Bio: P.J. MacLayne is a computer geek by day and a writer by night. She grew up among the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and uses that as the setting for many of her stories. She currently makes her home in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
She can be reached at Facebook: https://Facebook.com/pjmaclayne
And on Twitter https://twitter.com/pjmaclayne
And on TSU https://www.tsu.co/PJMacLayne
1. What inspired you to write this book?
a. The Marquesa’s Necklace, Book 1 of the Oak Grove Mysteries, started as the tail end of a dream. I don’t remember the beginning of the dream, but the end is the beginning of the book. Originally Eli, my hero, was a ghost and the book was titled “The Ghost Who Loved Me,” but my characters wouldn’t stand for it. Eli soon convinced me he was alive and well. I still think there’s a book to be written with the old title. I just haven’t stumbled across the storyline yet.
2. If you had to co-author a book, who would be your ideal partner and why?
a. This is a tough one. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with some great writers on line, but if I was going to co-write a book I’d like to work with someone face-to-face. So I’m going to take a leap and Cornelia Amiri. I’ve had the opportunity to do some critiquing for her. Although we write in very different styles, I think we could work well together and balance out each other’s skills and faults.
3. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
a. I just recently became a grandmother! The little one arrived two months early, but is doing fine. In the week after he was home, while I was at my daughter’s helping out, I was able to see his personality developing.
I actually have other creative outlets besides writing- I do needlepoint and embroidery. In fact, I was embroidering a baby quilt for the grandson and had to set aside my writing and spend all my time getting the blanket done so it was ready for him when he came home. It was continuing a tradition because I made one for each of my children when they were born.
4. What do you do for a living?
a. I had a variety of careers before I found myself where I am now. In my latest incarnation, I’m a computer geek. I’ve gone through a variety of computer related jobs, and my current job is tied to security. And I can’t tell you much more than that—because security, you know. But the variety of jobs has exposed me to a large range of people, and I can draw from my varied experiences for my characters.
5. What part of the world do you live in?
a. I live in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. If I had my druthers, I’d find a cabin somewhere in the mountains to spend most of my time in, but there’s this little thing called a “real job” that requires me to stay where I am—at least until I win the lottery or one of my books hits the big time.
6. How long have you been writing?
a. If I told you that you’d know how old I was, so I’m not telling. Let’s just say I made the switch from poetry to writing fiction about five years ago, and I’m still having fun. I haven’t run out of stories I want to tell. In fact, I’m getting ready to release the next book in the Oak Grove series — probably at the end of April. That book is titled “Her Ladyship’s Ring.” I need to do some more editing before I share it with the world.
7. What is your writing process like? Are you a pantster, a plotter, or somewhere in between?
a. I’m definitely a pantster. I start off with a general concept, and maybe a subplot, but I let my characters tell me the story as I’m writing it. Does that make me a transcriptionist instead of a writer? I do have to nudge my characters sometimes when they aren’t talking to me. Threaten them with taking the story the way I want it to go if they don’t start talking to me. That usually solves the problem. I didn’t have that problem with “The Marquesa’s Necklace,” in fact, just the opposite. There were several times the words were coming faster than I could type them out.
8. When and where do you write?
a. I do most of my writing at nights and on the weekends, although I find myself planning the next couple of paragraphs in odd moments when I’m at work. Sometimes I even sneak in some writing at lunch. Just between you and me, if I’m into a really exciting part of the story, I’ve been known to scribble notes while I’m taking part in a boring on-line meeting. Don’t tell my boss.
9. What sorts of conditions are most conducive to productivity?
a. For my best productivity, I need to be alone and listening to music. I’ve tried sitting with my husband and working from my laptop while he watches TV, but it’s too distracting. I can do editing in the same situation, but for writing my first draft, it doesn’t work. The type of music I listen to depends upon my mood, but classic rock is my fallback genre.
10. What’s your favorite aspect of being a writer?
a. Writing “The End” at the end of the story. Even though I know I’ll need to go back and edit the heck out of what I’ve written, I get a lot of satisfaction from completing that first draft. And I’m a sucker for a happy ending, so it makes me happy to finally see my characters happy after all the trouble I’ve put them through. In fact, I’ve found myself talking to my main characters, assuring them it’s going to get better as I write them into yet another sticky situation.
11. Your least favorite?
a. Publicity. I’m a private person and I have a hard time asking people to buy my book. It feels like I’m asking them for money. And the time I spend on publicity I could be spending writing the next book! However, I want people to read my books, and that means I have to put myself out there to get my books in front of potential readers. Even answering some of the more personal questions in this interview is hard for me.
12. What are the biggest challenges you face as a writer?
a. Procrastination. I wrote my earliest books out longhand. Yep, on paper. (Those books are unpublished but maybe one day I’ll revisit them and see what I can do to clean them up.) But now that I sit in front of a computer and write, it’s far to easy to get distracted by the internet and put off that next paragraph I know will be tough to write.
13. Who are some of your favorite writers and why?
a. There are so many good ones that I feel guilty naming any. I love Jenna Bennett and her Cutthroat Business mysteries. They may have, to some degree, inspired me to make a series out of The Marquesa’s Necklace. And I enjoy Terry Odell’s book, especially the Blackthorne mysteries. She’s another writer living in the Rocky Mountains, so I feel like I should support her although we’ve never met. Then there’s L.j. Charles and her Everly Gray adventures. The scenario that the overall series is based on is so unique and she does such a good job of surprising the reader throughout the whole series that you can’t help but stay involved. In fact, I need to check and see if the next book is available yet. And there’s so many writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on-line, and my budget can’t stretch far enough to buy all the books I’d like to check out.
