Monday, June 06, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Mary Jane Maffini

I have a bit of an organizing bug, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that I started to read (and enjoy) Mary Jane Maffini's mystery series starring professional organizing guru, Charlotte Adams.

When the author contacted me about something non-review on my blog, you know I had to ask her if she was willing to be interviewed. She said yes, and here we are!

Mary Jane Maffini
Lapsed librarian and former mystery bookstore co-owner, Mary Jane Maffini is the author of thirteen books in three series: the Charlotte Adams, the Camilla MacPhee and the Fiona Silk mysteries. She will soon launch a new book collector series co-authored with her daughter, writing as Victoria Abbott. MJ’s story “So Much in Common” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine won the 2010 Agatha award for best short story and is nominated for an Arthur Ellis award and an Anthony.

She lives and plots in Ottawa, Ontario with her long-suffering husband and two princessy dachshunds. She’d love you to visit her at: 

Let's get started with that interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?
The first ‘big’ book I remember loving was Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery. It was the sequel to Anne of Green Gables and it was such a hefty book and I felt proud and excited to own it and read it.

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

My little dachshunds and I are involved in Ottawa Therapy Dogs. Daisy visits two dementia units and Lily is a READ dog. We get a lot of joy out of these programs and I hope we give a bit too. For relaxing, I enjoy reading, time with family, cooking, knitting dog sweaters, and fussing with flower boxes, lounging at the cottage or watching crime drama in town.

Daisy and Lily, the Sweater Girls

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.)

The Cabot Trail
I am originally from Sydney, Nova Scotia, on beautiful Cape Breton Island. If you go, do the Cabot Trail, it is like nothing else in North America. It’s so spectacular! 

If you stop in Sydney, make sure you line up for Fuzzy’s Fries. They are such a taste sensation I put them in Little Boy Blues, my third Camilla MacPhee book.

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

Amy Poehler
I think Amy Poehler is hysterical and she has such bright hair. I’d love to see her play my life as a librarian, mom, dog owner, volunteer, writer, and klutz. She’d get the humor of it. My dogs can play Truffle and Sweet Marie. They’re big hams.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

It is whoever I am reading at the moment. I guess I am a reading flirt. I only read books I love and I read a lot of Canadian mysteries. Right now, it’s Inspector Eric Stride of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, in Death of a Lesser Man (set in 1949 Newfoundland).

Your character, Charlotte Adams, is a professional organizer. Does this mean that you, too, have an organizing gene? 

I am a professional disorganizer. I love organizers because they can save your bacon! I have learned a lot from reading and watching Charlotte’s colleagues and from writing as Charlotte!  Thanks, Charlotte!

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

I had some stinky first efforts in the bottom drawer, plus fifty pages of the worst romance ever written, and seven or eight short stories which were published. I love writing short stories and they seemed to work for me. My latest has just won an Agatha award and is nominated for an Arthur Ellis and an Anthony award. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has made now it available for reading or downloading from their site.

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?

At the time my first book came out, I was part owner of Prime Crime, the mystery bookstore in Ottawa. My wonderful business partner and friend, Linda Wiken, put my book on the PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT SHELF as well as stacking them on the new book table. I had tears in my eyes. By the way, Linda will have her own series out in 2012, writing as Erika Chase!

I got my first offer (Camilla MacPhee book one: Speak Ill of the Dead)  the same day we sold the house we’d lived in for eighteen years and had two weeks to find a new house and move. When I calmed down I celebrated by shrieking and dancing around. I hope no one saw that! Of course, I always do that when I have some good news. With thirteen books in twelve years, there’s been a certain amount of shrieking and dancing.

[Do Daisy and Lily join in?]

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 Parnell’s humor and can really relate to that hilarious video. I’d say the most frustrating was staying in town on the most beautiful Saturday in a dreary summer (at the insistence of a store manager!) to sign my new book. Unfortunately the store had not a single copy of that book (although they did have a stack of my winter one). Didn’t matter because not a single customer came. All to say: I demand my own song!!!  But usually, signings, regardless of numbers, are a great way to meet and talk to readers.

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 still love the look, feel and smell of books and don’t have an eReader yet, but I will have to get one, just to understand the trend. I know that eBooks make it easy for people to get our books, make it possible to keep out-of-print books available, help readers in remote areas, folks with disabilities etc. I could go on!  They’ll be good for short story authors too and I have a plan to republish all my shorts. All to say, eBooks are here to stay and in balance, they’re a good thing. I think the big impact will be on our beloved bookstores and they will be working hard to redefine themselves in this rapidly changing market.


  1. "Professional disorganizer!" Love it! I finally found a name for my own failings. I'm going to look up her books because I loved this interview.

    I've done the Cabot Trail twice. The scenery is breathtaking but I had to laugh about Fuzzy's Fries. We got sick of fries touring there because we couldn't get anything else. I could tell a tale about a motel there too but it's too long a story. Anyway, Nova Scotia reminds me of Scotland so of course I loved the place.

  2. I love the term "lapsed librarian". Wonderful. I've been aware of Mary Jane's books and I do need to read them. I've said it before, I need a clone - just a reader clone. Is that too much to ask? LOL

    What a lovely part of the world to call home. I'm going right now and seeing about acquiring the first book in this series. Thanks for the interview, Cathy!!

  3. And So Much in Common then won the Arthur Ellis for best short story! Congratulations, Mary Jane!

    Shrieking and dancing. Yes. I do it, too.

  4. 'lapsed librarian' and 'professional disorganizer'? I KNEW you were my kind of woman!

  5. Thanks so much for having me here at Scene of the Crime. I enjoyed getting to know you and your readers. You each have a great sense of humor!

    I hope that Lily the Dachshund will be back on your site blogging about her work as a READ dog.

  6. Barbara-- If Nova Scotia reminds you of Scotland, I've got to go there!

    Kay-- You're very welcome!

    Mary Jane-- I'm ready any time Lily is!


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