Cozies, Stray Cats, and Past Dogs: An Interview with Marion Moore Hill

I’m pleased to introduce you to mystery writer Marion Moore Hill. I’ve been trying to coordinate an interview with her for months now, but my efforts were somewhat waylaid by having to tend to affairs with my mom.

However, I am pleased to finally bring you this long overdue interview.

Enjoy! (And, Marion, thank you so much again for your patience and cooperation.)

Courtney Mroch: What kind of things do you write about? (Genre, subject matter, themes, what have you.)

Marion Moore Hill: I write traditional, amateur-sleuth mysteries (sometimes called cozies). I do two series, the Scrappy Librarian Mysteries and the Deadly Past Mysteries, and both are now published by Pemberley Press. Both are current-day, but the latter series includes a lot about American history, since the protagonist solves crimes that have to do with some aspect of a Revolutionary-Era figure.

I’m alternating titles in the two series. The second librarian book comes out September 1, and the second in the history-based series comes out November 1, 2009. Then I’ll do another librarian book.

The overall theme of all my books, as of most mysteries, is the righting of a wrong. That may be simply catching a murderer, but sometimes it’s more complex. In Death Books a Return, for example, Juanita solves a 50-year-old racist murder, helping her town finally come to terms with a shameful part of its past. But my books also include humor, just as real life includes both the serious and the funny, sometimes at the same time.

Settings I use vary with the series. The librarian books are set in a fictitious small-town near Tulsa, Oklahoma, that I’ve named Wyndham. In the Deadly Past series, I use real settings associated with the historical personage featured in a specific book. For example, Philadelphia is the main setting for the first book, Deadly Will, which is about a legacy based on Ben Franklin’s actual bequest to Philadelphia and Boston.

CM: What kind of pets do you have? (Or have you had.)

MMH: I currently am petless, an unusual state for me. Growing up, my siblings and I had numerous animals, mostly dogs and an occasional cat. Various fish we had were mostly short-lived and didn’t fare well under our too-solicitous care.

As an adult, I’ve had numerous animals. Two dogs stand out: Frodo, a yellow collie-mongrel stray, and Aragorn (yes, we’re fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, a huge black Lab/shepherd/St. Bernard mix whom we acquired after the family that owned his mother moved away, leaving the mom and her pups in their back yard. We answered an ad that a kind neighbor placed to find good homes for the pups. Both dogs have unfortunately passed on. We haven’t gotten another dog, because we travel a lot and hate leaving animals in kennels for long periods.

Most recently, we’ve have numerous feline strays. Until a few months ago, we had Snit and Flit, who adopted us at different times. Neither liked the other, but they managed to tolerate each other. Each had her own personality (hence the names–Snit was bossy and territorial; Flit vanished at the merest hint of danger). Unfortunately, both disappeared at different times, and efforts to find each failed. Though we’re not seeking a pet right now, we can’t rule out the possibility that one will adopt us.

CM: Do animals appear in your work? Are they the focus of any of your stories or the main characters?

MMH: Animals do appear in some things I write, typically as secondary characters (the sidekick of the protagonist). But I also wrote a story a few years ago titled “Bear With Me,” published in a little anthology called Almostly Murder…With Pets, in which the title character, a black Lab named Bear, helps solve the case by literally digging up a clue. In Deadly Design, which I’m writing now, the protagonist’s son acquires a dog, and it will be a continuing character in subsequent books.

CM: Do you ever use your pets as the basis for any animal characters?

MMH: I have used both dogs I mentioned earlier as the basis for story characters. Aragorn was the model for Bear, and Frodo was the model for Juanita’s dog, Rip, in the librarian series. Rip, like Frodo, has evidently been abused at some point in his life and as a result cringes from strangers. “Rip” is short for “Jack the Ripper,” Juanita’s ironic name for her dog, who’s anything but a homicidal maniac.

CM: Do your pets contribute to your work methods and help with the process?

MMH: I can’t say pets have contributed to my work methods or to the process, but I have sometimes found their demands for attention a useful reason not to write. (Of course, any excuse works when you’re not in the mood:-).

CM: Oh, yes, I am very familiar with the art of procrastination! What are you working on now? Any new releases?

MMH: Death Books A Return, second in my librarian series, comes out September 1. Its plot concerns a 50-year-old unsolved murder that Juanita runs across when she’s researching a town history, and the perpetrators are still around, willing to kill again to prevent exposure.

The book I’m revising now, for publication in November 2009, is Deadly Design, second in my Deadly Past series. It involves a mystery about an old house that may have been designed by Thomas Jefferson. Later books in the series will feature the Adamses, George Washington, etc.

Side Note

In addition to the books mentioned above, Marion’s also written Bookmarked For Murder (librarian series debut novel).

She’s also had stories appear in the Red Dirt Book Festival Anthology years 2004 and 2006, which may be obtainable through the Shawnee Oklahoma Public Library.