Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Marilyn Levinson/Allison Brook Interview by E. B. Davis

Death Overdue
Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she’s offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura’s case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Now it’s due or die for Carrie in Death Overdue the delightful first in a new cozy series by Allison Brook.

I’ve read almost all of SinC Guppy Marilyn Levinson’s books and interviewed her previously. (To read the other interviews, click on the highlights.) Marilyn has partnered with Crooked Lane Books to write the Haunted Library Mystery series, under the pseudonym, Allison Brook. The first in the series, Death Overdue was released yesterday. The book reminds me of Giving Up The Ghost and Getting Back To Normal in that each book could be considered traditional or cozy mystery, but contains a friendly ghost character. But due to that similarity, I had questions about the use of a pseudonym, about publishers, about author branding, and the question of the book as a product or the author as an artist.

Please join our discussion and welcome Marilyn/Allison back to WWK.                                                                              E. B. Davis

You were traditionally published in mystery and YA under your own name. How do you feel about using a pseudonym? Are you working with a publicist to establish your brand? Is it a cut or a boost?

Frankly, I’d rather have all my books under my own name, but my publisher asked me to use a pseudonym, and Allison Brook was born! I think most readers know that Allison is me. It’s even listed that way in Goodreads. The publicist at Crooked Lane Books is doing an excellent job of getting exposure for Death Overdue. There’s an audiobook; the book is a selection in the Mystery/Literary Guild; it received a starred review in the Library Journal, was made Pick of the Month, and has garnered many wonderful reviews. I’m happy with the way things have turned out. I find it doesn’t really matter to me which name is on the cover.

In your Golden-Age of Mysteries series, Untreed Reads was your publisher. Crooked Lane Books will provide hard back, paperback, e-copy and audio, and CD audio. Is there the expectation of greater sales due to the various media available?

I’d say so. I’m hoping the setting—a library—and the starred review and Pick of the Month from the Library Journal will encourage librarians to buy hardback copies of Death Overdue.

Paranormal mystery seems to describe those books with darker tones, shape-shifters, vampires, etc. As someone who likes to read and write ghost/angel stories, I wondered how has your publisher categorized this series on the “shelf?”

My book is categorized as a cozy. Yes, there’s a ghost in the book—as there is one in Giving Up The Ghost—but Evelyn Havers, like Cameron Leeds, is an amiable figure. Sometimes she helps Carrie in her investigation. I say sometimes, because Evelyn withholds information at times for her own personal reasons.

Carrie Singleton is a complex character. A nearing thirty librarian, she’s hampered with baggage from her divorced parents, her mother—remarried and living in California, her thief and sometimes jailbird father. Why does Carrie feel compelled to keep moving to new communities?

Carrie doesn’t feel as though she has a home. And for good reason. She doesn’t have a home. Her mother, who was never maternal, is living in California with her movie-making husband. She hasn’t seen her father in years. Carrie has fond childhood memories of summers spent on the family farm outside of Clover Ridge. Which is why she goes to stay with her great aunt and uncle. But when the library job her uncle’s gotten for her proves to be nothing more than clerical work, she decides to move on. Being always on the move has become a pattern. Without realizing it, she leaves places because she can’t settle in anywhere, and she’s hoping that she’ll find a haven in the next town she moves to. Her pattern is so strong that she’s on the verge of not accepting the truly wonderful position she’s finally being offered, that of Head of Programs and Events. It takes Evelyn and Carrie’s aunt and uncle to convince her to give the job a shot. Which she does.

Death Overdue takes place in Clover Ridge, Connecticut, her hometown, which overlooks the Long Island Sound. Is Clover Ridge real or based on a real place, perhaps somewhere you’ve lived?

I always make up the towns where my novels take place. This time I did have an actual town I’d once visited in mind. I loved the idea of old houses and restaurants on streets bordering a large village green. Except for that idea, which is rather basic, Clover Ridge is my creation, as are all the buildings and restaurants.

Carrie seems to want anonymity, yet she starts out by dressing in an outlandish punk style and wearing various colored fringed hair. What is she rebelling against?

Since she feels she doesn’t belong to the establishment, she thinks, somewhat childishly, that she can dress as outlandishly as she likes. This changes when she starts her new job.

