I love the holidays. It’s such a beautiful time of year. I love leaves changing color, the first snowfall, and cozy holiday novels! I feel very merry hosting author Mary Angela on the launch of A Very Merry Murder (Oct 1). The third book in her Professor Prather Mystery Series.
Mary is a mother, writer, teacher, and lover of books—literary and otherwise. She first experienced genre confusion when one of her own professors asked what type of writing interested her, and she answered “historical romance.” (She meant fiction or nonfiction.)
Although she never pursued a career as a romance writer, she did follow her dream of writing a traditional mystery. Set in the Midwest, the Professor Prather academic series captures her love of the Great Plains and university life.
To learn more about Mary Angela, click the link here.
Your amateur sleuth is a college professor. How much do you draw on your own experiences as a college professor for the series?
I draw on them a lot. An event will take place on campus, and I’ll think, that would be a great setting for a murder. Sometimes a name or description will inspire ideas, too. For instance, last Halloween a student walked into the library dressed up as a gorilla. That has to get into a book!
How have your characters grown over the three books? What do you know about Emmeline Prather now that you didn’t know when you wrote An Act of Murder?
The characters have grown and grown up in many ways. Emmeline is still a young professor, idealistic and passionate. But after three years on campus, she’s expanded her views on relationships and teaching. The lack of funding for the French department, for instance, has led her to pursue another research interest, women’s studies. The new direction drives her to finish her scholarly book in A Very Merry Murder.
In the second book, Passport to Murder, Professor Prather had more than one romantic possibility on the horizon. Do we have any romance to look forward to in A Very Merry Murder?
Yes! If you’re the swooning type, you might want to grab your smelling salts for the last few pages. In this novel, Em struggles with her feelings for Lenny when his childhood friend visits Copper Bluff. She also grapples with the idea of mixing work and pleasure. She has a choice to make by the end of book three. Readers might be surprised by her decision!
Nothing says Happy Holidays like a good murder investigation! What drew you to a holiday mystery?
I’ll admit it: I’m a Christmas fanatic. Those holiday catalogs that come in the mail? I get ten a month and read them all. I also read lots of holiday books. Mooseltoe is my all-time favorite children’s book. It would make a great present for an elementary student.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
My family and I love traveling to the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis to see A Christmas Carol. The tradition began when my husband and I were first married. We attended a performance with my parents. It was magical, and we were hooked. I can still remember the smell of the theater and the color of the robe worn by the Ghost of Christmas Present. Spinning from the ceiling in a twist of green and gold, he reminded me of Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve. By the time Fezziwig’s party arrived, I was officially in the Christmas spirit!
We still make the pilgrimage nearly every year. My eldest daughter and I have birthdays in December, so it’s our gift to each other. There’s no better present than being with family during the holidays.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on book four in the Professor Prather series, Coming Up Murder. Shakespeare’s first folio has arrived on campus, right in time for the reopening of Shakespeare’s garden. Lots of events are planned—including a murder or two!
Final words of wisdom:
Join a professional organization for writers, and learn from it. If you’re isolated from the writing community, as I am, an organization will help you become acquainted with the business of writing. It might also help you make contacts before you need them. After my first book was accepted for publication, I was left scrambling to learn about things I should have learned earlier. Had I known about some of the great organizations like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Authors Guild, I would have been more prepared for what was to come.
Great advice! Thanks for joining us to celebrate your book launch!