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An Interview with Author Marcia Rosen

Marcia Rosen is an award-winning author of eleven fiction and nonfiction books. Writing as M. Glenda Rosen she published several series including the Senior Sleuths and the Dying To Be Beautiful mysteries. Her newest novel, Murder at the Zoo (Artemesia Publishing, March 2023), is the first book in the Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, & Me cozy mystery series. You’ll find Marcia on her website at Visit her Amazon author page for many of her books.

Please tell us about Murder at the Zoo.
A body is tossed into the lion’s habitat at the zoo where Miranda Scott is the senior vet. She and Detective Bryan Anderson join forces to unravel that mystery and several more murders. A fan since childhood of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes, they seem to live in her head, frequently telling her what to do…and not do. Murders, family, deceit, revenge and a gangster father and godfather often get in the way of a fine romance between Miranda and the detective.

What is the driving force to write cozy mysteries over other types of writing?
In what I consider my BOLD THIRD ACT, I decided to experiment with writing a different type of mystery. It was very fun for me to create along with some new projects I’ll tell you about later in the interview.

What makes Murder at the Zoo different from the novels in your other mystery series?
They are not cozies. Zoo is also the only one that takes place in New Mexico, but my novels are more similar than not. They all offer a sense of seeking justice and have a gangster character who plays an important role in the story.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Creating the puzzle to keep readers guessing who the murderers are and why.

You have based Murder at the Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What research did you do to provide background information for your novel?
I researched the Albuquerque Zoo layout, and I researched a lot about the different positions people hold at zoos including what is expected of them. How animals were cared for in the story was important to me.

Did your characters surprise you as you wrote their story?
A little. I write organically so I’m never quite sure where they will end up in the story. I do always know there will be several murders, and the murderers will come to justice!

Do you have plans to bring back Miranda Scott, along with her cohorts Detective Bryan Anderson, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes?
Possibly. Also, possibly another book for one of my other series, and I’m completing a memoir about my father and me. I had a very unusual upbringing.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
I wanted to be a writer since I was 14 and sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a play. I wrote for many years for the marketing/pr business I founded. I’ve been writing books for the past 20 years. I love to play with words. What we say and how we say anything can have a big impact.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’ve started a Memoir/LifeStory blog which includes inviting guests to share a part of their story. It also offers hints and tips on writing a memoir (from my book My Memoir Workbook), as well as excerpts from my own memoir. The blog will be posted on the 1st and 15th of each month and began May 1st of this year. Members of SWW are invited and welcome to participate. Here is the link to the first one:

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Listen to your own voice, not others.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

Author Update: Patricia Smith Wood

Author Patricia Smith Wood credits her father, a career FBI agent, for sparking her interest in law enforcement and solving crimes. After retiring from a business career that included working at the FBI and owning her own computer company, Pat published her first of the Harrie McKinsey Mysteries in 2013. Murder at the Petroglyphs (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2019) is the fourth book in the series that once again follows editor and amateur sleuth Harrie and her business partner Ginger as they attempt to solve a complicated murder. You’ll find Pat on her website at and on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about previous books in her series, read her 2015 and 2017 SWW interviews.

What is your elevator pitch for Murder at the Petroglyphs?
Are the Ancient Ones responsible for the body discovered at Petroglyphs National Monument? Why did Harrie McKinsey have a prophetic dream about it? Why haven’t the media in Albuquerque reported on this unexplained death? And why can’t the Albuquerque Police, the FBI, or the CIA discover the identity of the victim?

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I found myself doing a lot more research on this book than on the other three. Even though I’ve lived in Albuquerque since 1951, I had never visited the Petroglyphs until I decided to set the mystery there. Also, I’m not what you would call an “outdoor girl” type. I’ve routinely taken walks around my neighborhood, but hikes in the desert or mountains are not my bag. So I had to find a twist to anchor the story and justify using the Petroglyphs.

Tell us how the book came together.
It was actually my husband who suggested the Petroglyphs as a setting. I had just come out of the swirl of activity connected with the release of my third book, Murder on Frequency. I always think I can sit back and relax once a book is finally out there. But I immediately started being questioned about the next book and when it would be published. In the past, I had an idea at least. Not this time. So when my husband suggested it, I told him I knew nothing about the Petroglyphs. That’s when he picked up the car keys and said, “Let’s go take a look.” We spent most of our time at the Visitor Center and at the Amphitheater. I took many photos so I could have a picture in my mind while writing the book. It was also in a location relatively close to the George Maloof Air Park where model airplane and drone hobbyists gather to fly their machines. Since I wanted to include drones in the story (to satisfy some of my Ham radio buddies), that worked in very well.

