Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author Julie Mulhern

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Julie Mulhern
with Julie Mulhern

We are delighted to welcome author Julie Mulhern to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book 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.

Julie's new mystery is The Deep End (Henery Press; February 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats), the first in her Country Club Murders series, and we recently had the chance to talk with her a little more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your series lead character.

Julie Mulhern
Photo provided courtesy of
Julie Mulhern

Julie Mulhern: My lead character Ellison is a woman who has always done what was expected of her. She married the right man, she lives in the right house and she belongs to the right country club. But, beneath all that rightness, something is very wrong.

Ellison ignores the problems in her marriage and in her life until a murder forces her to turn her observant artist's eyes on herself.

OMN: How do you expect her to evolve as a character over the course of a series?

JM: The Deep End is the first book in The Country Club Murders. Ellison will grow, change and develop over time. She doesn't have much choice in the matter — not between her teenage daughter and her controlling mother.

OMN: Into which mystery subgenre would you place The Deep End?

JM: The Deep End is a cozy that I hope will appeal to readers across a multitude of genres. It's set in 1974 — think Watergate, DVF wrap dresses and Cosmos where every article featured pictures of naked people.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

JM: Because I love foreshadowing …

… I wasn't going to go trotting over like a dutiful wife when what I really wanted to do was borrow an Oldsmobile station wagon, the country club version of a Sherman tank, and run him down.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

JM: I was seven years-old in 1974 so my experiences and those of a married woman are vastly different. I was worried about getting my hands on a pet rock. Ellison is worried about her daughter, her marriage and her career. I was singing along to Free to Be You and Me. Ellison is discovering that key-swapping and kink have gone more mainstream than she'd like.

That said, Ellison is snarky and sarcastic. It wasn't a stretch to write the snark. We all edit what we say so as not offend (or is it just me?). Because the reader is in Ellison's head, they are treated to what she really thinks — as opposed to what she says. Hopefully, they'll like Ellison's voice and her journey.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

JM: I am a pantser. Plotting occurs when I walk the dog.

OMN: After returning home from walking the dog, where might we find you writing?

JM: I write at my kitchen table when my children are asleep. They're teenagers now which means I get up early rather than stay up late. The dog usually curls up nearby and there's always a cup of coffee within reach.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

JM: I love research. Love it. But for a book set in the seventies the easiest thing to do was buy magazines. I have a whole year of Gourmet (remember when croquettes were a thing?), Vogues, Cosmos, etc … The ads, the articles and the tone of those magazines helped inform The Deep End. I also discovered Slim Aarons. He was a combat photographer in WWII. At the end of the war, he decided he only wanted to take pictures of pretty people in pretty places. His photographs from the 1970s are amazing.

OMN: Tell us about the setting of The Deep End.

JM: My book is set in an affluent neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. The country club where Ellison finds her husband's mistress floating in the pool is an amalgamation of several country clubs in the area. In fact, one of my early readers thought the ladies' lounge I described was a bit too close to the real thing and suggested I modify it a bit.

OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a story, where would it be?

JM: San Francisco. It's the setting for a book I'm slated to write this fall and I haven't been there in far too long.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests?

JM: I have two teenage daughters, a dog with plans for world domination, a husband, and a full-time job. I spend what little free time I have reading or watching old episodes of Criminal Minds.

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?

JM: Your inner critic can kill your creativity. Write the book then edit it!

Also, writing is a lonely pursuit but you don't have to do it alone. Search out a writing group for the genre of fiction you write, find a critique group, connect. Your writing will improve. I know mine did.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a mystery writer and thus I am also …".

JM: I am a mystery writer thus I am slightly suspicious of people's motives.

OMN: How did the book come to be titled? And were you involved with the cover design?

JM: The heroine begins the action by swimming into a body in a pool. The Deep End seemed perfect. As for the design, my wonderful publisher is entirely responsible. I love it!

OMN: You mentioned an early reader commenting on your country club setting. What else have you heard from readers?

JM: I love it when readers connect with Ellison and I love hearing what people remember from the seventies. One of my beta-readers who recently read Guaranteed to Bleed said I couldn't possibly remember the importance of having the right flavor of lip-smacker. She's right. I didn't. Someone who loved The Deep End reminded me. Please, keep the seventies nostalgia coming!

OMN: Suppose The Deep End were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the key roles?

JM: Because I was writing about the seventies, I borrowed faces from actors and actresses who were popular then. Ellison looks like Faye Dunaway. Detective Jones looks like Steve McQueen and Hunter Tafft is a cross between Cary Grant and Gregory Peck.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young? Do you think any of their authors influenced how and what you write today?

JM: As a child, I loved mysteries. Early — circa 1974 — Nancy Drew. Then I graduated to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, PD James, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite or the one who influenced me the most.

OMN: And today, what to you look for when selecting a book to read for pleasure?

JM: I still read mysteries — everything from Karin Slaughter to Susan Boyer. My favorite character is still Lord Peter Wimsey. The difference between his appearance and his reality is delicious.

OMN: What kind of movies do you enjoy watching?

JM: I love a good historical — most recently The Imitation Game and I adore what in my house we call mindless-action. It's the fluffy kind of movie that entertains without stretching a single synapse — think Die Hard. I should have loved American Hustle. I loved the clothes. I loved the feel of the decade. I didn't love the movie. Why did the filmmaker hire handsome men then make them look ridiculous? I wonder about that when I can't sleep.

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

JM: Top Five songs to set a 1974 mood …

Bennie & the Jets — Elton John
Midnight at the Oasis — Maria Muldaur
Hooked on a Feeling — Blue Swede
Rikki Don't Lose that Number — Steely Dan
Hello, It's Me — Todd Rungren

OMN: What's next for you?

JM: My first romance will release in August and then Guaranteed to Bleed, the second Country Club Murder mystery will release in October.

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Julie Mulhern Book Tour

Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean — and she's got an active imagination. Truth is — she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at JulieMulhern.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Deep End by Julie Mulhern

The Deep End
Julie Mulhern
The Country Club Murders

Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband's mistress tends to ruin a woman's day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It's 1974 and Ellison Russell's life revolves around her daughter and her art. She's long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper's death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband's proclivities and his crimes — kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her?

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