*Looking for a little mystery? Check out this exclusive interview with Maggie Barbieri and come back next week for a chance to enter a TEN book giveaway and win an copy of Maggie’s book, Final Exam!
Maggie Barbieri is the author of a Murder Mystery Series: Murder 101, Extracurricular Activities, Quick Study, & Final Exam. Her latest novel in the set, Third Degree, will be available this November. Maggie is a freelance college textbook editor when not writing mysteries and helping her main character, Alison Bergeron, solve homicides and develop a relationship with an NYPD Detective. Presently, Maggie lives in New York with her two kids, husband, and one very needy West Highland Terrier.
1) How did you get started in publishing, how long did it take to publish your 1st book?
Actually, my publishing roots are deep. I started as an editorial assistant in the college textbook division of Macmillan Publishing Company back in 1985, when Wang computers were all the rage and women wore short skirts and shoulder pads. I left college publishing in 1999 after having my second child and started a freelance textbook editing business, which I’ve been doing ever since. Just around the time I was approaching a significant birthday, I decided that the idea for a mystery series that had been rattling around in my head for about a decade had to be written, so I took about six months and wrote “Murder 101.” It went through several revisions before I sent it to an agent who took me on as a client. So, long story short, from beginning to end? About a year and a half from when I started writing to when I got signed by Minotaur Books.
2) What things do you wish you would have known?
I had a pretty good handle on the publishing business because even though textbooks aren’t sexy at all, there are parallels between the development and publication of a textbook and a novel. One thing I wish I had known, or researched better, was how to effectively promote the book but I learn from other authors and get a sense of what’s effective and what’s not.
3) Who has been your biggest influence?
The biggest influence on my writing has been a professor I had almost thirty years ago with whom I took a poetry writing class. He really encouraged me to pursue my dream and write anything my heart desired. Interestingly, I’m not a poet nor do I write any poetry, but he planted the seed and gave me the confidence to go forward.
4) What is your best author experience so far?
I signed stock at a bookstore in Manhattan for “Murder 101” and just as I was about to put my pen away, the manager of the store came over and asked, “Would you sign this book to Michael Connelly?” Being a huge Connelly fan, I couldn’t have been more pleased or flattered. It didn’t occur to me until later that the “Michael Connelly” who wanted the book signed might not have been the writer, but for the moment, I was very happy.
5) What do you when you’re not helping your main character, Allison, solve murders?
I am working at my “day job,” as a freelance college textbook editor. I also have a husband, two children, and a dog, so things never get slow around here.
6) Have you ever had trouble writing? What do you do?
I usually step away from the computer and go for a walk. Or, I listen to some of Alison Bergeron’s favorite songs. She, like me, loves disco music.
7) Do you have any book promotion tips?
I find that going to mystery conventions, where you can really connect with other writers and fans, is a great way to promote. The mystery community is a very warm and inviting place and being able to spend time with people who have read your books, and even those who haven’t, is a great way to promote your books or series.
8 ) Tell me about your current book, Final Exam:
Alison Bergeron is tapped to replace a resident director for one of the dorms on the campus of St. Thomas University where she teaches, putting a serious crimp in her social life and her romance with Detective Bobby Crawford. St. Thomas is a dry campus and doesn’t allow overnight visitation by members of the opposite sex. Upon her arrival, Alison discovers that all is not how it appears as a brick of heroin is found in the toilet in her new “suite” of rooms. (You’ll have to read the book to find out exactly how Alison finds a brick of heroin stuffed deep into the plumbing of her toilet.) Alison’s quest to find the new resident director—and return to her normal life—takes on a new urgency as it is revealed that Wayne Brookwell, the RD, wasn’t the “cool” guy that everyone in the building claims he was. Or was he?
9) What is in store for the next book in the Murder 101 Series?
Alison’s string of bad luck continues as she wanders into town one muggy August morning and gets into the middle of an argument between the village’s Department of Public Works boss and a local, vitriolic blogger. When the argument turns deadly, Alison finds herself investigating just who would want one of the men dead and how she is connected to the events of that morning.
10) Authors become attached to their characters after one book. What’s it like after writing five? Allison Bergeron must have her own room by now.
My husband says that Alison is my alter ego, just with a more extensive shoe collection (which is kind of hard to accomplish, really—I guess that’s why they call it “fiction”). I am constantly thinking about Alison and her cronies—Max, Fr. Kevin, and Fred—and what situations they might find themselves in.
11) Murder Mystery novels. After writing so many of them, does it make you want to look over your shoulder…for a handsome detective?
I never stop concocting mysteries in my head and it’s become kind of a family joke. I entertain my kids by making up mysterious circumstances for people passing us by in the mall, or sitting across from us in a restaurant. My mind is constantly working overtime and some of my best ideas come when I least expect them. Oh, and by the way, I’m married to a handsome school teacher so no handsome detectives need apply.