July 2002's Author! Author!

Carolyn Hart
(Chosen by Brenda Weeaks )

 
Accolades for Carolyn
By Brenda Weeaks, MyShelf.Com

Sometime ago I caught Dead Man's Island, a Henrie O "made for TV" movie, with William Shatner and Barbara Eden. Although I enjoyed the movie, I didn't get a round to picking up the mystery series. Later I caught sight of the Death on Demand series and gave it a try. This is when I became a true Hart fan.

The Death On Demand series had me considering Carolyn Hart as my choice for Author of the Month, but it was a recent book signing that cinched it. You see the author has to be more than a good writer for me to choose him or her as Author! Author! The DoD series, as I call it, is one of the best I've come across. It's refreshing, witty, and enjoyable. The characters are delightful and well-rounded -- the kind you can't help but like. I have some of the DoD books and am searching for the first in the series in hardback, first editions - a sure sign to my family that I admire a series. When I went to Carolyn's book signing to have April Fool Dead signed, I found the author to be calm, assured, and generous to a fault. I noticed she took the time to sign books both before and after the question and answer period. She was open and honest in her answers to the questions being asked and was especially generous to a couple of young writers quizzing her about the book business. Ms. Hart's work alone would have been enough for me to choose her as my Author of the Month, but it was the book signing that gave me the confidence to approach her and make it happen.

As we say around these parts, Carolyn G. Hart a darn good writer! I personally enjoy her writing style and think her Death on Demand mystery series is one of the best in the bookstores today. They hold plenty of entertainment minus the blood and gore - thank goodness. There are plenty of thrillers to choose from, but finding a clean, entertaining mystery that allows the mystery reader to join in can be difficult. At the moment, Carolyn is writing two mystery series.

Death on Demand Series: Annie Darling owns and operates Death On Demand, a mystery bookstore. The series is located on Broward's Rock, South Carolina. Max Darling is a P.I. of sorts. He doesn't have a P.I. License so he actually consults and counsels people on situations - tomatoes, tamatoes…. Anyway, these two sleuths, with the help of Max's mother, Laurel, and one of Annie's best customers, Henny, almost always set out to solve a simple mystery that results in some serious murder and mayhem. And let's not forget, where most cozies reside so do cats. Annie and Max have two -- Dorothy L who lives at home and Agatha who lives at the bookstore. If you are a true cozy mystery reader, this series will appeal to you for many reasons. The reason that stands out to me the most, beside the well-written storylines, are the mysteries mentioned within the mysteries. Hart generously mentions other mystery authors, their works, and even their sleuths' by name throughout this series. After I finish a Death On Demand episode, I head to my bookshelves to hunt down the titles mentioned in the mystery.

Henrie O Series: Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins (Henrie O), widow of Journalist Richard Collins, is a Retired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She's sixtysomething and now works as sleuth full of vim and verger, letting nothing and no one get in her way. Her character has been compared to the likes of Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher.

Now on to the interview!

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An Interview with the Author
By Brenda Weeaks

Brenda Weeaks: Hello Carolyn, welcome to MyShelf.Com. I have been a fan of your work for years.

Carolyn Hart: Thank you very much. I love writing and it is wonderful readers who make it possible for me to be a writer. I am profoundly grateful.

 

Brenda: Let’s go back to when you first began writing. Could you tell the readers how you first got into writing and about the first book you had published?

Carolyn: I studied journalism and was a reporter right after college. When I married and had children, I didn't want to return to newspapering because of the long hours. I'd always loved mysteries and remembered beginning with Nancy Drew. I saw a contest in The Writer Magazine for a book for girls ages 8 to 12. I decided to give it a try. The Secret of the Cellars won the contest and was published in 1964. It was my first book. April Fool Dead this spring is my 33rd.

 

Brenda: Can you remember when you realized your name and work sought attention?

Carolyn: It came as a huge and lovely surprise. Death on Demand, which was my 14th published mystery, was nominated for an Anthony for Best First Novel. That shows that my previous books had had no audience. So Book # 14 was the first to receive any attention.

 

Brenda: Most new writers pay over due bills or do something whimsical their first book advance. Me, I would move to a town with sidewalks and a bookstore. Were you serious or whimsical with your first advance? Can you elaborate?

Carolyn: My first earnings came during our lean years when we were first married. The money went into the common pot and was used for whatever we needed.

 

Brenda: How do you handle negative reviews or remarks about your work compared to when you first started writing?

