By Mary Kennedy
Recently, I sat down with Carolyn Hart to talk about GHOST WANTED, the fifth book in her Bailey Ruth series. Ms. Hart (who also writes the enormously popular Death on Demand series) has come up with an unlikely recipe for success: take one amateur sleuth who happens to be a ghost, add a heavenly supervisor who sends her on a mission to earth, and mix a healthy dose of humor and an engaging plot. Now stir well and enjoy this delicious concoction.
GHOST WANTED is the fifth in the Bailey Ruth series, and the heroine is as irrepressible as ever. I’m intrigued by her relationship with Wiggins, her straight-arrow supervisor at Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions. Bailey Ruth is known to be something of a loose cannon and I remember she was operating off the grid occasionally in book four, GHOST GONE WILD. I wondered if Wiggins is ever exasperated with her? Or is her feistiness part of her charm?
In GHOST WANTED, Wiggins hopes that Bailey Ruth’s imagination and kindness will rescue the reputation of the library’s resident ghost who has a special place in Wiggins’s heart. We discover the heartbreak of World War I and hope that Bailey Ruth can reunite lovers parted on the battlefield.
You once said that writers enjoy creating recurring characters because “the author knows the terrain and understands the characters’ mores.” I think you were talking about Annie and Max Darling in the Broward’s Rock series, but does it hold true for Bailey Ruth? Will she ever push the envelope on her missions to earth and defy Wiggins?
Bailey Ruth is always on the edge of catastrophe but so far she has managed through charm to avoid a precipitous return to Heaven when she incurs Wiggins’s displeasure. I am currently writing next year’s Bailey Ruth and she is at the moment fending off The Rescue Express.
Why do so many readers enjoy mysteries?
Mysteries can be very therapeutic. They provide a sense of order in a disorderly world and reaffirm a commitment to justice.
I remember you once told me that you had shown the manuscript of the first book, GHOST IN TROUBLE, to a priest. I meant to ask a follow-up question. What prompted you to show him the manuscript?
I used a small Episcopal Church as the background because that is the church we attend. However, I wanted to be sure I hadn’t said something egregiously stupid but Fr. Petley, whom I adore, said, “Carolyn, until Edward R. Murrow returns with a first-hand account, your version of Heaven is as valid as anyone’s.”
You were so kind to the 389th Renegades in the Hart to Heart project. A lot of people may not realize that you sent twenty pounds of coffee, snacks, autographed books and homemade goodies to our brave men and women who were serving at a remote desert outpost in Iraq. You were touched by their stories and reached out to them. They all came back safely and they still remember your generosity. I still receive emails from Lt. Col. Lisa Schieferstein, who commanded the garrison. You were a hero to the troops.
The troops are heroes to me. God Bless them now and always for their courage, their commitment, and their love of country.
You’re too modest to mention that you’ve won the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. At the beginning of summer, you were awarded the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Previous recipients include Stephen King, Mickey Spillane, Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner and many others. Heady company indeed! What was it like walking up to the podium to receive the award? I remember there was a video tribute to you.
I still find it hard to believe. I thanked everyone there because they are MWA and they came that night because they know mysteries matter. We live in a world stained by evil but we can always find goodness, honor, and justice—we can read a mystery.
You have an amazing career, and I’m so happy readers are discovering and enjoying your earlier books. It seems like you have your hands full with the Broward’s Rock, Death on Demand series, and now the Ghost series. Is there anything new on the horizon? Your readers are glad to see that your World War Two mysteries are back in print along with CLIFF’S EDGE, a novel set in ancient Rome.
I never know what I will write next. I’m thinking about returning to Nela and Steve, who were introduced in WHAT THE CAT SAW.
We’re fellow cat lovers, and I have to confess that Jugs stole my heart in WHAT THE CAT SAW. I hope Jugs will reappear in the Nela Farley series. What do animals—especially cats—add to your life?
We consider our cats to our friends. They love us. We love them. They are God’s most elegant creatures.
Thanks so much for taking time out to talk with us. I can’t wait for more Bailey Ruth adventures.
MWA Grand Master Carolyn Hart is the author of 57 novels of mystery and suspense, most recently CLIFF’S EDGE and DEATH AT THE DOOR. Among her suspense titles, all currently available, are ESCAPE FROM PARIS, LETTER FROM HOME, and BRAVE HEARTS. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and the winner of Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards.
To learn more about Carolyn, please visit her website.