If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An Interview with Maya Corrigan

Scam Chowder

Val Deniston loves the historic Chesapeake Bay town where she lives with her grandfather, the Codger Cook. Running the fitness club’s Cool Down Café—and salvaging the five-ingredient dishes Granddad messes up—keeps her busy. She’s used to his catastrophes in the kitchen, but not in the dining room.

Granddad throws a dinner party to expose a swindler who preys on retirees. When the scammer goes face down in the chowder, his death puts Granddad in the soup. As the other guests clam up, the police gather the ingredients for a murder conviction against him. With his freedom on the line, Granddad and Val dredge up secrets that could save him or get them both killed. 


I had the pleasure of chatting with Maya Corrigan at the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland. Maya is the author of the Five Ingredient Mystery Series, featuring Chef Val Denison, who specializes in dishes with only five ingredients. The first book in this delightful series, By Cook or By Crook, was published in 2014 and recently came out in a large print edition. Her second book, Scam Chowder, was released just days ago and she is busy doing book signings. Her five-ingredient recipes are so much in demand, one of them was included in the Mystery Writer’s of America Cookbook. If all that's not enough, Maya's The Art of Deceit (a previous Daphne winner) just won the 2015 New England Readers Award for Unpublished Mystery/Suspense. Congratulations, Maya.

Please welcome Maya Corrigan to WWK.                                                                   Grace Topping

Maya Corrigan
Scam Chowder was so finely plotted that I didn’t know until the final pages the identity of the killer. You amazed me with the number of red herrings you included. Did you start off knowing the identity of the murderer? Which leads me to the question, are you a plotter or pantser?

First, I want to thank you for inviting me as a guest to the Writers Who Kill blog. You came up with great questions, Grace.

Before I write the first chapter, I have a high-level outline of the whole book and know who the murderer is. For every other mystery I’ve written, I’ve ended with the same murderer I started with. Scam Chowder is the exception. When I began, I had a different culprit in mind, but after writing five or six chapters, I changed the murderer and the motive. I guess that means I’m a bit of both—plotter and pantser.

You used clever methods for showing the main characters age and appearance. For example, “It would take a lot to turn [Val’s] cinnamon-colored hair blond.” Do you think it is important to describe a character’s appearance? How much description of characters do you like to read in a book?

Descriptions of the point-of-view character are always tricky. Everything is filtered through the mind of one person, who would not describe herself in the process of an action. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking “I swept my wavy red hair off my forehead” or “I blinked my blue eyes.” The way around the problem is to make description part of the character’s thoughts about herself. The line you brought up occurs in a scene when Val is sizing up a woman who could compete in a Miss America contest. While admiring the woman’s blond hair woven into an elaborate French braid, Val thinks about her own hard-to-tame brownish hair. She concludes she doesn’t have the patience required to turn her hair into a thing of beauty. With that, the reader doesn’t just get hair description, but a sense of the character’s personality. When reading, I tend to skip over detailed descriptions of characters. I’m never going to remember a character’s eye color unless it’s crucial to the plot or personalities in the story. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be there.

In Scam Chowder, you addressed several social issues: the scamming of senior citizens, adult children or grandchildren moving in with family members to help care for them, and geriatric care management. Can you tell us a little about why you addressed these issues?

Scams against seniors are rampant, underreported, and under-prosecuted crimes. Everyone in my generation has stories about attempted (and often successful) scams against older relatives or neighbors. I tried to incorporate several varieties of scams into the book. The more we are aware of the warning signs of this crime, the better the chance to prevent it. With a 95-year-old mother and a 99-year-old mother-in-law, I have encountered a variety of caregivers and geriatric care managers. My personal experience of the good and the bad among them definitely entered into the book. Neither I nor anyone in my family has ever had an adult child or grandchild move in, but as a member of the sandwich generation, I’ve had a chance to observe interactions between my children and their grandparents. I wanted to capture the grandchild-grandparent relationship in the book because it’s unique and doesn’t enter into many mysteries.

Murder is always a serious subject, but Val’s witty comments made me laugh. Do you purposely include humor, or does it just creep into your writing? Do you have any techniques for injecting humor?

Thank you for saying that. I like hearing that something I wrote made a reader laugh. Most of the humor arises out of the situation and the interactions between the characters as I’m writing. I’ve deliberately set up some recurring opportunities for humor. They include the squabbling between Val and her grandfather, his attempts at cooking, and the fad diets and quirky food preferences of Val’s friends. 

One thing in particular in your writing is your excellent use of good, strong verbs, which I think is one of the hallmarks of good writing. Scam Chowder could be a textbook example for anyone studying writing. Were you a writer before you started writing mysteries?

Using strong verbs is a carryover from my former careers as a writing teacher and a nonfiction writer. Those experiences helped me write fiction, but weren’t sufficient because fiction requires other writing skills that nonfiction doesn’t. Though I’d published academic essays, instructional materials, and brief humorous pieces for a newspaper, I spent years trying to crack the fiction nut. I attended conferences, took workshops, and read how-to books written by successful fiction writers before I arrived at the point of writing a publishable mystery.

Do you do a lot of cooking like your main character, Val? The recipes in your books call for only five ingredients. Do you keep your cooking that simple?

I began collecting easy recipes as a Mom with two part-time jobs and two preschoolers. I also simplified other recipes that had many ingredients so I could cook fast. After the kids were older, I had the time to make more elaborate meals, but I rarely found complicated recipes with many ingredients worth the effort and time. These days I don’t even read a recipe if it has more than a dozen ingredients. The recipes I use over and over have between five and eight ingredients.

