Monday, November 16, 2009

Maggie Bishop Talks Appalachian

Maggie, thanks for dropping by for an interview. Please give us a brief bio.
I hike, ski, golf, swim, explore and write in the mountains of North Carolina where I settled in 1993 with my husband and cat. Every time we travel, we seek out other mountains but none are as exciting as the ancient Appalachians. When asked, "What do you do?" my answer is, "Entertain with word pictures." Through my books, readers escape to the mountains.

I was chosen as one of “100 Incredible East Carolina University Women” for literature and leadership. I’m an Air Force brat who put myself through ECU and received a MBA degree, a former manufacturing executive, founder and past president of High Country Writers, past Secretary of Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, and am a member of Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

My workshops include: Write Now! The 5 Cs of Mystery; Write Now! Get Started, Get Organized and Get Going on Novel/Memoir; Write Now! Plot Your Novel in an Hour; On Stage! Booksignings and Promotion! for Authors

As an East Carolina Pirate myself, I'm so proud of you!
Briefly tell us about your series.
I am the author of a mystery series, Appalachian Adventure Mysteries, and two romance novels set in the Mountains of North Carolina in the Boone area. I started with romance and have turned to murder. In Perfect for Framing, greed and a lust for power led to murder in a clash of personal versus public needs. Murder at Blue Falls has Jemma who leads trail rides on her parents’ guest ranch as a suspect in the murder of neighborhood dogs and well as a man. Emeralds in the Snow involves skiing at Sugar Mountain, an emerald mine, and a cold case murder. Award winning Appalachian Paradise takes place on a five-day backpacking trip in the spring amongst the bears, boars and girl scouts.

On a different note, Meow Means Me! Now! is a rhyming feline allegory with poetry and photos. This gift book is a departure from my novels but sprang from her love of cats. Think Dr. Suess meets Marley & Me.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Just before my husband and I left for vacation to a dude ranch in the 1990s, I asked a lady in the office for a book to read. She gave me a short, contemporary romance. That year, I read 400 books. I read at stop lights while driving, during dinner, before sleep and just after waking in the morning. My husband had to touch me to get my attention. When I declared “I can do this!” he was relieved. I joined Romance Writers of America and attended their craft workshops at the annual conference. I’ve been hooked on writing ever since.

How do you develop characters?
Detective Tucker came to me one morning while on vacation at the beach. On the balcony overlooking the dunes and the ocean at six in the morning, I watched a deer cross in the high grass and soon after followed a bobcat. Tucker popped into my mind fully formed. Jemma Chase is based on a woman I met years ago who was six feet tall, had a braid down her back to her waist, and was a carpenter.

Why do you include sports in your mysteries and romances?
Life as writers is solitary and sedentary. If I didn’t involve myself in an outside activity, my blood would become sluggish, my brain would coagulate, and my imagination would stall. Hiking in these mountains renews my connection to the earth, trees, other animals, clean air, sparkeling streams–everything that enhances a person as a whole. If a person is too busy to break away and do something away from concrete, a short break through my novels will help. I did a five-day backpacking trip like in Appalachian Paradise. I love to ski and was a ski patroller at Sugar Mountain like in Emeralds in the Snow. Some of my fondest memories with my husband were on dude ranches so I set Murder at Blue Falls at an imaginary ranch in my valley near Triplett, NC. I also enjoy swimming and golf.

Why do you include real people in your novels?
Jane Wilson, author of the cookbook, Mountain Born & Fed, inspired me to use real people like she did in writing up stories about her recipes. It started in the second novel when I wanted to include fellow ski patrollers who are also my parents, Pearle and Lyle Bishop, mountain manager Gunther Jochl, and mountain groomer Joe White. Joe White’s real job is shoeing horses which fits into the dude ranch story. He gave me permission for him to be a suspect. I list the real people in the acknowledgments, everyone else is pure fiction.

What is your current project?
One Shot Too Many will be out in June 2010. Yesterday's regret; today's deadly fix. Impulsive acts during emotional upheavels from the past return to haunt, ending in the death of a photo-journalist near the cozy mountain town of Boone, NC. Detective Tucker must deal with his past while investigating the secrets of suspects determined to keep from facing their own histories. Jemma Chase, trail-ride leader and CSI wanabe, follows clues, even though her interference may cost Tucker his job.

How much research and plotting do you do before you're ready to write a book?
When I turned to murder, I interviewed Dee Dee Rominger, the Chief of Detectives at our local sheriff’s department and then she read an early draft of my novel to suggest changes. For example, the detectives get on a first name basis for anyone they talk with as soon as possible rather than use the formal address of Mister or Missus. Since it is a contemporary series that features the same two main characters, recurring characters and is set in the area I live, my research in those areas was largely done with the first mystery.

Once I have the opening scene, I make a list of the suspects and play with their characteristics and backgrounds. I brainstorm some possible plot points. The plot grows organically from there. Needless to say, I do a lot of rewriting. The one time I plotted ahead, the pages went dead on me and I abandoned the project. I could no longer discover the action like a reader would.

What is your typical writing day like?
I wish I had a typical writing day. I write in spurts of two months. Way in advance, I begin thinking about my characters and plot. The setting is the mountains of North Carolina which is perfect with the hollars and high peaks, the visitor attractions and sports, and the unpredictability of the weather. I liken it to the pressure built up behind a mountain dam - my head keeps filling up with a sense of what the characters will be going through. No details, just the anticipation of emotions and action. Once I have the emotional space and projects in the real world can be put off, I open the flood gates and write. I awake and begin writing long hand the next scene between fixing breakfast and my husband’s lunch, feeding the birds and tending to the cats. Once my husband is off to work, I continue writing either long hand or at the computer. After a few hours, I do a half hour on the elliptical machine, have lunch and return to writing. While exercising, my mind is on the story. I love it. This is the grand, expanding part of the whole experience of creating these people and events. The first two hours in the morning (5-7) are spent on the Internet at various sites authors need to keep up with in order to market books. The creative work on my manuscript is from 9 to noon. Sometimes I’ll work in the afternoon for a couple of hours. My brain shuts down at 5 so it is crucial that I write in the morning. I manage to arrange writing days 3 to 4 times a week.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My website is and I’m one of the Dames of Dialogue who blog at

Maggie, continued success, my friend and fellow Pirate. ARRRR!