Tuesday, October 9, 2018

PARTNERS IN CRIME: Rosemary and Larry Mild

Today Rosemary Mild joins me in our continuing feature: Partners in Crime, collaborating writers. Rosemary and Larry Mild, cheerful partners in crime, call Honolulu home. They’ve published six mystery novels; two Hawaii suspense/thrillers; a sci-fi novella; and two books of short stories—with settings reaching from Hawaii to the Far East. Visit the Milds at www.magicile.com.


When a husband and wife write as a team, how do they create fiction that comes out seamless, sounding like one author? Big question.

Larry and I came from different worlds in 1986. We met on a blind date. He had lost his wife to cancer, and I had been divorced for eight years. In the car on the way home from dinner, he said, “When I retire I’m going to write a novel, and I want you to help me.”

Now neither of us had ever written fiction. I was an editor; Larry was an electrical engineer, and we’d only known each other for four hours! Still, I chirped, “Okay!” We’d gotten along so well that I knew he was Mr. Right. We married a year later.

True to his word, when Larry retired he wrote the first draft of Cry Ohana, Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii. Then he handed it to me—the halt leading the blind! After umpteen drafts, three titles, and a critique group, we published it. It’s always been our most popular book.

Our newest work is the long-awaited sequel: Honolulu Heat, Between the Mountains and the Great Sea, the continuing saga of the Cry Ohana families.

Many readers ask how we started writing together. Early on, with hot-headed arguments and wounded feelings. For example:

Larry: “You cut that whole paragraph. I worked for hours on it.”
Rosemary: “Less is more, darling.”
Larry: “Oh, yeah? You gave a back story to the grocery bagger.”

Somehow we survived as we both improved our writing—and respect for each other’s.

Larry considers himself more devious than I, so he conjures up all our plots and writes the first draft. He’s at the computer writing five to six hours most days. He has a much longer attention span than I have. Then he turns the manuscript over to me. And waits.

Larry rolls his eyes. “Rosemary could work a little faster. We’re getting behind by the day. Her strength as a writer? She has this wonderful feel for human nature. She breathes life into my minimalist characters: physical appearance, sharpening the dialogue, and often adding a defining trait.”

I admit that there are times when his elegant passages don’t work for me; they can stop the action. So I’ll do “judicious pruning,” an expression I learned as an assistant editor at Harper’s. Larry calls it “slash and burn.” But you know how it is. Stephen King said, ‘To write is human. To edit is divine.’ Then, with sleeves rolled up, we negotiate.

According to Larry, “The best thing about working as a team is that we’re never writing in a vacuum. There’s always someone close by to listen to your story’s direction and your choice of words. The helping hand when you can’t find that ever-so-right word or story twist is a godsend. After we agree on the final draft, we read the entire book aloud to each other. Amazing the inconsistencies we discover.”

So what’s the toughest thing about writing as a team?

Larry says, “If you’ll excuse my Latin, there’s this co-writus interruptus thing. Working back-to-back in the same bedroom-turned-office. it’s too easy to stop her and ask: “Does adrenaline have an e? rather than look it up myself.

Writing together does have its tough parts. For starters, I don’t interrupt. I disrupt. I was fishing a hammer out of his toolbox. He asked me, “Where are you going with that?” I told him I was going to discipline the vacuum cleaner; it was stuck on High. He said, “Bring it here.” He turned the vac upside down and in five minutes had it fixed. I asked, ‘Would I have broken it if I had given it a few whacks?’ Larry was quick to reply, “Definitely!”

As a team we do face a potential snag working together. I have my own nonfiction life—personal essays and memoirs. Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother is my newest. Miriam’s World—and Mine is my second memoir of our daughter Miriam Luby Wolfe, whom we lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. She was 20 and my only child; Larry’s stepdaughter. Larry published an op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun, “Six Ways To Prevent Airline Terrorism.” Our Maryland congresswoman wrote it into the Congressional Record.

Somehow, we manage to juggle our separate interests. Recently, we gave talks at the University of Hawaii’s Lifelong Learning Institute. Mine was “From Hurt to Healing: Writing Your Personal Story.” Larry’s was on “Engaging Elements of the Mystery.

In our second series, the Dan and Rivka Sherman Mysteries, we created a Jewish couple very much like ourselves (but younger). Dan and Rivka buy the fictional Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland, and become reluctant sleuths.

Larry says, “Rivka is a lot like Rosemary: feisty, super-smart, affectionate, and addicted to chocolate.

Dan, like Larry, is analytical and practical, a born problem-solver—and an incorrigible punster. On our blind date he made a pun and told me he was born in the year of the Zaniac.

We love using our own experiences in our fiction. In Hot Grudge Sunday, sleuths Paco and Molly are on their honeymoon out West. Their itinerary is based on a tour we took, but with hair-raising consequences ending at the Grand Canyon. In Death Steals A Holy Book, the Menorat ha-maor (“Candlestick of Light”) is based on a rare Yiddish book that Larry inherited.

We currently have a series of stories called “Copper and Goldie” in Mysterical-E, an online mystery magazine. Sam, a disabled Hawaiian ex-cop, is a cabbie and P.I. He and his rescue golden retriever (with a dash of Doberman) always land in trouble in Honolulu and still manage to solve crimes. Sam walks with two canes. Larry gave Sam his own chronic back trouble; he too walks with two canes. Sam’s Auntie Momi asks: “You still walkin’ wit’ dem giant chopsticks?”

Larry and I really enjoy working as a team. With more books to come, life is mysteriously good.

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