Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tim Myers Appears for Authors @ The Teague
Tim Myers, on tour to promote his new mystery, A Slice of Murder, written under the name of Chris Cavender for Kensington Publishing, appeared at the Velma Teague Library. His appearance opened with a short biographical sketch.
Tim Myers is an Agatha Award nominated author who has published nineteen novels and has appeared on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association national bestseller’s list ten times, ranking as high as #2. Under the name Tim Myers, he writes the Lighthouse Inn mysteries, the Candlemaking mysteries, and the Soapmaking mysteries, as Elizabeth Bright the Cardmaking mysteries, and as Melissa Glazer the Clay and Crime mysteries. One of Tim’s books was chosen by The Mystery Guild as an Editor’s Choice, and was also named one of their Ten Most Wanted books. There have been ten large print editions of Myers’ books as well. In addition, he has published over 80 mystery short stories, and has been nominated for three Derringer awards for excellence in short mystery fiction. His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies The Haunted Hour, Mystery Writers of America’s A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime, and Murder Most Crafty. He is currently writing the pizza shop mysteries for Kensington as Chris Cavender, and has eight more books under contract with Kensington, St. Martin’s, and Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime.
Tim's presentation was quite funny at times. He said he got started as a writer because Dr. Seuss was driving him crazy. He never intended to become a stay-at-home dad, but, eighteen years ago, when his daughter was born, and he held her in his arms, he told his wife he wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. But, at that time in the South (North Carolina), it was unusual for a man to do that. He became alienated from all the groups he had belonged to, and most mothers didn't welcome him. Intellectually, it isn't very stimulating staying home to take care of a baby. So he decided to try to write. And, it was logical for him to try mysteries because he loves to read mysteries. At the age of nine, he discovered Agatha Christie. He surprised his father when he asked for a complete collection of Christie at that age. His father wasn't a mystery reader, and probably only read one of Myers' books before he died.
Myers said he tried to write, and his first efforts were derivative. But, one of his early short stories was accepted by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine for its Department of First Stories. So, he thought he had it made. But, his next 123 submissions were rejected. Some stories were rejected multiple times. Tim told his wife when he hit 100 rejections, he'd be done. Then, when he passed 100, he told her he'd quit at 200 rejections.
Tim worked on short stories while his daughter napped. He and his wife had agreed he would go back to work when their daughter entered kindergarten. But, at that point, he told her he had the bug, and he would like to write. So, she told him to give it a year, and try to write a book. He wrote a couple that weren't any good. Every fall they would have "The Conversation" about what Tim would do for the rest of his life. His wife never lost faith in him.
One day, Myers thought about the fact that he loved lighthouses and mountains, so maybe he'd try to write a story about a lighthouse in the mountains. He drove to the Outer Banks, and took 200 pictures. He mentioned that North Carolina should really be two states because the Scots settled the western part of the state, and the English settled the east. Myers' family, who were Scots, were there for many generations. In writing the story, he wanted to put a lighthouse in the mountains, and had to come up with a reason for it. So, his lead character's great-great-grandfather had built the lighthouse for his wife, and she died in childbirth three days before the lighthouse was finished. Tim's wife read the book, and was upset when she reached that point, and hasn't read another one of his books.
Myers said, unlike his previous attempts, when he wrote this book, everything made sense. His characters started to behave logically. He was proud of the book. He sent it to his agent. Two weeks later, she called, and said she loved the book, but he had to take the lighthouse out of the mountains, saying he couldn't do that, and he would have to make a change. He said, you're right. I do have to make a change. If you don't understand the story, you're fired. So, he sent it to another agent, who accepted it. Myers wrote five of the lighthouse mysteries.
Craft mysteries were just starting to be published, and his agent asked if he could do any crafts. He said, sure, he did crafts. He was a stay-at-home dad. So, when asked if he could do candlemaking, he said sure. He admitted to the us that he never had, but he writes fiction, so people shouldn't believe everything he says. Myers went to a craft store and bought four kits and six books about candlemaking, and stayed up until 3 AM. He said he wasn't very good at it, so he couldn't pretend to be a professional. Tim tried to decide why someone who making candles who wasn't proficient, and realized if they inherited a business because a relative died it would work. Mystery = someone dies, so Harrison Black inherited At Wick's End candle shop from his great aunt. Tim killed her early in the book, At Wick's End.
