Meg Macy writes all the way across the mystery spectrum.
This idea of Eliza and Henry solving crime thrills me. What a great premise for a mystery series!
Listen in and hear how Meg came up with the idea and how she got her fellow author and friend on board to write the series, which was accepted by an agent just hours after they pitched it.
Click on any of the book covers to go to Meg’s books on Amazon
You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Transcription of Interview with Meg Macy
Alexandra: Hi, mystery readers, I’m Alexandra Amor. This is “It’s a Mystery Podcast,” and I’m here today with Meg Macy. Hi, Meg.
Alexandra: How are you today?
Meg: I’m doing fine.
Alexandra: Good, good. Well, let me introduce you to our listeners.
Award-winning mystery author, Meg Macy, lives in Southeast Michigan, the area she chose to set her “Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear,” cozy mystery series for Kensington. Bearly Departed, which is book one, is available now, and book two, Bear Witness to Murder, will be coming out in May 2018.
Meg’s first published book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Best First Novel Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.
Meg is also one-half of the D.E. Ireland team writing the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mystery series. Books one and three have been named Agatha Award finalists for Best Historical Mystery, and we’re going to touch on all of that today.
Let’s start talking about the “Adorable Teddy Bear” mystery book. So this was an idea that really captured my imagination, and I’m going to ask you about the factory and the shop in Michigan that’s now closed, actually, that was a bit of inspiration for you.
Tell us a bit first about Sasha Silverman and your main character in these books.
Meg: She’s my daughter’s age, actually, so every time I have to have her read my manuscript, because it’s like, “Does she talk like this?” Because a lot of times my vocabulary comes out, and it’s like, “No, she wouldn’t talk like that.” So my daughter, luckily, is exactly her age, but she has a lot of my qualities.
And, of course, she follows the cozy mystery…not really a formula, it’s just what readers expect, the small-town atmosphere where a lot of family and friends are. There are a lot of quaint shops and stuff like that.
She manages the Silver Bear Shop and Factory for her parents, which is a little different. She doesn’t really own it, although it might in the future come about. I don’t know yet how long this series is going to last. But it’s a very small, intimate community, and a lot of people know everyone else.
Now, do I live in that kind of a town? No, but I do know people who do. So it’s interesting to kind of like, “Okay, would this really happen?” Well, obviously, how many murders can there be, like in Cabot Cove where Jessica Fletcher lived. It seemed like everybody was dying.
But many mystery readers really love, they love just to get into how this happened, how a murder could have happened, and how someone would solve it if they’re not a police detective, or a medical examiner, or whatever, you know, so…and may have to have helped.
Several of her best friends kind of keep Sasha, supported, and also she is, well, sort of friends with the county sheriff detective, whatever his name is, I forget. Let’s see. I think…what is his name? Just think about it, you’ve got so many characters in your head, and it’s like…
Alexandra: I know, right?
Meg: Let’s just think again. I think it was Detective Messer or something like that. In the beginning, there’s a little bit of friction between them. By book two, it’s a little less friction. Maybe, by book three, they’ll become more friends.
Will they actually have a romantic relationship? No, there are a lot of posies who do that, I’ve read them, but I really don’t want that in mind. So she will have a relationship with someone else who’s an artist. So I’m an artist, so it’s easy for me to go with that.
So she does have a couple of my qualities, like she loves cookies. Oh, I’m such a cookie freak, and… I’m trying to think what else. She really likes fashion. I’m not thin, but neither is she, but she’s not overweight either. So it’s kind of nice to get into those details of what would she wear what would she do in terms of she needs exercise, oh, boy. Boy, do I need exercise, too? So that kind of thing. And her sister is very petite and very cute, so she’s kind of got a little jealousy going on there. Anyway, so…
Alexandra: Yes, yeah. And so tell us about the inspiration for the stories.
There was a Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory and shop in Ann Arbor. Is that where this idea came from?
Meg: It was actually in Chelsea, Michigan, which is close to Ann Arbor. I had a chance to go there with a group of friends but chose…I don’t even remember why, either I couldn’t get off from work. This was…I don’t how many years ago, and I kicked myself, because then it closed.
By the time I got this idea…because I have been collecting bears, and they’re like, “Oh, maybe you’d love doing this. You know, you collect bears,” and, yeah, I know, but I just didn’t have time at that time to go. And then by the time I got the idea of, “Oh, I could use that as a setting, and a factory that produces tapers. How cool is that?”
