I met Karen at my
local SinC Chesapeake Chapter when we launched the chapter’s fifth anthology of
short stories, Chesapeake Crimes: This
Job Is Murder. Her short story, “Next Stop, Foggy Bottom” highlighted Karen’s
gift of writing humorous mysteries with a supernatural bent. But her series,
starring Barbara Marr, takes her comedic flair to the traditional-demented cozy
subgenre. So far, she has released three books in the series, Take the Monkeys and Run, Citizen Insane, and Silence of the Yams. Please welcome Karen to WWK. E. B. Davis
It’s clear you think of your writing as entertainment since
you spin the “fun” in dysfunctional. Was that part of your original conception
for the series?
Absolutely! When I first decided to
write a mystery series, I wrote down what I wanted to achieve with the books.
First on my list was "entertain." Second was "make people
laugh," and third was "when readers finish the book, they slap their
knee and shout 'Now that was fun!'" If I've done those three things with
the Barbara Marr series, then I'm a happy camper.
Is dysfunction the new normal?
Normal? I don't believe there is
such a thing. When you get to know people, you find they all have their
"dysfunctions" and so yes, I would have to say dysfunction is normal!
What I've done for Barbara Marr, is place her in this "normal"
setting--family life in the suburbs--then throw crazy circumstances and
characters at her. That dichotomy and how she reacts is the humor and fun in
the story. At least I hope that's how it works!
Having a man around
the house doesn’t seem to be a problem for Barbara, but having her husband at
home is a problem. Will that toilet ever get fixed?
I don't know, life is pretty nutty
in the Marr home. I'm not sure about that toilet. It may run unchecked for some
time. Although, my goal for Barb's character has always been that she's the
kind of woman who can take care of herself, so maybe I just need to grow her a
pair and have her fix the darned thing herself! I mean, if she can throw
herself in front of a bullet to save her hubby, she can fix a toilet, right?
Why did you choose a housewife as your main character, and with
Barbara Marr in mind, do you think there is any such thing as a traditional
They say write what you know, and I
know about being a housewife. I also know that a lot of housewives read, so
I wanted to reach out to those women by creating a character that they could
relate to and laugh with at the same time. The fun thing is that I have many
fans who are men. They really seem to enjoy Barb as well.
Your titles put English on movie titles. Why?
Barbara loves the movies and her
dream at one time in life was to write and direct movies. She didn't follow
that path, but decides, when her life turns on a dime, to start her own movie review
website. Hence, the movie-title theme. I have a blast twisting movie titles and
I think readers are drawn to them easily. And, by the way, I take suggestions!
Barbara Marr’s best friend is no Ethel Mertz. Getting away
from Barbara means moving to the West Coast. Can any of her friends take the
Daunted by the danger that seems to surround Barb, Roz Walker
does leave the scene in Silenced by the
Yams, but don't count her out entirely. She's still Barb's best friend,
after all! Peggy Rubenstein, Barb's other friend loves adventure, so she's
right there with Barb all along. And of course, Colt Baron, well he IS heat!
He's not going anywhere, trust me.
What kind of mother sets up her married daughter on dates?
Barb's mom, Diane, is definitely not
your typical mother and she is one of my more favorite characters to write for
that reason. Rather than being the cookie-baking, gray-haired, sedate mother
with just the right advice, she's a risk-taking, death-defying,
big-fish-talking Amazon with odd ideas. But, of course, Barb still loves her.
What's not to love about a woman who takes geriatric pole dancing lessons?
What experiences spring-boarded writing this series that you
can tell us?
Several years ago while I was
working desperately to gel a workable plot for my first book, my neighbors told
me the story of a day soon after they first moved into their house over forty
years ago. The wife was cooking spaghetti sauce on the stove and the kids were
out playing in the yard. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful in their new home
until the three kids ran screaming into the kitchen that there was a monkey on
their roof. Sure enough, when she went outside, she found not one monkey, but
four. A mother and her baby on the roof and two in the trees above. To make a
long story short, after several phone calls and an hour or so of waiting,
eventually a white, windowless, unmarked van arrived with men covered
head-to-toe in safety suits. It was all quite ominous. They didn't identify
themselves or even speak to her. They just retrieved the monkeys and
disappeared into the sunset. You just don't hear stories like that every day so
I knew I had to use it for inspiration, which I did, and Take the Monkeys and Run was born.
Does Homeland Security monitor your email?
I'm not sure about my email, but I sure do worry about my
Google browsing history! I think all mystery writers have this fear. Earlier
this summer while researching my latest book, I was searching on questions like
"types of cleavers," "Can cleavers cut through bone?"
"deaths by cleavers," and another time when I needed to know which
poison would work fastest killing someone, well, you can just imagine the
search questions I was typing in that day! "Best poison to kill a person
fast." Yup, I'd be in trouble for sure if someone confiscated my computer
before I could erase my browsing history. Which I do regularly, by the way!
What’s the title and hook of book four?
Book four is Saturday Night Cleaver, due out in December. And I already know the
title of book five because I let fans vote and choose. I'm very pleased with
the title and plot I'll be cooking up for that one: Dead Man Stalking.
Bonus: Beach or
the beach. No question. Less to pack!
And thank you so much for having me!
This interview was great fun with original questions. You actually made me
think a little, EB! After a lazy summer, I needed to get that brain working
You’ll be able to find all Karen’s demented cozies at