It took me a little over two years to write. Then, of course, came the editing. That took about four months. In the middle of that two-year period, my 98-year-old mother passed away. We had all sorts of details to take care of and deal with her property and possessions. So that made it more difficult to focus on the book. The editing process is really the best part. You’ve finished the book—now you can “pretty it up” and make it shine (with any kind of luck at all!)

Who are the main characters in the Harrie McKinsey Mystery series, and why will readers connect with them?
Since the first book, The Easter Egg Murder, I’ve had the same six characters in the series. In the second book I introduced a new female police detective sergeant and I’ve kept her in every book since then. The main characters are Harrie McKinsey and Ginger Vaughn. There’s DJ Scott (an FBI agent), Steve Vaughn (Ginger’s husband), Caroline Johnson (DJ’s mother and Harrie and Ginger’s office manager), and homicide detective Lt. Bob Swanson (Swannie). The new “regular” added in book two is Detective Sergeant Cabrini Paiz. In book number three I introduce her husband and son.

I hope readers see Harrie and Ginger (who are somewhere in their late thirties or early forties as the books proceed) as women they might know and want to hang out with. I hope male readers can identify with the men I feature. DJ and Swannie are featured the most, and I really like them.

Is there a scene in the book you’d love to watch play out in the movie?
Actually there’s more than one, but I guess I’d pick the first chapter. It would have the most visual splendor. When I first wrote it, I included all sorts of descriptions about the sunset over the Petroglyphs on a lovely May evening, and the rising of the full moon over the Sandia Mountains. Then the park ranger takes a short walk around the area to make sure all is well. He encounters a coyote, and then discovers the body. That chapter, and its flowery and scenic descriptions, was radically modified by the editors at the publisher. They wanted a body to appear at the end of page one. Still, as a movie, seeing it would substitute for all the words they had to cut!

If your book did become a movie, who would you like to see in the roles of the main amateur female detectives?
Sandra Bullock (with hair tinted a deep auburn) as Harrie McKinsey. For Ginger, I’d like to have Geena Davis (with black hair.)

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Getting to read it to my critique group. They always had positive reactions and came up with some great comments and suggestions.

You began your fiction writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
I’d have to say my mature self has a huge advantage over my younger self. I’ve lived an interesting life, with lots of interesting people, jobs, relationships and situations. I’ve experienced many ups and downs that give me perspective and appreciation I didn’t have as a young woman. I can use that stuff with my various characters. I’ve either been there, done that, or know somebody who has been there and done that.

What are the challenges of writing for the cozy mystery market?
That’s a great question but not an easy answer. First, the definition of cozy is very complicated in today’s world. Traditionally, one describes it as akin to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. The thread running through those stories is an amateur sleuth who solves a murder (which never happens on the page—only discovered there) and does so before the authorities can solve it. Nowadays, there are so many sub-genres of cozy it’s confusing. I heard someone recently imply an authentic cozy needs comedy, romance, and a protagonist who solves everything without the help of law enforcement. That’s not the sort of cozy mystery I write. In my mind, there’s no on-screen violence, the murder takes place off stage, there’s no foul language (there may be a “hell” or a “damn” now and then), and there are no sex scenes. I wanted my mother to be able to read my books without needing to chastise me. So one of the biggest challenges is explaining to people what a cozy mystery is—at least what MY kind of cozy is.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Patricia Smith Wood

Patricia Smith Wood began writing in earnest after retiring from a successful business career—and only after giving herself permission to call herself a writer. Her mystery novels are a weaving of creativity, research, and the knowledge she gained as the daughter of a police officer/FBI agent, as well as her own experience working for the FBI. Patricia’s first mystery, The Easter Egg Murder (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2013), was a 2013 NM/AZ Book Awards Finalist in two categories: Best Mystery and Best First Book. Murder on Sagebrush Lane (Aakenbaaken & Kent), her second novel in the series, was published in March 2015. The third, Murder on Frequency, is in the works. Visit her at her website:

MurderOnSagebrushLane200What is your elevator pitch for Murder on Sagebrush Lane?
“Harrie McKinsey finds a small child sitting in a flower bed, pajamas smeared with blood. The search for the child’s parents involves Harrie in a grisly murder investigation, a second murder, an attempted kidnapping, stolen top-secret data, and a killer who intends to make her his final victim.”

