Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview with author Gloria Ferris

I'm pleased today to introduce you to mystery and suspense writer Gloria Ferris.  Here are a couple of highlights:

CHEAT THE HANGMAN – published by Imajin Books in Aug/11. Paranormal Mystery, was shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur in 2009 and is now shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award. Protagonist is Lyris Pembrooke.

CORPSE FLOWER – won 2010 Unhanged Arthur, to be published by Dundurn Press in Spring/2013. It’s a mystery, humorous if you like, and the protagonist is Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall.

And now, let's see what Gloria has to say... 

If you were to write a profile for Bliss Moonbeam for one of those online dating websites, what would it say?

Okay, I’ll give it a try:

My name is Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall.  I’m 32 and five foot five in three inch heals. My hooker friend, Rae, from the trailer park where I live, likes to experiment on my hair so it’s now 7 or 8 shades of brown and blonde, and naturally curly. As you can see in my picture, I’m on the thin side and, if you guys are cruising for huge, silicon-filled boobs, keep walking. I am nothing if not natural.

I’m not seeking a lasting relationship right now – too many things on the go – but I wouldn’t mind a dinner out once in a while. The rat-bastard lawyer I used to be married to swindled me out of a fair settlement and I’m working any minimum wage job I can find to save the money to take him back to court. At least that was the plan. But, I keep running into marijuana everywhere I go in town, and another idea is beginning to surface. It involves a touch of blackmail here and there but, hey, no pain no gain, right guys?

Anyhow, if you’re in the Lockport area near Lake Huron, give me a call. I’m really cute and will eat pretty much anything. Oh, and no married, engaged, divorced, separated or mamas’ boys need respond. Or lawyers.  It’s fine if you’re gay but you’ll need to know where to take a girl for a fabulous meal. 

As a bonus, here's a profile for Lyris:

Lyris Pembrooke: Hi. My photo shows you I have mid-length dark hair and dark eyes, and my face won’t scare children or squirrels (snicker, little humour there). I’m five foot nine and 38 years old. I live in Blackshore, Ontario, where I just inherited a Georgian mansion from my uncle. The Will won’t allow me to sell the place for twenty-five years, so fortune hunters are out of luck. And the body I found in the tower room had been there for a long time – I plan to find out who’s responsible so there’s nothing for anyone else to worry about

 I’m divorced and looking for someone between the ages of 39 and 40. I will screen applicants to ensure they meet my other requirements which I won’t go into here. If you want to date me, you should know up front that I won’t have sex with you for months, or maybe even years. We’d have to see how we get on. A uniform will take you to the top of the list, but this excludes UPS drivers and Animal Control officers

 I believe in full disclosure to prevent misunderstanding, so if the paranormal frightens you, I’m not the woman you’re looking for. I have a spirit guide, Leander, who used to be Winston Churchill, or maybe John Lennon – he won’t tell me. My Aunt Clem is also psychic, renowned throughout the county for the accuracy of her predictions so, between her and Leander, I feel pretty safe in venturing into the world of online dating. One or both of them will warn me if you have criminal tendencies.

I think that’s all you need to know except that the Chief of Police has taken a shine to me. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll let him catch me, hence this profile on e-FindABabe. There’s nothing like a little competition to make a man try harder, and he already has the uniform.

There seems to be a surge these days in paranormal fiction and in genre cross-pollination.  Do you feel that you can reach both mystery and paranormal audiences?  Overall, what are your thoughts on the blurring and blending of genres?

Mystery has always been a popular genre, as has the paranormal. A lot of readers like both, so it seems fair to say they would love a cross between the two. I count myself among their number.

When I wrote the first draft of CHEAT THE HANGMAN, there was no paranormal element. But I realized there was something missing. How can a 70-year-old murder be solved when most of the suspects are dead as well? Even if the killer is unmasked by deduction, elimination, or a confession left in the family mausoleum (didn’t happen in CTH, by the way) the story can be dry and ordinary. So, I wrote in a reluctant psychic and a smart-ass spirit guide.

The story has its darker moments but I wanted the reader to feel, and believe, that all things are possible, that a child murdered during the Second World War can finally be buried with dignity. And that those responsible can yet be unmasked and find peace themselves.  Somehow, writing a paranormal component into CHEAT THE HANGMAN just seemed to be, well...right. It fit.

I think all cross-genre writing is wonderful. Fans of every genre can now read what they love and, at the same time, find a new interest. For mystery lovers, we offer them not only the usual suspense, thriller, cozies, and amateur sleuths, but paranormal-mystery, fantasy-mystery, romance-mystery, western-mystery, time travel-mystery. In short, everything and anything the human imagination can conceive, we write. And readers can read. It’s all good.

