Monday, May 20, 2013

Author Merry Jones On Tour And A Giveaway

It’s my pleasure to participate in author Merry Jones’ Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour for her latest release, THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE.

As part of the tour, Merry has graciously answered some questions for me, I’ll share my review of this intriguing story, tell you how you can enter to win a copy of THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, as well as share an excerpt from the book. First, Merry answers questions.

Mason - In what order do you create your characters - name, physical description, personality?

Personality is always first. I get to know the characters way before they get names. I live with them in my head for quite a while before I begin to write. They emerge according to the roles they play in a story, the ways they react, the goals they have. They begin to take on physical qualities, but only vaguely at first.  

For example, Elle Harrison in THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE was a presence to me long before she had an appearance. And I chose her name because it’s a palindrome. Backwards, it’s the same. Elle has trouble sorting events out; I thought her name should reflect her sense of events and time—She’s not sure about her relationship with either. So that left me with Eve, Nan, Ava, and so on. I picked Elle because it sounded like Elf.
Mason - When you finished your book what had surprised you the most about its development?

Wow. Good question. I’m always surprised by the books I write because they never end up as I’d originally planned. 

In THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, I never planned that I would become so fond of Charlie—He started out as a “bad guy.” I was also surprised that Elle would kill someone. And that the person who actually killed Charlie wasn’t the person I’d suspected at the beginning of writing. So the biggest surprise was that the book took on its own life and the characters insisted on steering their own actions—completely defying me and my plot outline.    

Mason - If you could collaborate on a book with any author (living or dead), who would it be and why?

Mark Twain. I love his wit. I think he was elegant and brilliant.

Mason - What lead you to writing and in this particular genre?

I’ve written stories ever since I knew how to print. I can’t say what coverled me to writing because I don’t remember a time before I knew I wanted to be a writer. 

But this genre? Partly, I write suspense novels and thrillers because I am drawn to the shadows, the unknown, the parts of ourselves that we shove away into the dark.

More specifically, I began writing suspense when my husband was gravely ill with cancer. After his second surgery, I sat helpless in his hospital room, watching the tubes and machines; he opened a morphine eye and said, “Don’t just sit here. You can’t do anything here. Go home and write a book.”

When I got home, I did just that. I began a suspense novel in which there were merciless evil killers who popped unexpectedly into a woman’s life, knocking everything off balance. It’s clear in retrospect that the criminals personified cancer. And the heroine, like me, hadn’t expected or prepared to encounter their crimes. But in the book, unlike in life, I had control over everything that happened. I was able to make the heroine overcome the evil-doers, save a victim, catch the criminals and make them pay. I had full power over the outcome. It was therapeutic. So, to answer your question about genre: It was my husband’s illness that catapulted me into suspense/thrillers. (By the way, he’s been cancer free for nine years.) (Spit spit.)

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

This summer, July 1, is the release date for OUTSIDE EDEN. It’s a thriller about female Iraq war vet Harper Jennings. In this book, Harper is on an archeological dig in Israel when she encounters ancient superstitions, a charismatic cult leader, fanatic terrorists, and first century Roman ruins.  

I’m also working on the sequel to THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, which should come out in 2014. In this book, Elle and her friends travel for a week in Puerto Vallarta during the Festival of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. The book is a supernatural suspense novel, peppered with murder, plastic surgeries, adultery, jealousy, and, of course, Mariachi music.
Thanks Merry for joining us today and answering this questions for a look behind the scenes of THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE. I can see how writing could be therapeutic. So glad to hear your husband is still cancer free.

Now for a little background on Merry. She is also the author of the Harper Jennings thrillers (WINTER BREAK, BEHIND THE WALLS, and SUMMER SESSION), as well as the Zoe Hayes mysteries (THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS, THE DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE RIVER KILLINGS, and THE NANNY MURDERS).

Merry has also written humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT...) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories.) She is a regular contributor to GLAMOUR, and her work has been printed in seven languages and numerous magazines. Her short story, BLISS, appears in the anthology LIAR LIAR, a project of the Philadelphia Liars Club.

In addition to the Liars, Merry is a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Authors Guild and International Thriller Writers. 

For the last fifteen years, Merry has taught writing courses at a variety of institutions, including Temple University and Delaware County Community College. She has appeared on radio and television (local and national), and participates in panel discussions and workshops regularly.

For more on Merry and her writing, visit her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Trouble With Charlie Banner
During the course of reading this delightful book, I also had the opportunity to listen to the audio version of it. This just enhanced the story for me.

Sometimes exes won’t leave you alone, especially if they think you’ve killed them.

When Elle Harrison comes home from a night out with friends, she finds her soon-to-be-ex-husband Charlie in her den. The big problem is Charlie has one of Elle’s kitchen knives in his back. To make matters worse Elle can’t remember what she was doing during the time he was killed.

Despite Charlie being dead, he doesn’t seem to be gone from Elle’s life. She senses his presence all through the house sometimes it’s the smell of his aftershave or a gentle kiss on her neck. Then there’s the rose that moves from room to room seemingly on its own. Now Elle finds herself arguing with a shadow that appears to be accusing her of murder.

