Why? Because I remember browsing at my favorite mystery bookstore, The Poisoned Pen, when the cover of a mass market paperback stopped me in my tracks and clearly told me to buy it.
The book? Christy Evans' Sink Trap. You'll get a chance to see the cover later in this post, but the Airedale is what drew my eye. I have an old photograph (taken in the 1920s) of my grandmother and her older sister on the front porch of their farmhouse in central Illinois. They were sitting on child-sized chairs at a child-sized table having a tea party with their dolls. They also had a guest at the party-- the family dog, an Airedale named Topper. Seeing the cover of Sink Trap reminded me of the stories my grandmother told me of her adventures with Topper, and I just had to buy the book. I'm glad I did because I certainly do enjoy Evans' series about apprentice plumber Georgiana Neverall.
Chris/Christy also writes under other names, including her own [Christina F. York] and Christy Fifield, depending on the genre and series. Chris has never met a genre she doesn't like, and has published mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy and science fiction.
Mystery has always been her favorite though, since her great uncle introduced her to the "Perry Mason" books when she was a child. She read each new book as he finished with it and passed it on. The die was cast, she either had to become a lawyer, or a mystery writer. As fate would have it, mystery writer won.
Chris lives on Oregon's Pacific shore with her writer-husband J. Steven York and two cats, Oz, and "Bad Agent" Sydney T. Cat.
I'll have various ways you can "meet" Christy at the end of the interview, but right now, I'd like to let you know about the mystery series she's written that made me contact her.
Sink Trap (2009), Lead-Pipe Cinch (2010) and Drip Dead (2011). Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sink Trap:
Georgiana Neverall, a software engineer turned plumber, finds big trouble clogging a warehouse drain in Evans's cute cozy mystery debut. Georgie knows something bad has happened to Martha Tepper when she fishes the supposedly retired librarian's beloved brooch out of a pipe, but her boyfriend, City Councilmember Wade Montgomery, and the police dismiss her concerns. It's left to Georgie, her friend Sue and her boss's wife, Paula, to track down Martha's body with a little help from Georgie's Airedales, Daisy and Buddha. Suspects include Georgie's mother's boyfriend and Martha's accountant—who happens to be Wade. Evans garnishes the relatively straightforward mystery with plumbing tips and moments of wry humor from Georgie's interaction with her take-charge mother, her too-chatty friends and her adorable dogs.
Let's get to the interview!
What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?
Probably Little Women. I know that goes back a long time, but it's a book I read as a very young girl and re-read several times. I remember distinctly the last time I read it: I was about twelve, and I cried over the ending. Not because the book was sad, but because I realized I knew it so well I would never be able to read it again. It was what passed for tragedy in my life at the time!
As for what made the book special, I think it was a romanticized portrait of another time and place, very far removed from 1950s Southern California suburbia. The story of people struggling to be a family resonated with me, as did each of the main characters; at various stages of my childhood I aspired to be each Little Woman.
Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?
I do have a full-time "day job" besides my writing, so that takes up a good deal of my time. But in my "free" time I have many interests. I read as much as I can find time for - fiction, news, non-fiction, cereal boxes. You name it, I've probably read it. The purchase of a Kindle last year made reading on the elliptical machine much easier, and allows me to read while I work out every day. I have several favorite television shows: Big Bang Theory is right at the top of the list (my son went to Caltech, and I KNOW those people!), along with Castle. I particularly love his introduction where he says "I'm the one that pays better," and like to think that applies to me, too.
Because I can't "just" watch TV or movies, I always have to have a project that keeps my hands busy. I bead, and knit, and often combine the two. My latest passion is making socks, though I haven't made any beaded ones. Yet.
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.)
Because my hometown is a tiny place on the Oregon coast, there aren't a lot of things that aren't in the guide books. With that in mind, these are my favorites:
The Jennifer Sears Glass Studio - Beautiful work for sale, and glass-blowing demonstrations, sure. But how many places can you actually take a glass-blowing lesson, and make your own glass ball?
Lincoln City Skatepark - We have a world-class skate park in one of our city parks. It draws skaters from all over to try their skills.
Nelscott Reef surfing - A couple times a year, we're the site of an amazing surfing competition, the Nelscott Reef Classic. With waves off the reef topping out at 30+ feet, only the very best dare to ride these waves.
You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?
Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?