You are a strong advocate of people signing up to be organ donors. Can you tell us why this cause is near and dear to your heart?

My grandson required a liver transplant when he was six months old. Fortunately, my son was a good match. The transplant team worked from early morning to until late at night to excise part of my son’s liver and make it work as a replacement for my grandson’s diseased liver. The baby also needed blood vessels from an unknown donor, who helped save a life simply by checking a box on his driver's license. Signing up as an organ donor is a way to give the gift of life to others.  My grandson starts kindergarten in the fall, thanks to his father, the anonymous donor, and his own indomitable spirit.

You’ve set your book in the Chesapeake Bay area. Is this an area you know well, and do you feel using this location helps shape your books?

I enjoy visiting the Eastern Shore of Maryland with its historic towns, the majestic water views, and a cuisine based on local produce and fresh catches from the bay. It’s a rural area that attracts city visitors. The waterfront estates of weekend visitors aren’t far from modest houses and trailers where the less well-to-do live. On the streets of St. Michaels or Oxford, Washington bigwigs bump into watermen, those who make a living by fishing and crabbing. The dynamic between tourists and locals makes the Eastern Shore a great place to set a mystery series. The books take place in a fictional town, Bayport, named for the locale of the Hardy Boys mysteries.

Trivia questions appear in your book and on your web page. Like your characters, are you a trivia quiz competitor and anagram solver?

Anagrams generally defeat me. I like trivia board games though I don’t compete in trivia contests on a regular basis. Subjecting my children to Jeopardy! paid off when my daughter appeared on the show and won, as she put it, the equivalent of two-thirds of her yearly salary in 20 minutes. She’s the trivia queen in the family.

You’ve said “Granddad … may just take over the series if Val doesn’t watch out.” What’s next for Val and Granddad?

In Final Fondue, coming out July 2016, Granddad has rented his spare bedrooms (and Val’s bedroom!) to tourists visiting Bayport’s Tricentennial Festival. He serves chocolate fondue to the arriving visitors, members of a wedding party. For the sweet bridesmaid, the fondue welcome is also a fondue farewell. She’s found dead the first night of the festival under circumstances suggesting the killer might have mistaken her for the bride-to-be…or for Val.

Tell us a bit about your writing. As busy as you are, is your work area tidy or messy?

That’s a question I’d like to skip. You can probably infer the answer from my reluctance to respond. Thank you again for hosting me on your blog.


KM Rockwood said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing some of your methods with us. Something else for my TBR list! I love mysteries with a touch of humor.

My workspace would never qualify as "tidy!" But I pretty much know where everything is.

Warren Bull said...

Is my workspace tidy? Talk about a tough question. Tidy compared to what? Compared to the aftermath of a tornado, yes.

Maya Corrigan said...

Thanks for you comment, KM. Even if my workspace were tidy, I doubt I'd know where everything is. So why bother making it tidy? That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.--Maya

Maya Corrigan said...

Hi, Warren. Your workspace and mine probably look similar. Thanks for commenting.--Maya

Grace Topping said...

Maya, you were a delight to interview. Thank you for your willingness to be my first interview with WWK.

Maya Corrigan said...

Thanks for asking such great questions, Grace!

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Maya. I must put your series on my TBR list. As for my work space, it's in my library/dining room which means when I'm getting company of any amount, everything needs to be shoveled into boxes, bags or containers and covered with a large tablecloth in the corner which results in a lot of searching when the whole shindig is over. I always know - except for once - my murderer, too. It's figuring out how to expose him/her that's sometimes the problem.

Maya Corrigan said...

Hi, Gloria, Thank you. I'm fortunate to be able to shut the door on my work space. However, that doesn't mean I don't have to search for things every morning! I wish the elves that repair shoes in the middle of the night would switch to organizing my desk.

Kaye George said...

Nice interview! Thanks Maryann and Gloria. You both put a lot of work into this! A good read.

Maya Corrigan said...

Hi Kaye, Thanks for your kind words.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Good interview. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Will check out your books!

Kara Cerise said...

Scam Chowder sounds like a perfect book to read during summer vacation. I think the Eastern Shore is a great setting for a mystery series. It's one of my favorite places to vacation.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Maryann! Thanks for stopping by WWK. I loved the interview and I think your books are so well done. Perfect reads to tuck into the beach bag!
My work space? The dining room table or the study room at the library (AKA book jail). If I'm being honest, the first starts to look like an episode of hoarders after awhile...

Maya Corrigan said...

Hi Judy, Thank you for stopping by to read and respond to the interview and for your kind words.

Hi Kara, Thank you for commenting. The Eastern Shore is one one of my favorite places too. And I love the name Kara. That's what I called the heroine in another of my books.

Hi Shari, Thanks for the kind words. No matter how bad the table looks, you can always escape to your fainting couch to read.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Great interview. Glad to hear that event the best laid plans (murderer) sometimes changes - looking forward to ready your book, Maryann and to seeing more interviews from you, Grace.

Maya Corrigan said...

Thank you for reading the interview and commenting, Debra.

E. B. Davis said...

I enjoyed reading Scam Chowder and loved the old sleuths solving crimes against the elderly with Chef Val leading the way. Grace--great interview. Thanks so much for taking over half my load. You are very appreciated!

Maya Corrigan said...

Thanks for the kind words, Elaine. I appreciate both you and Grace.

Unknown said...

Fabulous interview! Great questions and great answers. I'm racing to add this to my TBR list.