I'm pleased to welcome Zara Keane to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Zara pens the Movie Club Mystery series. Dial P For Poison, the first book in the series, was released last week.
Kathy: Maggie Doyle has terrible baking "skills". What about you? Could you be a favored contestant on the Great British Bake Off, or are you more likely to burn the tent down?
ZK: I love baking! I’m not good enough for a Bake Off, but I enjoy making cakes. I’m less good with bread, though. Thankfully, my husband likes experimenting with bread recipes and picks up the slack.
Kathy: Maggie has a UFO-enthusiast friend. Do you believe in UFOs? Are you an enthusiast even if you don't quite believe?
ZK: No! I don’t believe in UFOs. I think there probably is life on other planets, perhaps in a form we can’t recognize, but I think most UFO sightings are likely to be man-made aircraft of some description. However, I’m all for people with geeky or unusual hobbies! If Lenny in the Movie Club Mysteries likes to hunt for UFOs in his spare time, then why not?
Kathy: Maggie's aunt owns the Movie Theater Café. Are you a film buff? What types of movies do you favor? Do you have a favorite film?
ZK: I’m a huge fan of old films. I find the classics from the silent era fascinating, as well as films right up to around the mid Sixties. As for favourites, several Hitchcock films spring to mind: Rebecca, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest. When I was brainstorming the concept for my cozy mystery series, I wanted the protagonist to share one of my interests. I toyed with the idea of making her a board game geek, but I decided to let that be one of Lenny’s hobbies (the UFO-enthusiast mentioned above), and roll with films as Maggie’s passion. All the titles in the series riff off classic film titles. Dial P For Poison was inspired by Dial M For Murder, and The Postman Always Dies Twice takes its name from The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
ZK: Mysteries are go-to pleasure reads, and cozy mystery is my favourite subgenre. I’m drawn to cozies because they have all the elements I enjoy in fiction: plenty of humour, little to no graphic violence, and character-driven stories. The best cozy series have a cast of characters I care about and can’t wait to revisit in subsequent books. I live slow-burn romantic arcs in cozies, but I don’t have to have them. It totally depends on the protagonist and the premise of the series.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
ZK: Yes! I write small town contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in Ireland. Like the cozies, they’re all heavy on the humour and focus on family and friends as well as the main couple. Love and Shenanigans, the first book in the Ballybeg series, is free on all major ebook stores if anyone wants to try it, but unlike my cozies, my romances do contain some sex and strong language.
Kathy: Tell us about your new cozy mystery series.
ZK: To escape her cheating ex and crumbling career in the San Francisco PD, Maggie Doyle moves to the Wild West…of Ireland. She takes a job in her aunt’s Movie Theater Café and finds her detective skills are required when one of the patrons winds up dead after drinking one of Maggie’s signature cocktails.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
ZK: Probably Maggie herself. Which is just as well given that the stories are told exclusively from her point of view! She makes me laugh and I see a lot of myself in her. Maggie says stuff that I might think but would never say out loud.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
ZK: I grew up in Dublin, but I spent my school breaks with my grandparents in a town very like Smuggler’s Cove on Whisper Island. There was an abandoned cinema at the far end of the town and my cousin and I used to sneak in and explore. I always wondered what it had looked like in its heyday, and I loved the idea of Maggie’s aunt renovating a movie theater and turning it into a café.
As for the inspiration for Maggie’s character, my mother is American and has several funny culture shock stories from when she first moved to Ireland. I incorporated some of those into the book. I wanted Maggie to be in the interesting, and at times contradictory, position of being both a fish out of water and accepted by the islanders as one of their own. She has family and old friends to reconnect with on Whisper Island, yet she’s still an outsider in many respects. This puts her in a unique position when it comes to investigating cases.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
ZK: I started writing with a view to publication in late 2009. By the time I had a couple of finished manuscripts out on submission, the indie publishing scene was taking off. I watched and learned from others, and finally decided to take the plunge in April 2013. I can’t remember what the catalyst was. I woke up one morning and decided to turn the three contemporary romances I’d written so far into a series. I worked like a demon for fifteen months and finally published Love and Shenanigans in May 2014. Dial P For Poison is my first cozy mystery, but my sixth published novel and thirteenth published story. Time flies!
I love the freedom of being indie. I can pick the editors and other publishing professionals I work with, and I can set my own schedule. I have three kids, one of whom has special needs, so having the flexibility to set my own deadlines is fantastic.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
ZK: Agatha Christie, without doubt. I’ve read that she based her mystery novelist character, Ariadne Oliver, on herself. If that’s the case, she’d make a fun dinner guest. I’d also like to meet Irish crime fiction author, Adrian McKinty, who writes the fabulous Sean Duffy series set in Belfast during the Troubles. Nora Roberts is another author I’d like to have dinner with. Like Agatha Christie, she has a fabulous work ethic, and has amassed a legion of loyal fans who love her books. As for a fourth…so hard to narrow it down to just four…I’ll go with cozy historical mystery author, Rhys Bowen. I’ve been reading her work since I discovered the Constable Evan Evans books in my local library and I’ve followed her from Evan to Molly Murphy and, most recently, to Lady Georgie.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
ZK: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James, the eighth book in her Cat in the Stacks mystery series. It’s a fun read.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
ZK: Sure! As I mentioned above, I love old films and I’m a total board game geek. We have…a lot. LOL!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
ZK: Coffee, juice, apples, and dark chocolate. The essentials in life!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
ZK: Yes! The second book in the Movie Club Mysteries is The Postman Always Dies Twice. It will be published a week after Dial P For Poison on the 20th of April. Book 3 in the series, How to Murder a Millionaire, will be out in June. Meanwhile, I’m writing an exclusive Movie Club Mysteries novella for my mailing list subscribers. The first episode of To Hatch a Thief will go out on the 18th of April. If you’d like to sign up for the episodes, here’s the link: https://zarakeane.com/newsletter2
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
ZK: Having the opportunity to write the sort of books I’d like to read. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kathy!