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JULIE MULHERN: Diverse, Dedicated and a lot of Dead Bodies.

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

Rarely have I read an author who writes in two completely different voices. Julie Mulhern’s series: The Country Club Murders is a cozy mystery set in the 70’s, and filled with laugh-out-loud snark. Naturally when I picked up the first book in her new Haunting series, A HAUNTING DESIRE, even though I knew it was historical with a touch of paranormal, I still expected similarities in writing style. Nope. You’d never know the same writer wrote this solemn, eerie, twisted suspense involving Voo Doo and some grisly, dark New Orleans scenes that have you biting your nails like a teen. The two series are SO far apart in voice, style and spectrum on the mystery genre that I’m left thinking Julie Mulhern is either exceptionally talented or has a split personality.

As a dedicated KaT reader, I’m sure you recall reading about Julie after her debut last February when we featured her novel THE DEEP END. Next week the second book in The Country Club Murders comes out: GUARANTEED TO BLEED. 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Let’s check back in with Julie and see how she is able to pull off such completely unique writing styles in the romantic suspense genre:

  • You write a series that’s a hilarious snarky cozy and another series that’s historical, paranormal suspense. How hard is it to switch hats?

Actually, switching between two different genres is good for me. When I’m writing the mysteries, I get a break from turn of the century New Orleans and vice versa.

That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly having ideas for the wrong book. I am. I’ve started files.

  • Which series is YOUR fav?

What a question! A bit like asking a mother which child is her favorite. Right now I am editing A Haunting Need (book two in the Haunting series) and writing Clouds in my Coffee (book three in the Country Club Murders). I love them both. That said, it’s easier for me to write mysteries.

  • We interviewed you in February for your debut release. Tell us how well The Deep End has been doing.

THE DEEP END coverThe Deep End had a great spring and a wonderful summer, somehow managing a top spot on the Goodreads’ 2015 Best Beach Read list. I took screen shots of my book wedged between “Me Before You” and “The Rosie Project.”

Lynn Farris of examiner.com said of The Deep End, “This certainly isn’t your grandmother’s cozy mystery, and I loved it. This is a cozy mystery with an edge. Ms. Mulhern walked a fine line in this mystery with a tantalizing topic while still being acceptable to most cozy readers.”

Mystery readers who don’t want gore seem to respond to it.

  • Are you a plotter or panster? What kind of research have you done for each? (You already answered or The Deep End, but it never hurts to refresh memories.)

I write to plot points. In an 80,000 word novel that means INTERESTING things better be happening at the 8,000, 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 72,000 words marks. Ish. I generally begin knowing my plot points but have no earthly idea how I’m going to fill in between them. Those misty spaces are where the magic happens.

As for research, I believe you mean RABBIT HOLE. I love it. Recently I needed to know how much it cost to rent a condo for a week in Vail in 1974 and found myself flipping through the virtual pages of a decades old ski magazine ($400 if you’re wondering). I’ve discovered Thea Porter caftans, renewed my fondness for Tab, and listened—willingly (once)—to “Seasons in the Sun.” I’ve also watched every movie Steve McQueen made in the 70s—that was no hardship.

Sometimes the research finds me. A New York Times article led me to this website – http://www.queermusicheritage.com/fem-jbl.html. I fell in love with The Jewel Box and knew I had to place a scene there.

  • What are future release dates and titles?

Book two of The Country Club Murders, GUARANTEED TO BLEED, releases next week on October 13th. This is the book that features a scene at The Jewel Box. It also sees the return of Ellison, Grace, Mother, Aggie, Anarchy, and Hunter. I adore this mystery and am thrilled to see it venture out into the world.

Book three, CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE is slated for early May, 2016. I’d best get writing!

A HAUNTING NEED will release in April, 2016 (if I ever get these edits done).

 

QUESTION OF THE DAY FROM JULIE: As I mentioned, I’ve been watching loads of Steve McQueen movies and my favorite from the 1970s is Papillon. That said, my favorite movies from the 70s are The Sting, Blazing Saddles (after twenty years of marriage, my husband made a Mel Brooks fan of me) and Star Wars. What are your favorite 70s movies? FIVE COMMENTERS WILL WIN A DIGITAL COPY OF THE DEEP END!

