16 May 2007

Author Answers with Carolyn Hart

This week's author, Carolyn Hart, has a writing career that spans more than 20 years and includes both non-fiction books for kids as well as the Death on Demand series mysteries, featuring Annie Laurance and Max Darling. She's also written the Henrie O mysteries, the latest of which "Set Sail for Murder" was recently published by William Morrow

WN: How did you create the character of Henrie O?
HART: I wrote a short story which was included in an anthology published by my then editor. She loved the character and asked me to do a series. SET SAIL FOR MURDER is Henrie O's seventh adventure. Henrie O is my tribute to women who were young during World War II. Society often dismisses those who are older as negligible. I see age as an enhancement, not a burden. Henrie O is savvy, clever, insightful, and adventurous. Past experience gives her an edge in dealing with almost every situation.

WN: You’ve been writing mysteries for years. What changes have you noticed in the genre over that time?
HART: Mystery publishing was the preserve of American men with hardboiled privatye eye mysteries and dead English ladies with traditional mysteries from the 1930s through the 1950s. There was also a market in the 50s for romantic suspense. American women writing traditional mysteries had little chance of being published.

Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky transformed the market witht their hardbopiled private eye books featuring a female protagonist. New York published the books because they fit their conception of the American mystery even though written by women. The success of these books suggested that American readers were interested in books written by American women with women protagonists. This opened the market to writers such as myself. In the late 1980s mystery lists were dominated by male writers. Now American women provide 52 per cent of all hardcover mysteries published every year. This is a huge transformation of the market.

WN: You've been called the American Agatha Christie… what’s your reaction to that moniker?
HART: Delight. She is and was and will always be the world's greatest mystery writer. To be compared to her is a great honor.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you?
HART: I love having written. It is always a struggle to begin a book and to find my way through to the end. But the wonderful day arrives when I have completed the first draft. That's when I have fun. I have the book. Now I can try to make it better. Thart is the most fun of writing to me.

WN: What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
HART: Writing the first draft. I am unable to outline. I have to take the characters and the idera and hope by the grace of God to find the story.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
HART: I've already turned in two books for 2008. DEATH WALKED IN , the 18th in the Death on Demand series, will be published in April 2008. When Max and Annie restore an an old antebellum house, a hidden package brings murder. When Annie discovers the secret of Franklin house, death walks in. GHOST AT WORK, the first in a new series, will be published in fall 2008. The late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, an impetuous redheaded ghost, returns to earth to help someone in trouble.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
HART: When I read LITTLE WOMEN, I understood Jo's passion and knew it was mine.

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