When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I was on a flight back from California, I had my husband and two pre-schoolers with me, and I’d just finished reading a book that I liked but didn’t feel the author tied up all the loose ends. The book was a mystery with strong romantic elements. I told my husband, “I think I could write a book like that.” And he said, “Then do it.” So I gave it a try.
At the time I wasn’t reading romances, but I soon discovered that’s what I liked writing. It took me 3 years and 8 months to learn the craft (many rejections along the way) before I received the call saying Harlequin wanted to buy my book.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
Eat Crow and Die is the third book in my P.J. Benson Mystery series. I ended the second book in the series, with P.J. at home, fearing she’s pregnant and her boyfriend Wade on Wade’s boat for a final fishing trip with his six-year-old son (before Wade’s ex took the boy out of state). I start Eat Crow and Die with that boat exploding on Lake Michigan. Wade and his son survive, but Wade’s ex and her new husband don’t. Wade is now the prime suspect in their murders.
It took me a long time to figure out how to plant a bomb on that boat without Wade knowing. I also had to research how Wade, being a sheriff’s deputy would be treated by the investigating sheriff’s deputies from another county, and how an underwater crime scene is handled. In the story I have a scene take place in a casino, so (of course) I had to visit a couple casinos to get the atmosphere right. J And I had to come up with reasons why others might want a bomb to go off on that boat. I can’t tell you all of the research I did without giving away part of the plot.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
A boat blew up not far from where we keep our boat in the summer. I have pictures from right after the explosion, and I visited the site the next day. Four people were on the boat when it exploded. Two were thrown in the water (a boy and a woman) and two were badly burned. One of those two died as a result of the accident. Although that boat was in a slip at the time and the explosion was due to improperly fueling the boat, it started me thinking about Wade and his boat, and what if it exploded? I really didn’t want his ex taking Wade’s son away from him. And that’s how the story started.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
The P.J. Benson Mysteries (The Crows, As the Crow Flies, and Eat Crow and Die) all take place in an area where I’ve lived for over forty years. South Haven, Michigan is a beautiful tourist location on the east side of Lake Michigan. Zenith (the village P.J. lives near) is fashioned after Climax, Michigan. It’s fun to use places I know in the story.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
In some ways P.J. thinks as I do, but both she and Wade are imaginary. They are bits of people I know or have met. The one thing about P.J. that’s very much me is she bought a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. When I started The Crows, I went out and bought a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. He grew up with the series. The sad part is my dog is now gone. Thank goodness P.J.’s dog is still alive and well.
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
My main block with Eat Crow and Die was coming up with a “How did they do it?” I couldn’t write the story until I knew. Otherwise, I rarely have writer’s block. If I find I can’t move forward with a story, it’s usually because I’m asking my characters to do something they wouldn’t do.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I’m very pleased how well Eat Crow and Die has been received. After As the Crow Flies was published, I had a lot of people wanting to know what happened next. Was P.J. pregnant? Did she get together with Wade? I was afraid they would be disappointed, but so far everyone’s been happy.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about boats, sheriffs, and mysteries?
I learned it’s nice when people want a follow-up book, but it sure puts pressure on you. I learned there is a place in southwest Michigan that trains explosive sniffing dogs, that a lot of old people spend hours and hours at casinos, and that people (law enforcement and coast guard auxiliary) are more than willing to answer questions. As far as writing mysteries, I always try to have a twist at the end. That’s not always easy. And readers of mysteries always try to guess who the villain is, so when they say I surprised them, I’m really happy.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
Ha. My writing space is a corner of our bedroom. It works because we now live in a condominium and it has to work. The positive is I can look out the window next to me and watch boats going up and down the river. The negative is I can look out the window and watch boats and people instead of writing.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
I like reading mystery/suspense. I like a fast read and one that has me guessing what’s going to happen next. On the other hand, my favorite books aren’t usually mysteries. The Secret Lives of Bees, Help, Room, To Kill a Mockingbird, and many more. I’m not sure why I like those books above others, but they are stories that I remember weeks, months, and years after I’ve read them. Most of the other books I read I forget in a week.
What are you working on now?
I just signed a contract for another suspense story that will be published by Five Star/Cengage/Gale. It’s totally different from the P.J. Benson Mysteries. The working title is Echoes of Terror and it should be out sometime in 2016. Right now I’m working on a short story that will feature P.J. and Wade. I’ll probably self-publish it.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
Well, I’ve written 25 romances and 5 mysteries so far. I like those two genres. I think I’ll stick with them.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
My dream job is being a writer. However, I also have a degree in art, and I love to paint, draw, and sculpt. So when I’m not writing, I’d be doing that.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Nowadays my biggest problem is finding uninterrupted time to write.
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
Of my books? I think right now my favorite heroine is from A Killer Past. Mary Harrington is an amazing woman. Even at age 74 she’s beautiful and poised. And she’s deadly.
About Maris: Maris Soule has had 4 mysteries and 25 category romances published. She’s a two time RITA finalist, as well as a winner and finalist in many other contests. Born and raised in California, Soule was working on a master’s degree in art history at U.C. Santa Barbara when she was swept off her feet by a red-head with blue eyes. The Soules now live in Michigan in the summer and Florida in the winter. She writes a weekly blog on writing (www.marissoule.com/blog/) and is on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For more information, visit her at www.MarisSoule.com.