Monday, March 28, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Deb Baker

I first learned about author Deb Baker when I stumbled across her series about sixty-something sleuth Gertie Johnson. I tried to find the first book in the series, Murder Passes the Buck through my favorite indie bookstore, but was told that it had gone out of print, and it would be a good idea for me to look for a secondhand copy.

I learned that Gertie was a popular woman because used copies were few and far between and often cost more than a new copy. I bided my time (because my to-be-read list has enough books on it to circle around the block a few times) and instead sampled another of Deb's books, Dolled Up for Murder, which is the first in the Dolls to Die For series.

Wouldn't you know it? Murder Passes the Buck was then reprinted, and I snatched up a copy, quick as a bunny. Two enjoyable series, and I haven't even gotten to the third that she writes!

Here is what Deb has to say for herself. It's much more interesting than anything I could come up with!

Deb Baker
I’m a Yooper, defined as someone lucky enough to have been born or who lives in the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

My publisher let Murder Passes the Buck and Murder Grins and Bears It go out of print. Rights reverted to me and I reissued the print editions through Amazon’s Createspace and through Kindle, Nook, etc. eBook sales have been higher than I ever dreamed possible. (The publisher still retains rights for book 3 - Murder Talks Turkey, and won’t release them, claiming that its still selling too well.)

I’m writing book 4, Murder Bites the Bullet, and it will be available in May. Gertie has enough of a fan base that I plan to self publish it.

I also write under a pen name as Hannah Reed for Berkley Prime Crime. The first in the Queen Bee mystery series, Buzz Off, came out last September. Mind Your Own Beeswax will be on shelves May 3rd. 

Deb Baker on Facebook
Deb Baker on Twitter   
Deb Baker's Website 

Here are Deb's books in each series (in order):

Murder Passes the Buck (2006)
Murder Grins and Bears It (2007)
Murder Talks Turkey (2008)
Murder Bites the Bullet (May, 2011)

Dolled Up for Murder (2006)
Goodbye Dolly (2007)
Dolly Departed (2008)
Ding Dong Dead (2008)

Written as Hannah Reed:

Buzz Off (2010)
Mind Your Own Beeswax (May 3, 2011)

Let's get right to the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

The Secret of the Mansion, the first in the Trixie Belden series. That book established my lifelong love affair with mysteries. It also influenced my decision to create characters that readers would like to hang out with. I desperately wanted to be a Bob-White and have friends just like Trixie and Honey. The best thing I can hear from someone who has read my books is that they want to be just like my protagonist or they want to have friends like them.

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

I’m pretty addicted to writing, but I also love to experiment in the kitchen and I’m an avid gardener. Composting is my latest thing. And I read. Right now I’m fascinated with young adult fiction.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.) 

Stonely, Michigan is loosely based on the area where I grew up, and Herb’s Bar, which is in the Gertie Johnson murder mysteries, really exists in Rock, Michigan. So you should start with a beer at Herb’s. Then drive to Escanaba for a Yooper pasty (our version of a pot pie). Eat it with ketchup like the locals do. After that, a short drive to Gladstone’s beautiful beach to wade in Lake Michigan and dig your toes into the white sand. Oh, and stop at the Dairy Flo for ice cream.

Ruth Gordon
You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

We would have to go back in time because this amazing woman isn’t with us anymore, but I’d want Ruth Gordon to play the part. Harold and Maude is my all time favorite movie. She’s my heroine.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I’m an English major so I shouldn’t even tell you this, but Stephanie Plum cracks me up. I love the laughs she provides.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

Short stories! I realized that mystery was my genre when my husband pointed out that all my short stories involved women killing their husbands.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

I took lots and lots of pictures.  Murder Passes the Buck was the first book I ever wrote and it took forever to see it in print. It won awards. I had an agent with connections to New York. But at that time, none of the publishers wanted a story set in the backwoods. And even though I’d never kill animals in any of my books (humans are open game though), they didn’t like the hunting season aspect. So when we finally got the news, I was speechless with joy for days. If I remember right, I cried.

You've written three different series set in three different parts of the US-- Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin. How important is setting to your writing?

A reviewer once called me an atmospheric writer. My settings are always important characters in my books. I’ve lived in all three states and love to introduce local hidden treasures to my readers. 

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

I’ve seen that video! He’s so funny. And everything he says is true. My most unusual signing happened in Marquette, Michigan at a bookstore near the university. The only staff member on duty that Sunday was a college kid who decided he was hungry. So he bolted for the door, telling me he’d be back in a little while. The phone rang off the hook, customers lined up, and I didn’t have a ‘clue’ what to do. So I explained about the lunch break. Surprisingly, the customers didn’t seem bothered at all. They hung out and waited. I sold a few books to them.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author? 

I don’t know about eBooks being the only way to read in the future, but my electronic book versions outsell my paper by double digits.  I’m finding that most eBook fans are incredibly avid readers, most of them reading print as well. I love the Kindle I got for Christmas, but I also buy books. I’m releasing my next Gertie story as an independent author, bypassing the tradition publisher without even offering it to them. A few years ago that would have been unheard of. But I can get the book out much faster and for a lower price. I have control over the cover and the title this time. I’ve hired a wonderful designer to redo all of the books’ covers. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with. I’m doing it my way. And it feels great.

Good for you, Deb! I wish you all the success in the world. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us-- I really appreciate it!

Don't forget to stop by next Monday when I'll be talking with Christy Evans, author of the Georgiana Neverall mystery series. See you then!


  1. I grew up in Ohio but so close to the Michigan border I can almost call myself a semi-native. I love reading mysteries that take place there.

  2. Great Interview, Deb.

    Ruth Gordon? What a hoot!

  3. I love it when the good guys (and gals, esp Gertie) win, Deb. Your stories are great. I am glad you are making sure that they are available.

    Terrific post and interview! May I say lots of buzz?

  4. Ruth Gordon? That's a hoot, Deb! Never would have guessed it!

    ~ Krista Davis

  5. Love this interview, Deb! And your choice of Ruth Gordon made me laugh out loud. Love your books and I'm thrilled to know you're bringing out a fourth Gertie! Keep 'em coming!

  6. Beth, every midwestern small town qualifies in "my" book.

    I miss Ruth so much!

  7. Wonderful interview, Deb! I'm so glad that Gertie has got a 4th adventure coming up!

  8. So glad Gertie lives on. Thanks for the good interview!

  9. Great interview, Deb! I, too, am so glad Gertie will live on.

  10. NO WAY! Harold and Maude is MY favorite movie of all time. How did we not know this about each other? This is my favorite Ruth Gordon quote and I have it posted above my computer: "Never give up and never, under any circumstances,
    never face the facts!"

    GREAT interview, Deb!

  11. OOps, I logged in as the Hub. The Ruth Gordon fan is me --- Jenn!!!

  12. Great interview! I've been interested in trying one of Deb's books for awhile, just haven't managed to do it yet.

  13. Thanks, everybody, for stopping by.

  14. Just wrote a scene about pasties ... I'm a mitten girl (not a yooper), but pasties are da bomb!

  15. Hi!

    Can't wait for the next Queen Bee book. Sorry I didn't get to see you more at LCC. The altitude killed me.



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