.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MCT: Agatha Christie, for sure—her idea organization method is like mine, but I have so many more questions. And J.R.R. Tolkien, father of modern fantasy novels and linguistic genius. Lois McMaster Bujold, science-fiction and fantasy author, whose grasp of the written word makes me read with actual glee. And Dorothy Gilman, who gave strong women adventures they could handle.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MCT: I’m between cozies right now, because I’m in the middle of writing my own—the sequel to Smugglers & Scones—and while I’m in this creative mindset I don’t want to be picking up ideas that aren’t mine.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MCT: I enjoy a bit of amateur photography. I take pictures that fit my perspective: close up and from interesting new angles. I like finding the texture of a thing without touching it. From there, I can let my imagination do the rest.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MCT: Pickles, sweet potato fries, some kind of Tinkyada gluten-free pasta (best texture ever!), and Cheerios.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MCT: I’m planning to write at least four books in the Moorehaven Mysteries series, because I’ve come up with ideas for them already. I’m halfway through writing the second book right now.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MCT: I get to daydream and people-watch. Of course, I daydream of twisty murder schemes and hilarious socially awkward moments, and I people-watch for interesting details that stand out to me, and for traits and behaviors I might want to steal, for good or ill. But this is how I see my world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
SMUGGLERS AND SCONES by Morgan C. Talbot
The First Moorehaven Mystery
Pippa Worthy runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.
Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.