Today Charlotte Stuart is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite, her latest novel in the Macavity & Me Mystery series.
Welcome, Charlotte. 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.
Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is the 2nd in the Macavity & Me Mysteries. The first was Why Me? Chimeras, Conundrums and Dead Goldfish.
Bryn Baczek lives on a sailboat in an urban marina in Seattle with her cat, Macavity, and a series of short-lived goldfish. (She keeps replacing them to avoid telling her young niece that they died.) In Why Me? she discovers a body that disappears. In Who Me? she finds a murder weapon that is stolen before she can turn it over to the police. In both books there are serious themes: trafficking illegal human organs in Why Me? and fraud in non-profit organizations in Who Me?. In both books Bryn has liveaboard friends who assist in the investigations and a cat who complicates her life. Her relationships with friends and family are central to the light-hearted storylines. My goal is to make people smile while presenting a twisty puzzle to solve.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I once overheard a fight between two people on a boat several slips away and have always wondered if I should have intervened. My imagination took over from there—
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
I’ve worked for non-profits, both as an employee an as a consultant, and have been impressed with their dedication to mission. At the same time, I’ve seen how frequent turnover of staff and board members can have a negative impact on safeguards within an organization. I’m also aware that there are many financial issues that audits don’t uncover. Hence, the focus on fraud.
And . . . once you start writing mysteries, you see motives for murder everywhere!
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
In each of my mysteries I’ve started by identifying a main character and a context for their life. The next step for me is to populate their story with friends, family, colleagues, and, frequently, pets. Since I have to “live” with the cast of characters while writing the book, I prefer likeable if flawed characters.
In this series, I’m particularly fond of Macavity. He’s so real to me that I had a hard time reconciling the cat on the cover with my vision of him, even though the cover was based on a description I gave to the graphics designer.
Another favourite is Logan, my protagonist’s good friend who lives at the same marina. He’s a composite of several friends in my life, someone you can count on no matter what. I enjoy writing about their camaraderie and their comfortable back-and-forth exchanges.
In addition, I liked the Scottish “bad boy” from Why Me? and am working on ways to bring him back to life.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
In this series it was easy—the location is based on a marina where my husband and I lived aboard our sailboat for ten years. Because I loved that boat and miss it still, I gave the boat in Who Me? the same name: Aspara. It’s from a utopian novel, Islandia, in which sea birds by that name accompanied the main character while sailing. Austin Tappan Wright, the author of Islandia, also had a boat called Aspara.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I love doing research, so although I like to write about topics with which I have some familiarity, I do a lot of online and book research. Unfortunately, I can’t resist wanting to have some of the best resources at my fingertips. I’m running out of bookshelves, and I have so many files on my computer, just organizing them is becoming a challenge.
In Who Me? for instance, I thought I knew a lot about audits and non-profit boards. But when I started looking into potential for fraud, I was amazed at how much information there was. Of course you can’t use everything you learn—it would overload the story with details. But I would like to think that readers know I make an effort to support and motivate plot with facts.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Just that I really enjoy writing mysteries about good people who find themselves in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations that can only be overcome with ingenuity and a little luck. I would like to think that my mysteries are a pleasant distraction from the strife and challenges of the times we live in.
Thank you for answering my questions, Charlotte, and good luck with Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite, your latest novel in the Macavity & Me Mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Charlotte Stuart: In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart, PhD, has taught college courses in speech communication, was a management consultant and a VP of HR, and has enjoyed time spent sailing and commercial salmon fishing in Alaska. Her current passion is for writing mysteries with a dollop of adventure and a smattering of humor. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching herons, eagles, seals and other sea life from her Vashon Island home office.