Carolyn: Negative reviews were devastating when I first began. Now I pay no attention. I do not write for reviewers, I write for readers.

 

Brenda: Most authors have been known to take their titles from the storyline. Which come first for you -- the storyline or the title?

Carolyn: The title. I must have a working title before I begin a book. For example, my working title for the most recent Annie and Max - APRIL FOOL DEAD - was WHODUNIT DEAD. I still like that title best but my editor didn't care for it.

 

Brenda: What is the most unusual title you have come up with and not used?

Carolyn: Usually the working title is used. I don't recall any particular title that wasn't used.

 

About the Death On Demand series

Brenda: Where did the idea of the mystery bookstore and Annie come from?

Carolyn: I visited Murder by the Book in Houston, Texas in 1985 and that gave me the idea for setting a mystery in a mystery bookstore. Annie is very much patterned after my daughter Sarah, sweet and kind and energetic and always trying to do her best. Sarah has a fabulous sense of humor.

 

Brenda: Whenever I read a new installment of the book, I get the impression that you enjoy the bookstore scenes. Is the DOD store really your way of dealing with a hidden desire to run a mystery store of your own?

Carolyn: To be honest, I have no desire to run a bookstore. I think it would be exceedingly hard work and my idea of fun is resting in a hammock with a new mystery. What I do love is the mystery. I love talking about mysteries and remembering wonderful mysteries.

 

Brenda: After Sugarplum Dead, a new member is added to the Darling household. Is adding Rachel a way of bringing a young person in series without going through the pregnancy/baby storyline? Or are you contemplating a baby Darling later in the series?

Carolyn: You are very perceptive. Yes to the first and no to the second. I know that Annie and Max someday will have a beautiful blond daughter named MaxAnna, but while I am recording their adventures, they will always be young and happy and free of responsibility on their lovely sea island.

 

Brenda: In April Fool’s Dead is the mystery author taken from many authors you know, just one, or is she completely made up?

Carolyn: Hmmm, who's to say. I don't smoke or drink gin (or anything else), but Emma is a gruff version of me and her thoughts about writing reflect the actual process.

 

Brenda: In the DoD series, Laurel is my favorite character because I am basically a serious person, yet I tend to gravitate toward humor in life and in my writing. Who is your favorite lead, secondary or evil character and why?

Carolyn: Laurel. I have so much fun with Laurel. I am currently at work on a novella starring Laurel. It will be included in a Mother's Day anthology that HarperCollins will publish next spring.

 

Brenda: In the DoD series, other mysteries and authors are generously mentioned. I have a few questions about this. Have you ever heard from any of the authors you have mentioned?

Carolyn: Occasionally. They think it's fun.

 

Brenda: Have you ever been corrected or had requests to include certain titles or authors?

Carolyn: I've never been asked to include anyone. Sometimes I make mistakes. In April Fool Dead, I had a mind glitch and mentioned the wrong title as Mary Daheim's first in the B&B series. I am appalled because I know better and Mary is a good friend but she just laughed.

 

Brenda: Have you read the titles you mention or do you just look them up as need?

Carolyn: Most of the books I have read. If not, I am familiar with them through mystery sources.

 

Brenda: I recognized most of the titles, but have you ever slipped in some fake ones?

Carolyn: Only Emma Clyde's titles and I think also the books by the author character in The Christie Caper.

 

Brenda: The watercolor contest in DoD is ingenious. I enjoy reading and contemplating the descriptions. I have actually gotten some right. I look forward to discovering the mystery titles of the watercolors at the end of the book as well as the out come of the mystery.

Carolyn: I enjoy doing the watercolors. I decide what kind of books and reread all the titles before describing them.

 

Brenda: How you decide which books to use in for the watercolor contest?

Carolyn: Books I like.

 

Brenda: Have you ever slipped a phony or two in there to see if mystery buffs are paying attention?

Carolyn: No. I make enough enough mistakes without confusing all of us.

 

About the Henry O. series

Brenda: I haven’t read the Henry O. series, but I did see a movie from the series starring the Barbara Eden. It carried a definite cozy theme and the only scary scene I can recall was William Shatner in a bathing suit! Please tell us about the series.

Carolyn: Henrietta O'Dwyer (Henrie O) Collins is my answer to ageism. She is an older woman who has a taste for adventure and a talent for trouble. Although I always explain that Henrie O is taller, thinner, smarter and braver than I, she is the author.

 

Brenda: About the movie, how many are there?

