Today’s Books Are Cool feature is about Marcia Turner, indie author of murder mysteries. Marcia has recently published two very different books in the genre which we’ll take a quick look at first before hearing from Marcia about her books and writing.
Misplaced Loyalty was Marcia’s debut detective novel. Patsy Hodge won’t be second best – not in her job as a police detective or to another woman. After a relationship with a man at work who turned out to be married, she transfers to another area and finds herself working for the prickly and opinionated John Meredith. She forms an uneasy alliance with another female detective in Meredith’s team, Tanya, as they investigate what at first appeared to be suicides but are now realised to be assisted suicides – in some cases, very assisted. Patsy proves to be a very sharp investigator, which antagonises Tanya, but she’s not the only enemy Patsy makes. Surprisingly, her biggest initial enemy, her boss Meredith, proves to have another side. He’s been frankly a complete bastard to women in the past, but it’s time to change. Especially when Patsy appears to be in real danger. However, whether two such strong-willed people can make as successful a private team as they do a professional one remains to be seen.
This is a supremely successful murder mystery with rounded, convincing characters who grab your attention and an extremely clever and unpredictable plot. There’s tension, terror, intrigue, humour and romance, and this book will appeal to anyone who likes any of those elements since it’s so readable and entertaining.
Next up is Murderous Mishaps.
Five work colleagues meet up at the reasonably nice St James Hotel for a weekend of pampering and self-indulgence. There aren’t many other guests there – a few priests, an elderly couple, a much younger people and a few others, including a hotel inspector. So Suzie, Jenny, Debby, Charity and Anna should get plenty of attention from the spa staff and the dishy French barman. Hotel manager Gina Brown determinedly keeps standards the highest she can, despite the fact that this weekend she’s having to deal with Cornwall’s heaviest summer rain in decades, power failures – and a dead body. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink, and several people overindulge over the period!
The police arrive swiftly to deal with the body and with the weather meaning no one can leave the hotel, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve the crime. And there’s no shortage of perpetrators ready to own up. When DI B asks for a confession, several guilty parties jump up. So who really did commit the crime? And just how many murders were there?
There’s a lot of entertainment to be had from this lively, clever and very funny murder mystery. Marcia Turner has woven a fascinating plot and she has a lovely, natural writing style. You’re there with our fun five leading females as they tease each other, take part in the karaoke competition, and although they get the claws out on each other occasionally, they’re genuinely kind and caring. They take other guests, notably Barbara and Simon, under their wing and look out for each other. And only one of them might be a murderer…
Marcia Turner has a great eye for detail and the close-knit community she creates in this hotel draws us in. Every single one of her characters is complex and truly intriguing. No little mannerism or quirk escapes the author’s eye. The plot is ingenious, to say the least, and keeps us interested, puzzled and guessing to the very end.
Tell us briefly about Misplaced Loyalty.
Misplaced Loyalty was my second full length novel, although the first published. The first novel I wrote was Murderous Mishaps although written under a working title of “Whodunitchiclitthing”. Once I’d completed that, I decided to see if I could write a serious whodunit. I wanted it to be a little different, so I threw a will they won’t they into the mix. It was a huge learning curve in just about every way, and eventually absorbed every spare minute of my time. Once I had finished it, I missed the development of the characters and began to plot out the next in the series, whilst editing/rewriting what eventually became Murderous Mishaps.
What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?
As mentioned above, I was coming to the end of writing Murderous Mishaps, and wanted to write something less frivolous. I saw a news item on a poor man who had been badly injured and wanted to end his life. He had been an active sportsman and father, and found himself a quadriplegic, unable even to feed himself. He was brave enough not to take the option to end his life quietly, but challenged the law through the high court, wanting to be given permission to end his life legally, and on his terms. He did that to both protect his family and those that would have to help him, and to provide hope to others in a similar situation. He lost his case and his reaction was harrowing. He died a few weeks later. I began to wonder, what if? What if there was someone willing to risk helping those who saw no future, irrespective of the law? Those whose lives had become so retched, that death was the most palatable option. But what if that person started making the decision as to when the time had come?
I wanted to consider the argument from both sides. I wanted to show that there are people, who, for one reason or another, truly had reached the end of their life as they see it, and the misery it causes them waking up each day. I countered this by showing that some days they were glad that they had seen their loved ones one more time, and that giving others control over their existence could prove fatal. I wanted to question that if such an agreement had been made, at what point does the decision to end your life pass into the hands of others.
Was it an easy story to write?
