Marlene M. Bell is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Copper Waters, her latest novel in the New Zealand Cottage Mystery series.
Welcome, Marlene. 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.
Yes! Copper Waters takes the reader to the beautiful country of New Zealand as the fourth book in the Annalisse mystery series. Main characters, Annalisse Drury and Alec Zavos find themselves involved in international intrigue that stems from Annalisse’s love of history and antiques. (She’s an antiquities valuator at an art gallery in Manhattan.) The two have a complicated relationship which adds underlying romantic suspense to the novel series.
In books one, two, and three, the couple withstands harrowing moments together—leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake from New York to Greece, Italy, and Turkey. If readers like travel to other countries without leaving their armchair, the series’ suspense and mystery will captivate the audience.
My slogan, “Mystery at a killing pace,” explains my writing style in a few words. The stories move quickly throughout each chapter with several twisty moments of fear along the way. Each scene typically ends on a cliff-hanger to encourage a page-turner-like experience. There are several characters who appear in all books and new ones will come and go because of travel to exotic locations.
Beginning with Copper Waters, I’ve added a Cast of Characters page with description of each character so that it’s easy to keep them all straight if the reader hasn’t read previous books. My books are written as standalones, but to understand the entire impact and character backstories, I recommend reading the entire series. Most who start the series from Copper Waters will go back to Stolen Obsession, book #1. The first book covers a lot of ground between Anna and Alec’s perilous introduction.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Because I’m a sheep breeder in the United States, I thought it would be interesting to learn how others below the equator run their sheep operations. My own experiences dot the novel’s landscape to make the story more believable to go along with new research on New Zealand sheep stations. Most people find information about raising livestock fascinating because it’s so different from having pets in the household. The method used by the villain in Copper Waters is also central to raising sheep!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Somewhere in each Annalisse series book, readers will find references to raising horses, sheep, and Anna’s orange tabby cat, Boris. Copper Waters focuses on sheep because there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. In addition, Alec Zavos has studied to become a veterinarian but so far, his family businesses and his adventures with Anna have kept him from the equine surgeon he’d like to become. The future book #5 that follows Copper Waters will concentrate in this area and keep the couple closer to Alec’s estate in upstate New York. The theme in Copper Waters: Is it better to work together or apart when a relationship is floundering? The reader will have to pick up the book to find out!
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
My best characters tend to be the easiest for me to write. I know I’m spot-on in characterization when their background naturally forms in my head and words flow on the page. If I struggle to picture a new character or think about his/her past lives and traits, I know I’m in trouble. Favourite characters are those who feel as real as a personal friend. My favourite at this time is Bill Drake, the detective who came to Anna and Alec’s rescue in the second series book, Spent Identity. I’ve kept Bill in every book since because he’s so likable to my readers. I’m considering an offshoot series with him down the road. When readers meet Bill Drake, he’s capable as an investigator, and comfortable like a confidant who listens and keeps his friend’s secrets to himself. We all have secrets, don’t we?
The characters I write about are made for that specific type of mystery and culture of the country Anna and Alec visit. They can also be people with unusual traits like those I’ve run across in my own life. Annalisse Drury has a few of my own traits.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I like to focus on the five senses to portray where my characters are. Imagine the smells and sounds of a particular place, quiet and secluded or bustling with crowds. My book series covers countries I’ve never seen in person. Research is imperative, but not just any research. To write realistic scenes and descriptions, I have to visualize standing in each place and its surroundings. For lifelike pictures, I get my information from those who have actually been to these locations. Purchasing coffee table books from authors who’ve taken photos is my favourite place to start. Internet research is kept to a minimum because we can’t always believe what’s in an online search. I prefer to purchase research books in print versus getting information from other sources.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
It’s important for readers to find accurate information in my stories. My books are a work of fiction to be sure, but I write about actual areas that are beautiful and sometimes unpleasant. Readers who’ve been to places in my books want validation of what they know to be true. There’s nothing worse than having a reviewer find fault in the research. Using the wide-open internet for book research is inviting this kind of attention that no writer wants. In the case of my stories, I like to stick with the professional traveller’s honest photos and compare with others observations as in the hardcover books I can find.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Copper Waters is a whodunnit that will keep most readers guessing until the very end as they figure out the culprit. It’s written in cosy mystery format for all audiences and has no profanity. The story moves at a solid pace through light romance, suspense, murder, and crime solving in a foreign country with British influence. A quick read over a weekend!
Thanks for answering my questions, Marlene, and good luck with Copper Waters, the latest book in New Zealand Cottage Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Marlene and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Marlene M. Bell: Marlene is an eclectic mystery writer, artist, photographer, and she raises sheep on a ranch in wooded East Texas with her husband, Gregg.
Marlene’s Annalisse series boasts numerous honors including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery (Spent Identity,) and FAPA— Florida Author’s President’s Gold Award for two other installments, (Stolen Obsession and Scattered Legacy.) Her mysteries with a touch of romantic suspense are found at her websites or at online retail outlets.
She also offers the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! Based on true events from the Bell’s ranch. The simple text and illustrations are a touching tribute of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb.
Thanks Dianne for joining the Copper Waters Great Escapes tour!