Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Q&A with Elizabeth Perona

This week, we sat down with the father/daughter writing team behind Elizabeth Perona. Their series debut, Murder on the Bucket List, was released earlier this month.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Elizabeth Perona (Tony): I remember the first time I got a good review for something I wrote. It was back in grade school at St. Christopher’s. The teacher—I think it was Mr. Click—asked us to write a fictional story where an inanimate object came to life. Mine was about the tree that gave its life to become the manger the Christ child slept in. I enjoyed writing the story, got really good feedback, and was hooked. I also remember writing tortured poetry in high school (I think it’s in the attic somewhere), co-writing a couple of musicals in graduate school that were produced, and how exciting it was when my first novel was published in 2002. So I feel like I’ve been writing for a very long time.

Elizabeth Perona: Tony and Liz

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
EP (Tony): I’m going to mention someone you wouldn’t think would influence a mystery writer, but Thornton Wilder is the author who has had the most influence on my writing. His body of work is limited, but what he accomplished in those works is not. His novels (I particularly like The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Theophilus North) and especially his plays (Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and the Matchmaker) have universal themes that will always resonate with humanity. I aspire to write something that will endure and touch others. Haven’t gotten there yet and may never, but I think Murder on the Bucket List is a step in the right direction. I hope Thornton would approve.

MI: As a father/daughter writing team, what is the writing process like?
EP (Tony): The stuff we do together is scout out locations, talk about plot, and other general things like that. From that point on, I’m the straight-ahead, write-to-the-end-of-the-story guy, and Liz is the detail supplier. I hate details. But the process is evolving from book to book.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
EP (Tony): Probably the day job I have now! (see below)

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
EP (Tony): I’m currently serving as the Interim Town Manager for the Town of Plainfield. When they find a new Town Manager, I look forward to get back to being the Assistant Town Manager. It’s much less stressful and also conducive to my writing. :)

EP (Liz): I stay at home with my two kids, Lucy and Isaac.

MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
EP (Tony): I love to be active. My wife Debbie and I enjoy hiking and riding our bikes. I also like to run and work out.

EP (Liz): I love to sew. It is amazing to me that I can start with just some fabric laying on the cutting mat, and end up with an outfit for me or my kids.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
EP (Tony): Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. I love and admire the code of honor he works from. Also, he’s funny, tough, and very cool.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
EP (Tony): Not really. I enjoy a lot of murders. <grin>

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
EP (Tony): I heard about a bridge club made up of retired women who were doing adventurous things—not on a bucket list, but just things the members of the club had always wanted to do. It sounded like they were a fun group. I realized that even though they were getting older, their lives had never been richer. And I thought, why not write about this group?

They had the kind of outlook I aspired to have. Not just when I retired, but now. I view it as a mission now as I write to encourage people to keep looking ahead and be excited about life.

MI: Tell us about Charlotte, Francine, Joy, Alice, and Mary Ruth.
EP (Tony): Francine is a retired nurse who is the point of view character. We see the story unfold from Francine’s purview. Francine is a lot like my mom, Frances. She died from cancer when Liz was only 4 years old. Writing in her voice is a real joy for me because I get to remember her again. She always saw the best in people, which is how Francine is able to cope with Charlotte’s wilder side. Charlotte is Francine’s best friend. I based Charlotte somewhat on my Grandma Bonte, who was quite a character. She cheated at cards, for example. Playing euchre with her was hilarious. If she was partners with her sister, my great-Aunt Annie, there was a lot of table talk we couldn’t understand because they both spoke Slavish as well as English. They also had elaborate hand signals.

Joy is the go-getter in the group, a divorced woman who is still trying to prove her worth to her ex-husband. Alice comes from privilege, but there are things she wishes she had like a family of her own. She and her husband were older when they married and never had kids. Mary Ruth is a hard worker. At 70, she still has to work and is a caterer. Obviously she knows how to cook!

MI: Do you have a bucket list?
EP (Tony): Does making it onto the NY Times bestseller list count? <grin> Actually, I do have a bucket list, mostly places I want to travel to. My top destinations are New Zealand, Italy, and France.

EP (Liz): Not so much, I just in survival mode right now with two kids, two and under. If I had to choose something though, I’d like to travel to Italy with my husband.

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
EP (Tony): This is very different from my past novels. I wrote a series about a stay-at-home dad/freelance reporter who has a knack for solving mysteries with a supernatural element. It was more detective-like than amateur sleuth. I also wrote a thriller. So this cozy series is a major departure.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
EP (Tony): Yes! I have a cat. Her name is Ginny. She’s a six-year old red tabby. She became a lazy cat very quickly in life. She’s never really played with toys, she’s not a good jumper, and she doesn’t tolerate strangers. She constantly hisses at guests. Her two good points are that she’s very affectionate toward my wife and me, and she has beautiful markings. So there’s that. At any rate, she’s our cat and we love her.

Tony and Ginny
EP (Liz): Yep!  I have a cat named Gizmo. She’s also six years old, but is black and white.  She’s still pretty active, but isn’t so into kids. She hides upstairs most of the day, and comes down during naptime and after bedtime. We love her!

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
EP (Tony): Coffee. I already do live off it, at least in the mornings. <grin> Actually, and this goes back to my Italian heritage, I could live off spaghetti the rest of my life. I never get tired of spaghetti.

EP (Liz): Can I pick two? Pizza and ice cream. I guess I’m a kid at heart. Both have so many flavor options, so I’d never get bored!

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
EP (Tony): Yes, my mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe. I make it all the time!

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
EP (Tony): I love the support we get from the Midnight Ink team! They are awesome to work with!

EP (Liz): Getting to do it with my dad :)

Murder on the Bucket List is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Your local bookstore

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