Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Conversation with Mystery Author Peg Cochran

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Peg Cochran
with Peg Cochran

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Peg Cochran to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Cozy Mystery Books Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Peg's second mystery featuring chef Gigi Fitzgerald is Steamed to Death (Berkley Prime Crime, June 2013 mass market paperback and ebook formats).

We recently had a chance to catch up with Peg to talk about her books.

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Omnimystery News: What is it about series mysteries that appeals to you as a writer?

Peg Cochran
Photo provided courtesy of
Peg Cochran

Peg Cochran: I didn't so much choose to write a series as it chose me! Currently I am writing two series for Berkley Prime Crime — the Gourmet De-Lite Series under my own name and the Sweet Nothings Lingerie Series under my pen name of Meg London. Most cozy mysteries are part of a series because readers enjoy following the characters from one adventure to another. They like going back to the place and characters that have become familiar to them over the course of several books.

I am definitely trying to develop my characters over time. As is typical in a cozy, the protagonist generally starts the first book in new surroundings or a new situation. As he/she becomes comfortable with their "new life" they automatically change to some extent. The romance (and there generally is one) also evolves over the course of many books.

I try to give them new challenges with each story.

OMN: Are both of your series "cozies"?

PC: Most definitely. Berkley Prime Crime does publish one or two non-cozy mysteries per month, but most of their books are cozies. I think readers like knowing what they're going to get when they pick up one of our books — the violence will take place off-stage, no children or pets will be harmed, the protagonist will use information gleaned from knowing the victim and talking to people to solve the crime — no long, drawn-out forensic investigation. Generally the town or community is a place where readers enjoy spending a couple of hours with their favorite characters.

OMN: Tell us about your writing process.

PC: Hmmm, I'm something of a hybrid. I create a sketchy bio for my characters — especially the victim because it's something in the victim's life that leads to the murder. I do have to do a brief synopsis for my editor (among other things, the artist who designs the cover and the copywriter who writes the blurb need to know what the book is about) but I don't do an extensive outline. If I did I would feel as if I'd already written the story! I do map out major "plot points" like the mid-point where you generally want something dramatic to happen — another body, the prime suspect suddenly isn't so prime — something like that. I also like to have something exciting to end Act 1 and Act 2. I generally fill in the gaps between those points as I write. Usually there's a point (somewhere in the middle) where I absolutely swear that next time I will write an outline!

OMN: How familiar are you with the cozy activities in your mysteries?

PC: For my Gourmet books, there's definitely some first-hand experience. Like my character, I love to cook, and I know enough about it to write realistically. For the lingerie series, Google is my friend! I spent many pleasurable hours researching vintage lingerie. Actually, when the words refuse to flow, Google is a marvelous time suck as you convince yourself you absolutely need to know the entire history of French bulldogs in order to portray one realistically! Google is like potato chips — you can't have just one — so one topic leads to another to another … until you realize you've wasted most of your writing time.

Since my lingerie series is set in a real town, I did consult with the police in that town to see how they operate. My Gourmet town is made up, but I've based it on information from a detective I interviewed in my hometown which was a similar size.

I find guns challenging to research — I know absolutely nothing about them, and they scare me. My characters tend to kill people with other weapons!

OMN: We always find ourselves visualizing what the characters look like when we read. How do you picture your characters?

PC: For my Gourmet series, I've always pictured Gigi Fitzgerald as looking like Debra Messing but without all the make-up, fancy clothes and with messier hair! Detective Bill Mertz looks like Daniel Craig and has that same stoic, tight-lipped, poker face. (Daniel, if you're reading this, I love your portrayal of James Bond). Declan McQuaid, who appears for the first time in Steamed to Death, is a cleaned-up version of Colin Farrell.

In my Sweet Nothings series, Emma Taylor looks like Carey Mulligan when she had short, dark hair. Brian O'Connell is Tom Brady without the wicked football skills.

OMN: What about the settings for your series? You mentioned that the lingerie mysteries are set in a real place.

PC: The Gourmet series is set in a made-up town in Connecticut — Woodstone. I've basically made it a somewhat idyllic place (excepting the murders, of course) where I would like to live, and hopefully my readers enjoy going back there with each book. My Sweet Nothings series is set in a real town — Paris, Tennesse. I have taken huge liberties with the town, adding numerous stores that don't exist. So far I have not had any complaints. (That is not a challenge.)

OMN: What kinds of questions do you enjoy receiving from your readers?

PC: I'm thrilled to get any questions from readers! I'm still pinching myself that my dream of becoming published has come true, and I still feel like an imposter. I have my books sitting out on my desk at home to remind me that it's real.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic of your choosing.

PC: Top 5 foods to try that might seem icky but aren't:

• Escargots Bourguignon (snails in red wine and butter) because even though they're, well, snails, they're delicious and the butter and juices are wonderful soaked up with a thick slice of French bread.

• Caviar because it tastes like the sea and the eggs pop in your mouth and just because it's an experience.

• Raw oysters because they are heavenly with a squirt of lemon and/or tabasco, and they, too, taste like the ocean. (They're great chased with a nice spicy Bloody Mary.)

• Lobster because even though it looks like a giant bug out of a horror movie, it is absolutely heavenly, and I'm sure I could live on it.

• Rabbit because it is tender and delicious, not too gamey, and really does taste like chicken.

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Peg Cochran Book Tour

Peg Cochran grew up in a New Jersey suburb about 25 miles outside of New York City. After college, she moved to the city where she managed an art gallery owned by the son of the artist Henri Matisse. When her first daughter, Francesca, arrived, the new family moved back to the New Jersey suburbs where her second daughter, Annabelle, was born.

After her husband died, Peg remarried and her new husband took a job in Grand Rapids, Michigan where they now live (on exile from New Jersey, she likes to joke). Peg managed to segue from the art world to marketing and is now the manager of marketing communications for a company that provides services to seniors.

When she's not writing, Peg can usually be found cooking, which she loves. When asked to bring a dish to a potluck she invariably opts to bring dessert — partly because she loves making sweet dishes and partly because she and her husband always manage to be late so there's no point in putting them in charge of appetizers!

For more information about Peg and her books, please visit her website at PegCochran.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Steamed to Death by Peg Cochran

Steamed to Death
Peg Cochran
A Gourmet De-Lite Mystery (2nd in series)

Dieting can be a killer …

Gourmet health food caterer Gigi Fitzgerald is used to helping dieters drop a dress size. But when her clients start dropping dead, she's ready to switch her chef's hat for a detective's cap and track down a killer …

Aging soap star Felicity Davenport is looking to revamp her image, and she's using Gigi's Gourmet De-Lite to help her shed a few of those unwanted pounds. Having such a high-profile client is definitely good for business, but when Felicity is found murdered in her sauna, things start getting too hot for Gigi to handle.

The list of suspects is a mile long, and Gigi's best friend, Sienna, is at the top. Refusing to let her friend get blamed for a crime she didn't commit, Gigi is determined to hunt down the real killer. But, as the case reaches a boiling point, Gigi will have to be careful or she could be the next one getting burned.

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