Surprisingly, yes. I had the basic premise as to how the victims would die, and I knew I wanted to show that whilst these awful things were going on, life for everyone else carried on as usual. I think that’s why I introduced the will they won’t they element. Meredith & Hodge were desperately trying to find and stop the villain, whilst trying to decide whether or not to become involved with each other. I would confess though, that I didn’t decide finally ‘who did it’, until I was over half way through.
Which character are you most like? Patsy? Jasper? Meredith?
Hmm. That’s a tough question. Probably a mixture of Patsy and Meredith, weighted toward Patsy. I am quite calm and pragmatic about most things. I don’t like to be the center of attention, I’m quite happy to be on the peripherals looking in, but more often than not get dragged in to the thick of things. When I explode, which is rare, it is of that moment and then I move on.
And now we’d like to hear a little bit about your latest novel Murderous Mishaps.
My “Whodunitchiclitthing” was born from a conversation with a friend. She had been asked to help someone who had ‘killed’ their partner with an odd weapon. The conversation ended with her saying, “They wouldn’t believe you if you wrote it down!” I wasn’t working at the time, and having always enjoyed writing I thought, why not? I sketched out a story where I was able to drop in many of unusual and amusing things that had happened to my friends and colleagues over the years. I borrowed a pet irritation from here, and a mannerism from there, and my cast was born.
It’s fair to say it’s less serious than Misplaced Loyalty, even though we have a few bodies. Was it more fun to write?
Not really, as it was supposed to be farcical, and because I’d never attempted anything like it before, I found getting some of the scenes to work without overdoing it really difficult. I’d love to write stories that make people laugh, and admire writers who seem to be able to do so effortlessly. It was never supposed to be a comedy but nor was it serious, and when I decided to publish it I was concerned that readers would think I meant it to be taken seriously.
Your lady characters in Murderous Mishaps are successful, glamorous businesswoman. I get the feeling you’re one too. Who are you most like out of Anna, Jenny, Debby, Suzie and Charity?
Glamorous is not a word I would ever associate with myself. It made me laugh reading the question. However I was a Regional Director for a large corporate for many years and I was competent at my job. I suppose if I had to choose a character most like myself, it would be Anna, sensible, reliable, a tiny bit adventurous, and so not totally boring.
I like reading all types of fiction but I like to be challenged as the story develops. I grew out of Enid Blyton at about nine years of age, and started reading Agatha Christie because that was mainly what was lying about. I like to work out what, why and how with whatever I’m reading, and when I came to writing Murderous Mishaps, it seemed natural to drop all the things I wanted to include into a whodunit. Surprisingly, some of my favourite novels are not related to crime in anyway.
Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?
I found a graphic designer quite by chance, gave him a brief synopsis of the stories and he came up with various designs. With both Misplaced Loyalty and Murderous Mishaps the covers jumped out at me. With Ill Conceived the second in the Meredith & Hodge series I did give him several of my own ideas. I am not artistic in anyway shape or form, but I know what I like. The aim with Murderous Mishaps was to ensure readers knew this was not a serious read. With the other two, I wanted to catch the eye and whilst depicting perhaps a little of the story, ensure that it raised more questions than it answered.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
I don’t think there was an absolute moment. I’ve always enjoyed making up stories. I would find myself in situations where on the face of it everything was normal, but someone would do or say something that wasn’t quite right. I would find myself making up dramatic reasons for it, just for my own amusement. The reality of course was far more boring. One day I simply sat down in front of the laptop and started writing fuller versions of my thoughts and exaggerations.
What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
To research how things work as an indie author. Join as many writers groups as you can find time to attend both on line and in person if possible, and learn by other people’s mistakes. I am not at all technical and managed to make as many mistakes with the first upload of Misplaced Loyalty, as was possible to make. I also didn’t consider how I was going to promote it to anyone other than people I already knew. So, do your homework first and be prepared. I now have the legacy of some reviews which would have been great if it wasn’t for the mistakes I made. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty it get yourself an editor!
This is your baby. You have nurtured and developed it, you have done your absolute utmost to give it a good start in the world, and then you let it down at the final hurdle by sending it out into the world without first making sure shoelaces are tied, and it trips up on the first outing. That can be corrected of course, but some damage will already have been done. It would be so much better to avoid the fall if at all possible. An editor will tie the laces for you.
And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?
Not really, I’m just an average mum, wife, or work colleague. I happen to disappear for hours on end in front of a laptop, and I sometimes ask odd questions at inappropriate moments much to others amusement. Such as, “can you get DNA from urine?” whilst eating dinner. Other than that I’m normal!
You can buy Marcia’s books here: