Friday, December 16, 2011

Joyce and Jim Lavene: Prolific Writing Team

Just in time for Christmas:  A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene. I'm happy to say that my guests today, the husband and wife team of Joyce and Jim Lavene, are friends of mine who also live in North Carolina. The Lavenes created Carolina Conspiracy, a group of mystery writers from the Carolinas, and we can't thank them enough for getting so many of us together. But more about that later in the interview.

Welcome to the blog, Joyce and Jim. Please have some of my Brittle Bones (peanut brittle from Killer Recipes cookbook) and a beverage.

Thanks, Susan.

I love the cover of your new release! It's quite eye-catching.

We like it too.

How on earth do two married folks write together without a homicide in the house?

You know, people ask us this question more than any other. We’re not really sure why this works for us. Maybe it’s because we worked together for 15 years with our own office supply business. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been married for 40 years. Or maybe it’s because we kill people in our books so we don’t have to kill each other. Of course, we have disagreements sometimes but it works for us.

You have two have written several series. Tell us how you came up with the ideas and a little about each series.

Sheriff Sharyn Howard Mysteries – This was our first. We got the idea from watching the news and seeing the first woman elected as a sheriff in NC. Sharyn was very serious, a little dark. Her father, who’d been the sheriff, was killed in a robbery  and she looked bad in her ugly brown uniforms. She didn’t get along with her mother and had a love/hate relationship with the county ME. We wrote 12 books in this series and hated when it was over. The books are being released now from Harlequin Worldwide in paperback.

Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries – Jim and I have been Master Gardeners for years and thought it would be fun to write about a botanist and botanical poisons. We are good friends with a botanist at the NC zoo who was a big help with these books. Peggy was also an older protagonist which was fun. And it was set in Charlotte so we got to eat out at all the restaurants we used in the book (for research) and had her travel across the state.

Renaissance Faire Mysteries – This is a strange, fun mystery series about a history professor who spends her off time at a Ren Faire in Myrtle Beach where she solves murder mysteries. This was so much fun to write because we love Ren Faires. We made this the best Ren Faire we could imagine with a castle, a lake, a pirate ship and a five acre Sherwood Forest. We’ve had so many people ask us if this is a real place because they want to go there. But it’s not, though we wish it was too! Jessie, our protagonist, apprentices herself and learns a different craft each time she goes to the Faire. So far she’s learned glass making, basket weaving, hat making, sword making and toy making.

The Missing Pieces Mysteries – This is set in Duck, NC and the mayor, Dae O’Donnell, is the mayor of the town. She is a finder of lost things, based a little on Jim’s uncanny ability to find lost things. She’s much more talented since she is also psychic. She has an antique/secondhand shop where she can put all the things she finds. The area is rich with folklore, pirates and ghosts so we wove these into the series as well. Dae finds out in the third book, A Spirited Gift,  that  she is related to the scourge of Duck, pirate Rafe Masterson. His ghost needs her help to clear his name and she needs his help to solve the murder of her friend.

We are currently writing two new series – The Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and the Pie in the Sky Mysteries for Pocket Books.

Congratulations to both of you!

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

Joyce – I can’t sleep if the closet door is open.
Jim – I have a collection of more than 200 dragons.

How many books have you written?

A Spirited Gift, our December release, will be our 60th published book. We are very excited about it!

WOW! That's fantastic!

Tell us more about A Spirited Gift.
A Spirited Gift is the third book in the Missing Pieces Mysteries. The books are set at the Outer Banks, in Duck, NC. Our protagonist is the mayor of Duck, Dae O’Donnell. In A Spirited Gift, Dae is trying to solve the murder of a friend when she is confronted by the ghostly apparition of a long dead relative demanding justice for his death. The pirate Rafe Masterson wasn’t someone Dae expected to learn she was related to but she has little choice but to help him with him everywhere she turns.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

It is available in every format in print and online everywhere.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

There is always the issue of keeping your characters fresh as well as keeping up with their lives and everything that happens to them. When you write two or three series a year, you have to keep a running tab on what all of them are doing! It helps to get them in, and out of, trouble.

How do you develop characters?

They really kind of develop themselves. Most of the time they form, sometimes with or without, a plot. Secondary characters are often people we know or that we’ve met.

I have trouble keeping up with character ins two books, so I'm awestruck.
How do you choose your setting?

Setting is so important. We choose it as carefully as we do characters. For Peggy Lee, our garden mystery protagonist, she wanted to be in Charlotte, NC in an urban area that loved to garden. Dae O’Donnell couldn’t have lived anywhere but Duck with its legends and history. Our Renaissance Faire could only have survived in someplace like Myrtle Beach where there are plenty of tourists.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Right now, we are working on a new series for Berkley Prime Crime. It’s called the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries and it is set in the Smokey Mountains. Our protagonist is a firefighter from Chicago who comes to the Tennessee Mountains to help out a new volunteer fire dept. We are also working on a new series for Pocket Books called Pie in the Sky which is set at Duke University.

Further congrats!

You guys created Carolina Conspiracy, a unique group of Carolina mystery writers who often travel do the same locations for workshops and other book events. Why did you establish this group? And I must add, I thoroughly enjoy being one of the conspirators.

People often comment on how nice it must be to do things together, and it is. We thought it might be nice for other authors to get together and enjoy themselves while they sell their books. It’s been fun for us too and we’ve made many good friends.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
The best place for excerpts and news is but we are also on Facebook and I tweet @author54. Hope to see you there!

So, folks, these two have plenty of great books for your entertainment. What are you waiting for?


Roxe Anne Peacock said...

A Spirited Gift sounds marvelous and right up my alley. I am going to order it for my Kindle Fire. On another note, I love reading all Susan's guest posts. This is one of my favorite blogspots.

Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks so much, Roxe Anne. Enjoy A Spirited Gift and have a wonderful holiday season.

Linda Lovely said...

Joyce and Jim-- You know I'm a big fan. Your creativity and ability to come up with so many unique series ideas impress me no end. Am looking forward to the Duke University series as we used to live in Durham, NC, and have many friends who taught at the school.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

The book sounds great! Love the name.