A Conversation with Author Maggie King

IR- What does it mean to you to be called an author?  

MK- It’s thrilling! I get to meet readers and talk about books. I belong to a writing community and writers, librarians, and booksellers are the best people on earth. I sit at signing tables, go to conferences, and participate in panel discussions and readings. And people buy my books! Being called an author is truly an honor.


IR- Can you tell us a bit about the story and its main characters? 

MK- When romance author Hazel Rose is dropped by her publisher, she sees herself heading down a path strewn with has-been authors. While disappointed, Hazel won’t give up without a fight—she signs up for a mystery-writing class, thinking that crime fiction will jumpstart her career.

But what’s a mystery-writing class without a mystery? So when Randy Zimmerman, an obnoxious classmate given to laughing at others’ expense, is murdered, Hazel tackles the case. Solving a real-life murder will surely lend authenticity to her creative writing.

She recruits her book group pals to help with the investigation. Trouble is, there are more suspects than they bargained for—even Hazel herself, who endured Randy’s thumbs-way-down review of her writing, had a motive.

A second body drives the stakes higher, and Hazel doubles her efforts to find who’s behind the murders, unearthing secrets that a killer would go to any lengths to keep hidden.

***

Besides being a murder mystery, Laughing Can Kill You is a story about writers, where they are on their writing paths, and the ups and downs they experience throughout their careers. How do writers cope with the vagaries of the publishing industry? How do some writers stay on top, continuing to publish bestsellers year after year? Do writers really need to spend copious amounts of time on social media?

Main Characters

Hazel Rose – Hazel writes romances for the baby boomer set. Until recently, she was considered a bestselling author. Sales for her latest haven’t been impressive and her publisher dropped her, so she’s transitioning into the mystery genre. Romantic mysteries. After all, most mysteries have romance, and most romances have mystery.

Hazel is a founding member of the Murder on Tour book group and over the years has bonded with the members. They love reading and talking about books. After four failed marriages—yes, four! —she’s happily married to Vince. They live in Richmond, Virginia, with two mischievous and lovable cats.

Vince Castelli – the love of Hazel’s life and her best friend. After a few years of an on-again, off-again romance, they married in Costa Rica. He’s a retired homicide detective with the Richmond Police Department and now writes true-crime accounts. Hazel loves talking with him, especially about murder!

Lucy Hooper – Hazel’s cousin, second best friend, and partner in crime solving. Lucy is cool, calm, and collected, qualities that account for her success in managing a successful placement firm. When Hazel moved to Richmond from California, she and her cat camped out with Lucy. They all thought it would be a temporary arrangement, but Hazel and kitty stayed for five years! Lucy later married Dave Considine, an attorney and musician. They were happy together, but she recently discovered something disturbing about him.

IR- If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together? 

MK- I would love to get together with Hazel Rose. We would meet for coffee or lunch and talk for hours. We would attend the ballet and the art museum.

IR- Tell us about a favorite character from the book.

MK- Claudia Marlowe is a successful mystery author, having published twenty-three books in her police procedural series. Readers cheerfully stand in long lines at her signings. She’s teaching the mystery-writing class that Hazel and some of the Murder on Tour book group members are taking.

Hazel and Claudia knew each other as children in New Jersey. When they meet up decades later in Virginia, they occasionally have lunch together. But Claudia is a woman of mystery, full of secrets, and often hotheaded. Her husband has seemingly disappeared. She and the victim have history (mysterious, of course), and she assaults him in a public place hours before he’s killed. What’s going on with Claudia?

IR- How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block? 

MK- I’m not usually blocked for ideas, but sometimes I have trouble with the actual writing. The words don’t flow smoothly, they’re wooden, stilted. Boring. And there are those sticky plot points. So I do something else for a while, like walking, pulling weeds, cooking. 

Distractions can be a problem. They don’t necessarily block me, but they disturb my flow. Then there’s social media, emails. I’m getting better at managing my time, but it’s an ongoing process. 

