Friday, October 10, 2008

Author Interview-Cricket McRae

Pat Stoltey, author of Prarie Grass Murders, recently interviewed fellow mystery author, Cricket McRae about her books and about writing. The interview originally appeared on the Sisters in Crime (Rocky Mountain Chapter) website.

Author of the
Home Crafting Mystery Series
Lye in Wait and
Heaven Preserve Us
by Midnight Ink Books



Q. Cricket, when did you first know you wanted to write?

A. When I was twenty-one, I casually jotted in a journal entry that one day I'd be a mystery writer. I remember exactly where I was sitting, and that I had to put my pen down afterward because it felt like something True, with a capital "T".

Q. Was Lye in Wait your first novel or do you have one or more unpublished manuscripts gathering dust on a shelf?

A. Lye in Wait is my second novel. My agent is still shopping the first one. Oh, there was that other "novel," the one I rewrote twenty times over the years, learning from my own boneheaded mistakes. I think of it more as training wheels than an actual novel. I'm pretty sure there isn't a single copy of it left. At least I hope not!

Q. According to your website bio, you're a former resident of the Pacific Northwest, also the setting for your home crafting series. Did you grow up in the Northwest, or have you lived in other parts of the country as well? And now that you've moved to Colorado, will your protagonist, Sophie Mae Reynolds, want to move?

A. I've lived in fifteen different towns, three of them twice. I was born in Laramie, Wyoming, went to high school in Wyoming, attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and moved around a lot in between. I love the Northwest, and so does Sophie Mae. But in Lye in Wait, Sophie Mae mentions her family in Colorado -- I wanted her to be originally from here so I could bring her back, even if it's only for a visit.

Q. Where did your interest in traditional homemaking crafts like canning and soap making originate? Did you have a farm background, with perhaps a grandmother skilled in home crafts?

A. My mom was very creative and encouraged me to try new things, but at heart she's a visual artist, and I can't paint worth a lick. My favorite books growing up were about the pioneers in the "olden days." The Laura Ingalls Wilder books have a ton of information about practical matters -- how to make cheese, a log cabin, a bentwood rocker. Fascinating. Who cared that Mary went blind or Pa got lost in a snowstorm? I wanted to know how to boil down maple syrup and pour tallow candles.

Q. Sophie Mae Reynolds is a well-drawn and likable character, realistic without being cynical, sensitive without being morose. Is she very much like yourself, or perhaps someone you know?

A. It's so nice to hear her described that way! Unfortunately, I'm probably far more cynical and morose than Sophie Mae. Sometimes that leaks in, and she gets a little too serious. Then I have to chuck her under the chin and cheer her up. She can be hard on people, and she comes from a background similar to mine so she's not terribly tactful; she'll come right out and say what she means and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable.

Q. Where do you write? When do you write? Do you have any quirky writing secrets you'd be willing to share?

A. I write a lot in my home office, though sometimes too many things around the house call to me, especially the garden. Then I take my laptop off to a coffee shop or the library. I guess the only quirky thing is sometimes when I get stuck on something I'll spin yarn or knit. It can be very meditative. Of course, pacing around and talking to myself like a lunatic works, too.

Q. What do you know about the writing process that you wish you'd known before you started Lye in Wait?

A. I know now that even when the words defy you, your characters thumb their noses and suddenly want to join the circus, and your muse goes on hiatus, it'll still work out fine. Just keep showing up at the keyboard.

Q. Do you belong to, or have you belonged to, a critique group? If so, tell us a little about that experience.

A. I'm lucky -- I've belonged to a terrific critique group for about four years now. There are only three of us, and I up and moved last year, so now we meet online for three hours every week, using Skype. We send out several pages ahead of time, and give detailed verbal critiques of each other's work, and then follow that up with commentary in electronic files. We help each other with everything from developing characters to the overall pacing of a book to verbiage and punctuation issues.

Q. What's next after Heaven Preserve Us? Do you have any other works in progress? Any thoughts of starting a new series?

A. I just finished the third Home Crafting Mystery, Spin a Wicked Web. It's about fiber art, and will be released in March, 2009. I haven't heard yet whether the Sophie Mae series will continue or not, but I have lots of ideas if it does. In the meantime, I'm putting together a proposal for another series, much grittier and set largely in Colorado.

Q. Your bio says you are "learning to hate the game of golf." Tell us why you decided to take up the game. And do you really hate it?

A. I was told golf is a good way to spend a relaxing afternoon. And really, how could getting a little bitty ball into a four-and-a-half-inch hole by hitting it repeatedly with a club be anything but relaxing? Right? So, I'm wildly inconsistent, which is frustrating, and no, I don't really hate it. Or if I do, it's a game I love to hate.

Q. What is your most favorite thing to do when you're not writing?

A. Home crafts! I do a lot of cooking and baking. I garden when the weather allows (and sometimes when it doesn't; I'm trying to grow mushrooms in inoculated sawdust in my office right now, but they don't seem to like the dry climate much). I make pasta and cheese, preserve veggies and herbs, make all our soap and many of our cleaning products. In the winter I knit and spin. I can't sew at all, though. Scares me silly.

Q. Tell us something about yourself that most SinC RMC members don't know.

A. How 'bout the fact that Cricket is a nickname? It has been for years, and it seemed like it would be more memorable than my own name on a book cover. It also reflects the light feel of the home crafting series, so I use the pseudonym as part of the branding. And I found out early on that once I introduce myself as Cricket, it gets really confusing if I don't stick with it! So a lot of people only know me as Cricket, and I'll always answer to it, but I'll also answer to Karye, which is the name on my birth certificate. Karye Cattrell.

~Interview by Pat Stoltey

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Sisters In Crime Website: www.sistersincrime.org

Cricket McRae Website: www.cricketmcrae.com

Pat Stoltey Website: www.patriciastoltey.com

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