Best-Selling Author, Marlene Bateman is with us today to answer a few questions and discuss her latest novel, "A Death in the Family!"
So tell us, Marlene, what’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
I write down everything I possibly can about each character and keep it in a file so I REALLY know the character. I don’t use most of the information in the book, but it helps me create a real character—lets me get into his or her ‘skin’ and know their past, present and their hopes and dreams for the future. As I write, I try to imagine myself as that character and imagine how he or she would respond to each situation they faced.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I get my names from two sources. First, I can look online. I found a great website that lists names according to year. This way, if I have an older character, I can type in their birth year and have a long list of names from that era to pick from. Second, I save names from the sports pages of my local newspaper when they list all-star football and basketball teams. I clip out the entire page and file it away for when I need some current popular names. Each page has dozens of cool names.
As for the place names in my books, they are all 100% accurate. For A Death in the Family, my husband and I drove to Oregon, rented a car and drove all over Florence and Lake Oswego. When I describe the Sea Lion Caves and how the gift shop and caves are laid out, it’s all accurate, as is the descriptions of the beach, Heceta Head lighthouse, the historic Siuslaw Bridge, Charl’s Restaurant, etc. Everything, including the church house and stores in historic Florence are as described. I take great pride in going to each and every setting I write about, taking tons of pictures and notes, so that everything is accurate.
What makes your mysteries standout from the crowd?
First, my books are ‘clean’ books, which means no swearing and no gratuitous sex or violence. Second, I like to keep the reader guessing. My novels are ‘whodunit’ mysteries that keep readers trying to figure out who the killer is. Many current TV shows focus on high tech prowess to solve the crime. I focus more on the psychological aspects—why this person did that, why that person didn’t do this. I try to delve into the killer’s psyche and show the psychological aspects that drive their behavior. I like to have a lot of fun and interesting characters. Third, I like to incorporate humor, because everyone likes to laugh now and then. Fourth, and last, I include plenty of intriguing plot twists and turns to keep readers turning the page. Each ending of every book has a surprising, final twist.
What else have you written?
My first non-fiction book was Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, which is a compilation of true stories about people in early Church history who risked their life in defense of the gospel.
My next three books are also compilations of true stories in early Church History, and are about angelic experiences. The first book is, And There Were Angels Among Them. The second book is, Visits From Beyond the Veil, and the third is; By the Ministering of Angels. Researching and writing these books made me realize how much Heavenly Father loves his children and that He is aware of us and our lives.
I then wrote Brigham’s Boys, which tells the life stories of sixteen men who worked closely with Brigham Young as he brought the Saints across the plains and colonized the Great Basin area.
I had two non-fiction books come out last year. Heroes of Faith is a collection of true stories about people who stood firm in the faith despite mobs, bullets and overwhelming trials. Gaze into Heaven, Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, is a collection of true, carefully documented near death experience, which occurred to people in the early days of the church.
My first novel, Light on Fire Island, a romance/mystery came next. My second novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in the Erica Coleman series.
What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
I keep a bowl of candy by my computer. I never dip into it in the morning, but save it for the afternoon. I have an assortment of low-calorie candy such as smarties, gummy bears, jolly rancher candy, lemon drops, licorice, butterscotch disks, and various types of gum. I sometimes have nuts. My husband likes to dehydrate fruit from our trees so I often have dried apples, peaches, apricots, or plums to snack on, too.
If I start getting tired, or hit a difficult spot, get tired or stuck and need to think, I grab something. For extra difficult moments, I kept just a few chocolate covered raisins or Hershey’s kisses as a special treat.
What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Never. Give. Up.
People don’t fail because they can’t write, they fail because they stop trying. I have a yellowed newspaper clipping by my computer that says; “For most of us, it isn’t that we don’t have the ability to write, it’s that we don’t devote the time. You have to put in the effort.” Another way of saying that is if you want to write and be published bad enough, you’ll work for it. And if you work at it, your writing will improve, and you WILL be published.
About how long does it take to write a book?My first book, (Light on Fire Island—a mystery romance), took me three years. But my children were all small at the time. I’ve gotten a little faster and now if I work hard, I can do a non-fiction book in 6-9 months and a mystery in 9 months.
Synopsis of A Death in the Family:
Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.
Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.
Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”
“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.
Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”
There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”
“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.
Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”
Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath.
Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”
“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.
Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”
Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.
After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”
The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.
There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”
“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?”
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith. Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.
Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.
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