Interview with Mystery Author, Marlene Bateman

Today, I'm chatting with the fabulous Marlene Bateman about writing suspense/mysteries and her new book, A Death in the Family.

Which authors inspired you to write suspense?
I haven’t read a lot of modern suspense novels, but back in the day, I read a lot of books by Phyllis Whitney. She’s masterful and has a way on keeping you turning pages as you wonder what will happen next. Many years ago, I read a lot of Victoria Holt’s books. She’s a great suspense writer. Both Holt and Whitney tend to mash-up romance with their mysteries and that’s fun.
One author that I adore and who is more of a purest in regards to mysteries is the renowned Agatha Christie.  She has an uncommon way of having surprising twists and turns at the end. You never know who the murderer is going to turn out to be.  When I grow up I want to be like her . . .

Give us a little summary of the book . . .
Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.
Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.
Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.

Tell us about Erica Coleman and her love for food . . .
Many years ago, I read a book by a southern author who included recipes in her book and thought that was so cool, so decided I would have Erica love to cook and include recipes.  As for cooking, Erica is the antithesis of me, because not only do I hate to cook, I am nowhere near as precise as Erica. If I have an extra fourth cup of some ingredient, I just throw it in anyway. I substitute, cut back, add stuff to my heart’s content—something Erica could never do!

Give us a short excerpt from A Death in the Family.
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”
“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.
Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”
There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”
“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.
Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”
Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath. 
Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”
“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.
Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”
Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.
After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”
The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.
There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”
“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?”

Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book was optioned for a movie?
I would probably cast Julianne Moore in the role of Erica. Julianne has the reddish hair, and she is sensible, intelligent, and can be courageous—just like Erica.

I would cast Kathy Bates as Martha.  I just loved Martha, she’s so frank and refreshing and child-like. I think Kathy would do an amazing job.

As for Shaun, I think Robert Downey Jr. would be excellent. I think he could portray Shaun as he changes from a meek, shy person who is thrown into a situation he never expected and turns into someone who is confident in himself and in his abilities.  

It would have to be Emma Watson for Shawn’s romantic interest. Emma would be perfect because Kristen is from England and besides having an English accent, is also bright and perky,

Charlie Sheen would be perfect for playing the ultra-confident and often underhanded Trent Coleman.  

What are you currently working on? Do you have any other releases planned for 2014?
My publisher said they might, or might not release my latest novel, A Home for Christmas this fall. This book is a really fun, romantic novel.
To summarize it; When, Kenzie arrives in Lake Forest for Christmas vacation, she has big plans—the only problem is she hasn’t told anyone about them. One of her plans is to buy the house she grew up in—the home her brother, Tom, owns and recently put up for sale. Kenzie is shocked to find that Tom has just accepted an offer on the house she desperately wants to buy.  Kenzie tries to wrest the house from the handsome widower, Jared Phillips, who made the offer but no luck.  Although they are attracted to each other, it’s impossible for Kenzie to even think about a relationship with the man who is taking away the house she so desperately wants.  Then, a surprising revelation works a Christmas miracle. As a special bonus, seven delicious cookie recipes are included.

I have another book, Crooked House, which will be out next year. This is another book in the Erica Coleman series.
To summarize it; Someone is trying to kill Liz Johnson, and it is up to quirky private investigator, Erica Coleman, to find out who it is. With an authentic setting in Dover, Delaware and against a background of NASCAR racing, Erica works to stop the killer who has already survived two murder attempts. Then, the murderer kills an innocent bystander. It’s up to Erica to pinpoint the killer before he can succeed on his fourth try. Crooked House is a thrilling mystery that will keep you on the edge until the last page. As always, ten delicious recipes are included.

I am also working on another mystery, Murder in the Black Hills, which has a real life setting (as all my books do) and is set in Porcupine, South Dakota.

Author Bio

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.  Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith.  Her latest non-fiction book is Gaze Into Heaven, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences in early church history. Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman. 

Find out more about Marlene on her website.

Add A Death in the Family to your reading list: Goodreads, Deseret Book, Seagull Book, and Amazon 

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