Someone at NAL contacted Tim's agent, and said she loved Tim Myers' books, and did the agent know anyone who wrote like him for a crafting mystery. Tim said he's always made cards with his daughter, and he suggested card-making. But, the publisher wanted a female author because the audience for crafting mysteries tend to be female. Myers said he knows that 90% of his readers are female, and he said he could do it. The publisher was doubtful, but gave him a chance saying she wanted fifteen pages, written in first person, in a female voice. She didn't think he could do it. He came up with Jennifer Shane as the character, a spunky, young woman, not afraid to make mistakes. He likes Jennifer, and the publisher liked the synopsis, so wanted thirty to forty more pages. Tim said he heard Jennifer's voice in his head. They liked the material at NAL, but wanted him to use a female pen name. He hesitated since he's always said, if he gets arrested, he wants his name spelled right, Myers, with only one e. He likes to go into bookstores and see his name spelled right, and have former girlfriends from high school see his name on book covers. But, he decided his name on the cover wasn't as import as getting the books published. Those books were published under the name Elizabeth Bright. The Elizabeth was after his late friend, Elizabeth Daniels Squire. And, he went to a bookstore, trying to pick a last name. Tim said there was nothing between Lilian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown, so he came up with Bright. He thought that was a good place to be in the alphabet. His degree is in marketing, and he said his business background has been invaluable in his writing career.
According to Myers, in publishing cozy mysteries, almost every time an author loses an editor, the next editor dumps him. He said his first three series had characters who were single, without many family connections or love interests. So, for his next series, he wanted to give his character a big family. Tim's wife is from a large family, so he observes their holidays and times together. Ben Perkins is the oldest of six who work in a soap factory. He's the troubleshooter of the family in books with titles such as Dead Men Don't Lye and A Pour Way to Die. But the editor of his soapmaking series left, and the new editor wanted a new series written under a new name. Myers, who had been in Vermont for a few hours, set a pottery series in that state, picked the name Melissa Glazer, and named his character Carolyn after author Carolyn Hart.
Tim said he had done lots of craft mysteries, and wanted to write a food one. He watched the Food Network, and decided a pizza place would be great. A Slice of Murder, written as Chris Cavender, features Eleanor Swift, a widow who is fiercely independent. Tim, who has been married for twenty-eight years, and dated his wife for seven years before that, gave Eleanor that type of relationship. In contrast, he gave her a sister, Maddy, who is often-married, and often divorced. She's spunky, has tried all of the crafts that Myers' wrote about, and keeps Eleanor from taking herself seriously.
All of Myers' books are set in small towns based on towns near where he lives in North Carolina. He goes to the towns, takes pictures, draws maps, and moves shops and buildings around. In one town, he saw a group of shops, and one was painted a bright blue. He said that had to be the pizza shop, so he put the pizzeria in a blue building, and called it A Slice of Delight because that's what pizza is to him, a slice of delight.
Tim said he has a contract with St. Martin's, and all he can say is that it will be a food-related mystery that comes out sometime in the next fifty years. Then Berkley asked him to do a series. According to Myers, it's lots of work to do multiple series, so he wasn't sure he wanted to do it. But, Berkley bought his next idea, based on the first draft. So, he'll be doing another series for them as well.
Some reviewers have commented about the many levels in some of his books, including A Slice of Murder. Tim finds that funny because he said he makes up the stories as he goes along. He wants to see what happens, and he often doesn't know who did it. He's quite proud that his eighteen-year-old daughter is his first reader. He pays her now to read his work because she'll catch mistakes, and make suggestions.
After reading from Chris Cavender's A Slice of Murder, Tim Myers ended with one of his favorite stories. As Elizabeth Bright, he received a letter from a reader who told "Elizabeth Bright" that she just loved her, and she hated it when men wrote cozy mysteries, particularly that Tim Myers. By that time, Tim could reveal that he was actually Elizabeth Bright, so he wrote her back saying he and Elizabeth both appreciated her comments.
Chris Cavender's website is www.timmmyers.net
A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender. Kensington Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780758229489 (hardcover), 304p.