And so I’m looking in this, about Chelsea, what are their hours, “Oh my God, they’re closed. What?” They had moved to Missouri. So I was like, “Oh, boy,” so they’re not completely shut down, which is good, I suppose. They do a lot of college, like, teddy bears with college, you know, sweaters and stuff like that. But it’s just not the same as being in Michigan, and they used to have tours.
So I kind of incorporated that idea into my cozy. Like, this is a shop. They have the teddy bears on display. There was a factory which is right nearby, and her uncle is the supervisor and produces a lot of the teddy bears. So that’s kind of the idea I got.
Alexandra: We’ve mentioned that there’s one book now. The second one will be out in May of this year, 2018.
Are you working on a third at the moment?
But right now we’re writing the next D.E. Ireland book, my friend and I co-write. I don’t even mind if I don’t hear for a while, because I’ll be busy doing that. So we’ll kinda keep two book series going, you know. It’s like, “Oh, boy, how much time have you got?”
Alexandra: That’s one thing I wanted to touch on. This is a great segue. Tell us about the D.E. Ireland book.
The thing I want to ask first is what came first, the wish to collaborate with your friend or the idea for the mysteries.
Meg: My very first book was the Western, and it was a Western mystery historical. And I did that on my own, and I was writing the second one, and my friend, Sharon, and I, we’ve been friends since college, and we had said, “Yeah, one of these days we’ll collaborate, maybe.”
She was writing her own stuff, and I was writing my own stuff, and we thought, “Oh, you know, one of these days we’ll come up with an idea.” So I needed help with my book to Western, and I was driving over her way, which is like about two and a half hours.
I was listening to the soundtrack for “My Fair Lady,” singing along. It’s a beautiful summer afternoon, and all of a sudden, like, this thing hits me, like, “Oh my gosh, Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, how cool is that? What if they started solving mysteries in 1913 London?”
And, as soon as I got into Sharon’s house, and I said, “Hey, this is a great idea. What do you think?” Because I know a lot of American Western history, and she was the expert on English history.
She thought it was a great idea, too, so we started coming up with what we’d do. Obviously, no one else had had that idea. Other authors had done Mark Twain and all kinds of other historical figures and also literary figures, obviously, like, well, there’s Jane Eyre, but then there’s also…oh, I can’t think of it, Darcy and Elizabeth and…
Alexandra: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Meg: Yeah, there’s all kinds of stuff out there. And, of course, George Bernard Shaw, his stuff was in the public domain, which is what we really had to find out first before we can actually take his characters.
It just kind of fell into place, like, “Wow, this would be really cool.” So we started writing.
We wanted to get a first complete draft done before we would actually try to market it. And so once we had that, and I found out about an agent; let’s see what they say, and maybe if we just give them a query and a couple paragraphs, we’ll find out maybe a couple months.
I sent it off after Sharon and I both formulated the query letter, and he called three hours later. The other thing, too, was it wasn’t that he was like, “Oh, yeah, this is a great idea.” It was, “We’re offering representation.”
I was just floored, because usually they say, “Well, we’ll think about it. Let us look at it.” Oh, no, they really thought they could sell it, and they did in three weeks. So that was kind of nice, but unfortunately, after our first book came out, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, our editor went on maternity leave.
And book two was already in production and stuff, but we lost our editor. This was at St. Martin’s Press. And sometimes that happens when a book falls through the cracks, so book two kind of fell through the cracks.
And, obviously, we’re no longer with them, so we have a new publisher, small press, and we put out Get Me to the Grave on Time, and we’re working on… “With a Little Bit of Blood” is next, and we even have plans for at least one more, if not two more, after that.
We just kind of fell into it, but our agent was like, “Well, you need to do other stuff, too.” Why not, you know, spread the wealth around? And so we both came up with different ideas for cozy mysteries, which are contemporary.
She sold hers first. “A Berry Basket Mystery” is under Sharon Farrow. That’s her author name. And then mine was the Teddy Bear series under Meg Macy. But the D.E. Ireland name, we used Ireland because George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, and then also D.E. is Eliza Doolittle backwards. Because we couldn’t really come up with, like, a name, Meg Sharon, you know, it was like, “Oh, well, we’ll just come up with that.” So how that came about.