Carolyn: Only the one.

 

Brenda: Did you take an active part in the making of the movie?

Carolyn: No. We had a chance to see some of the filming and that was lots of fun.

 

Brenda: Are there any more television movies in the works for either of your series?

Carolyn: No. I rather doubt it will happen. Hollywood isn't interested in older characters and I'm afraid Annie and Max are too wholesome.

 

Brenda: Will there be more of Henry O. or are you through with the series?

Carolyn: I'm uncertain. I will be talking to my editor about that soon.

 

About Your Mysteries

Brenda: Are you happy with the direction your mystery series have taken?

Carolyn: Oh yes. I've enjoyed both.

 

Brenda: Once a book has been published do you ever wish you had included or left out something or someone?

Carolyn: No. I don't go in for second guessing. What's done is done.

 

Brenda: Which characters do you find the hardest to evolve as a series grows -- the serious or lighthearted ones?

Carolyn: Both are a challenge.

 

Brenda: Do family members read your series and comment to you about them?

Carolyn: My family has always been incredibly supportive. They love the books and I love them.

 

About Writing and Publishing

Brenda: I once read that Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) chose Anne’s character from a real life experience she had scribbled down and hid in a secret place. Do you have a way of collecting story ideas? And have you ever taken any ideas from the headlines?

Carolyn: Ideas come from everywhere and often a news story will prompt a book.

 

Brenda: I once heard you speaking to a couple of young writers – you were generous in your knowledge and gave them some advice. One piece of advice was “write what you know.” Can you give the budding writers reading this interview some advice on getting published?

Carolyn: Never give up. Write the best book you can write then hunt for an agent. While the agent offers the book, start the next one.

 

Brenda: Do you agree with Tom Clancy that getting published is part luck?

Carolyn: Very much so.

 

About You and Reading

Brenda: What are your reading preferences in books, magazines, and newspapers.

Carolyn: Mysteries. Local newspaper. Wall Street Journal. The Island Packet. (Hilton Head)

 

Brenda: When you walk into a bookstore, what is the first section you go to?

Carolyn: Mystery.

 

Brenda: After 9/11/2002 I went to my bookshelf for comfort. What did you do? If reading was a comfort, what did you lean to the most?

Carolyn: Patricia Wentworth. I read at least 15 of her titles.

 

Brenda: What is your strangest or funniest book signing story?

Carolyn: My signings have all been very pleasant.

 

Brenda: I recall you mentioning a Historical Mystery at one of your book signings. Can you tell us about it and when it will be available?

Carolyn: Letter From Home is the story of Gretchen Gilman in the summer of 1944. Gretchen is working on her hometown newspaper. A murder occurs on the street where she lives. The book tells the effect of that crime on her life and on the town. It has been bought by Berkley and I don't know the pub date yet.

 

Brenda: Carolyn you have been a good sport! Thank you for the interview via email. Let’s close by telling readers where they can find you site and contact you.

Carolyn: My site is www.CarolynHart.com and there is a place to email me there.

Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your site. And thanks for liking the books. Best regards - Carolyn

Note:
Wentworth's titles can be found at Amazon.Com
The Island Packet. (Hilton Head)
The Wall Street Journal

Reviews Of Sugarplum Dead and April Fool Dead

April Fool Dead
A Death on Demand Mystery, No 13
By Carolyn Hart
William Morrow & Co - March 2002
ISBN: 0380977745 - Hardcover
Cozy Mystery / Amateur Sleuth

Reviewed by: Brenda Weeaks, MyShelf.Com
Buy a Copy

Max and Annie Darling are back for their thirteenth mystery. The award-winning series has a cozy reputation in the mystery genre. The Dead On Demand bookstore is getting ready for an April Fool's Day book signing with South Carolina's local mystery writer, Emma Clyde. She is entertaining and flamboyant in starkly colored caftans and multi-colored hairdos, but she isn't behind the strange things concerning her signing at the store . . . or is she?

As usual, the tale begins with the introduction of the characters and a hint of the storyline. Right away odd things begin to happen. First, the mysterious skywriting of Emma's mystery title, Whodunit. Next, flyers looking just like Annie's advertising the signing and contest show up, but these flyers are cruel and refer to possible crimes by local people. Annie wonders if it's all "for real" or part of an April Fools joke. It's no joke when the strange happenings lead to murder and the young Chief accuses Annie of it. Laurel and Henny play a large part in this mystery, while the cats, Agatha and Dorothy L, lay low. Laurel lightens the mystery up a bit, but I have to say the funniest scene in this one is at the very end.

