Thursday, June 9, 2011

Author Riley Adams: A Mystery Writer’s View & Tips

It is with great pleasure and delight that I welcome author Riley Adams as the special guest blogger here today as she tours blogdom with her latest release.

Riley (also known by many as Elizabeth Spann Craig) is the author of the Memphis BBQ Mystery series and the second installment in the series, FINGER LICKIN’ DEAD, was released Tuesday, June 7. 

Here's a brief synopsis of the book: When an anonymous food critic blasts several local restaurants- including Aunt Pat's-Lulu Taylor and her customers are biting mad, especially when they learn that Eppie Currian is the pen name of their friend Evelyn's cheating boyfriend. When "Eppie" gets his own fatal review, the list of suspects is longer than the list of specials at the best BBQ place in Memphis.

Riley joins us today to talk about ‘A Mystery Writer’s View of the World (and 6 Tips for Friends of Mystery Writers).

Being a mystery writer can really change your perspective on the world. 

I was having lunch with a friend one day and she started detailing something really horrible that her boss was doing at work.  “That sounds like a great motive for murder!” I said.  I rifled through my purse for a notecard to jot down the motive du jour for future reference.

My friend gaped at me. “Elizabeth!  I’m not murdering my boss!”
“Of course not!” I hurriedly agreed.  “But you could want to.”
Being a mystery writer has meant that I read the local newspaper with a good deal of prurient interest.  Who’s been misbehaving lately, and why?  If they murdered, did they know their victim?  How did the police figure out they were responsible?

Being a mystery writer has provided me with an unhealthy interest in poisons. In fact, I have several poison-related books that were written specifically for mystery writers (I now suggest ordering these books online instead of flipping through them at the local bookstore in full view of your community). My husband has even jokingly (I think) told my children that if anything strange happens to Daddy, to be sure to tell the police what Mama does for a living. 

What if you are friends with or live near a friendly local mystery writer? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

As mentioned previously, if you want your friend to actually pay attention to your story instead of diving for a notepad, keep away from topics that involve people being unhappy or upset with other people. 

You and your mystery writing friend could be out in public when he starts talking excitedly about a new, untraceable poison he’s discovered that acts immediately and is extremely accessible. In this instance, be sure to warn him to keep his voice down or suspend discussion of his exciting discovery for a later time.

Unless you want your party hijacked, it’s probably best not to introduce a gun collector, police detective, forensic specialist, criminal law attorney, herbalist, morgue supervisor, or FBI agent to your mystery writing friend at a social gathering. 

Remind your friend to avoid discussing gory forensic details during the course of a meal.

Notice your mystery writing friend talking to herself? Please refrain from calling the guys in white coats…it’s all a perfectly normal part of the writing process (probably.)

Are you neighbors with a mystery writer? Want to dig a large hole in your yard…perhaps to plant some lovely new shrubbery or a tree? Consider touching base with your writing friend beforehand. Otherwise they may regard the hole with undue suspicion, contact local authorities, or spend large amounts of time peering at you through binoculars.

Elizabeth, thanks so much for guest blogging. I enjoy your mystery writer’s take on life. Mystery writers do keep things interesting. FINGER LICKIN’ DEAD is a great read and I wish you much success with your writing.

On a personal note, I want to say an added 'thanks' to Elizabeth/Riley. With her help, advice and encouragement I ventured out into blogdom visiting other blogs. She explained the ins and outs of having a professional account on Facebook for this blog, in addition to my personal account for connecting with family and friends. In addition, she introduced me to other friends and authors and even helped when I made my way to Twitter. So thanks for all you do to help others (authors and non-authors alike).

Now for a little background on Riley for those who don’t know her. Riley/Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011. 

She is also one of the founders of Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers a great resource for writers and she can be found on Twitter: @elizabethscraig

What are your thoughts on how a mystery writer views the world? Do you think a mystery reader also views life a little different? Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Hi Mason and Elizabeth .. I can life would be interesting having a friend who writes murder mysteries .. imagine being at a ball game, or a tennis match and hearing their latest gossip about their novel .. or even creating a new setting for one from where they're sitting watching the innocent ? game.

    Great that Elizabeth helped you, Mason, out so much a the beginning .. Elizabeth certainly knows her way round.

    Those party telephone lines in the good old days must have been a wealth of interesting information ..

    Thanks to both of you .. fun post and an informative read .. I don't think I know any murder mystery writers ... Hilary

  2. Mason--Thanks so much for hosting me today and your kind words! I might have helped point you in the right direction for some of the applications, but you really caught on quickly and have great instincts for social media/communications (which makes sense, considering your background in journalism!) Again, thanks for hosting's a pleasure to be here!

    Hilary--Ha! My worry is when people *don't* know what we do and we're talking about murder! I had lunch with about 10 mystery writers at a small cafe after a conference, and one of the writers was a master gardener and an expert on poisons. We were all plying her with questions about poison and the waitress finally just stopped even pretending she was ignoring our conversation and froze up! We didn't even think about what we sounded like...

    Party lines for phones! Those would have been perfect for mystery writers!