Alexandra: And so how does the co-writing work? Do you each write an individual chapter?
Meg: We alternate chapters. Sometimes we’ll do one, and then she’ll do next, or two chapters and then two. It just depends on the book.
She does primarily a huge outline. She’s such a great outliner, Sharon is, and I’m more of the soundboard where she asks what about this idea, what about that idea, you know, I’ll come up with all these different things.
And then we both write the first draft, alternating chapters, and then we’ll revise each other’s stuff. And then when we have a more of a…not a nailed-down chapter, but we really revise it, revise it, revise it, and then we will actually read it to each other over the phone, which I don’t know why we aren’t doing this on Skype.
And then we’ll say, “Okay, now that chapter first,” because we won’t argue, but we will say, “No, it doesn’t sound right, or we want a change to this. You know, maybe trim it a little bit or whatever”. Because we both have editing experiences, so it’s a pretty clean manuscript by the time we’re done with it.
We had good success with books one and two, and then three obviously came out. But right now we’re a little behind, “With a Little Bit of Blood” done, because we’ve been so busy with our contemporary cozies. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, time is getting away from us, and we really want to get the next book out by the spring.” So we’re getting there, but it’s not easy. But we both love historicals, and we both love the research.
Alexandra: And, speaking of research, you mentioned that you’re more of an expert on American history, and one of the things I read on your website was that you had a fascination with the Transcontinental Railroad, and that was a little bit of how the Western mysteries came about.
Tell us a little bit about that and what your fascination is there.
Meg: I don’t know if I’m an expert. I think I did a lot of reading about the American West, and, oh my gosh, I’ve watched Westerns, I’ve read Westerns all the time. And Sharon has, too, but I think I knew I couldn’t handle the whole London of 1913 and all. I don’t know anything about that, so that’s why it’s like we have to collaborate on that.
But, in terms of my Westerns, it was at my very first idea of writing a mystery in the West historical. It turned out to be sort of…because there’s a little bit of romance involved, too, in the plot. But it was true grit on a train, and so my great…was it my great-grandfather or my grandfather? I don’t remember. I guess it was my grandfather.
He worked on the railroad here at Mount Clemens close to my house. My mom would always talk about that, and so it kind of inspired me like, “Oh, I wonder what it was like doing that, and what trains were like, and where they all went,” things like that.
I did a lot of research about the Transcontinental Railroad, and I loved the movie “True Grit,” loved, loved, loved it. I saw it when I was like in seventh or eighth grade, and, oh, I just loved it.
So the idea I had was put him on a train, her father was killed, and then that’s where the idea of her following the killer all the way up to California came in. And so it worked out really well. I had a good time writing that.
It’s always fun when you’re writing your first book. You can take as much time as you want. I got a lot of rejections, but finally someone published it. And it was really nice getting the nomination and the award of, like, “Wow, you’re kidding me.” That kinda came out so quick. So that was nice.
Alexandra: One of the things that I noticed with the Westerns is that you mentioned True Grit and that you were inspired by the characters there.
You combined two characters and came up with the fellow named Ace Diamond. Tell us about him.
Meg: He’s a combination of Rooster Cogburn and also the Texas Ranger. Ace is from Texas. He was a soldier in the Confederate Army down in Texas, of course, but he’s a little bit mischievous and devil-may-care, and I need something out of this if I’m going to, you know, put my life on the line, I want a reward, sort of a Han Solo in a way.
And then, of course, they both fall in love with each other, but it takes time for that to happen. So there is a little bit more of a romance in that, and somebody said, well, it’s not really a historical mystery, it’s more of historical suspense.
Whenever there’s a romantic plot in there, you can call it more of a suspense, but it’s not a thriller, you know. It doesn’t really have the violence, the gore because I like to keep all that off the page. I don’t like to read it.
Alexandra: And you mentioned on your website what a fan you were of “True Grit,” like you mentioned here, and especially the book, you said, even more than the film.
Meg: Oh, I love the book. It was so close. The Coen Brothers is very much almost word for word in terms of the dialogue. And even the John Wayne movie had a lot of that in there, but the Coen Brothers really, really emphasized that.
Charles Portis…if you read the book, you can actually visualize the movie, and it’s just incredible. It takes you back to actually what it was like living in 1800s. It’s just amazing to me. Just the dialogue alone, it was just so incredible. So a lot of people don’t write like that now.
