Friday, April 17, 2009

Interview : Carolyn Hart

For years now I have been a big fan of mysteries, in particular, cozies. One of my favorite cozy writers is Carolyn Hart. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn. Here's what she shared with me.

Kaye:Did you have a definitive moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Carolyn : I was a child during WWII. I became aware very quickly that newspapers were our link to the world. The bigger and blacker the headlines, the more important the story. I decided when I was eleven that I would be a reporter. I worked on school newspapers and majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. I thought I would be the next Maggie Higgins. Instead, I met a young law student. We married and started a family and I turned to writing fiction. Mysteries were always my fiction of choice. My first book was a children’s mystery which was published in 1964. DARE TO DIE, now in stores, is my 43rd published book.

Kaye: Did you ever consider any other career choice?

Carolyn : I enjoyed working briefly as a reporter but I’ve always been glad I decided to write mysteries.

Kaye: Why mysteries and not some other genre?

Carolyn: Mysteries celebrate goodness. They reaffirm our commitment to justice, honor, and decency. I think mysteries are intellectually challenging and socially important.

Kaye: Death on Demand is your most prolific and very popular series, how did you come up with the idea of Annie and Max?

Carolyn: I had an idea for a mystery with a young woman who owned a mystery bookstore. (Death on Demand was published in 1987, predating by some years the current rash of mystery bookstore tv movies and books.) I was writing the first chapter and suddenly Max arrived on the page. I hadn’t known he was coming, but hey, Annie was in love with him. How could I leave him out?

Kaye : Oh, that Max! So impulsive. Annie has great taste. I'm glad you let him stay, he's a definite keeper. Broward’s Rock seems so real to me, have you ever lived in SC or somewhere like it that you used as a model?

Carolyn : We started vacationing on Hilton Head Island in the 1970s. Broward’s Rock is inspired by the Hilton Head of those days, a casual relaxed wonderful sea island.

Kaye:Your two other series have very diverse characters. Somehow, I picture Wilfred Brimley as Wiggins in the Bailey Ruth series. If they ever make it into a movie, I think he should play the part. Speaking of movies, has any one of your books ever been optioned?

Carolyn: Wilfred would be a superb Wiggins. Thank you! Dead Man’s Island was a tv movie starring Barbara Eden and William Shatner in 1995. Currently a Hollywood producer holds the options on the Death on Demand and Bailey Ruth series. She is looking for a home for them.

Kaye: Why did you make Bailey Ruth a spirit? (Review of Ghost at work can be read here.)

Carolyn: I love ghost stories. I enjoyed the Topper books and movies and I always wanted to write a mystery with a ghost. However, my Bailey Ruth books differ from the usual ghost story because she is the protagonist, not a secondary character.

Kaye: One thing I always wonder about mystery writers, do you come up with the crime first and then create the characters or do you make a list of characters and develop a plot around them?

Carolyn: The victim is the catalyst. I think of a person who could be embroiled in quarrels and the story flows from there.

Kaye: Is it harder with each new book in a series to keep it fresh or is it easier because you already have the character development in place?

Carolyn: A series is very challenging, especially the Death on Demand series. I have to be careful not to create a story similar to one in the past.

Kaye: Every time I have read a Death on Demand book, I keep a piece of paper handy to write down all the books and authors that are mentioned in the monthly contest Annie holds. You have such a vast knowledge of mystery writers and books. Is there a favorite author for you?

Carolyn: Agatha Christie, always.

Kaye: What other genres do you like to read and do you think you have enough time to read all that you want to?

Carolyn: I don’t read any fiction but mysteries. I also enjoy non-fiction. I don’t get to read a lot because I am now writing two books a year and that absorbs my time.

Kaye: Wow, two books a year is a lot of pressure. I know I always look forward to each new book you write. Carolyn, this has been such a pleasure visiting with you. I do appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to give us a little more insight into a writer's life.

Carolyn most generously sent me Dare to Die and that will be reviewed soon on a separate post. Carolyn has a wonderful website with a lot more biographical info including all the numerous awards she has won. And rightly so! A chronological list of the books in each of the three series is also there. I have read every book in each of the three series and loved them all.


  1. I can't imagine writing two books a year! That's a lot of murders and plot twists to think up.

  2. Excellent interview Kaye! I can see why she is a favorite author. Cozy mysteries are always fun. I really need to pick up one of these books. I don't recall reading any of them before although they sound familiar. And writing two a year - wow! That's amazing! I look forward to reading your next review too.

  3. Great interview! I've not read any of her books, but now I must add her to my list (sigh). Why does my list never get shorter?

  4. "Mysteries celebrate goodness. They reaffirm our commitment to justice, honor, and decency. I think mysteries are intellectually challenging and socially important."

    I totally agree! Anymore, I read a wider variety of genres, but mysteries will always be my first love.


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