Monday, October 17, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Mary Anna Evans!

This week I have the pleasure of interviewing the author of my favorite archaeological mysteries, Mary Anna Evans.

Each time I pick up a mystery featuring archaeology student Faye Longchamp, I never fail to enjoy a good story with a strong, interesting main character-- and I always learn some fascinating archaeological information.

If you haven't tried one of Evans' books, I sincerely hope you take the opportunity to do so. I like Faye so much that I would recommend that you start with the first book in the series, Artifacts, so you can see how her character develops.

Mary Anna Evans

If you'd like more information about Mary and her books, here are some links for you:

Let's get to the best bit: the interview!

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

The Wizard of Oz.  I was a very early reader, so reading a book like that made me feel grown-up.  (This also probably made me a very geeky kindergartener, but some things are a constant throughout life, so it was best that I get used to it early.)  I loved Dorothy's independence and the exotic Oz-ness of it all--wicked witches, flying monkeys, and yellow bricks beneath my silver slippers.

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

I'm a serious amateur musician, so I play my cherished piano for my own pleasure and I sing when I get the chance.  I also love to garden, although my thumb isn't especially green.  If a flower grows in my yard, it is a tough flower.  If I get vegetables from my garden, I feel lucky.

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.)

When people visit from out-of-town, I like to take them to the University of Florida campus, because there are one or two places where you're guaranteed to see alligators.  Then, at sunset, I take them to the campus bat houses, where tens of thousands of bats emerge at sundown, eager to eat a whole bunch of mosquitoes.  For this, I thank the bats kindly.

[You certainly know how to please a critter lover like me!]

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

Vivien Leigh
Hmmm...I've been told I look and sound like Andie MacDowell, although she's a few years older.  If I have total control, I guess I can presume I have a time machine that will let me specify that they cast Andie MacDowell back when she was my age.  But if I have that time machine, why not use it to its full capability?  I think I'll go with an even more famous curly-haired brunette with a (faux) southern accent--Vivien Leigh.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn.

Name one book that you've read that you wish you had written. What is it about that book that made it come to mind?

Light in August by William Faulkner.  I read it last summer and I was struck by the fact that it is a work of crime fiction.  But, come on...we're talking about William Faulkner, so it is first and foremost literature.  I really enjoyed watching him turn the usual narrative structure on its ear, bending time into his own weird shape for his own storytelling reasons.  Being Faulkner, he also did the same thing to the English language.  Reading Faulkner reminds me of the importance of taking risks with my work.

How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

It took me all day to find someone to tell.  My husband was working in a swamp somewhere.  My best friends were away from their desks.  My mother wasn't home.  (This was early in the cell phone era, so it was possible to be truly out of touch.)  I finally got to tell somebody when I picked up my 7-year-old from school, saying, "Guess what? I have exciting news!"  She was probably thinking we were going to do something thrilling like go for ice cream when she responded, "What???!!!"  What was her response when I said, "Mommy sold her book!"  She said, "Well...that's very exciting for you..."

Nobody can put you in your place faster than your kids.

Eventually, I found a few people who were excited, so they came over and we shared some champagne.  It was lovely.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

I was speechless, so I didn't do much but stand there and stare.

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 was speaking at an assisted living facility.  The activities director did her part, gathering up residents whom she thought might be interested in my talk.  When she arrived in the room, he noticed that one gentleman was already there, but his wheelchair was facing the wrong direction.  "Sir," she said, "would you like me to turn you around so you can hear the talk."  He said, "No.  I'm watching the clock."  And he did sit there with his back to me and watch the clock for the entire hour I spoke.

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?

People have been telling stories to dispel the world's realities ever since we walked out of our caves and gathered around campfires.  Ebooks are just a new way to get the stories out of my head and into yours.  I think that's a wonderful thing.

Thank you, Mary, for spending this time with us. We appreciate the opportunity to get to know you a little better. May your book sales do nothing but increase!

And just because our to-be-read piles can never be too tall, Mary's first thriller, Wounded Earth, was recently published. Here's a synopsis:

Larabeth McLeod has beauty, money, several patents, a Ph.D., a successful environmental firm, and some very old secrets. When a man with the uncomfortable name of Babykiller begins stalking her, terrorizing her with stories of her darkest days in Vietnam, stories no one else knows, she feels compelled to fight back...until he exposes her most tender secret of all by threatening the daughter she has never met.

She turns to private detective J.D. Hatten for help, breaking five years of separation and silence between quarreling friends. And then Babykiller shows his true capabilities. He is the head of an illicit business offering but one service--moving cargo worldwide for criminals who need their drugs or cash or smuggled goods shipped safely and anonymously--so he is capable of putting anything anywhere. He quietly explains to Larabeth, a well-known environmental executive, that he can even put defective gauges in nuclear power plants, and he will, just to get her attention. If she goes to the police for protection, people will die. Lots and lots of people will die. And one of them will be her daughter.

Larabeth and J.D. are just a normal man and woman, up against a babykiller. But then, Babykiller doesn't know who he's dealing with....

Sounds good, doesn't it? Don't forget to stop by next Monday when I'll be interviewing another of my favorite authors!


  1. I can do without the alligators when I go to Fla., thank you. I hear you can find them in backyard swimming pools too! Very scary!

    I haven't read Evans as yet, but enjoy archaeological mysteries by Beverley Cleary, who writes two mystery series.

  2. Up here in north Florida, gators generally stay away from swimming pools and people, because we still have some wild places for them to go. Still, if there's a wet spot, it's best to figure a gator is in there and to keep small dogs away.

    If I'm a safe distance away, I find gators fascinating. They look so ancient and primeval that you can hardly believe they're real. I do give them their space, though. :)

  3. Now I know what they do with Univ. of Fla. students who don't pay their tuition, or who flunk out. :)

    Cathe, you've once again found an author who I just have to read. She's on my list.

  4. Harvee-- I have a pool here in Arizona, and I don't jump in without looking first!

    Mary-- I feel the same way whenever we visit Rooster Cogburn's Ostrich Ranch on the way to Tucson. At first, feeding the ostriches is cool, but then they're looming over me looking very very ancient and very predatory, and I feel as though I've stepped into Jurassic Park!

    Barbara-- Wonderful! I know you're going to enjoy her books!

  5. My son is a University of Florida graduate. He showed me the spot where I can always, always take visitors to see a gator. It lives in a small pond near the sidewalk that leads from his dorm to the engineering building where he had many classes. He saw the gator so routinely that he called it his "pal-igator. :)

  6. Archaeology, alligators and wizards! You have such lovely guests, Cathy :)

  7. Dorte-- Yes, I am one very lucky blogger! :-D


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