IR- What inspired the idea for your book?

MK- Headlines and news accounts are a wealth of ideas. This headline grabbed my attention at once: “FBI: Cruise Ship Passenger Killed Wife Because ‘She Would Not Stop Laughing at Me’”

The article reported that a Utah man was charged with killing his 39-year old wife aboard an Alaskan cruise ship. When asked by a witness why he had attacked his wife, he responded: “She wouldn’t stop laughing at me.”

What kind of life did this couple lead at home in Utah? Did the wife often laugh at her husband? Their stunned neighbors described them as the “perfect” couple, celebrating an anniversary at sea. They gave no hints of the horror to come. Really?

People don’t like to be ridiculed. Laughter has been the motive for many a murder. In Laughing Can Kill You, the victim was given to freely laughing and may, just may, have laughed at the wrong person.  

IR- What are you working on in the near future? 

MK- A couple of mystery short stories that feature Hazel Rose.

IR- What is the first book that you remember reading? 

MK– The Hidden Staircase, my first Nancy Drew adventure. It wasn’t the first book I read, just the first I remember. Like with many authors, Nancy Drew started me on my writing journey.

IR- What is an underrated book, series or author that you think everyone should read at least once?

MK- Dianne Emley and Linda L. Richards are gifted mystery writers with impressive bibliographies.

 IR- Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests? 

MK-Walking, working out at the gym, TV mysteries, theatre, cooking, cats.

IR- If you had your own talk show, what would the topic be and who would be your first guest(s)?

MK- Books, books, books! Oprah and Reese Witherspoon would be naturals as my first guests.

IR- Describe yourself in as few words as possible. 

MK- Caring, courageous, flexible, resourceful.

IR- Where did you come up with the names in the story? 

MK- For the most part, names simply come to me. Perhaps I hear a first name or read a last name and put them together. The names need to sound right and need to suit the character. I picked Hazel Rose for my main character because I liked it. I try not to use two similar names, at least not in the same scene. 

While watching either Little Shop on the Corner (1940) or The Philadelphia Story (1940), I saw the name Wade Rubottom in the credits. He was an associate art director for many films in the thirties and forties. I thought, “What a great name for a character” and I christened one of the Murder on Tour book group members Sarah Rubottom.

Kat Berenger’s (recurring series character) full name is Katrina Alexandra Berenger. Katrina Alexandra was the name of a very interesting teacher I had in high school. Kat is a logical diminutive of Katrina and also reflects the character’s love of leopards. I like the actor Tom Berenger—so that’s how I cobbled together the name Kat Berenger. 

IR- Who is your audience? 

MK- My ideal reader is anyone with a strong sense of justice who likes solving puzzles and expects strong women characters. 

IR- What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? 

MK- Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Read a variety of authors and genres. Pick two or three authors whose style you like and study how they structure their stories and create characters. I studied Gillian Roberts’s Amanda Pepper series.

I met author James Pendleton while I was working on my first mystery. I’ll never forget his words: “Don’t ever let anyone discourage you.” I might tag on “including yourself” to his sage advice that I would share with new writers. 

IR- What has been your favorite reader feedback?

 MK – A woman at church approached me, a copy of Murder at the Moonshine Inn in hand. She opened the book to her favorite character description: “Her eyes looked like she’d wrung the blue color out of them.”

IR- How do you interact with your readers? 

MK- At present, it’s on Facebook, Instagram. and my newsletter. Pre-pandemic, at conferences, book festivals, and signings. 

IR- What is your all-time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing? 

MK- I can’t possibly pick one, and many have influenced me. I consider Gillian Roberts and Joan Smith my mentors for the mystery genre. Anne Tyler, Herman Wouk, and Susan Howatch are/were skilled at writing page-turners.

IR- What do you look for in a story as a reader? 

MK- Good writing, a compelling plot, and interesting characters. I read all kinds of crime fiction (no psychopaths, please!), literary fiction, biography, and some non-fiction.