Former library aide Evelyn Havers is now a ghost, who Carrie can see. Dorothy, Evelyn’s vindictive niece and a librarian who wanted Carrie’s job, pulls destructive pranks on Carrie. Why does Evelyn help Carrie stop Dorothy?

Evelyn was an aide in the library and grows very fond of Carrie. Evelyn had no children and, despite her niece’s nasty side, has always been especially close to her. But when Dorothy’s pranks against Carrie get out of hand, Evelyn is determined to put a stop to them—for Carrie’s sake and for Dorothy’s.

How do you name characters?

I run through a list of names in my head for each character, trying to find one that suits him or her. In my opinion, of course. I try not to have too many names beginning with the same letter, and I try to make sure to vary the number of syllables in my names so, for example, every surname doesn’t have three syllables.

Like most of us, Carrie trusted people who seemed nice. Should we all be as distrusting as Miss Marple?

Trust has to be earned. Most of my characters have secrets, and these secrets can impact how characters behave and relate to one another. Keeping a secret secret can even lead someone to murder. One of the reasons Carrie feels so bad about Al’s death is because she liked him immediately. But she needs to view the many people who might have killed him as suspects.

Although Carrie loves her Aunt Harriet and Uncle Bosco, living with them is too close for comfort. She answers an ad for a rental cottage. The landlord, Dylan Avery, happens to be an old friend of her late brother, Jordan. Dylan’s caretakers will remove the driveway’s snow, clean her cottage once per week, and even iron her shirts. Is he a dream come true or will we find out about any negatives in books to come?

Well, even dream-come-true people can make mistakes in judgment and hurt the people they love. You’ll have to read the next book in the series, Read and Gone, to see how Carrie and Dylan’s romance progresses. If it progresses. <g>

What’s next for Carrie?

In Read and Gone, Carrie thinks her life is perfect, but when her father shows up, he tries to get her involved in his illegal shenanigans.

Are you continuing to write your other series?

I wish I had time! I hope to get back to my Rufus series for young readers and continue writing the third and final book. I also want to finish the book I started that follows Giving Up The Ghost.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

Reese’s Pieces! Didn’t have to think about that one.


  1. Sounds like a delightful book, Marilyn and what a wonderful read to kick off the Halloween season. Best of luck with the new series.

  2. I must have been a big Casper fan. Friendly ghosts add a third-world dimension to books as if the universe/God wants to right wrongs. But the ghost doesn't really use supernatural power except for observation. She can confirm the main character's hunches having observed people doing wrongful acts invisibly. The ghost becomes a real character because she uses the knowledge of people she knew during her life and the wisdom that comes with experience like any older person. Thanks for the interview, Marilyn. I enjoyed your well-drawn characters and plot.

  3. Congratulations on your new series. I look forward to reading it.

  4. E. B.—Thanks for having me as your guest today. I'm very excited about the publication of DEATH OVERDUE! Readers have been letting me know how much they love the book.

    Kate & Margaret,

    Thanks so much for your good wishes and for stopping by!

  5. Marilyn, best wishes with your series! This former librarian loves a good mystery set in the library world, and I think your book will fit the bill.

  6. I've always thought a reference librarian would make a great detective.

  7. What fun! It sounds like you love writing the books, and that often comes through to the reader.

    You're right, Warren. A reference librarian would make a great detective.

  8. Shari,
    Thank you so much. I do spend a good deal of time in my library. When I had questions, I asked a friend who holds a similar position as Carrie.

  9. Warren,
    In this series, the reference librarian has a sour disposition.

  10. Thank you, KM. I had lots of fun writing DEATH OVERDUE. I love the characters and the setting of this book, especially Smoky Joe, the half-grown kitten that becomes the Library Cat.

  11. Marilyn, I've ordered your two Golden Age Mystery books, and they just arrived. I'm looking forward to reading them, and now I'll have to order this latest series, too.


  12. Thank you, Gloria. I think you'll enjoy them.
    Are you going to Malice this year?

  13. Hi, Marilyn -- I've so thrilled for you having a new series out--and from what I've read, well received. I look forward to reading it.

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