I’m delighted to welcome M.S. Spencer here today for an interview and a look at her new contemporary romantic mystery release Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance). Don’t forget to comment and leave your email address for a chance to win in her giveaway!
Tell us a little about Mai Tais and Mayhem.
When Tessa Diamond rescued a baby pufferfish from a hungry gull, her good deed led her into a shady world of smuggling, Russian gangsters, and coded messages, confronting murder, attempted ravishment, parrots, sea turtles and big fish, only to encounter blossoming romances at every turn, including one of her own.
She is drawn to Cameron Mason, tiger-eyed and handsome, but before she can drop her longstanding opposition to marriage and accept her true love, she must face the possibility that he could be a thief, and even a murderer.
What are you working on now? Do you have any releases scheduled for this year?
Slated for release in May is Lapses of Memory, in which two people meet every few years as both their love and flight technology grows. The principle romance—between two journalists as they compete for scoops in international hot spots—is intertwined with that of their daughter’s present-day predicament—having to choose between a reserved American and a dashing Frenchman. I’m currently working on The Mark of Love and Death, another romantic suspense/murder mystery, this time set in Alexandria, Virginia at the landmark George Washington Masonic Memorial. If you’re interested in international intrigue involving renegade freemasons and black ops, long-lost papers of George Washington, and great romance, this is for you.
Can you share with us “the call” story?
The “call” actually came in increments. After filling up drawers with stories and even novels for years, I finally submitted a romantic suspense novel, Lost in His Arms, in 2008. Six months later I got a terse rejection from Harlequin (big surprise). The second attempt received a rejection with a twist: the editor sent me a detailed critique, which was not only very helpful, but really encouraged me to submit again. Third time turned out to be the charm. The funny part is, I waited the requisite six weeks or so after submitting before “checking in.” The publisher answered immediately and joyfully apologized because she hadn’t gotten around yet to letting me know she loved it and wanted to publish it. Just goes to show, sometimes you shouldn’t wait for the “call.”
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Two things: finishing the second draft (the point at which the book really takes shape); and writing about the setting. The setting and season in each of my books is very specific. I like to set the stage and mood with description of both.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, character, or…?
I start with the last sentence. There will be the vague outlines of a plot, but I go straight to the happy ending part. I figure I’m allowed to since I’m writing the story! Readers are prohibited from such immediate gratification. That means you…no…don’t! Sigh.
What is the best thing about being an author?
Probably the gleam in someone’s eye when I explain that I write books. I think people envision a glamorous, adventuresome life with all kinds of secret rituals and mysteries associated with producing a novel. Why disabuse them? Also, seeing the cover with my name in big, bold letters on it together with that incredibly clever title you came up with in the middle of the night.
Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?
I couldn’t possibly admit to favoring one over the other. They do listen, you know.
What is your favorite food to cook or eat?
I’m omnivorous (i.e., human), but, having lived there, I love to cook Middle Eastern food, especially in the summer. Fresh tomatoes, fresh mint, tangy yogurt (full fat if you please), roast crispy lamb and fish into the pan still flapping, good olives—ah, I miss it! I also love my native seafood—Chincoteague oysters and Chesapeake blue crabs. And lobsters. I love lobsters. And…
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
Both my parents loved to read and our house was always filled to the brim with books. I read anything and everything—in fact, it was my love of books that led me to be a librarian (and not, as my family will claim, because I had no more room in my own house for books!).
Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
My father. He loved to write, but was generally confined to academic publications. When he died, he left me a story he’d been working on, and asked me to finish it.
These are few of my favorite things:
1. My children
2. My memories
EXCERPT ~ The first meeting
Mai Tais & Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance), by M. S. Spencer
“Do you work here?”
Tessa jumped. A man stood next to her. Distracted by her ruminations on life and death, she at first only gave him a cursory once-over. His trim body and broad shoulders encased in a finely made dark suit hinted at strength. He wore a nametag, but the writing was too small for her to decipher without getting up close and personal with his chest. Once her eyes traveled up to his face, though, she wanted to. Very badly. Talk about hot.
He reminded her of a dream she’d had a few weeks earlier, in which a stranger held her in his arms and crooned a love song. Here in the flesh was her stranger. Dark blond hair feathered with gold, the mysterious tawny eyes of a stalking tiger, gently tanned skin drawn taut over the arched cheekbones, a nose…well, the nose could use some work. It tilted at an odd angle, presumably due to a collision with a blunt instrument sometime in the past. Tessa found it endearing.
“I repeat, do you work here?”
“I…uh…no. I don’t.” She indicated the nametag. “Do you?”
“Technically yes, only not in this building. I’m hoping you can tell me which door I use to get out. I mean, now that the aquarium’s closed.”
“It is? Oh damn.” She checked her watch. Sure enough, the minute hand showed ten minutes after five. “I guess we’d both better leave.”
Together they made a circuit of the doors, finding them all locked. Finally, the door to the gift shop gave to the combined pressure of four hands. Feeling like mischievous children, they crept past the ancient man counting money from the cash register. At the main entrance, her companion grinned at her. “Shall we make a break for it?”
Tessa smiled back and legged it out to the parking lot. She was rooting around in her bag for her keys when he caught up with her. “Hey, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Well, catch your breath first.” She waited, thinking he didn’t seem in very good shape despite his physique. Good. Otherwise he might have been too perfect. She didn’t want any complications in her life right now.
“Sorry,” he puffed. “I guess I haven’t entirely recovered from that bout with pneumonia.”
“So, are you going to tell me your name? After all, we’re partners in crime now.”
“Tessa Diamond. And you are?”
“Cameron Mason. At your service.”
“Nice meeting you.” Tessa turned to her car. He cupped her elbow with a big, warm hand.
“Say, Ms. Diamond, can I interest you in a drink?”
“I don’t think…”
“You see, I was supposed to meet with the Lab director at five and he called in sick. Since I live up in Bradenton I really don’t want to schlep all the way back during rush hour. It would be nice to while away some time.” His lips curled in a tentative smile and she knew she’d have to give in. “You’d be doing me a favor. How does Tommy Bahama sound?”
Tessa gazed deep into his eyes, the green and brown intermixing in a steamy jungle of color. She woke up with a start when he touched her elbow again. “Miss Diamond?”
“Uh, sure. That would be fine.” Can you act any lamer, Tessa? But those eyes…
“My car or yours?”
“Er, why don’t I follow you?” She should at least make an attempt at keeping her distance. Anything to get away from that scent of his, a combination of dark rum and cinnamon, Very…tasty.
“Okay. I’m the tropical blue hybrid over there. The one with the I Love Caviar bumper sticker.”
“And I’m…” she stopped.
“The red Porsche. I know.”
Shut up, Tessa.
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, chair of a large volunteer program, and non-profit director. She is blessed with two fabulous grown children, and the company of Iggy Pop the cat.
Ms. Spencer has published five contemporary romance novels. Lost in His Arms is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full. In Lost and Found we follow a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine for the husband who disappeared. Losers Keepers is a tale of love, lust and treachery set on the island of Chincoteague. In Triptych legend, history, and romance intertwine in a triptych of suspense high above the Potomac River. Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, in which Milo Everhart, artist, meets her match in lawyer Tristram Brodie on the battleground of the old munitions factory turned art center called the Torpedo Factory. Her latest release is Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance). Set on the Florida Gulf coast, it follows the adventures of Tessa Diamond as she deals with new love, old love, murder, sea turtles, big fish, smugglers, parrots, pigs, and the Russian mob, not necessarily in that order.
Giveaway: To one discerning reader I will give a beautiful decorated pen, much sought after!
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/M.S.SpencerAuthor