Today Nancy Lynn Jarvis is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Glass House, her latest novel in the PIP Inc Mystery series.
Welcome, Nancy. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
NLJ: The Glass House is the first in a planned series of PIP Inc. Mysteries. My good friend, Pat, like Pat Pirard in The Glass House, was the Santa Cruz County Law Librarian and is now a private investigator. I stole her identity―with modifications― for the book(s.) The real Pat wasn’t downsized, is happily married, does have a cat, but has informed me in clear language that if she ever had a dog, it would definitely not be a Dalmatian, especially not one named Dot.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
NLJ: When I’m not writing, I host Airbnb. I have a guest from Long Island who is a glass artist. She flies to California every few months to take glass fabrication classes taught at a local glass studio. She does take pictures of what she’s making in class, but I never get to see the finished product because it’s always carefully packaged for her flight home. Recently she took a poppy making class and was so enthusiastic about what the class creations that she wanted me to see her finished creation. She suggested that I should slip into the studio while the class was having lunch in the owner’s house and sneak a peek. I did, but I felt so guilty for breaking and entering that after I satisfied my curiosity, I went to the owner’s house and confessed what I had done. Instead of calling out police with handcuffs, the owners invited me to join the class for lunch.
The class instructor sidled over when my Airbnb guest was introducing me to her classmates as a mystery writer and said, “I know a great way to kill someone in a glass studio.” It turns out he did, so I asked if I could kill him. He said, yes, so he became the murder victim, killed by his own hand as it were.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
NLJ: The theme of the story is about love: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But if you’ve read this far, you’ve may have picked up on another “theme” in my writing. Everyone I come in contact with is fair game to become a character in one of my stories. I do change them up a bit to protect the innocent.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
NLJ: Almost all my characters start out as someone I know and I begin writing using the real name of the person whose identity I’m borrowing. Within a few pages, they’ve undergone a name change which frees them up to become the characters I want to create rather than their namesakes, who would never do what I want them to do in my books. The only exceptions are Pat, whose name I kept because PIP stands for Private Investigator Pat, and Dave in another series because his character is so like the real Dave. I did change his last name, though, and he insists he’s nothing like my character.
The Glass House, is only one of the books I’ve written. I have a seven-book series of Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, a one-off called “Mags and the AARP Gang”, and even a little inside baseball book called, “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb.”
One of my favourite characters is Dave from the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series because I get to write “Davisims” for him, and I think Syda, Pat’s best friend from this series will become another favourite. But usually my favourites are older characters: Mrs. Rosemont from “The Death Contingency,” Olive from “The Widow’s Walk League,” and my all-time favourites, Mags and Melvin from “Mags and the AARP Gang.”
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
NLJ: I’m a very visual writer so I set my books in and around where I live. I can take a look at the places I’m creating and then put their descriptions down on paper. Not too sexy, but it works for me.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
NLJ: I’m amazed at how much research I need to do for contemporary mysteries. Even brief details need to be right if my books are going to be credible, so I’ve looked up everything from how redwood trees water themselves in the absence of rain to the evolution of cat litter for my books. I’ve also looked up how to kill someone in a very public place without being caught.
Some of the most interesting research I’ve done is about how bodies might decompose over time. I was thrilled when I attended a forensic anthropologist’s lecture and discovered that my descriptions were exactly right in “Backyard Bones”, and “Buying Murder.”
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
NLJ: The Glass House is a bit of a collaboration between the real Pat and me. I was a real estate agent for many years so my real estate mysteries ring true, but I know nothing about being a private investigator, even an amateur one. I’m frequently asking Pat, “How would you find out about…’” and her answers will keep the PIP Inc. series realistic, too.
Thanks for answering my questions, Nancy, and good luck with The Glass House, the latest book in the PIP Inc Mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon.
About Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Nancy was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well. She has written seven Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries; a stand-alone novel “Mags and the AARP Gang” about a group of octogenarian bank robbers; edited “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” and a short story anthology, “Santa Cruz Weird;” and even done a little insider’s book, “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” about her first year as a host. “The Glass House” is the first book in a planned series of PIP Inc. Mysteries. Now she’s trying to figure out when to work on another series she’d love to do called “Geezers with Tools” about two older handymen who will solve mysteries in the course of doing their work, and setting up writer retreats at her house.