“Crime and Murder are Rarely Boring”: An Interview with Terrie Moran
What most appeals to you about the form of flash fiction? Do you yourself write shorts?
Writing short stories is my first true love. Although I have never written flash fiction, I enjoy reading it because the brief stories remind me of the story poems that I loved during my childhood. Poems like “Little Boy Blue” by Eugene Field and “You are Old, Father William” by Lewis Carroll. As I grew older, I loved the more malevolent story poems like “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning and “Metropolitan Nightmare” by Stephen Vincent Benet. I see the roots of flash prose in those poems.
You’re an award-winning mystery writer. What draws you to write about crime and murder? And what draws you in particular to writing cozy mystery series?
The thing I fear most in life is being enveloped in boredom. Crime and murder are rarely boring. I always wonder what goes on in a person’s mind that makes them think that the solution to their problem is to commit a murder or even a less serious crime. What could it be about a situation that to them crime is the only way out? So I make up some people and put the crime in front of them to see what happens. It is interesting that, except for “A Killing at the Beausoleil”, which is a prequel to the cozy novels, none of my short stories are cozy. When I worked in the real world (I was an administrative manager for the City of New York) my professional life was chaotic and sometimes a bit dangerous so I spent my down-time reading cozies to relax and quickly became addicted. Cozies rely on character development and I love watching the characters personalities grow and change. I am very comfortable with the lack of gore and bad language. It was a natural fit for me when I decided to write a novel.
Ok, now I need to know more about this job that was chaotic and sometimes dangerous!
I had a series of jobs, all in city government, primarily in direct community service (1979 to 2002) and got involved in a lot of stuff during the drug wars of the 1980s, among other things. I didn’t consider any of it dangerous at the time. But when we look back, a lot of us recognize that we were reckless with our own personal safety. We don’t talk about it much except among ourselves, and I’ll never write about it. I also supervised a domestic violence program, trained cops in Community Policing, administered a capital budget, and lots of other things. I can honestly say I was never bored.
How much does setting play a role in your books? Do you prefer fiction grounded in a specific place?
I value setting as seriously as plot and characterization. Stories need a place to happen, and the place must suit the story. Setting plays a huge role in the Read ’Em and Eat novels. I purposely chose to put the make believe café/bookstore in the very real community of Fort Myers Beach which spans two barrier islands on the Florida Gulf coast. I thought having a real place as setting would keep me honest and true to the flavor of the story I wanted
You’re a proud grandmother! So give us your favorite children’s books to read out loud.
I love to read aloud any book by Dr. Seuss, who is the all-time king of made up words that are so much fun to say and repeat. I also love the Berenstain Bear books as they are a lighthearted way to introduce children to life lessons, with titles such as Kindness Counts and Mama’s Helpers. Then of course there are the Pete the Cat books and the Pippa Pig books. And let’s not forget Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. I could go on and on.
My youngest grandson (age 7) is a Star Wars fan and he absolutely loves Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. He especially enjoys having his father read it to him.
One of my great joys is to listen to an older grandchild read to one of the younger ones.
About the Reader:
Terrie Farley Moran is the best-selling author of the Read 'Em and Eat cozy mysteries series. Well Read, Then Dead, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel 2014, was followed by Caught Read-Handed in 2015. Read to Death will be released in July 2016. Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her short story, “A Killing at the Beasoleil” prequel to the Read ’Em and Eat novels, has recently been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Terrie co-writes Laura Childs’s Scrapbooking Mystery series. Together they have written Parchment and Old Lace (October 2015) and Crepe Factor (October 2016).
About the Interviewer:
Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.