Interview with PSWA Member, Madeline Gornell

Marilyn: I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to really become acquainted with you. For the readers of this post, I first met Madeline at a book fair in Hanford, then again at the Sisters in Crime/MWA conference in Pasadena, and she came to last year's PSWA conference, and she came to my booksigning at my family reunion in Barstow and we were next to each other at a book fair in San Luis Obispo.

My first question is, when did you first become interested in writing?

Madeline: Hi, Marilyn, great being able to “talk to you” on your blog. Some of my earliest memories are of reading, and wanting to become a writer. Admittedly, there was probably some childhood fantasy type of thinking going on then, because I also remember wanting to be a firefighter, teacher, doctor, and magician. But for sure, the genuine desire to write started very early, and has remained throughout my life. But even with that lifelong desire, and having a couple short stories published “way back when,” I didn’t put all my efforts into writing novels full time until a few years back. I love writing and feel extremely lucky to now have the time to pursue my dream non-stop.

Marilyn: I know that you have two books published, I've read them both and enjoyed them. Please tell us about both of them and where they can be purchased.

Madeline: Thank you for the kind words! Every time I hear someone say they enjoyed reading my books, I’m simultaneously pleased, surprised, and so grateful.

My two novels are set in fictional communities located in real areas. My debut mystery is Uncle Si’s Secret. It is set in the Pacific Northwest, and focuses on the inhabitants of Cedar Valley Residence, which is a fictional establishment similar to a B&B, rooming house, or hotel—yet none of them exactly. It’s a many character tale, with several story lines, and of course, several murders. My intent was to have complicated characters, a strong sense of place, back-stories upon back-stories, and several character agendas being played out. I was extremely honored when PSWA awarded Uncle Si’s Secret a 2009 Published Novel award.

Death of a Perfect Man is set in California's High Desert, my new home, and I think brings with it a strong sense of place—the Mojave desert. In my second effort the heroine is escaping Puget Sound and the publicity that surrounded her husband’s death. She nearly runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but finds the “Red Rock Inn & CafĂ©,” a lost, creepy old resort where a strange emerald-eyed woman materializes and convinces her to stay the night. Before she can leave, a not-so-perfect potter is murdered.

Both novels are published by Aberdeen Bay Publishing, and are available at (paper and Kindle), Barnes and Nobel, Aberdeen Bay, my website, and at signing events.

Marilyn: How did you come up with the idea for these books?

Madeline: Places grab me. I lived in North Bend, WA for a long period of time, in a fairly rural area east of Seattle, WA. One of the activities I loved doing was walking my dogs on the local trails. One particular spot always caught my fancy, and the idea for Uncle Si’s Secret was born on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

Then when looking for a new home, my husband and I (and two dogs) lived in the Ridgecrest, CA area, and while house-hunting, there was a particular spot on Interstate 14 we would often pass by. It was an odd collection of rag-tag dwellings that just seemed to speak to me. That turned out to be the inspiration for Death of a Perfect Man. I’m also a potter, and finding a new home where I could have a studio was additionally very much on my mind. Not surprising, my heroine and the first murder victim are potters.

Marilyn: What are you working on now?

Madeline: I’m well into the editing/rewriting phase of Reticence of Ravens, my third completed standalone mystery. I’m so lucky to have three very good editors, and I’d be lost without them. Somehow they’re able to get ahead of grammar, spelling, and punctuation gremlins (which I think multiply overnight). All their help is invaluable in re-writing, which I actually like doing. It seems like my stories get “richer” in the rewrite phase. I sure hope Reticence of Ravens will be polished and published by this spring, or summer at the latest. I’m also lucky enough to have a wonderful agent!

My protagonist in this book is male, a psychologist, rather morose, on the verge of a mental “something” himself, and has to confront murder, the daunting Mojave Desert, several villains (past and present), a possible desire for a relationship, and a haunting past failure. The inspiration for this tale was a semi-defunct mini-mart at an I-15 exit which I call Joey’s. I enjoyed writing it very much.

I’ve also started my next two novels, Do No Harm, another stand alone with roots in Chicago and the Mojave, and Deadly Amends, my first sequel to Uncle Si’s Secret. To me, novel beginnings are one of the best parts of writing.

Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you?

Madeline: So far, in-person Book Festivals and Art and Craft Fairs. I like talking to readers and fellow authors. I also think an Internet presence and getting my name out there is vital, but I’m not yet sure how to measure my Internet-time results.

Marilyn: Where are you going to be next?

Madeline: My plan is to write all January and February! Then from March through year-end I’m scheduling events. My first conference will be in March at Left Coast Crime 2010 in LA. I keep my schedule on my website. This year I'll also be attending something new in November, Mystery on The High Seas-A Cruise to Die For, an event/conference out of LA on Carnival Cruise Line.

Marilyn: I know you've signed up for PSWA, which is my favorite conference, and I'm looking forward to seeing you there. What do you like best about PSWA?

Madeline: I joined PSWA last year (when I saw it mentioned on both your and Sunny Frazier’s websites) because it sounded interesting and like a group that would have a lot to offer a mystery writer. I went to my first conference last June, and this is going to sound phony, but it’s the truth—there’s not one bad or disappointing thing I can say about the PSWA conference. The location was great, the food good, the classes unique and informative, and most of all, the people I met were warm, friendly, and encouraging. It was just so darned “comfortable!” I learned a lot, and have never regretted joining. Can’t wait for this year’s conference. I even have a PSWA page tab with a 2009 group photo on my blog.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you want to tell my blog followers?

Madeline: I very much like hearing from readers and fellow authors, so please visit me at my website, or on my blog I wrote a recent blog regarding my new title Reticence of Ravens that included a review of Ruth Rendell's wonderful An Unkindness of Ravens.

Marilyn: Thank you so much for giving me and my blog readers the opportunity to get to know something about you and your books. I'm not going to LCC this year, but will definitely see you at the PSWA Conference and also on the cruise.


Jacqueline Vick said…

Your books have such a sense of place; you definitely met that goal! The characters of Red Rock came alive and I still think about them--a definite sign of excellent writing!

And thank YOU Marilyn for telling us all about the PSWA. (And Madelline for mentioning it!) After visiting the web site, I hope to make it this year!
GBPool said…
You do stand alones so well. It does allow you to really stretch by having all new characters and locales. Each book is a trip readers will enjoy taking.
Denny Griffin said…
Marilyn and Madeline,

Great interview!

Denny Griffin
Hi Marilyn and Madeline,

Lovely interview!

Congrats Madeline on starting two new novels; wishing you the best during your revision process of Reticence of Ravens.

Keep up the good work, ladies!
M.M. Gornell said…
Thanks Jacqueline, Gayle, Denny, and Kathleen! Your generous comments have energized me this rainy morning to keep plugging away!

Marilyn, see what positive energy you keep going in our writing community.
Keep watching my blog on Friday's, I'm hosting a different member of PSWA each week. Next comes Denny Griffin.


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