How is this book different from the first book in the series, The Easter Egg Murder?
The Easter Egg Murder was loosely based on a real, half-century-old unsolved murder in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I wanted to fictionalize it so I could solve it without getting myself in trouble. Murder on Sagebrush Lane started with one tiny thing I’d read about years ago, and from that I created a story to go with it. Along the way, I incorporated another tidbit I accidentally came across while researching, but there was no attempt to tell a fictionalized version of a true story in the second book.

What makes your Harrie McKinsey Mystery series unique from other cozy mysteries?
I don’t think there is another cozy series whose protagonist is an editor. That simply started as a device—a way to get her involved in solving a mystery. As it turns out, it also gives her free time in other stories to pursue her new hobby of solving crimes.

Which character in the series have you enjoyed writing the most?
I have the most fun with non-recurring characters. It’s satisfying to create someone who is obnoxious yet vulnerable (as I did with Winnie Devlin in Murder on Sagebrush Lane) or a deeply private and complex character like Senator Philip Lawrence (from The Easter Egg Murder.)

What are the challenges of writing a novel series?
When I finished the draft of the first one, I had no intention of making it a series. During my first successful meeting with an agent (and I use that term somewhat loosely because the “success” was only that she asked to see the first 50 pages!), I was caught by surprise when she asked if it was a series. My mind did a double flip, and I found myself saying, “Oh, yes. It definitely is!” So that became the challenge. How do I carry on with some of these people I’d just created, when I hadn’t planned to do so?

What are your strengths as a writer, and what do you do to overcome your weaknesses?
That’s a hard question. I’ll tell you what my critique group says. They like the way I portray my male characters. They claim it sounds like guys actually talking and how they would act. As for weaknesses, I have many, but keeping a rein on overusing some words comes to mind as a biggie. I do a lot of “find” and “replace” when I discover 386 occurrences of a word like “sometimes” or “someplace.”

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I started out giving Harrie McKinsey the characteristic of slightly prophetic dreams. In the second book, that comes out briefly in the beginning, but doesn’t run through the rest of the story. I don’t know if that will be a factor in the third one or not. I’m sure Harrie will tell me if it is!

TheEasterEggMurder72What do you want to be known for as an author?
I’d be happy to have a reputation for giving the reader a tight, quick-paced story that leaves them wanting more when they finish.

Is there something you know now about the writing journey that you wish you had known when you first started?
I wish I’d truly known, in my bones, that I didn’t have to have all the answers before I started. I came to realize that “starting” was really the beginning of “learning” how to do it. Without ever starting, you can’t possibly learn the steps along the way. It’s so true that the only way to improve is to simply sit yourself down and start—no matter how bad you may think it is. You can only get better by actually “doing” it! And by the way, I made this monumental discovery when I attended my first SouthWest Writers meeting. I “got permission” from the people there to call myself a writer because I was actually writing. That was my first big step in learning how to improve.

What is the greatest tool in a writer’s arsenal?
A really good, compatible critique group. There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people who will give you the unvarnished truth, and yet encourage you by pointing out the good things you’re doing. When you have people like that, whose opinions you value and trust, you can do amazing things. I’m confident that’s why The Easter Egg Murder was a finalist in the 2013 NM/AZ Book Awards in the categories of Best Mystery and Best First Book.

What is your writing routine like?
I hate deadlines, but I do my best work when the pressure is on to produce. And often that pressure comes from my critique group. I’m a “panster” so I sit down (often the night before a critique group meeting when I’m expected to bring something to read) and I produce. I let the characters tell me what’s going on in the next chapter. You’d hardly call it a routine, but it seems to work for me.

Why did you choose Aakenbaaken & Kent to be your publisher?
Largely because they were the first ones to ask me! I wish there had been a vigorous competition amongst the five top New York houses to snap me up, but alas, that was not the case. They also came highly recommended to me by an award-winning writer, whose opinion I trusted. I’ve been well treated, and they’ve helped me tremendously.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on the third book in the Harrie McKinsey Mystery series. Because I’m an amateur radio operator, my fellow hams have asked when I intend to include something about that hobby in the books. So the next book will have a touch of “ham” flavor. It’s called Murder on Frequency.

What advice do you have for writers who are still striving for publication?
I’d have to say, if it’s your dream to be published, don’t give up. In today’s world of books there are so many ways to achieve your goal. But always (and I can’t stress this too much)—ALWAYS—make sure that what you submit is clean, professional, highly edited, and free of typos and slop. If you end up publishing it yourself, you’ll have half the battle done if you’ve made sure it’s truly ready before you let it out of your hands.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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