Fanny and Amy Abel, the dynamic mother-and-daughter owners of a NYC travel agency, have just booked their biggest trip yet. But with danger in the air, the itinerary may include murder…
Paisley MacGregor, a maid to the rich, made a dying request to send all of her wealthy employers on a first-class wake to spread her ashes around the world. Amy has her suspicions about these “mourners,” especially when one has a life-threatening “accident” at the first stop in Paris. And when a mysterious American stranger tagging along with the group has his ticket punched in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, Amy knows she may have a killer on her tour.
Who was this stranger, and what’s the connection to someone in her group? Digging for clues while continuing on with the trip is a lot for Amy to manage, especially when another mourner has a possibly fatal encounter with a Hawaiian volcano. Back in the States, Fanny and Amy start to piece together a secret worth killing for, but someone is hot on their trail, and ready to send them on a one-way trip–to the morgue!
Please give a warm welcome to Hy Conrad. Thank you so much for stopping by Brooke Blogs! I’m excited to share a bit more about you with my readers.
1) What does your writing space look like?
I’ve had several writing spaces over the years and they’ve all been pitiful little areas, usually in the corner of a guest room. In the old days, they used to be slightly more interesting. I would have shelves above my desk filled with exotic books, like “The Handbook of Poison” and “Crime Scene Detection”. But now all of that is available online. I don’t even have to stand up to take a book off the shelf or leaf through a table of contents. It’s just me and my laptop and a little bit of desk clutter, but not too much. There’s a purpose to my clutter. Each scrap of paper is like a Post-It note, crowded with ideas and reminders. I check them all, several times a day, and discard them as soon as they’re no longer needed.
The one thing that I do have – and insist on having– is an Aeron chair. I’m sure there are other brands just as good, but a comfortable writing chair can make the difference between sitting down to work for two hours and sitting down for four.
2) What is your favorite part of being an author?
My favorite part is the unexpected breakthrough. I work from a short outline, perhaps six pages, whatever will serve to placate my publisher and get the book approved. I always know the set-up, the twist and the ending, but everything else is made up as I go. Some days are a real pain, filled with the writing of descriptions or action sequences, my two problem areas. But some days are a joy. Today, for example. I sat down with no idea how I would get my heroine from point A to point B. But somewhere during the day it happened. The pieces fell into place and the loose threads tied themselves up, as if I had planned it all along. The little clue that I had half-forgotten in chapter three suddenly became vitally important and dovetailed perfectly, making my heroine and me look like geniuses. It’s a moment that’s hard to share, even with fellow writers. But it’s the moment that reminds me of why I got excited about writing all those years ago.
My least favorite part is promotion.
3) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Obviously, I like to travel. When I got involved with a new TV show this past year, we had to cancel two vacations, which really made me feel deprived. My other interests include bike riding and theatre. Our summer home is in the heart of the New England theatre belt and between there and New York City, we see well over a hundred shows a year. And about three movies. But the thing you need to realize about lifelong writers is that we have no hobbies. We tend to be boring folks who wouldn’t know what to do if we didn’t have to sit down every day and put words on a computer screen.
4) If you could write from anywhere in the world, where would you write and why?
I’m in the lucky position of writing mysteries about travel and loving to travel. Last winter, I spent three weeks in the Patagonian sections of Argentina and Chile, knowing that this would become fodder for my next book. It was amazingly inspirational. Very quickly I started seeing every vista and experience from the book’s point of view and before the trip was over had the broad strokes all laid out in my notebook. My favorite memory was asking our driver what kind of local animal would eat a corpse. Without batting an eye or asking why I wanted to know, he listed five or six of his favorites. My favorite was the Andean condor.
As for the actual writing process, my fantasy has always been the Ernest Hemingway model: getting up early with a palm tree outside your window, writing until lunch and then spending your afternoon and evening carousing with your buddies. This has never worked out for me. The work day bleeds into the rest of my life and deadlines are always too tight. Plus I gave up carousing. But I do live in Key West, half a mile from Hemingway’s house, so perhaps there is still hope.
5) Do you have any interesting writing quirks? Any snacks/drinks you have to have or music that you listen to?
I don’t think I’m very particular at all about my writing environment, BUT… I can’t face a wall, I can’t have complete silence, and I can’t be hungry. A window or an open door within my sightline reminds me that there’s a world out there, which I find reassuring. The rejection of silence serves the same purpose. It makes me feel less lonely. I tend to put on light instrumental pieces, either classical or Tim Janus-style New Agey stuff. Nothing with lyrics. As for hunger, it’s a distraction. I have a writer friend with a similar temperament. He will often, out of nowhere, have a character say, “I’m hungry” or “When’s dinner?” When I read his stuff, I can just imagine him at his computer as he tries in vain to ignore his growling stomach. I want to say, “Andy, enough. Take a break and eat something.”
6) Have you read any great books/authors lately? We’d love a recommendation!
I tend not to read new mysteries. They either make me angry (how can this kind of sloppy trash be popular?) or discouraged (this is so much better than mine. I should just give up). For fun, I’ll often read non-fiction. My current books are “Lost to the West”, a history of the Byzantine Empire, and “The Burman”, a colonial era memoir of life in old Burma. At least once a year, I’ll read something by P.G. Wodehouse, just to remind myself how clever the English language can be.
7) Describe Dearly Departed in 3 sentences or less.
On her deathbed, a maid to the rich and famous arranges to send her old employers on a ‘round-the-world wake to spread her ashes. Amy Abel leads the tour, but discovers that the late maid had been the holder of all their deepest secrets. When a complete stranger is murdered just outside the Taj Mahal, Amy realizes the lengths to which people are wiling to go to protect their pasts.
8) What are you working on right now?
Because of the vagaries of the creative business, a working writer has to have several things going on simultaneously because at least half of them will get postponed or canceled. Right now, I’m trying to finish up book three in the Amy’s Travel series, “Murder on the Patagonian Express”, inspired by my adventures last year in Patagonia. I had put that book aside for five months to work on my show for ABC, only to find out that the actress we just signed as our lead was pregnant and that we would have to delay production for seven months.
My husband and I have written together in the past (“Things You Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know”) and we are in the early stages of researching and writing an illustrated book about the romance and history of the cocktail culture. In the far-off future, when I have a year when no one wants to pay me to write other things, I have a young adult novel I’m dying to write. It involves a dystopian future, Nazis and the Lincoln assassination. I hope I haven’t said too much and given away the whole plot.
Thank you so much, Hy! I enjoyed reading your answers. I’m sure my readers enjoyed the interview as well.
About the Author
Hy Conrad was the co-executive producer of the hit television series Monk. Monk received three Edgar nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Series.” The author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages, he’s also the author of the novels, Mr. Monk Helps Himself and Mr. Monk Gets On Board. Hy splits his time between Key West, Vermont, and New York City. Readers can visit his website at hyconrad.com.
Webpage – http://www.hyconrad.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HyConrad/?fref=ts
Blog – http://www.hyconrad.com/blog/
GoodReads – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25488908-dearly-departed
661 total views, 1 views today