Meg/Peg, let me ask the obvious first question: what's it like to write two different series at the same time? How do you keep your cast of characters for each straight in your mind? How do you give your two protagonists their own voice?
How do I keep my characters straight? Sometimes I don’t. I’ll be deep into a scene and suddenly think, “Wait. Is this Emma or Gigi I’m writing about?” Seriously though, in my mind, they are two very separate and distinct characters. Characters take on a certain reality to the writer so confusing your two protagonists would be like confusing your best friend with your sister. That goes for their voice as well—Gigi doesn’t use the same expressions or speak with the same rhythm as Emma and vice versa.
I enjoy writing two different series because I enter a different world with each of them. So far I haven’t tried to work on a manuscript for each series at the same time. Therein would definitely lay confusion.
Did you start out as a plotter or a pantser? Now that you're writing two series, do you find that has changed?
Can I call myself a plotser? I don’t make a detailed outline although I would probably have fewer revisions to make if I did, and I wouldn’t panic so much when I hit the dreaded middle. But if I’ve outlined in too much detail, I feel as if there are no surprises ahead and that makes it seem a little too much like work—something I’m not overly fond of! I do need my plot points though—ending of Act 1, midpoint’s big reversal, end of Act 2, black moment and climax. I also add in “pinch points”—an emotional turning point or upheaval for your character. They are slotted in between the plot points and keep the momentum going.
Your series feature different hooks: one is based on food, the other is set in a shop selling vintage lingerie. Cozies focusing on food or small-town shops are very popular now. What appealed to you about each of these themes?
Well, I do love to eat so food just naturally appeals. And if I can be said to have any sort of hobby other than writing, it’s definitely cooking. (Clearly it’s not photography as evidenced by the pictures I put up on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen!) I had more time to spend in the kitchen before I started writing, but mastering puff pastry or pate feuillete is on my bucket list.
The lingerie series was conceived of by my editor at Berkley, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching vintage lingerie. I actually have a few pieces that were given to me by my grandmother including a gorgeous peach silk negligee and peignoir set.
What was the first mystery you remember reading? Did you love it, or did you think, I can do better?
I don’t remember the title, but it was definitely a Nancy Drew. That’s when I thought, “aha, when I grow up I’m going to become a mystery writer.” Little did I know how long it was going to take me!
What contemporary writers (not necessarily cozy writers!) do you admire? How has their writing influenced yours?
I was blown away by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Both the story and her writing. I’m a real Anglophile and love many of the British writers (or Americans who write about England) like P.D. James, Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie. I’m sure reading their books has informed my writing although my style is very different.
What kind of research do you have to do for your stories? Do you now have a collection of vintage lingerie? And do you test all your Gourmet De-Lite recipes?
I do test all my Gourmet De-Lite recipes. Some are real family favorites and appear on the menu frequently like shepherd’s pie and chili. I’ve tried to “deconstruct” fattier and/or more calorie laden dishes to make them more diet friendly. I just can’t bring myself to use a lot of fat when cooking. I used to—back in my 20s when I was learning to cook by going through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child—but my metabolism has decided to lie down and die so I don’t dare consume that many calories anymore.
As for the vintage lingerie, as I mentioned above, I do have some pieces from my grandmother, and I’ve learned a lot through research. Including the fact that lace workers from Nottingham, England, displaced by the Industrial Revolution, took English bulldogs to France, where the smaller of the dogs were prized. They were bred and eventually the smaller French bulldog was created. One of the protagonists in my Sweet Nothings series owns a French bulldog, but this fact emerged when I was researching lace used in vintage lingerie. I must put it in a book one of these days!
Why do you believe cozy mysteries are so popular (even if they don't win big prizes and top best-seller lists)?
I think readers like knowing the book is going to be an interesting puzzle but won’t keep them up at night looking over their shoulder. There’s little violence, the murder usually takes place off stage, no animals or children will be harmed and justice will be served—it’s possible for the faint of heart to enjoy a cozy mystery whereas a graphic tale about a psychotic serial killer might disturb them.
Peg grew up in a New Jersey suburb about 25 miles outside of New York City. After college, she moved to the City where she managed an art gallery owned by the son of the artist Henri Matisse.
After her husband died, Peg remarried and her new husband took a job in Grand Rapids, Michigan where they now live (on exile from NJ as she likes to joke). Somehow Peg managed to segue from the art world to marketing and is now the manager of marketing communications for a company that provides services to seniors.
She has two cozy mystery series out from Berkley Prime Crime — the Sweet Nothings Vintage Lingerie series, written as Meg London, set in Paris, Tennessee and the Gourmet De-Lite series, under her own name, set in Connecticut. She also has three ebooks on Amazon, a mystery, Confession Is Murder and two young adult books—Oh, Brother! and Truth or Dare.
Peg's latest book is Steamed to Death (June 2013); Meg's is Laced with Poison (July 2013).
Peg has two daughters, a step-daughter and step-son, a beautiful granddaughter, a cat named Frazzle and a Westhighland white terrier named Reggie. You can read more at www.pegcochran.com and www.meglondon.com.