I met my guest today by winning her book! Liz Mugavero’ latest release, “A Biscuit, A Casket” is the second in her ”Pawsitively Organic Mystery” series, published by Kensington Press. (No, not a typo; her main character makes organic pet foods, specializing in biscuits and cookies.) And I have to say I am quite impressed with this “Cozy” mystery.
Let’s talk life and writing with Liz:
First, congratulations on the success of the first in the series, “Kneading to Die”, which won a prestigious “Agatha Award”; how wonderful! What else have you had published?
Thank you! And thanks so much for having me, Tonette! (And so glad you’re enjoying the series.) Being nominated for an Agatha was so amazing…
Kneading is my first published novel, although I have written other novels, one of which is teetering on the precipice of publication – hopefully more to come on that soon. It’s a much darker story. Aside from that, I’ve had two short stories published, and a number of articles and essays.
And in September, I have a story in an anthology about rescue animals, which I’m very excited about. The story is told from my rescue cat Tuffy’s point of view, about how he came to move in. Tuffy is also the inspiration for Nutty, Stan’s cat in the Pawsitively Organic series.
Are there any other hats that you wear?
I work a day job. I’m a product marketer in financial services, which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. I also do some freelance blogging for a local travel blog. And I’m on the board of Safe Futures in New London, Conn., which is a domestic violence and sexual assault center, as well as a board member of Sisters in Crime New England.
You said that you wrote bad poetry as a teenager (!).Have you written any more? Have you ever written a play, song lyrics, non-fiction, any other form of writing? Are you concentration on Whodunits for now?
I never wrote a play, but I did sketch out a soap opera back when I was maybe 12 or 13, during my Days of Our Lives obsession. I had the town and a whole cast of characters! I haven’t written poetry in a long time, but I may make another attempt. I love to write essays, too. But mysteries are my passion.
Tell us a little about the Wicked Cozy Authors.
The Wicked Cozy Authors are an amazing group of women who I’m proud to call my friends and major support system. We blog daily, and along with me the group consists of Barbara Ross, Agatha-nominated author of the Maine Clambake Series as well as a standalone book, Death of an Ambitious Woman; Edith Maxwell, author of the Local Foods Mysteries who also writes under the name Tace Baker for her Speaking of Mysteries series; Jessie Crockett, author of the Sugar Grove Mysteries as well as her first novel, Live Free or Die; Sherry Harris, author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Series, coming in December; and Julie Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes, author of The Clock Shop Mystery Series, coming in 2015. As you can see, we’re a very accomplished (and busy!) bunch.
Liz, tell us about your day job and how/when you write. Didn’t “Stan”,[Kristan Connor, the protagonist of this series], leave pretty much the same type of job? (Wink!)
My day job, the aforementioned marketing position, keeps me pretty busy five days a week. I’m lucky enough that I can work from home at least once a week, which saves me commuting time (and gives me an extra hour of writing time, if I plan it right!) I have to get creative about writing time. I work in the mornings if I can, which is preferred but not always realistic considering the pets and trying to get ready for work etc. Usually I write at night and on the weekends.
My job is a little different from Stan’s – she was a high-level public relations executive who’s lived in the corporate world for about a decade. I came to the corporate world late – I’m only going on five years. And Stan got fired – which is something I hope to never experience!
Your stories have to be the first cozy mystery or romance I have read that shows a more realistic view of when someone walks into a small town and tries to fit in, especially if they have a new idea. Usually, if is the villain and maybe an old curmudgeon who oppose the ideas, but they are eliminated or eventually won over. Small towns don’t work like that You present a situation that is realistic, in that Stan had money to rely on and that her business is not an immediate success. That is so refreshing!
Have you had small-town experience? Are you a native New Englander?
I have lived in New England my entire life – Massachusetts, New Hampshire and now Connecticut, and mostly in smaller towns/cities. I understand how “us New Englanders” think – it’s not always easy to fit in and be welcomed with open arms! We’re suspicious by nature, and a bit crusty, I think. But at our core, we’re good people and we’ll eventually come around – IF we feel you can be trusted.
