By Rick Reed
Mississippian Peggy Webb is the bestselling author of almost 70 novels in three genres. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Peggy writes the comedic Southern Cousins Mystery Series under her own name and literary fiction as Anna Michaels. Pat Conroy hails THE TENDER MERCY OF ROSES as “astonishing.”
Her newest book, ELVIS IN A TROPICAL DOUBLE TROUBLE, released October 1st, is destined to be a hit with any audience, as “the Valentine gang goes south of the border, and it’s double trouble for mayhem magnet Callie, her 190-pound bombshell cousin Lovie, and Elvis, the King reincarnated as nothin’ but a hound dog. Elvis digs up a bone too fresh to spell anything except murder. Suspicious minds blame gods and ghosts, but Jack, Callie’s hunk’a burnin’ love almost-ex, knows the guilty party is all too human. For once, Callie is determined not to get involved. But when Lovie and Elvis go missing, it’s now or never if she wants to save her cousin and her canine and catch a killer with murder always on his mind.”
“Zany characters combine with a witty plot in a cozy sure to please series fans and attract new ones.” –Publisher’s Weekly (Oct.)
“This series is a joy – funny, charming, eccentric and with enough twists, turns and false leads to satisfy any reader.” –Pat Cooper, Romantic Times, 41/2 STARS (Oct.)
I recently had an opportunity to interview author Peggy Webb for TheBigThrill.org:
ELVIS IN A TROPICAL DOUBLE TROUBLE is book number four in the Southern Cousin Mystery series, and I see on your website you have a fifth book in the works. What does the future hold for this great dog-tective?
Elvis will don a little red suit and sniff out crime as Santa Paws in ELVIS AND THE BLUE CHRISTMAS CORPSE, the fifth book of the Southern Cousins Mysteries, slated for publication October l, 2011. As usual, he gives a running commentary on the doings of the Valentines, his human family. And of course, he will continue to regale readers with juicy tidbits from his other life as an iconic singer in a white sequined jumpsuit.
What prompted you to write the Southern Cousin series?
After a long and wonderful career in romance and women’s fiction, I needed a challenge, and cozy mystery fit the bill. In other words, I got so old I forgot what romance was, so I started killing people! As I was creating the series, I literally dreamed my sassy Elvis basset hound, who became one of the two major narrators. The muse works in mysterious ways.
You are the author of over sixty books by my count, and in addition to the Southern Cousins Mysteries you also write Romance and General Fiction. Are any of your titles being considered for television?
I’ve had several women’s fiction novels optioned for film, and have written two screenplays based on my books, though I’ve yet to see my stories on the big screen. Currently, the Southern Cousins Mystery series is being considered for television. My fingers are crossed. I think the comedic capers of Elvis and the Valentine gang would translate well to film.
I know you love story-telling, but is there one genre that you enjoy writing the most?
I love writing no matter what the genre. I’m compelled to tell stories, and it’s quite wonderful to have so many venues for them. The Elvis mysteries are the most fun to write. I race along, laughing all the way. For the literary thrillers I write as Anna Michaels, I tap into a deeper creative stream. I can’t explain how I do this, but my Anna stories are nothing like my other work. Even my daughter said that if she hadn’t known I was the author of THE TENDER MERCY OF ROSES, she’d never have guessed.
Can you talk a little about your use of humor in this mystery series?
I was born with a funny bone. Before I wrote novels, I wrote more than 200 magazine humor columns. Seeing a scene from a cockeyed point of view comes naturally to me, and I can’t explain how I do it. If I had to analyze what I do, I’d say that the humor in my mystery series stems from the characters being themselves. Mama, with her penchant for changing her hair color and gambling on her daughter’s money, will always get under Callie’s skin in a way that lends itself to comedy. Elvis, with his big attitude and his belief that he’s the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll reincarnated, is ready made for tickling the funny bone. Ditto, Lovie, who has had more lovers than Elvis, has fleas. I can’t imagine writing this series any other way.
How did Elvis the Bassett hound come about? Is this character based on a real animal?
Indeed! Elvis was inspired by Jefferson, my beautiful hundred pound chocolate Lab, who is in the photo with me on the jacket cover. I never meant to put a dog in the book. Elvis was going to be a ghost. But as I was wrapping up my day’s work, Jefferson roused from his usual spot under my desk, shook his collar and did his little shake, rattle and roll dance that means take me outside now or I’ll pee on your shoes. Suddenly I knew – Elvis was a dog. It wasn’t until I’d gone to bed and was dreaming that I knew he was a basset hound. How did I know? He told me. He woke me up, talking a mile a minute. I jumped out of bed to take dictation that later became Elvis’s Opinion #1 on the Valentine Family, Zen Buddhism and Leftover T-bone Steak in book one of the series, ELVIS AND THE DEARLY DEPARTED.
I’m sure your readers would like to know what a typical day is like for you.
I make a ritual of selecting my coffee mug for the day – a wonderful pottery Blues mug from the Mississippi Delta, an Elvis mug from the Birthplace, or perhaps my mug with Toto’s letter on the side: “Dear Dorothy, Hate Oz, took the red shoes, find your own way home.” Next, I race outside to clip a bouquet for my desk. I’m a Master Gardener, so my flower gardens usually have a selection of roses, gardenias, camellias, iris, whatever is in season, all lovely and fragrant. Back inside, I select my writing music – sometimes blues, sometimes one of Puccini’s operas, sometimes Native American flutes. I turn on my blue dolphin lamp and the little dragon on a crystal ball, both on the edge of my desk, and then I’m ready to write.
Sometimes before I go into the office I’ll start a pot of soup for lunch. Sometimes I go to the little country restaurant nearby. I take my afternoon tea sitting on the front porch swing watching the variety of song birds that flock to my feeder, or in the Angel Garden where a unicorn and a fairy keep watch over the bird bath and the Confederate jasmine.
Early evenings I romp with my dogs or putter in the gardens or sit down at my baby grand to play some Broadway show tunes, a bit of gospel or some gut bucket blues. Wednesday evenings, I go to choir practice where I absolutely adore adding my first soprano to fifty other voices in four and six part harmony.
My quite writing time is interspersed with book signings and travel. I am so fortunate to have fans who have embraced me and my books for twenty-six years. I hope they will love me for many more.
What’s next for Peggy Webb or Anna Michaels?
I’m working on my second literary thriller as Anna Michaels for Simon & Schuster. THE LANGUAGE OF SILENCE will combine my trademark magical realism with a story that moves in and out of the deepest places of the soul. You’ll see glimpses of the humor that always threads its way through most of my writing. But the laugh-out-loud comedy will come through in spades as I continue writing the Southern Cousins Mystery series for Kensington.