By Karen Harper
Please tell us about your new release, DEADLY POLITICS.
Politics is a blood sport in Washington , DC , and only the strongest survive. Like the politicians she’s rubbed shoulders with for a lifetime, Molly Malone is smart and tough and savvy enough to stay out of trouble—most of the time. However, trouble has a way of finding Molly.
Years ago, Molly Malone was driven from Washington , DC by political back-stabbing, scandals, and personal heartbreak. But now, circumstances have forced her to start a new life in the one place she swore she’d never return to—and face the ghosts and the enemies from her past.
As the daughter of a respected United States Senator and once the wife of a rising star young Congressman, Molly has seen it all in Washington politics–the cynics, the sincere, and the schemers. But the brutal murder of her Congressional staffer niece brings Molly up close with Washington’s darker side. “The beautiful monuments and parks are deceiving. Washington can be ugly.” How ugly, Molly’s about to find out. There are other schemers out there who may not have won elections, but are more powerful than the politicians they ensnare.
Having grown up in D.C., you obviously know the area well. But I was amazed when I read your bio on your excellent website that you also have deep ties and therefor insight into the infighting and corruption in our nation’s power-capital. Can you share some of that with us, since it obviously ups the ante in DEADLY POLITICS?
While I cannot claim “deep ties” to the nation’s political elite, I can definitely claim a lifelong fascination with those powerful ones who make decisions that affect the rest of us. I’ve been watching Washington politicians since I was old enough to read the Washington Post. They bear watching. Some are more susceptible to Washington’s seductive charms than others. Past scandals can attest to that.
Unlike Molly Malone, I grew up among the “regular” people—the ones who get up every weekday morning and go into the offices and agencies all over Washington, Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland—the ones who do the real work of Washington. Something else I try to do in the Molly Malone Suspense series is to include some of the lesser known Washington area settings and locales—quiet Georgetown streets, the towpath along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the Waterfront, the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway that runs along the banks of the Potomac River. Most people are used to seeing only the “official Washington” in movies and books. I like to show them some of my hometown’s quieter but equally charming locales.
Your bio also mentions that you like to return to the Washington D.C. area. With all the upheaval you experienced there, what is still the attraction for you and your family?
Since my kids have all grown up and gone and my husband and I divorced several years ago, my family is now reduced to one. C’est moi. J So, it’s quite easy for me to travel back home frequently. Also, two of my four daughters live and work in Northern Virginia now, and my oldest and dearest childhood friends still live there, so I have many strong ties that pull me back. And the city of Washington exerts its own spell. I cannot stay away for long. So, I split my time between the peaceful Colorado mountains and the hectic pace of Washington .
Have you used any of your personal experiences in this novel? Characters you may have known, or are they all fiction?
Molly Malone and cast walked onstage in January 2006. So there is no one real in the cast. Honest. That’s another reason I set it in “2007.” To make sure no one conjured any similarities between those cast members and the politicians we see cavorting on television now. In nearly 30 years of writing novels, I’ve never used a real person yet. No lie. Characters have always walked onstage and brought their traits and their stories with them. I tried using a real person once, with a fun vivacious friend I wanted to include around the table of Kelly Flynn’s favorite shop. Didn’t work. She morphed on me. Turned into a scheming manipulative creature who wound up as a suspect in the victim’s murder.
Like me, you began writing historical novels. Did that experience and expertise transfer when you began to write mysteries? We tend to think of these as separate genres, but what spills over–other than good writing?
I’m sure it did. It’s never conscious, but I know it affects the characterization. I wrote big historical sagas of 125,000 to 165,000 words. So I got used to painting on a large canvas early on. Depth of characterization and motivation and delving into different characters’ minds is something I simply have to do.
You are a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller. Can you give us your story of achieving that honor? Which book was your first NYT bestseller and why do you think it put you on that enviable list of authors?
I was surprised and delighted when my editor called with the good news. I was on a Berkley Prime Crime tour in the Midwest with the 5th book in the Kelly Flynn Mystery series, DYER CONSEQUENCES. It was the mass market edition of the previous year’s hardcover A KILLER STITCH that made the NYT Extended list for two weeks. Last year, the 9th in the series, UNRAVELED, made the NYTimes Bestselling Hardcover Fiction list—Extended. I am always overwhelmed by reader response.
With such TV shows as THE GOOD WIFE and the new POLITICAL ANIMALS , it’s obvious people are interested in D.C. politics; yet the press keeps saying Americans are disgruntled with capital politics. Where do you stand on this? What’s the allure, even when things look so bad in our nation’s capital?
I think people are fascinated because these Washington politicians hold so much power. We’ve elected them and entrusted them with all that power, and we can only hope they will listen to their “higher” instincts while acting on our behalf. Alas, some of them do not. We’ve seen that far too many times. That’s why we’re compelled to keep an eye on them. As I mentioned before. . .they bear watching.
Where does DEADLY POLITICS fall on the spectrum from cozy mystery to out-and-out thriller? The attractive cover is an interesting mix of the looming capitol building and cherry blossoms.
DEADLY POLITICS is a Political Suspense. We’ve got friendly and warm interactions between some characters as well as chilly scenes of plotting other characters’ deaths, people whose only sin has been to get on the Bad Guys’ radar screen. The novel is in Molly’s first person viewpoint, however there are scenes in the Bad Guys’ viewpoint, too. They’re networked, and they have an agenda. Chapter One, after a scene with Molly re-connecting with old friends, vodka, and laughter, there’s a short scene where the reader gets to see the hit man at work. Enjoy!
What are you working on now? Will you return to the DC area or move on in your next novel?
I’ve just started the third in the Molly Malone Suspense series. The second in the series, POISONED POLITICS, will be out in 2013. And yes, I will return to my hometown August 22nd and stay through the entire month of September. I will be promoting DEADLY POLITICS while I enjoy being with family and friends. There will even be a family football weekend and an Alumni weekend at my alma mater The George Washington University.
NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling Mystery author Maggie Sefton shares something in common with the heroine of her new suspense, DEADLY POLITICS. Like Molly Malone, Maggie grew up in Arlington, Virginia, a stone’s throw across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Maggie’s hometown has always had a special hold on her, which she blames on her lifelong fascination with Washington politics. “Politics gets into your blood here” Maggie swears she’s been watching politicians since she was old enough to read the Washington Post. Although she loves her home in the Colorado mountains, Maggie can’t stay away from Washington for long.
To learn more about Maggie, please visit her website.
Visit Karen at: www.karenharperauthor.com and follow her on Facebook.