IR- What would the title of your autobiography be? 

MK- I Did It My Way. Not the most original, but definitely fitting.

IR- What is your author’s spirit animal? 

MK- The cat, most definitely. My two are my muses.

IR- How do you interact with your readers? 

MK- At present, it’s on Facebook, Instagram. and my newsletter. Pre-pandemic, at conferences, book festivals, and signings. 

IR- What is your all-time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing? 

MK- I can’t possibly pick one, and many have influenced me. I consider Gillian Roberts and Joan Smith my mentors for the mystery genre. Anne Tyler, Herman Wouk, and Susan Howatch are/were skilled at writing page-turners.

IR- What do you look for in a story as a reader? 

MK- Good writing, a compelling plot, and interesting characters. I read all kinds of crime fiction (no psychopaths, please!), literary fiction, biography, and some non-fiction.

IR- What would the title of your autobiography be? 

MK- I Did It My Way. Not the most original, but definitely fitting.

IR- What is your author’s spirit animal? 

MK- The cat, most definitely. My two are my muses.

IR- If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past or present) who would they be and what do you think you would all talk about during lunch? 

MK- Agatha Christie, Anne Perry, and Karen Karbo. We would discuss the craft of writing and how the world has changed for writers in recent years. Much time would be spent on the fact that authors are now expected to promote their own work and be on social media 24/7.

IR- If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters? 

MK-Hazel Rose would be played by Melina Kanakaredes (Providence, CSI: NY). I haven’t yet cast the other characters and must give the matter some thought. Lucy Hooper has the look of Lauren Bacall, but not the voice.

IR- If you went on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go? 

MK-I would love to tour Scotland and England, including the Shetland Islands, with M. C. Beaton.

IR- If you knew you could not fail, what would you do? 

MK- Be a pop-rock star. A lofty ambition for an introvert who can’t carry a tune!

IR- How do you define success as an author? 

MK- Publishing a story that people actually read! Also, being able to participate in events where I meet readers, sign with other authors, sit on panels, and speak about writing. 

IR- What difference do you see between a writer and an author? 

MK- To me, an author is a published writer. A writer is someone who writes, published or not. 

About The Book

Laughing Can Kill You: A Hazel Rose Book Group Mystery

He who laughs last, laughs longest.

Unless he’s dead.

When romance author Hazel Rose is dropped by her publisher, she sees herself heading down a path strewn with has-been authors. While disappointed, Hazel won’t give up without a fight—she signs up for a mystery-writing class, thinking that crime fiction will jumpstart her career.

But what’s a mystery-writing class without a mystery? So when Randy Zimmerman, an obnoxious classmate given to laughing at others’ expense, is murdered, Hazel tackles the case. Solving a real-life murder will surely lend authenticity to her creative writing.

She recruits her book group pals to help with the investigation. Trouble is, there are more suspects than they bargained for—even Hazel herself, who endured Randy’s thumbs-way-down review of her writing, had a motive.

A second body drives the stakes higher, and Hazel doubles her efforts to find who’s behind the murders, unearthing secrets that a killer would go to any lengths to keep hidden.

Will Hazel succeed? Or will this be “The End” for her?

Purchase Links:

Amazon    Universal Book Link (ebook)    Barnes & Noble (print)     Bookshop.org (print)    GoodReads Link       Kobo

About the Author

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries. Her short stories appear in various anthologies, including the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of CabernetDeadly Southern Charm, Murder by the Glass, and Death by Cupcake.

She is a member of James River Writers, International Thriller Writers, Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a founding member of Sisters in Crime Central Virginia, where she manages the chapter’s Instagram account.

Maggie graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Business Administration and has worked as a software developer and a retail sales manager. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and two indulged cats. When Maggie isn’t writing she enjoys reading, walking, cooking, traveling, movies, British TV shows, and the theatre. Visit Maggie at www.maggieking.com

Author Links:

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