How did you come up with the name of “Frog Ledge” for the Connecticut town for the setting of this series? How did you come up with your characters’ names?
Frog Ledge is a hybrid of some real towns around where I live. One of the towns had a Revolutionary War history with frogs, and they have frog replicas all over the place – from the four huge frogs sitting atop the Frog Bridge to various spots along Main St. I figured it would be fun to incorporate the frogs into the town name, plus it was unique.
I was very much taken with your more-than-one-dimensional characters, particularly shown in Stan’s sudden awareness of Hal’s unfulfilled dreams when viewing his pictures. Where do you get your ideas for characters?
I love to observe people and figure out why they do the things they do – what motivates them to behave poorly? To behave well? Sometimes you’ll never know, but it’s fun to give them a story in that case. I think my characters end up as hybrids of people I know and people I may just be meeting for the first time and imposing my own views upon.
You speak a great deal about animal rights, not only for pets but all animals, especially farm animals. I admit you piqued the conscience of this omnivore. I fully support pescaterianism, vegetarianism and veganism; it may be only a matter of time with me to join the ranks. I have an easy entertaining and food blog where I often add vegan/vegetarian recipes or alternatives. Do you cook for your pets or for humans? (I used to make doggie biscotti for my late doggies. The cats never took to them!)
I’ll tell you my dirty little secret – I don’t cook that much. I just don’t have the time. I was lucky enough to find the folks at The Big Biscuit, a cool pet food store and bakery in Franklin, Mass., who helps with recipes. So when I try them out, the dogs love them! A couple of the cats, too, but they’re pretty picky. I’d love to cook all real food for my pets – someday, when I’m a full time writer.
As far as human food in my household, we are very health-conscious. We eat tons of vegetables and fruits, make organic smoothies every day, and don’t eat meat. We do eat some fish and organic eggs. We love wellness junkie Kris Carr and use a lot of her recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Although I am known to have a weakness for potato chips….
I know that you work with animal rescue; tell us a bit about it. I have so many friends involved in that work, including one who worked with Michael Vick’s victims. Between my family and I, we have rescued not only dogs and cats, but birds, a rat, a mouse, a rabbit, guinea pigs, a snake and a monkey.(He was the only one I couldn’t warm up to.) I have baby-sat everything from pot-bellied pigs, pygmy goats and lambs to ferrets, turkeys and iguanas, (he wasn’t easy to warm up to, but I did.)
I would love to hear about your friend who worked with the Vick dogs. I’ve been to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and know what an amazing place it is – I would’ve loved to have met those poor babies. I’ve been working in animal rescue for more than a decade now. I started off with two cats, then while I was in grad school I rescued a litter my mother found on the street. Like any average person who wants to help, I tried calling no-kill shelters in the area and was turned down repeatedly because it was kitten season, which at the time surprised me because I didn’t know anything about what cat rescuers were up against. At that point I didn’t know what to do with this adorable litter, but managed to place two of them and kept the other two, who I still have today.
Once I finished my degree I used my newfound spare time to volunteer at a local shelter – and I’ve never looked back. Today my house is full and since I don’t live near a lot of physical shelters, I don’t do in-person volunteering right now, but we help in any way we can by social media, transport efforts and helping stray or feral cats in the neighborhood.
We are members of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in New York also – what an amazing place. I think farm animals are awesome, and they deserve a happy life too. They have feelings just like dogs and cats do!
Here’s a soapbox….anything else you’d like to add?
Hmmm….I would just remind people to adopt, don’t shop, when looking for a new family member. Rescue pets are the greatest – and often, we are their only hope.
Thanks for having me, and for such a comprehensive interview!
You are so welcome, Liz! Thank you for being my guest and for your work for animals.Let me add,(at the risk of sounding like Bob Barker),PLEASE spay and neuter your pets.
You can reach Liz via :
Wicked Cozy Authors:http://wickedcozyauthors.com/
I hope many of you will stay to ask Liz a question or just to welcome her.