Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author Christa Nardi

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Christa Nardi
with Christa Nardi

We are delighted to welcome author Christa Nardi 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.

Christa's second mystery in her series set in a small Virginia college town is Murder in the Arboretum (September 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats), and we had the opportunity to talk with her more about her series.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your series characters.

Christa Nardi
Photo provided courtesy of
Christa Nardi

Christa Nardi: The lead protagonist in the Cold Creek series is Sheridan Hendley, professor and psychologist. She is a smart, strong female character — an older, academic version of Nancy Drew. She is calm and self-controlled, yet she is human. She has doubts and baggage she works to overcome. Sheridan is divorced and like any number of 40-something women has to deal with the dating scene once again. This is one of the things that she shares with her colleague Kim Pennzel. Another is that Sheridan, Kim, and another colleague, Mitch, developed and are charged with implementing the crisis plan for the small private Cold Creek College. In this role, Sheridan and her friends get involved in murder and mystery.

OMN: How do you see these characters evolving over the course of the series?

CN: Characters in the Cold Creek Series maintain their general persona from one book to the next, but not without "change". For Sheridan, the change comes in the form of her personal life and Brett McCann. For other characters, it isn't so much change but seeing a different side of the character. As obnoxious as Max is in Murder at Cold Creek College, he's shown to have some redeeming qualities in Murder in the Arboretum (but he's still obnoxious). Subtle changes in other characters are anticipated as relationships and actions shape behaviors.

OMN: Into which mystery subgenre would you place this series?

CN: I go back and forth between "cozy" and "female sleuth" as the two most likely subcategories of mystery, usually going with "cozy." I think the advantage of the label and the need for it to be reflective of the story line have to do with reader expectations. As a reader, when I pick up a book from a category, I have expectations about what is and isn't in the content.

For the Cold Creek series, although there is some suspense, someone looking for suspense would likely be disappointed; someone looking for a thriller would definitely be disappointed. There is a murder, so there is some police procedure, but it is a tool to move the story, rather than the focus. The "cozy" label should communicate to a potential reader that this is a mystery, but low on violence, low on sexual content. The story doesn't move as quickly as a "suspense" and isn't as extreme as a "thriller." "Cozy" mysteries tend to have a more small town quality to them. The disadvantage of categorizing in some way is most evident with the "female sleuth" label. Sheridan is a "female sleuth" and there are readers who prefer books in this category, but it would eliminate all the "cozy" readers who aren't focusing on the sleuth's gender.

OMN: Tell us something about Murder in the Arboretum that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

CN: The romance between Sheridan and Brett continues and is getting more serious. As Kim signs up for a site, Sheridan shares with Brett the experiences she and Kim had previously with a similar site.

OMN: Give us a summary of the book in a tweet.

CN: Who killed Justin Blake? Can Sheridan figure it out before she becomes the next victim? #mystery "A real page turner"

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

CN: I'd have to say that the characters are amalgamations of people I know or have read about, rather than specific individuals. Over the years, I have worked in many offices as staff and been in many colleges as student or faculty. The common politics and personalities are wrapped up in some of the characters and situations, other than the murders. I grew up in a suburb that is similar to Cold Creek but much larger, and have lived in other small towns on the east coast, so the "feel" of Cold Creek reflects those experiences. The only exception to the "broad brush" is when Sheridan describes one of her Internet matches — the one who was so rude — his character is based on a blind date I suffered and will never forget!

OMN: Is the setting of Cold Creek based on a real setting?

CN: No, Cold Creek is a completely fictional place. I randomly selected Virginia as the location — I closed my eyes and pointed at a map. Because it doesn't exist, I got to create the town and the college. I do try to be true to the geography and noted other small towns near where I placed Cold Creek — North Shore and Alta Vista, as well as the larger cities of Roanoke, Richmond, and Appomattox. I researched what I could on these places and what the roads might look like to get from one place to another on the Internet. Some of the restaurants are truly in those locations, some are fictitious. I also used the Internet to check on the appropriate flora in describing the arboretum, laws in Virginia, and other factual information.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

CN: I love to read — mystery, cozy mystery, romance, and scifi/fantasy. I also love to garden and spend many hours working in mine. I like to travel and I like to dance. When not doing any of those, I am likely doing jigsaw puzzles or logic puzzles. I can't say that I have managed to incorporate any of these into my books, so the arboretum is a rather large garden.

OMN: Why did you choose to use a pen name for this series?

CN: I am the author of many nonfiction texts/articles/monographs and professionally it seemed prudent to keep my two genre of writing separate and unlinked as they are very different. In effect, writing textbooks isn't going to help my mystery writing; writing fiction won't help me in the academic setting with an emphasis on research. The biggest disadvantage is multiple email accounts that have to be monitored all the time.

OMN: You mentioned you love to read. What kinds of books did your read when you were young?

CN: As a child, I was voracious reader, of almost anything fiction, but especially mystery. I read all the Nancy Drew books and still have many of them. I read Dana Girls and the Hardy Boys. As I got older I read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and other mysteries. Most recently I'm reading more mystery with a bit of romance. There are references to Nancy Drew and Dana Girls in the series, and I would have to say, these series influenced my writing more than anything else.

OMN: And what do you read today for pleasure?

CN: Reading is an escape of sorts, so although a good suspense can keep my attention, I tend toward the books that are not dark or depressing, have likable main characters, and don't require a lot of work on my part but keep me guessing. I also like settings that are different from my own. Some of the series authors I enjoy include Ellen Crosby, Maggie Sefton, Kasssandra Lamb, Heather Webber, Jan Christensen, Deborah Garner, Vanessa Gray Bartal, Debra Burroughs, and I could go on and on. The series all have a female sleuth who is more or less independent, smart in many ways, and there's a romantic twist.

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Christa Nardi Book Tour

Christa Nardi is and always has been an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery/crime authors over time, but mystery/crime along with romance are her preferred choices for leisure reading. Christa also has been a long time writer from poetry and short stories growing up to technical, research, and nonfiction in her professional life. With Murder at Cold Creek College, Christa joined many other reader/writers in writing one genre she enjoys reading – the cozy mystery. Christa Nardi is a pen name for a real life professor/psychologist from the Northeast.

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

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Murder in the Arboretum by Christa Nardi

Murder in the Arboretum
Christa Nardi
A Cold Creek Mystery

Another murder in small town Cold Creek has tensions rising. Clive Johnson, the groundskeeper at Cold Creek College, is a convenient scapegoat for a police chief who seeks an easy solution. Convinced Chief Pfeiffe has it all wrong, professor and psychologist Sheridan Hendley sets out to help prove Clive's innocence.

But not everyone is pleased by her enthusiastic search for the truth. Just as her life is looking up personally, it looks like she might be the next victim. Print/Kindle Format(s)

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