My favorite things about the DoD series concern Annie's mystery book store - the cups labeled with mystery titles and author names, the watercolor paintings with famous mystery scenes used in contests (I actually guessed two right!), the references to seasonal and holiday mysteries, and the often mentioned and comparison of other mystery authors and series when the characters are sleuthing. Reading a Death on Demand mystery always sends me back to the mystery shelf with another list of mysteries to try.


Sugarplum Dead
A Death on Demand Mystery, No. 12
By Carolyn Hart
William Morrow & Co - Nov. 2000 - ISBN: 0380977729
Avon - Oct. 2001 - ISBN: 038080719X
Cozy Mystery / Amateur Sleuth

Reviewed by: Brenda Weeaks, MyShelf.Com
Buy a Copy

Sugarplum Dead is twelfth in the Death On Demand series - a series starring Annie and Max Darling. Max is a P.I. Annie runs a bookstore. Max's mother and one of Annie's customers, Henny, sometimes help them.

Annie and Max are ready for Christmas. Annie has a host of holiday mysteries and a new watercolor contest for her customers, and Max has checked off the last of Annie's gifts on his list. Max's mother, Laurel has her own yuletide fun going on, and although Annie has always considered her flighty, she is certainly not spaced out, yet that is the impression the island is gets when Laurel is seen talking to a steering wheel shaped gravestone in the cemetery. When a long lost relative of Annie's arrives she hears the name of Dr. Swanson again. She is prompted by others to check him out. The simple investigation leads to trouble for the family of a famous old star by the name of Marguerite Dumaney Ladson. Max and Annie agree to go to Marguerite's birthday bash. While there, they meet Marguerite's bitter adult stepchildren and discover that both Laurel and Marguerite have fallen for the new age nonsense of Swanson. Before long, strange behavior leads to murder. The Ladson and Darlings find themselves yuletide high in troubles and there will be nothing Merry about Christmas until everything is resolved.

Hart has a way of starting her mystery, a way of leading the reader to something more diabolical, and a way of bring the story back to the beginning. The mystery starts with a prologue, introducing everyone to the reader. This is very smart, especially if there are many characters. Another smart move is the way Hart starts off with a simple mystery and leads the readers into something more deceptive and exciting. In this one, it's the mystery of who Dr. Emery Swanson and his Evermore Foundation is. When the mystery has been solved, usually at the very end, it's clear and concise. In this chapter of the award-winning series, readers can, again, expect to be entertained with plenty of twists and turns by some of mystery genre's best characters.

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Brenda Weeaks is the creator and owner of MyShelf.Com


Booklist

List accumulated from Carolyn Hart's website.
HENRIE O series
Dead Man's Island, 1993
Scandal in Fair Haven, 1994
Death in Lovers' Lane, 1997
Death in Paradise, 1998
Death on the River Walk, 1999
Resort to Murder, 2001
DEATH ON DEMAND series
Death on Demand, 1987
Design for Murder, 1988
Something Wicked, 1988
Honeymoon With Murder, 1989
A Little Class on Murder, 1989
Deadly Valentine, 1990
The Christie Caper, 1991
Southern Ghost, 1992
Mint Julep Murder, 1995
Yankee Doodle Dead, 1998
White Elephant Dead, 1999
Sugarplum Dead, 2000
April Fool Dead, 2002
NON-SERIES
Flee from the Past, 1975 --reprint 1998
A Settling of Accounts, 1976
Escape from Paris, 1982
The Rich Die Young, 1983 -- reprint, 2000
Death by Surprise, 1983 --reprint, 2000
Castle Rock, 1983 -- reprint, 2000
Skulduggery, 1984 -- reprint, 2000
The Devereux Legacy, 1986 --reprint 1999
Brave Hearts, 1987 --reprint 1999
NOVELS FOR CHILDREN
AND YOUNG ADULTS

The Secret of the Cellars, 1964
Dangerous Summer, 1968
No Easy Answers, 1970
Rendezvous in Veracruz, 1972
Danger, High Explosives!, 1972
OTHERS
Love & Death, 2001 (anthology edited by Ms. Hart)
The Sooner Story, 1890-1980, with Charles F. Long, 1980
Crime On Her Mind, 1999 (short story anthology)
Crimes Of The Heart, 1995 (anthology edited by Ms. Hart)

 

2002's Honorary List

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