Evelyn David, Author of Zoned for Murder, Talks Writing

My guest today is Evelyn David, but that’s a misnomer as Evelyn is actually a duo. Confused? Let me explain.

The author of Murder Off the Books, Murder Takes the Cake, Zoned for Murder, and The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series, Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.

Marian lives in New York and is the author of eleven nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics ranging from veterans benefits to playgroups for toddlers.

Rhonda lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is the director of the coal program for the state, and in her spare time enjoys imagining and writing funny, scary mysteries.

Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person.

Anne - I find it fascinating you two have never met! That’s a story in itself, I'm sure, but let’s talk about writing. When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Marian - I think I always knew I wanted to be a story teller. For as long as I can remember, imagining adventures, people, dialogue, was how I got through long car rides, boring classes, and "lights out, go to sleep" instructions from parents. I also always loved to write and remember distinctly an eighth grade teacher who made me feel good about my writing.

All my professional jobs have involved writing and about 20 years ago, I started freelancing full-time, writing nonfiction books. I love the research and organization of a nonfiction book, but the lure of writing a novel in my favorite genre (mysteries of course), was finally too hard to ignore. So I wrote a mystery, which went absolutely nowhere. I began posting short stories on a writers forum - and "met" Rhonda (in virtual terms)…and thus began the story of Evelyn David.

Rhonda - I love books, television, movies but I never cared for cartoons. I craved drama and the interaction of "real" people. I can remember watching old black and white movies before I started grade school. Who would want to watch Boris and Natasha when they could be watching Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn? But as much as I loved the plotlines, I always rewrote the endings in my head. I wanted the story to go on beyond the shot of the cowboy riding his horse into the sunset. Shane came back. Scarlet and Rhett lived happily ever after in a new, "better than before," complete with new drapes, plantation. No one ever died. I still want the same thing. About ten years ago, I began moving the rewrites from the imaginary screen running in my mind to the computer screen in front of me.

Anne - Tell us about your book, Zoned for Murder.

Rhonda - Former Newsweek reporter Maggie Brooks has two kids, a dead husband, a mortgage to pay, and a lot of competition when she tries to get back into the shrinking newspaper business.

Landing a job with a local paper, she's bored to tears covering bake sales and Little League games. But when a developer tries to build an outlet mall in a neighboring town, what starts out as potentially a great clip for her resume, suddenly turns dangerous and ugly.

Someone will do anything to block the mall's construction. Dirty money, nasty politics, and shady land deals abound as Maggie pursues the scoop that might jumpstart her career. When murder is added to the mix, she realizes that meeting her deadline might be the last thing she ever does.

Read Maggie's byline as she rebuilds her career, dips her toes into a shark-filled dating pool, and investigates a small New York town Zoned for Murder.

Anne - Would you share an excerpt of Zoned for Murder with us?

Marian – We’d be delighted!

I didn't notice the dark sedan until I was headed down the one-lane gravel road. For a moment I thought the car was following me, but when I made the final turn near the lake, it disappeared. Probably just a fisherman getting an early start.

The gas station attendant told me the Sizemore cabin was built sometime in the 1940s, after the end of WWII. I wasn't expecting it to be in such good condition. Getting out of my car and looking around, I realized that Sizemore must have done a lot of work on the building over the years. The log structure sported two stories, modern large glass windows, and a wraparound deck. There was still yellow crime scene tape tied to a tree near the established parking area.

I took a few photographs for Gene with my iPhone camera, but mostly I wandered around. There was a lot of brush and undergrowth. Someone could have gotten close without being seen. I tried to imagine the scene as the police found it. Fish iced down in the cooler. Fishing poles and tackle in the back of Sizemore's truck. An unloaded handgun was in a tackle box under the seat. The driver's door open. Sizemore might have been going back and forth from the cabin to the vehicle, distracted, preparing to leave. It was likely that he never saw his killer.

I stepped up on the porch and tried the door. Locked. I cupped my hands around my face and peered through one of the glass windows. I could see a sofa and a couple of chairs in front of a large fireplace. Not lodge quality furniture but more than comfortable. It was a nice place. Or it was. Who knew if the family would ever want to use the cabin again? Hard to get past the violence that had stained more than the gravel driveway. I heard something that had me turning in time to see some movement in the strip of trees bordering the roadway. A half dozen crows took flight. I couldn't help a shudder. The police report mentioned that crows had been at Sizemore's body before they found him. I didn't have
a good history with crows. There had been one outside my window the day Pete died. I'm not a superstitious person, but I don't like crows.