Because I think he wrote that back in the ’60s or ’70s, I don’t remember exactly, and, of course, it came out in ’68 or ’69, the movie. But I wish in a way that they did, because I think it really made it authentic. So can I pull that off? No, I have a hard time with that. But it’s nice to drop a few of those type of words in.
Alexandra: You talked about how busy you are with the D.E. Ireland books and the Teddy Bear cozy mysteries.
Do you think you’ll ever do another historical Western mystery?
Meg: I have a couple of ideas. I’m trying to get my daughter involved to write, but she’s got a job, and I don’t. But, I mean, she works full-time, and she keeps saying, “I don’t have the kind of experience in writing,” but it would be nice to collaborate with her. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, and I just don’t have time right now.
I’m hoping that in a couple of years I will have…because I started something, but I can’t really say a whole lot now, because I don’t know if I’m ever going to finish it. It’s so hard to say. Every time I go to the Barnes & Noble, I see Westerns on the shelf, but the shelf space is so narrow and so small, so I’m not sure right now there’s a big, huge market for that.
So I’m putting my eggs in the cozy basket. Hopefully, that will sustain me for a couple of more books and then also the D.E. Ireland books. And I want to get back to painting. It would be nice to do that. So it’s just how much time I’ve got. I’m not a very fast writer. Some people can really put them out, and I’m not that way. I like to take my time. I like to really get it right.
Alexandra: That’s actually another great segue into my final question.
What’s your writing routine like? Do you write every day? Do you write in the morning? How does that work?
Meg: I do try to write every day, even if it’s a blog post or promotion, whatever. My best time is in the morning, so I tend to get online, maybe check my email and do a little Facebook posting or whatever, but I like to set up a lot of Facebook posts ahead of time.
Then I really like to get started by 9:00, and I usually write until 1:00, 2:00, I take my lunch. And some mornings I will go and exercise at Planet Fitness, which I’m trying to do more of. And so then my day starts a little later, and then I write a little later, but it just depends.
My best writing time is in the morning, though. And at night I’m just too tired, I can’t. I mean, it doesn’t mean I won’t, because I just did page groups, and I did copy edits, and I was, like, 12 or 14-hour every day, you know. So it just depends on your schedule, and what’s necessary at the deadlines, and stuff like that.
Alexandra: Yes exactly, what the pressure is that’s coming to bear on you. So this has been amazing, Meg.
Why don’t you tell our audience where they can find out more about you and your books?
Meg: I am on Facebook, Meg Mims Author as well as Meg Macy Author. We have a D.E. Ireland Facebook page. I’m on Pinterest. I’m on Twitter. I think it’s @megmims, though. I didn’t switch over…I can’t really switch over to Meg Macy on Twitter. But it doesn’t really matter, because my Twitter handle, you know, may say @megmims, but it’s all about teddy bears. And then, let’s see, Pinterest page.
I have a website, www.megmacy.com. It has all my books under there, and I try to do a newsletter, you know, every so often. It’s hard to keep up with all the promotion, so I’m trying to do as much of that as I can, but then also putting more time into writing, because they can just really eat up a lot of time.
Alexandra: All right, that’s fantastic, and I’ll put links to those things in the show notes, at itsamysterypodcast.com, and also to your different books so that people can see what we’ve been chatting about.
Meg: Great, great.
Alexandra: Well, thank you again so much.
Meg: Well, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it, and I hope readers will enjoy all the cute little teddy bear stuff. I try to put as much in there as I can. Oh, and she has a teddy bear dog as well, Sasha does, so it’s really fun, you know. I try to have as much fun as I can with that, but also, of course, getting the mystery in there and how they solve it. So they’ve got the twists and turns. It’s always fun to use teddy bears.
Alexandra: You’ve got a picture of a little teddy bear dog on the website, so maybe I’ll be able to link to that as well.
Meg: Oh, yeah. I really would love to have a dog like that, but they’re supposedly very expensive, so… I got a poodle, but I didn’t think of putting his little ears, you know, where you cut their ears and where they look like teddy bear ears. He was just a poodle, but that is like a Bichon Frise poodle mix type of dog, and they’re just so adorable.
Meg: And I love little dogs anyway. I’ve always loved poodles.
Alexandra: Yes, yeah. All right. Well, thanks again, Meg. Take care.
Meg: Thank you. Bye-bye.