Monday, February 8, 2010

WILL THE REAL B.B. HAYWOOD STEP FORWARD? An Interview with Bob & Beth Feeman

Today we're celebrating Town in a Blueberry Jam--again!

It's such a great feeling when one of our books becomes a reality. I'm tickled with Berkley/Prime Crime's treatment of Town in a Blueberry Jam, especially the fact that it's so well distributed. Let me know if you see it in your local bookstore?

As promised, I vowed to reveal a surprise about the author, B.B. Haywood. Mr./Ms. Haywood is not one, but two authors--Bob and Beth Feeman. Here's what they have to say about the publication of their new book:

Q: Why do you use a pen name?
A: We get asked this all the time. We knew fairly early on we didn’t want to use our real names. There are a number of reasons why, but the simplest explanation is that our real last name is sometimes difficult for people to remember, and it gets misspelled a lot, so we thought we would create a name that’s easier to remember. Plus, since we’re co-authors, it’s shorter to use a single name rather than two. We hope the name we chose--B.B. Haywood--sticks in people's minds and they'll remember it when they see our future books on the shelf.

Q: Why did you set the book in Maine?
A: We’ve lived in Maine for almost a decade, and it’s a beautiful area of the country. It’s truly iconic in many ways, with the lobsters, lighthouses, vast blueberry barrens, and an amazing rocky coast. People come from all over the country and the world to visit Maine. So it seemed like a setting with a wide appeal. And there’s nothing quite like a New England village for a murder mystery.

Q: How difficult was it to create a mythical town?
A: It was actually surprisingly easy. Very early in the process, we debated whether to use an actual town or a fictional one. Novelist Sarah Graves, for instance, uses the actual town of Eastport, Maine, as the setting for her mystery novels. We wanted to do something different. With a fictional town, we could do whatever we wanted to make it fit the needs of the story. We designed it. We populated it. We molded it any way we wanted. We have, however, borrowed pieces of many actual New England villages in creating our fictional one. It’s based, in part, on Maine villages like Boothbay Harbor and Blue Hill. Even the name is a hybrid of three New England towns: Cape Elizabeth in Maine, Williamstown in Massachusetts, and Hopkinton in New Hampshire. Beth melded the three names together and came up with the name Cape Willington.

Q: How did you settle on the Candy Holliday character? Is she a compilation of people you know or a true "fictional" character?
A: Candy is a completely original character, and we have to say, over the course of writing the first book, and working now on the second one, we’ve both come to really like her. We think of her as a real person, and we care about her a lot. We knew the sort of person we wanted to create—an intelligent, hard-working heroine with a lot of common sense, and a certain amount of bravery. Candy’s very brave at times, which surprises us. The character who really surprises us, though, is Maggie Tremont, Candy’s best friend and our comic relief. Maggie literally came out of nowhere, and says things we never planned for her to say. She just speaks her mind, and we write it down. That’s why we love her. She’s a lot of fun to write.

Q: What's the most challenging aspect to writing this kind of book? Plot? Dialogue? Character development?
A: Believe it or not, the hardest part is continuity. Writing a book is a process stretched over days, weeks, months, and years. It may take days just to write few pages, and weeks to write two or three chapters. So when you’re writing something today, you have to remember what you wrote last week, or last year, and sometimes it can get tricky. Just getting the color of everyone’s eyes right, so it’s consistent throughout the book, can be a problem. Names get spelled different ways. Someone may pick something up in one scene, and you have to remember that person has that item in a future scene. It’s tricky. We have a complete character list now, and we’re trying to note various character traits as we write them so we’ll have them for future reference.

Q: There is another book in the Candy Holliday series. Can you give us a hint about the new book? Have you finished it yet?
A: We’re working on it right now, and it’s actually about two-thirds finished. It’s due to the publisher in March 2010, and will appear in bookstores in February 2011. It’s called TOWN IN A LOBSTER STEW, and involves an award-winning lobster stew recipe with a secret ingredient in it. As the book opens, it’s in the possession of Wilma Mae Wendell, one of Cape Willington’s senior citizens. But when the recipe is stolen from Wilma Mae’s house on the eve of the annual Lobster Stew Cook-off, she asks Candy Holliday to find out who’s behind the theft. What Candy doesn’t know is that there are people in town who want that recipe so bad, they’re willing to kill for it. In this novel, we’ll introduce Candy’s arch nemesis, as well as a number of new characters, and of course we’ll make sure many characters from the first book make a return appearance.

Q: How would you advise other beginning writers?
A: First, don’t give up. It’s tempting at times. We’ve been working at this for two decades, and there are many times we gave up. But the next day we started again. Just work on improving your craft, and write the very best story you can write. It also helps to keep an eye on the shelves in bookstores, so you know what’s currently popular. Mysteries are always popular, which is good for us.

Everyone jokes about the little devil and angel
on their shoulders; my problem is that I actually
have them.--Nicole (First Line Contest)

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