Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Groups to Die For: Guest Post by Maggie King

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Maggie King:
Book Groups to Die For 

Write what you know. That phrase is surely seared on every writer’s brain. I write mysteries set in book groups. What do I know about book groups? Plenty.

I know that book groups allow you to share your passion for books with like-minded people. I know that at book groups you get to socialize and make new friends. Like a little conflict in your book group? You can have that, too!

In 1993 I joined my first mystery book group in Santa Clarita, California. We read mysteries based on theme. I’d been reading Agatha Christie for years but there was a whole world of other mystery authors out there, and I was ready to dive in. Themes included main characters with professions in journalism, business, law enforcement, and academia. We chose stories set in specific regions, small towns, large cities, you name it. We gave summaries of the books we chose, taking care to avoid spoilers (some were a bit lax about the spoilers!).

When I relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1996, I said good bye to what I would come to consider my favorite book group. I took a writing course at the University of Virginia and started penning Murder at the Book Group. I joined a local mystery group. One prolific reader showed up at each meeting with a large green loose leaf notebook that contained her book log. Another woman routinely declared that she hated whatever book we’d chosen for that month.

In 2002 I moved down the road a piece to Richmond, Virginia and made a beeline for the Tuckahoe Library mystery group. There I met Mary Miley, who would later publish her Roaring Twenties mystery series. 

When the Tuckahoe group folded in 2006 a number of us joined the long-running Mystery Lovers Group, led by Lelia Taylor, who runs the popular blog Buried Under Books.

What happened to Murder at the Book Group? It was perishing and had become little more than a rainy day pastime. In 2010 I realized that I had amassed enough knowledge of book groups and their often fascinating dynamics and, yes, conflicts.

You can find the full range of human behavior at a book group and that can add up to one thing: conflict. There are the domineering sorts who take over the discussion with their non-stop chatter. Conflicts arise over what to read and how the group should be conducted. Others don’t read the assigned book. Others hate it. Besides mystery groups, I also participated in literary fiction groups (that’s where I found real clashes!). No doubt about it, if you want conflict, a book group can satisfy that need.

I had to face facts—the only way I could get back on track with Murder at the Book Group was to give up book groups!

Have I returned to one of them? Not yet—but I’m privileged to visit many as a guest author. Many gifted mystery authors set their stories in book groups. Among my favorites:

Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries, by Erika Chase 

Agatha Christie Book Club series, by C.A. Larmer 

Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series, by Marilyn Levinson 

Helen Hath No Fury by Gillian Roberts, a title in her Amanda Pepper series

Murder at the Moonshine Inn by Maggie King: 

When high-powered executive Roxanne Howard dies in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s premiere redneck bar, the victim’s sister enlists Hazel Rose to ferret out the killer. At first Hazel balks—she’s a romance writer, not a detective. But Brad Jones, Rox’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family. 

Hazel recruits her book group members to help with the investigation. It’s not long before they discover any number of people who feel that a world without Rox Howard is just fine with them: Brad’s son believes that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. The killer could be an angry regular from the Moonshine Inn—or just about anyone who ever crossed paths with the willful and manipulative Rox. 

When a second murder ups the ante Hazel must find out who is behind the killings. And fast. Or she may be victim #3.


Amy M. Reade said...

Great post, Maggie! I am in a book group that meets monthly, but I confess I haven't even looked at the book that we're supposed to discuss tomorrow. I try my best to participate, but life gets in the way sometimes and I don't get to the books. I love a hearty discussion about a book, but conflict? That's not for me. I do love the ladies in Hazel's book group--what a mix of personalities!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Amy. Sometimes it takes me a month to get through a book. Before I took up writing I might get through 10 or 12. No more.

authorlindathorne said...

The book sounds great and how neat that you include book club members you used to have time for in the plot. Writing what you know and making it sound interesting. I enjoyed this.

Anonymous said...

Linda, at my launch party I'm going to talk about writing what I DON'T know---writing with research involved.