I watched from the front deck, but never saw anything else. As I walked over to my car, I looked down. I had two flat tires. One could have been an accident. The road was rough. But two? Two felt like something else. A warning maybe?

Anne – Great excerpt. I’m currently reading Zoned for Murder, and thoroughly enjoying it. Is it part of a series? If so, include other titles.

Rhonda - Zoned for Murder is the first book of a new series, The Sound Shore Times Mysteries. We intend to write a second book (and third!), but first we have to finish a new novella in our Brianna Sullivan paranormal series and we owe fans of our Sullivan Investigations series, book three of that.

Anne - What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you dislike?

Marian - A series gives the author the opportunity to visit with old friends. Our characters become very real to us and it's fun to see them develop from story-to-story, to envision how they will react to new situations (and dead bodies!). It also makes the writing a little easier because we've already created the main cast of characters and often the setting, so we can devote our time to devilish new twists, turns, and red herrings. 

The hard part about writing a series is making sure you remain true to the characters. It's not that they can't develop and change over time. But the essence of who they are must remain consistent. For example, we recently found ourselves contemplating having Brianna take a certain action, but on more careful consideration realized that it's not something she would do. From a purely organizational aspect, writing a series also means being careful that we don't repeat a character name. We've got a series bible so we know who's who in Lottawatah, Milford, and the DC world of Mac Sullivan.

Rhonda - What Marian said. No, really. I love creating characters, I love creating fictional worlds, and like our readers, I want to know what happens next. What do I dislike about writing a series? Nothing so far.

Anne - Tell us the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.

Marian - While I had had the experience of seeing my name in print for my nonfiction work, those moments paled in comparison to seeing our names on a contract from Woman's World magazine when we sold our very first story, Pipe Dreams. It was a short little romance (just 1,000 words), but a national magazine had bought it and I felt like we had made the transition from aspiring authors to professionals. I would add, however, that self-doubt is probably the cornerstone of all writers and so while that moment was exhilarating, subsequent rejections or a negative review, can plunge me back into that hole of fear and worry about whether or not I'm a "real" writer.

Rhonda - I felt like a real writer when I held in my hands for the first time a copy of Murder Off the Books. I was in Chicago at the Love is Murder Mystery Conference and I was standing in the crowded book room, looking down at the cover, my hands shaking, and that's when I knew.

Anne - Where can readers find you online?

Marian – At our website, blog, and on Facebook and Twitter

Anne - You’re offering a giveaway copy of your book to one lucky reader. What question would you like them to address in a comment to be eligible for the draw?

Rhonda - Name three characters from any of Evelyn David's mysteries. Those who provide correct answers will be entered into a drawing to win a coupon for "one" free download from Smashwords of the winner's choice of any single e-book in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries series.

Anne – Thank you both for taking time from your busy lives to talk about writing and Zoned for Murder. It’s been such fun, and I hope that very soon you will meet each other in person!

The winner of Evelyn David’s giveaway draw will be announced on Tuesday, May 29. Good luck, and please remember to include your email addy with your answers.

Readers, your comments are always welcome and appreciated. To ensure you do not miss a single Muriel Reeves Mysteries blog post, interview or giveaway, become a follower on either GFC (Google Friend Connection) or NetworkedBlogs, or subscribe by email. It’s as easy as a click of the mouse, and I will be eternally grateful. Until next time, happy reading!

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Jake said...

Sounds like quite a duo. Look forward to reading from their series. 3 characters requirement gave me opportunity to peruse their website. Thanks for an interesting post.
Rachel Brenner
Mac Sullivan
Cooper Jackson

DebbieRh said...

Hi, ladies! Guess who? lol I ought to be able to handle this one, reckon?
Julianna Jarrett aka JJ
Mac Sullivan
Rachel Brenner
Brianna Sullivan
Cooper Jackson
Maggie Brooks

Debbie Rhoades :o)

Evelyn David said...

Thanks so much Muriel for hosting us. We'd love to send both Debbie and Jake a coupon for a free e-book download from Smashwords of an Evelyn David mystery of their choice. I have Debbie's email, but would like to ask Jake to contact us at evelyndavid@evelyndavid.com so we can arrange for a coupon.

Thanks again.

Rhonda and Marian
aka Evelyn David

Anne K. Albert said...

Congratulations Jake and Debbie, and thank you Evelyn for dropping by to talk writing!