So, let me get this straight: You are working on book #2 in the Lyris Pembrooke series, and working on book #2 in the Bliss Moonbeam series.  How do you keep it all straight in your head?

Lyris and Bliss are both strong women who face adversity head on and get up each time they’re knocked down.  But the similarity ends there. Each inhabits a different world and is surrounded by a unique cast of supporting characters. Getting their worlds confused just doesn’t happen.
I know I should pick one story, and finish it. Then go back to the other and do the same. The trouble is, I know what both Lyris and Bliss are up to in their new adventures and I keep running from one to the other as story lines, scenes, phrases or words jump into my head. When I’m working with Lyris, Bliss calls me and, just as I have Bliss sorted out for the moment, Lyris needs me.  I wish they would remember they’re just characters and supposed to do what I tell them, when I tell them.

Give me the sales pitch for Corpse Flower in 25 words or less.


The bodies are piling up around Bliss. She infuriates the top cop and risks her future by interfering with his investigation and compromising a marijuana sting.

You have written short stories and novels.  What adjustments do you have to make it your approach to each of these very different types of writing?

I wrote both CHEAT THE HANGMAN and CORPSE FLOWER before I even attempted a short story. Both novels are written in first person from a female perspective and I wanted to challenge myself. Could I actually write in third person, male POV? And, how about the humour? My natural voice is irreverent and impertinent (and my first language is sarcasm).

So, I wrote LAST ROLL OF THE DICE, a story of an elderly WWII veteran living in Victoria, BC, who is being forced by time and ill health to leave his beloved home. It’s a mystery, of course, so there’s some nefarious goings-on. The story came second in the 2011 Bony Pete contest sponsored by the Bloody Words Conference. I believe it will appear in this year’s conference magazine.

Since then I’ve written several other short stories, third person, male POV sans humour. Validation that I can, if required, write seriously, but I hope nobody ever holds a gun to my head and makes me do it. It’s just too hard for me. One of these days, I’ll do some research on short story markets and send mine out there.

Name two authors (living or dead) who have inspired or influenced you.  Tell me why.

That’s hard.  But, if I have to pick two, these are among my favourites:

  •   Ellery Queen: I began reading these mysteries at age 8. My mother belonged to the Book of the Month Club and I always hoped for an Ellery Queen. They were my first exposure to the mystery genre and I’ve never looked back.
  •   Elizabeth Peters: Anything to do with ancient Egypt and mysteries fascinates me. I have two bookshelves filled with Peters’ books and I especially like the Amelia Peabody series. Something about that take-charge, umbrella-toting, Victorian matron and her hunkster archaeologist hubby, Emerson, just resonates with me. Could it be the humour?

What is the most surprising thing about being a writer/being published?

I continue to be blown away by the amount of work required in being a published author. Marketing, branding, social media, blogging, readings, etc. It never stops. I find I don’t take a day off anymore and, like most authors, I get up early and stay up late just so I have some time to write.

If you didn’t have a talent for writing, what creative outlet would you pursue instead?

I used to sew and do a lot of crafts which I sold at shows and fairs. Thinking about it now, about the time I stopped sewing, I started to write. Wish I’d done that sooner.

If I couldn’t write anymore for some reason, I’d take up surfing before going back to sewing. And water scares me and I can’t swim.

What writing advice can you offer to an aspiring author?

  • Join an organization. Whatever genre you write in, there’s an organization that will befriend and support you. You will receive priceless information, knowledge and skills, and your writing will be the better for it.
  • Enter every contest you can find. If you can win a contest, or even receive a nomination, your manuscript has a better chance of moving up from the slush pile to an editor’s desk.

What is the one question you wish I had asked you, but didn’t.  Now go ahead and ask and answer that question.

How about: At what point did you really believe you could be a published author and seriously start working towards that goal?

And the answer is – the first Bloody Words Conference I attended. I joined the Crime Writers of Canada in 2007 and registered for my first conference in 2008. I submitted the first five chapters of CHEAT THE HANGMAN for the manuscript critique by a published author and, when I found out the author was Mary Jane Maffini, I was thrilled and terrified. Here was an author who had published at least ten books. What would she think of my writing? 

Well, Mary Jane was so warm and encouraging that I left our short meeting in a glow of new resolve. I enjoyed the rest of the conference – crime writers are a lot of fun! – and went home to finish CTH. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Unhanged Arthur award and published last year by Imajin Books. It has recently been nominated for the Bony Blithe award – and one of the other nominees is Mary Jane! So, you could say that encouragement from Mary Jane plus hob-nobbing with writers who were published, yet human and approachable, made me believe I could do it too.

Check out Gloria's website:

Amazon link for CHEAT THE HANGMAN

1 comment:

  1. Excellent interview, Gloria, and Jill. I can't wait for Corpse Flower and you already know I loved CTH!