Annie and Rae Take 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! So it’s already the last Monday of January. Who would have thought it would come so fast. Guess I better take the tree down and pack away the mistletoe till the next go round. I’ll get to it sometime, when I’m not too busy and/or have the inclination.

Today though, I would much prefer to share a great little confab with another pair of Cozy Cat Press authors. Friends, if you haven’t already met Annie Irvin (Libby Vivone) and Rae Sanders (Candi Wilde), it is certainly time to do so. The write the Bitter Sweet Hollow Mysteries, with the first one being FINAL SALE, with more to come. I have to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the story (I’ll elaborate further in my review in the future) and look forward to more stories. The ladies are another writing team and my alter egos Andrea and Heather are always curious how they work things out in their storytelling. So without further adieu, here are Annie and Rae.

1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.FINAL_SALE_1.jpg

Annie (Libby): Series and main characters was Candi. She thought up Bittersweet Hollow and Harper Reed. I did help with some of the others, but she is responsible for the main theme.

Rae (Candi): My sister and I are writing a series of Bittersweet Hollow Mysteries. The fictional Midwestern town of Bittersweet Hollow is home to our protagonist, Harper Reed. In her early fifties, Harper has been divorced for two years and has no interest in ‘shaving her legs on a Friday night” to jump into the dating pool. Her sister, Lonnie Carmichael, is happily married to a pharmaceutical salesman whose job takes him on the road, leaving Lonnie with plenty of time to help her sister hunt for clues, something they are compelled to do when someone commits a murder that hits close to home in our first book of the series FINAL SALE, A Bittersweet Hollow Mystery. We’re about three fourths done with our second book in the series, tentatively titled DOWN A DEADLY RIVER. In it, Harper and Lonnie’s close friend, Maggie McCarthy, is one week away from her wedding, an event she spent months planning. The ceremony is to be held on the south lawn of Maggie’s charming country home. However, a dead body in the back forty threatens to drastically change Maggie’s plans after the sheriff forbids access to the property while he scours the farm for evidence. Maggie turns to Harper for help in solving the murder. Over the years Harper and Maggie have often paraphrased Ralph Waldo Emerson, saying one of the blessings of good friends is how you can afford to be stupid with them. It might be stupid, but Harper doesn’t think twice about jumping into the middle of another murder.

2. Being that there are two of you, how do you write? Do you compose separately, or talk it out as you go along together, share or divide up characters, scenes or research?

Annie (Libby): We talk it out. We don’t always agree on how to get from point A to point B. I tend to go off on tangents, and Candi keeps me focused being the more linear one.
We will each do an outline and then combine them. I missed school the day they covered commas, so she has to go in and edit my work. I also tend to go fast and loose, and she will have to edit my spelling, often tense, and occasionally person. As far as characters go, we divide them up. I think this is one of the advantages of working with another person.  We don’t have to create the whole town on our own and you have the challenge of working with a personality you didn’t create.

Rae (Candi): When we first started to write, one of us would ‘set the stage’ with a chapter, then email it to the other. After a brainstorming session on the phone the other one would write the next chapter, send it back and so it went. We still do it that way. If one of us comes up with a change in scenarios we think would work better than what we have, we talk it through and usually keep the change. Annie lives in Iowa and I’m in Minnesota. So when we write we stay connected with email and telephone. We really should get with the 21st century and Skype.

3. What exciting moment or moments that made you realize that you were really an “author?”

Annie (Libby): It was exciting when we first put FINAL SALE on-line, but when Patricia picked us up I felt we had arrived and were real writers. Getting that first royalty check helped a lot too.

Rae (Candi): I don’t know how many rejection emails we got along the way but there were lots of them. One day I read an interview with Julie Seedorf in The Mankato Free Press. She talked about her cozy mystery book and the Cozy Cat Press so I took a chance and sent Annie’s and my manuscript off to Patricia Rockwell, the Managing Editor. Patricia asked for a few changes, which we happily made. Wow, when I got that acceptance email from her it was such a wonderful feeling. Annie and I had accomplished the goal we’d set for ourselves, although for me it took a while to realize we truly were authors. (Thank you Julie and Patricia).

4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?

Annie (Libby): Sit down at the computer and write, write, write. I can’t get the juices going any other way, although most of it will get thrown out. I can sometimes salvage one paragraph in three pages. And I don’t necessarily write about the book we are working on at the time either. As I’ve already said, I go off on tangents.

Rae (Candi): When that happens it’s so easy for me to procrastinate and not even sit down at the computer. I find tossing a few ideas around with Annie usually gets me back in the mood to write. One thing we used to do is take turns writing short chapters of really bad murder mysteries just to make each other laugh. To name two of the characters in one of our not-for-publication stories, there was Campbell Zoop as well as Mitzy May Malone Goode whose business cards read MMM Goode. Just writing whatever pops into my mind and having a good laugh with Annie somehow revs up the imagination and I’m ready to rock and roll again.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?

Annie (Libby): I grew up reading anything I could get my hands on. I love Agatha Christie, and still love a good mystery.  I’m a big fan of Diana Gabeldon, J. D. Robb, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, and Richard Adams. I wish I could write like any of them, but for what it’s worth, I have realized I can only write like me. Which is hard on Candi but there you have it.

Rae (Candi): Like so many cozy mystery lovers, I read every Agatha Christie novel I could find when I was growing up. When I couldn’t find any more Christie’s to read, well, that’s when I decided I wanted to write cozies. I enjoy reading mysteries like the Father Blackie Ryan series of books by Andrew Greeley. Switching genres, I love Paula Wall’s books, THE ROCK ORCHARD and THE WILDE WOMEN. I also really liked Minnesota native Nicole Helget’s THE TURTLE CATCHER. And what’s a better read for a Minnesotan than anything by Garrison Keillor? I also have to say that there are a lot of great Cozy Cat Press books, including your Poppy Cove Mysteries.

Why thank you, Rae. And by the way friends, Rae also has just informed yours truly that today, January 25th is Annie’s birthday – how delightful! Let’s all raise a toast of the bubbly to her and when your glass is empty, why don’t you click onto Kindle and pick up your own copy of FINAL SALE. Now that was such fun.


Barbara Jean




About Barbara Jean Coast

Barbara Jean Coast is the pen name of authors Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff. She is currently hard at work telling the cozy tales of the fictional town of Santa Lucia, loosely based on Santa Barbara in the late 50's, early 60's, known as The Poppy Cove Mysteries.
This entry was posted in Cozy Mysteries, Creativity, Interviews, Readers, Reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing Ideas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Annie and Rae Take 5 with Barbara Jean

  1. Barbara Jean Coast says:

    Reblogged this on The Cozy Cat Chronicles.


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