Thursday, May 07, 2009

Annette Mahon for Authors@The Teague

It was a pleasure to host Annette Mahon for Authors @ The Teague. As an author, she spoke about her romances and mysteries. As a native of Hilo, Hawaii, she spoke of love for the island, although she now lives in Arizona. And, as a quilter, who uses her quilts in her books, she brought gorgeous quilts to discuss in conjunction with her books.

The audience was very impressed with Annette's Phantom of the Opera quilt. It's autographed by the cast members who appeared here at Gammage Auditorium, and the actor who signed as the Phantom, was playing the Phantom when Mahon saw it in NYC.

Mahon said she always brings quilts along to her talks because she is "all about them". Two recent romances, Dolphin Dreams, and Holiday Dreams, are the first two in "The Matchmaker Quilt Trilogy." She said she's way behind in the third book due to personal reasons. But, this is a series about three sisters that their mother called her gems. She named them Jade, Momi (Hawaiian for Pearl), and Ruby. An old Hawaiian quilt has been handed down in the family, through the female line. This is the first time the family has had three sisters in the family. When the first girl gets the quilt, she meets her true love.

Above the Rainbow, Mahon's first romance, featured a woman in a quilt shop. An architect was to renovate the building, and, naturally the tenants worry. So, this one was set up with conflict between the two main characters. Three books later, that woman's cousin took over the quilt shop, in Chase Your Dreams. When Mahon wrote that book, she described material used for a quilt. She was surprised to find material that met her description, so she made a quilt from it.

Annette Mahon's romances deal with Hawaiian culture. Her characters put themselves into their quilts, their spirit. And, then the Hawaiian ancestors come back and visit in dreams, giving them advice. The sisters in the Matchmaker Quilt series dream when the sleep under the heritage quilt made by their great-grandmother. In Dolphin Dreams, a dolphin is the aumakua, the family totem, and the main character dreams about them. Annette said she tries to write about the real Hawaii. The women are local, so they are multicultural. The heroes vary as to ethnicity.

The six books in Mahon's Secret Romance series all have pink covers. Those books are set in Malino, a fictional small town in Hawaii. Mahon said she likes that town, and she may return to it. Her characters include a wedding consultant, a waitress, a bank teller and a beautician. In the most recent book in the series, The Secret Correspondence, the heroine works in a care center, and secretly corresponds with the son of the one of the patients.

Annette Mahon writes and publishes with Avalon. She said all of her books are still in print, an advantage when writing for smaller publishers. The books are available for a long time. Avalon publishes for romances, traditional mysteries and westerns for the library market.

According to Mahon, she always liked romances and mysteries. She wanted to write a mystery about older ladies who quilted together, but the first book just went nowhere for her. Then, she came up with Maggie Brown, the driving force behind the quilt group. In the first mystery, A Phantom Death, an actor who grew up in the Phoenix area is found dead in the desert, and he was appearing in Phantom of the Opera. Maggie knew the young man, whose body was found near her former house. She now lives in Old Town Scottsdale.

Since so many mysteries include recipes, Mahon said she thought she'd include quilt blocks in her mysteries. Then, when she was working on it, Phantom of the Opera came to Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. So, Mahon stood at the stage door, and eventually had the cast sign the blocks for her quilt.

In Ominous Death, one of the members of the quilt group is in a care home. She knows how the "Angel of Death" has killed people in care homes, and she's convinced she's going to die. When someone else dies, she's a suspect, and the members of the St. Rose Quilting Bee have to prove that one of their own is not the killer. Annette said she enjoys making quilts to go with the books, including the lap quilt she made for this one, because lap quilts are perfect for a care center in a cozy mystery.

The third book in this series, Bits and Pieces, is scheduled for publication in January 2010. It's based on The Robert William Fisher case in Scottsdale, in which a woman and her children were killed when the house exploded, and the husband is the suspect, a fugitive. In this mystery, one of the members of the quilt group sees the husband in Big Mart, and follows him when he leaves the story.

When Annette was asked about her background, she said she was born and raised in Hawaii, and is third generation. She's from Hilo. When she went to Left Coast Crime in March, held on the Big Island, she decided she wanted to bring the quilters to the island. She'd like to set her next mystery there, and send the quilters to a quilt camp. She's working on how to bring her quilters to Hawaii because she has problems with taking the group. Do spouses go? Is it just the church quilt group, or other people from the church?

Annette said she went to Syracuse, New York to college. She went to library school, and she worked in public libraries. But, like so many women, she couldn't get a job in Hawaii. So, she got a job in New York, then met and married her husband. She said there are a lot of Hawaiians in the Valley, over 200 of them in a club. They hold the Aloha Festival in March in Tempe Town Lake, and tens of thousands of people attend.

When she was asked how she got started, Annette said she was always a big reader. When her husband met some of her classmates, he asked them what they remembered about her, and they said Annette always had a book. She said she loved the Beatles song, "Paperback Writer," and that was her pie in the sky dream, to have books in paperback. And her mysteries have come out in paperback.

Annette said she didn't start writing early. She went to parochial school, and had self-esteem issues. She started writing in her 40s, when her third daughter was born. She wanted to write romantic suspense in the heyday of romance, but her first book was only one third of the length it should be, and it will never see the light of day. Then she joined Romance Writers of America. She just never had a good idea for a romantic suspense novel, although she likes to read them.

She attended conferences, and had been writing partials, a synopsis and three chapters. Someone finally told her she needed to write the entire book. So, for her first book, she followed the advice, write what you know. She wrote a romance set in Hawaii, in a quilt shop. It sold, and then the editor wanted to know what else she had. The only thing she was working on was also set there, and she didn't think they'd want a second novel set in Hawaii, but she was wrong. They were looking for multicultural books set in Hawaii. In answer to a question, she said she'd never had an agent. According to Mahon, you don't need an agent for romance. She said you do for mysteries, but she's been trying, and she can't get one. It's harder to get an agent than to sell a book. She said you don't need an agent for the type of romances published by Avalon. They do romance, traditional mystery and westerns. At one time, they did career romances. Word count for Avalon is 50,000-70,000, with the mysteries and historical romances on the longer end of the scale.

Annette said she met her editor at a conference, and sent it the manuscript at her request. Then, she didn't hear, and when she contacted her, it turned out they had lost it. Mahon sent it in again, and they bought it. She said she doesn't make a lot of money; it barely covers expenses. And, if she goes to conferences, she goes in the hole. But, she always wanted to write.

Annette Mahon ended her program by saying in her "older years", she knows she's had a wonderful life. She answered a questionnaire from high school, "What did you want to do in high school? Did you accomplish it?" She wanted to graduate from college, have a family, and write. She's done all three, and Annette Mahon has sixteen books to her credit.

Hawaii, quilts, mysteries and romance. With Annette Mahon as the speaker, it was a successful Authors @ The Teague program.


Denise Dietz said...

Annette is truly an inspiration - to both writers and quilters. I've never seen such beautiful quilts. And her books are wonderful!!!

Lillian Stewart Carl said...

Annette's skills as a writer are only equaled by her skills as a quilter. I'm so glad you were able to hear her speak.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Deni & Lillian. Annette does a beautiful job as a quilter and a speaker. Her presentation is really fun. The group enjoyed having her here. And, her quilts are gorgeous, arent' they?

Neil Plakcy said...

Thanks for a wonderful recap, and great pictures of Annette's quilts. I met her at LCC in Hawaii and it was a great pleasure-- so it was another pleasure to hear more from her.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Neil. I was pleased the pictures of Annette's quilts turned out so well. They're gorgeous, and it was a pleasure to be able to showcase her books and her quilts.