Thursday, January 14, 2010


Hi Rhys,
I’ve been looking forward to guest blogging on Jungle Red—what a great site! And what a great bunch of mystery writers. I’ll bet you all put on some great parties—lots of jungle prints with splashes of red, poison chocolates, a game of Truth or Dare... Now, on to the interrogation…I mean, interview…

Where did this interest in party planning come from?

It all started when I was three and had my first birthday party. I got to dress up like a princess, invite all my friends over, open a bunch of presents, and eat chocolate cake decorated with M&Ms. I knew from that point on that parties were my destiny. Trouble was, my birthday only came around once a year, so I had to think up other reasons to party. (Don’t you love that “party” is also now a verb, as in “to party!”)

Tell us about your new sleuth

Presley Parker (named after Elvis—her mother was a big fan), was recently downsized at her abnormal psychology teaching job at San Francisco State University. Forced to move from her Marina apartment and find work, she ended up renting a condo on Treasure Island and setting up her new business in an old barracks there. Her mother, once the party queen of San Francisco café society, encouraged her to try the event-planning business, since Pres often helped her mom at various functions. Reluctantly Pres gives it a try, promising herself she’ll donate a percentage of her profits to important causes like the Alzheimer’s Foundation—her mother has early stage Alzheimer’s. After the City’s premiere party planner mysteriously dies, Presley finds herself hired to plan Mayor Davin Green’s “surprise” wedding on notorious Alcatraz—with a “ball-and-chain” theme. But a major party foul occurs when the bride-to-be is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates. When Presley becomes prime suspect, she gets help from her quirky Treasure Island co-workers, as well as the mysterious crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. She realizes that if she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

You're not new to the mystery genre, but your former series, featuring a deaf sleuth, Connor Westfall, was serious and dealt with many social issues. This one is all fun. Which is closer to the real Penny Warner?

I love them both, but I have to admit, since I majored in partying the first two years at the University of Oregon, I’m more like Presley. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer a degree in the subject, so I got my teaching credential and taught deaf kids and sign language for a number of years. Still, I never gave up my love for hosting creative parties, and began writing books on the subject for both kids and adults. It’s not easy juggling a life of partying with teaching and writing, but thanks to my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—Presley and I also have this in common), I manage.

You're a lady of many talents--you've written children's mysteries and a non-fiction Nancy Drew bible. Obviously you have a strong connection with children. Were you ever a teacher?

I’ve been teaching Child Development and Psychology at the college level for the past 30 years. My readers often question why a child development instructor would want to write murder mysteries. I think, when you raise children, it’s obvious, but I do promise my readers that no children—or cats—are harmed in the making of my mysteries.

What is next for you and your sleuth?

I plan to have a margarita, but my sleuth has, what you’d call “a life,” so she’s busy hosting parties. In her next book, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, she plans at Murder Mystery Party at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Naturally, someone winds up deader than a decaying artifact. When she’s finished solving that case, she’ll head to the Winchester Mystery House and learn HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE.

When is the new book out in stores?

Tuesday, February 2—any time after midnight…And it’s only $6.99!


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