Liz Stauffer’s debut mystery novel Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club, published by Sartoris Literary Group, was released on June 28, 2013. Things are not always what they seem in Liz Stauffer’s fast paced book of murder, mystery, and intrigue. When the “breakfast club” ladies of idyllic Mount Penn see bruises on Clare Ballard’s pretty face, they suspect her hot-headed husband of abusing her, but the truth is much more complicated. When violence disrupts this Appalachian village’s lazy routine, the ladies, led by the irascible Lillie Mae Harris, jump feet first into danger as bodies appear, neighbors disappear, and Clare is arrested for murder. Follow Lillie Mae and the other “breakfast club” ladies, who, armed with casseroles and pastries, help the police uncover the deep secrets this town hides beneath its perfect facade.
The book can be purchased as an ebook and as a paperback on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DRN5EJ4/
After some thirty years writing everything from political encyclopedias to software manuals, I retired from corporate life to write fiction, travel, and play on the beach. Since that time, I’ve traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world. I live most of the year in Hollywood, Florida, with my two doggie best friends, Mattie and Jakey, where I own and manage a vacation rental business.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I live in south Florida most of the year, but I spent time in lots of different places before I settled there. I grew up in the mid-Atlantic area, but after marrying my college sweetheart, an Air Force pilot, I moved around the US with my family, calling some ten states home in as many years. After exiting the Air Force, we settled the family in Dallas, where I stayed with my two young sons after a divorce, for another fifteen years. When my sons graduated from college, and the opportunity availed itself, I starting moving around the US again, this time for my career, and alit in Hollywood Beach Florida, some 14 years ago. When I retired from the high tech world to travel and write, I decided to stay in south Florida. I had fallen in love with the beach.
But I also love the mountains. Fortunately, I have a summer house in Pen Mar, Maryland, a small hamlet close to Camp David on the eastern slope of the Appalachians straddling the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. I use this location as the setting for my Thursday Morning Breakfast Club mysteries and it is here where I do much of my writing. In my books the name of the small village is Mount Penn.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
As I mentioned before, I have a vacation house in Pen Mar, Maryland, a small mountain hamlet not unlike Mount Penn. And, there is a group of ladies who have been having breakfast together on Thursday mornings for many years. That’s the extent of anything real in the book. I did want to introduce a place like Mount Penn (Pen Mar) to the world, since it really is special.
I love close knit communities, and I believe we’re moving away from them in our very busy modern lives. Relationships in cyberspace have replaced relationships down the street. I’m guilty of my own complaint. I, too, love having friends all over the world, and Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter have given me far more pleasure than I ever dreamed they would. But I miss the small town community I grew up in, and the city based community where I raised my two sons.
I wanted to revisit those times, so I created a community where friends and family are of first importance, and technology is still used infrequently. I could do this partly because the area is rural, and in the mountains, and the infrastructure for the technology is still primitive.
Mount Penn is the best of all communities. People still accept and enjoy and love each other, despite their differences. In fact it’s often their differences that make them so lovable. The Thursday morning ladies automatically assume they have most things in common with each other, and they do. I’d like my readers to feel a part of this community when they read my book and maybe, yearn to visit it again, when they finish the last page.
Just this weekend I was up at Pen Mar for the last outdoor concert of the season at the lovely Pen Mar Park pavilion sharing some time with long time friends. As we rested in our portable chairs, the cool mountain breeze floating around us, my friend noted that we had stepped back into yesterday, one of the few places left where we could do that. My books offer the same pleasure. Although they are set in contemporary times, they have a feel of yesterday, a place that time has forgotten.
How do you create your characters?
My characters just come to me. They live in my mind. When Lillie Mae first appeared to me, she was too opinionated and bossy for my taste, and I’m not certain I even liked her, but I knew she and I were going to have a future together. Fortunately, she mellowed as she matured. The other ladies of the Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club just happened, too. Alice, Margaret, Hester, Joyce, Janet, Harriet, Clare, and the others formed their own personalities as the story developed. I know it sounds silly, but these people were there all the time. I didn’t create them, I discovered them.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I’ve been writing every since I can remember. My first job out of graduate school – I have a Masters degree in Political Science from Webster University in St Louis – I wrote political encyclopedias and articles for current affairs monthly magazines for six years before moving into the high tech world of computers. For the next 20 some years, I wrote everything from marketing literature to technical manuals.
It was when I found myself stranded in a South Dakota winter that I wrote my first mystery. Alone in a big house and a new town after taking a job thousands of miles from my friends and family, I found solace in creating puzzles that involved murder. Although this early manuscript is tucked safely away in a drawer somewhere, it was great fun to write. I’ve been writing mysteries ever since. Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club is the first in a series to be published.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
As I mentioned earlier, I do my best writing at my Pen Mar house, a beautiful arts and crafts style home built in 1910. My desk faces the front window with a view of the beautiful Hagerstown valley in front of me. The view alone is inspirational, but the house has a creative aura, too. I open the window and feel the mountain breezes and listen to the sounds of nature as I write.
When I’m in Florida I write in my home office, a loft that overlooks my living room. It’s light, airy, and quiet. I like quiet when I write in Hollywood because there is so much more noise close by than there is in my mountain retreat and too much noise bothers me. When it’s very quiet around me, I hear the conversation, music, and sounds of nature that abound in Mount Penn, and the story flows out of mind and into my computer.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Ideas come from lots of places, I guess, because something will trigger an idea in my head, and then it’s there. Once an idea appears to me, I get obsessed with it, and I have to discover where it’s going to take me. This is a really cool feeling, one I might be addicted to. I’m happiest when I’m working on a new book. I love when the ideas flow and conversation between my characters is lively and a story is forming. It is the best of good times.
I read a lot – books, magazines, newspapers, journals. I think being a reader is critical to forming new ideas. Also, I minimize distracters like the media and I think that helps me be creative, too. I keep the space in my mind clear so new ideas can form, and then they do.
What do you like to read?
As I mentioned above, I read a lot – several hours a day when I can. I love fiction, mysteries, thrillers, historical novels are my preference, although usually the book I’m reading is my favorite and it can be from many genres. I like non-fiction, too. I love biographies and books based on travel since in addition to writing, I also love to travel.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write what you love, but most important, write. Getting a book done is critical to anything else. Once “The End” has been typed on the last page, then the next round of fun begins – but that will never happen if the book is not written.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks so much for the interview. It’s been great fun. Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club is available as a paperback and ebook on Amazon http://amzn.com/0989318605
Release dates for other platforms will be announced later.
Please stay in touch with me at www.lizstauffer.com ,or on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I look forward to meeting each of you.