14. What are your favorite books?
a. I love the Dragonrider series by Anne McCaffrey and The Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey because of their strong female characters. But I also enjoy the Longmire series by Craig Johnson. I read his books before the TV series started, and found the differences between the books and the shows interesting. He’s a Wyoming writer and his books are set in an area near where I use to live.
15. What writing tools do you use, if any?
a. I use whatever I can get my hands on. From paper and pen to Office 2013 to LibraOffice. It just depends upon what I happen to have handy at the moment.
16. How long does it typically take for you to write your first draft?
a. I’ve written a first draft in as little as a month and as long as six months. It all depends upon what else I’ve got going on. But I feel as if taking longer on my first draft cuts down on the revisions I need to make in my later versions.
17. Your final draft?
a. Another five-six months after I’ve finished my first draft. I know many writers like to set their books aside for awhile after completing the first draft, and I’ve tried that, but it doesn’t work for me. I want to see the story though to completion. I”m frequently working on more than one book at a time so that makes the time frames longer.
18. Who’s your favorite character from one of your books? Why?
a. Truly, it depends on what book I’m working on at the moment. In my current book, “Her Ladyship’s Ring,” I can’t decide between Harmony and Jake. Harmony the heroine of the Oak Grove series, a feisty ex-librarian and Jake is her ex-boyfriend who got her into trouble with the law. He’s a rogue with a big heart and a smile to match. But he’s not as innocent as he appears. I love them both, and enjoyed writing their interactions.
19. If you could have one superpower what would it be?
a. Healing. I would love to be able to relieve people of their pain. Modern medicine has made great strides, but it can’t fix everything.
About The Marquesa’s Necklace:
Harmony Duprie enjoyed her well-ordered life in the quiet little town of Oak Grove—until her arrest for drug trafficking. Cleared of all charges, she wants nothing more than to return to the uneventful lifestyle of a historical researcher she once savored.
But when her beloved old car “George” is stolen and explodes into a ball of flames, it sets off a series of events that throws her plans into turmoil. Toss in a police detective that may or may not be interested in her, an attractive but mysterious stranger on her trail, and an ex-boyfriend doing time, and Harmony’s life freefalls into a downward spiral of chaos.
Now she has to use her research skills to figure out who is behind the sinister incidents plaguing her, and why. And she better take it seriously, like her life depends upon finding the right answers.
Because it might.
And here’s an excerpt:
Officer Felton left me in the barely-furnished lobby. It was a place you don’t want to stay in too long—several hard plastic chairs, a beat-up fake wood end table and a few old magazines scattered about. It smelled like stale cigarettes, and appeared not to have been cleaned for weeks. I perched on the edge of a chair and put my hands between my knees to keep from touching anything. Thankfully, it was only moments until Detective Thomason appeared. I gave him the once over—brown hair still cut short—check. Glasses hiding those dark brown eyes—check. His shirt rumpled and in need of an iron—check. No wedding band in his finger—check. Yep, nothing had changed.
As I stood, his eyes wandered from my face down to my shoes. The corners of his lips curled upward, but I wouldn’t say that he smiled. A smile would have looked odd on his normally grim face.
“If you would come with me, please?” he said.
He even put the please in there, unlike our previous encounters. Of course, those times, I had been either in booking or in one of the interrogation chambers. I know, I know, they’re interview rooms. Whatever. I followed him through a maze of desks and hallways and into a small but comfortable office, my heels clicking on the tile floor.
I’d never noticed before what a nice behind he had. I wondered if it was just the pants he was wearing, or if I’d just not looked before, having other things on my mind. Like calling a lawyer.
“Have a seat, please,” he said, indicating an armless office chair—at least its seat was padded. He sat on the other side of a desk covered with an assortment of files and paperwork, and picked up a file from the top of the stack.
“Harmony,” he said tentatively.
“Detective Thomason,” He might be trying to be friendly, but I still hadn’t forgiven him for arresting me.
He cleared his throat, and set the file back on his desk. “Did you let anyone borrow your car today?” he asked.
“No, my keys are right here.” I started digging through the contents of my purse.
“I’ll take your word for it,” he said, after I pulled out my checkbook, a packet of pink tissues, and a paperback with an almost-naked man on the front cover and piled them on the corner of his desk. His mouth twitched. “Have you made any new enemies recently, Miss Duprie?” I guess he got my message about the terms of our relationship.
“Besides a certain insufferable cop?” Even in the artificial fluorescent light, I saw the red rising in his cheeks. I could almost hear him counting to ten as I pretended to consider the question. “I think Larry, the florist, is ticked off that I’m not receiving flowers anymore. And Bart at the grocery store yelled at me last week when I went through the ten items or less line with fourteen items. But what does that have to do with someone stealing and wrecking my car?”
He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and exhaled. “Bear with me a moment. Did you go anywhere today?”
I couldn’t figure out where this line of questioning was going, but I answered anyway. “No, I woke up with a killer headache, realized it was going to rain, and decided to stay home and work.”
“And when was the last time you saw your car?”
“This morning. I planned to go to the library, but it started to storm as I was leaving. Why?”
He swiveled his chair so he was facing away from me. I fidgeted in my suddenly uncomfortable seat and waited. He turned back around and leaned forward with his forearms on his desk. “Your headache may have saved your life. We’ve asked for help from the state police to verify our theory, but our preliminary investigation and accounts from a few eyewitnesses indicate your car exploded.” Sitting back and rubbing his forehead, he added. “A tall man in a brown suit was seen in the vicinity.”
I sputtered. “What do you mean my car exploded?”
“In a fireball. Burnt to a crisp. If you had been in the vehicle, you’d be dead.”
The Marquesa’s Necklace is for sale at major ebook retailers and is also available in paperback.