  3. Hi Elizabeth and Mason .. yes - that's sort of what I was thinking about .. the waitress must have been horrified - I can imagine her face! Let alone her discussions with her fellow workers or her family once she returned home!

    Party lines .. and actually perhaps picking up an email or a text if one sort of spotted something by chance ..

    Cheers - we so often say .. oh I could murder/kill them don't we ...

    Ghastly thought - perhaps I'll change my wording in future! Hilary

  4. Hilary--Ha! It was very funny...wish you could have been there. :)

    Misdirected emails, eavesdropping in on a conversation we weren't supposed to be listening to...all good ways to pick up info!

  5. I'll keep all of that in mind for next February!

  6. Love the title of her new book!

  7. Mason - Thanks for hosting Elizabeth. I love it that two of my favourite bloggers are here at the same time today :-).

    Elizabeth - I absolutely loved your suggestions for friends and neighbours of mystery novelists. I'd like to add: Don't invite your mystery novelist friend in the kitchen while you're cooking. All those sharp implements and of course, the cooking process, will start your novelist friend off on a long discussion about poisons and murder-by-implement ;-).

  8. I think mystery writers definitely view the world differently. They look for the twists they can give to perfectly normal situations. My husband has said pretty much the same thing - if he dies unexpectedly the police will look at my resource shelf of books. He thinks it's quite funny to tell friends that.

  9. Elizabeth, this is great. I've done this very thing when my daughter and is telling about something that has happened and I finish her story. Then she says, "That's not what happened." :)

    Thanks, Mason for being a great hostess.

    I need to get my book ordered.

  10. Great post. I'm sure my friends cringe when I pull out my notebook. I did restrain myself when I met the local medical examiner at a restaurant and politely asked for his e-mail address.

  11. These made me laugh out loud. Guilty as charged. I tell people the binoculars on my desk are for watching birds. Right. Much luck with your new release!

  12. Sounds like if you weren't writing mysteries you'd be a detective!

  13. Diane--I'll be on my best behavior! Ha!

    Ladyfi--Thanks so much!

    Margot--Yes! Shiny sharp objects are very distracting to mystery writers. :)

    Helen--It would be the perfect murder, too--because we'd say, "Well of *course* it looks like *we* did it...we were set up!"

    Teresa--But our version is always better!

    Ann--That was admirable restraint!

    Carol--Binoculars are always handy! :) Ha! People probably talk about us...

    Alex--It sounds like fun to me!

  14. LOL! I can see Elizabeth is in great shape.

    One of the reasons why I enjoyed being an external examiner this week was that their teacher loved crime fiction just as much as I did. And last year she and her husband walked from Dublin to Galway. ´It would make a great setting for a crime story because we kept meeting the same people´ she told me. I wonder when she´ll actually begin WRITING the story :D

  15. elizabeth - as a southerner and lover of great southern'd have to agree that the best real place to get it in memphis is Rendezvous! ever been there?

    thanks for hosting elizabeth today, mason, since i hijacked her blog today. :)

  16. Hi Elizabeth .. another to add to the mix .. I was watching some of Queens - our grass court tennis tournament before Wimbledon .. when one of the cameras panned through the spectators to view the player serving .. but .. there was a smart phone on 'the way through' .. you could see the camera shot the smart phone was taking .. could that professional high-powered lens pick up messages? etc ..

    Cheers - Hilary

  17. Dorte--It WOULD be a great setting! Maybe y'all should co-write it (not that you don't have any other projects or anything. Ha!) :)

    Jeannie--I have been there and LOVED it!~ Loved the atmosphere...down the alley, going down into the basement, the brick walls, all the memorabilia on the walls...and the food! Some great ribs there.

    Hilary--THAT is a very cool idea! I'm thinking you have the mystery writing mind, Hilary! You should definitely give it a go. :)

  18. Love your examples! I bet your friend will love seeing her 'motive' in print one day!

  19. Hi Elizabeth .. thanks .. reminds me of the Bond movie/book - where mirrors were used to read the cards .. but in this day and age with lenses so powerful - well, that opens thought processes .. just glad I'm normal!! Cheers H

  20. Jemi--Hopefully she won't be horrified! Ha! All names changed to protect the innocent (or guilty!) :)

    Hilary--Loved that movie--and you're right, we can zoom in on almost anything today (even with a cell phone camera!)

  21. Yay for Elizabeth/ Riley! I love how her conversation with a friend gave her the inspiration for the novel. It sounds brilliant!

  22. It's fascinating, the way writers see the world through the lens of their genre. What a great dimension it adds to everyday life ...

  23. Mason-thanks so much for hosting!

    Elizabeth- Oh, this was too funny! I find myself listening to conversations with a rather twisted perspective. I think though, you may have more experience at that! teehee

  24. Talli--Thanks so much!

    Joanne--In some ways, it's a self-protecting mechanism. It's nice for writers to look at the world through a filter, I think...sometimes we can be a little on the sensitive side!

    Hart--I think I might be more twisted than you! But who would have guessed it? Ha!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.