Wow, that's a hard one! There are several characters I like, and I have a real soft spot for Perry Mason as my first "grown-up" mystery character. But if I had to choose, I'd probably go with Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. A fully-realized character, warts and all, battling the bad guys everyday. That said, there's also Alex Cross (James Patterson), Mickey Haller (also Connelly), Jack Reacher (Lee Child), Elvis Cole and Joe Pike (Robert Crais), the list goes on and on!
I notice a dearth of female characters on this list, and I don't mean to slight them. My all-time favorites are Mary Alice and Patricia Anne from the late Anne George's Southern Sisters mystery series. If you haven't read them - and with titles like MURDER ON A BAD HAIR DAY how could you resist? - do yourself a favor and find them. [I have. They're wonderful and on my list of recommended mystery series!]
Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?
Before I started writing mystery, I did a lot of other things, and had several novels and short stories published. I wrote science fiction, including several Star Trek short stories and e-books for Pocket Books, two novels based on the "Alias" television series, an erotic adventure novel (under a pen name), and a couple romance novels.
I also have the obligatory trunk full of unsold manuscripts, which I think every writer is required to have. Right?
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?
My first fiction sale was to a Star Trek anthology, STRANGE NEW WORLDS. When I made that sale, I think we went out for pie and coffee. When the book finally hit the shelves several months later, my husband scoured the book stores until it made its first appearance. He came to my office in the middle of the day, picked me up, and took me to the local bookstore to stare at the book on the "New Arrivals" table. I think I hyperventilated!
I think we're all used to mysteries with cupcake bakers, scrapbookers, knitters, bookstore owners, etc. What was your inspiration for Georgiana Neverall, the woman plumber?
Hard to say exactly what the inspiration was; likely the renovation we did on our bathroom shortly before I started writing those books!
Seriously, I am drawn to stories of women in unusual or previously-unacceptable professions. (See: Jo March in Question #1.) I like to see a woman push the envelope and be successful in a way most people wouldn't expect. Georgie's background as a high tech burnout is a familiar one, but usually it's a man, not a woman. The same with her education at Caltech. In fact, Tech only started admitting women as undergraduates in 1970, and granted the first bachelor's degrees to only four women in 1973. In that sense, the character of Georgie is a direct descendant (in my fiction) of Syndey Bristow, the kick-ass heroine of "Alias." I think there is an overall theme in my fiction that says a girl can grow up to be anything she wants, a far cry from what we were told when I was in school.
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 love that video! He's fantastic!
Probably my very first group event. I was a member of Romance Writers of America, working on my first romance, and it was at one of their regional conferences. All I had out at the time was the Star Trek book. Still, the organizers were gracious enough to allow someone from SF to cross over into their signing. The problem was that I ended up sitting next to Stella Cameron, who had a monstrous table full of books - she must have had 25 titles! Fortunately, she was exceedingly gracious and made me feel like I belonged. But there is nothing more humbling than sitting next to one of the biggest authors in the room!
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?
As I mentioned, I have a Kindle, and I admit to being totally addicted. It has many advantages, not the least of which is portability. Traveling has become so much easier since my husband and I got ours. He got his first, and we thought we could share, but that proved impossible - he wouldn't surrender it long enough for me to read anything!
My mysteries are available as mass market paperbacks, large print editions, and as e-books, and I am delighted to be in all three editions. I don't know that e-books will supplant print books any time soon, but they are a growing segment of the market, and I want my books available to anyone who wants to read them, in whatever format they prefer. As long as I am working with a traditional publisher, I want to see them exercise and exploit the electronic rights to their full extent, and I'm happy that Berkley has done that with the Lady Plumber series.
In the long-run, I see many opportunities in the electronic markets. Book length will not be as restricted by the necessity to fit a rack. Stories that aren't long enough for a traditional publishing program will be able to find a home as "short novels" or in two- and three-story collections. Short stories will have more potential outlets.
I am currently working with an independent publisher, Tsunami Ridge Publishing, to bring out several of my novels that are either out-of-print, or which didn't fit in a traditional publishing program. I love the flexibility that electronic publishing offers!
In my opinion, electronic publishing will simply increase the options for both the writer and the reader.
Now I'm going to be looking into the other books that Christy has written, and I hope all of you feel the same way. Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Christy!
Please stop by next Monday when my guest on Scene of the Crime will be author Jeffrey Siger, who'll be taking us to a beautiful Greek island....