While she has been diagnosed with a Dissociative disorder causing her to ‘space out’ under stress, it doesn’t prove her innocence. To find out what happened, Elle begins to really look into Charlie’s life. As she searches, Elle discovers more problems than she imaged and numerous suspects with unusual motives. 

Elle’s investigation puts her in danger as she becomes involved in more murders and a struggle for her own life. Meanwhile, in a strange twist Elle finally comes to understand Charlie even though he’s dead.

Author Merry Jones has created a host of zany characters that you can’t help but like. They are well-developed and realistic with strengths and flaws that readers can relate to. She combines suspense, murder, humor, friendship, a touch of romance and a dash of supernatural into a well-balanced story.

Narrator Tanya Eby does an excellent job bringing the numerous characters to life, providing a distinct voice for each. She conveys the various emotions of the characters throughout the story with her vocalization and cadence.

The story flows at a steady pace with the right amount of twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats. The suspense will have readers guessing did she or didn’t she until the very end. The bits of humor sprinkled throughout the story adds flavor and blends in well.

THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE details a story of betrayal and blind commitment that rings true in real relationships. Elle is a protagonist that grows as the story develops to become a compelling character readers will want to visit with again and again.

This is a fun read that will keep you guessing.

The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones, Oceanview Publishing, @2013, ISBN: 978-1608090747, Hardcover, 280 Pages 

The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones, Performed by Tanya Eby, Brilliance Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-1469277646, Unabridged, 8 Discs, Listening Time: 9 Hours, 43 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book as part of the author’s virtual book tour. An eBook copy of the book was sent to me by the tour promoter and an audio version of the book was sent to me by the publisher. Both were sent in hopes I would review them. However, receiving the complimentary copies did not influence my review.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: The publisher is giving away 10 print copies of THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE.  Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for your chance to win a copy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s a excerpt from THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE to whet your mystery appetite.


Sometime before Charlie moved out, I began reading the obituaries. It became a daily routine, like morning coffee. I didn’t just scan the listings; I read them closely, noting dates of death, ages of the deceased, names of survivors. If there were photos, I studied faces for clues about mortality even though they were often grinning and much younger than at death. Sometimes there were flags at the top of notices, signifying military service. Salvadore Petrini had a flag. Aged 64. Owner of Petrini’s Market. Beloved husband and father and stepfather and brother and uncle. Viewing and Life Celebration at St. Patrick’s Church, Malvern.

Some notices were skeletal, giving no details of the lost life: Sonia Woods went to be with the Lord on August 17. Viewing Friday, from 9 to 11, First Baptist Church. Service to follow. These left me disturbed, sad for the deceased. Was there, in the end, really nothing to be said about them? Were their lives just a finite number of breaths now stopped?

For weeks, I followed the flow of local deaths and funerals. I tried to surmise causes of death from requests for memorial contributions in lieu of flowers. The American Cancer Society. The Vascular Disease Foundation. The American Heart or Alzheimers Association. When there were epigraphs, I read about careers accomplished, volunteer work conducted, music played, tournaments won. Lives condensed to an eighth of a page. Less, usually.

Though the notices were brief, the words and patterns of language had a gentle rolling rhythm, comforting, like prayers, like nursery rhymes. And between listings, stark and straight lines divided one death from another, putting lives neatly into boxes, separating body from body. Soul from soul. Making death quantifiable and normal, a daily occurrence neatly announced on paper in black and white, on pages dense with ink, speckled with gray smiling photos. Smiles announcing that death wasn’t really so bad.

I don’t know why I was compelled to read those listings every day. At the time, I’d have said it had to be about the death of my marriage. After all, my own life, in a way, was ending. My life as Charlie’s wife was dying, but there would be no public acknowledgment of that demise. No memorial service. No community gathering to mourn. Maybe I read the listings to remember that I wasn’t the only one grieving, that others had lost even more. Still, I would have felt better if the obituary page included dead marriages and lost identities: Mrs. Charles Henry Harrison (nee Elle Brooks) ceased to exist on (date pending), when the couple’s divorce became final. Maybe it would help to have some formal recognition of the demise of my former self. Maybe not.

It’s possible that my own losses brought me to the daily obits. But I doubt it. Looking back, I believe what drew me was far more ominous. A premonition. An instinct. For whatever reason, though, every morning as I chewed my English muffin, I buried myself in the death notices, studying what I could about people who were no more, trying to learn from them or their photos or their neatly structured notices anything I could about death.

Of course, as it turned out, the notices were useless. None of them, not one prepared me for what was to happen. According to the obituary columns, the circumstances of one’s life made no difference in the end. Dead was simply dead. Final. Permanent. Without room for doubt. The pages I studied gave no indication of a gray area. And the boxes around the obituaries contained no dotted lines.

Thanks so much for stopping by.


  1. Merry, thanks again for visiting with us today. I think Mark Twain would be a fun author to collaborate with. Wishing you much success.

  2. Fantastic review, interview and post. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Merry.

    Merry - It's nice to 'meet' someone else who goes for character personality before physical appearance. I do that too when I write. I wish you much success.

  4. Mason--Thanks for the opportunity to feature CHARLIE here. I loved your interview questions and appreciate your thoughtful review. All best to you and your readers! Merry Jones

  5. Sounds like a great story! Love when books don't end up the way they start!! :)


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