Finally, readers, if you don’t believe me on how DIFFERENT Julie’s style is, please enjoy the excerpts below:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]FIRST EXCERPT – In Guaranteed to Bleed, Ellison has a couple of awful dates (believe me, I’ve had worse). So in honor of my 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow (hurray, no more dating!), I thought you’d like to join her on one…

The scent of Aramis overwhelmed the aroma of my coffee. I looked up.

“How are the two prettiest ladies in town?” A man wearing the ugliest plaid sports coat I’ve ever seen—burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium deep yellow—stood in front of us.

Mother smiled. Daddy stood and thrust out his hand. Quin Marstin shook it. I looked from Mother to Quin to the empty seat at the table. Oh dear Lord.

“We’re so glad you joined us.” Mother’s smile didn’t mean a thing. The expression certainly didn’t touch the rest of her face. Was Quin a last minute addition because Hunter hadn’t wanted to come? “Please sit.”

Quin sat.

Next to me.

When we were in high school, Garret Hargrove Marstin V, more commonly known as Quin, was the class president, the starting quarterback for a football team that won the state championship and the boy named most likely to succeed. As far as I knew, our senior year was the apex of his life. He’d been young, popular and almost every girl at school had wanted to date him. The world had changed. Quin hadn’t noticed.

He leaned back in his chair and grinned at me. “Ellison, looking good, babe.”

Babe?

Next to me, Daddy tensed. Across from me, Mother washed away a sour-pickle expression with a deep sip of Bloody Mary. I shifted in my chair, inching as far as possible from Mother’s idea of a set up. Had she lost her mind? “Thank you,” I murmured.

The man positively reeked of cologne. What’s more, I’d bet, hidden beneath his white shirt, boring tie and that appalling blazer, there was a gold chain with a medallion nestled among his chest hairs. Bleh.

“How’s single life treating you?” Given that I was single because my husband had been murdered, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. True, Henry had been a cheating low-life and I didn’t exactly mourn his passing, but…

He scooted his chair closer to mine. “Chick like you, you don’t have to stay single long.”

Across the table, Mother choked on her drink.

Quin leaned toward me and his Aramis assaulted my nose again.

Maybe his sense of smell was gone. Maybe when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see the thinning hair. Then again, how could he, hidden beneath a toupee the way it was? Maybe he didn’t notice the thickening waist that threatened to become a paunch. The man remained a legend in his own mind.

I inched farther. So far, I risked falling off my chair. Maybe Daddy would catch me. Although…he looked frozen in horror. No help there.

“What are you doing now, Quin? For a living, I mean.” I asked.

Clipping coupons off the bonds his grandfather and father had amassed. We all knew it. Then again, cutting along a straight, dotted line is something of a skill.

He sat up straight, grinned, then leaned against the back of his chair. “I’m thinking of investing in a chain of incense stores. Not too late to get in on the action. You interested, Harry?”

This time Daddy choked on his drink. I patted his back and looked for a waiter. With everyone choking, we were going to need more ice water.

 

And, one of my favorite scenes from A Haunting Desire…AHauntingDesire2

“There’s not enough water to make tea and read the leaves. It’ll be the cards.” With a rustle of her patched skirt, Granny led Trula into the cabin and settled into her seat at a table scarred by hot pans, dripping glasses of rum, and time.

Trula sat across from her in an uncomfortable straight-backed chair.

Behind Granny, a narrow plank painted a vibrant shade of blue groaned beneath the weight of a large crucifix, the curve of a snake’s skeleton, a small painting of the Virgin, tightly wrapped gris-gris, a cascade of crimson lace, brightly colored beads, painted stones, and a bottle of rum. Several candles burned and flower petals floated in a glass bowl filled with water. Next to the altar’s dense opulence, the rest of the simple cabin appeared drab.

“Are the wards holdin’?” Granny asked.

“I saw a boy.”

“Did he cause any mischief?”

“No.”

Granny snorted. “The wards only keep out ghosts who mean you harm. I reckon that boy didn’t aim to cause trouble.”

The wards didn’t work against all ghosts? Until Zeke Barnes beat Carter Wayne, she’d never seen a single one in her home—it was a phantom-free haven. The wards made living in a city beset by ghosts bearable.

“You didn’t ride clear out here in the middle of the night because of the wards.” Granny’s head was wrapped in a bright tignon, a red shawl draped over her narrow shoulders. Her hands, roped with age and bent like claws, caressed a tarot deck.

“I’m worried about Cora James.” Trula bit her lip. It wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Cora’s in a safe place. Don’t you worry your pretty head about Cora James.”

The tension in Trula’s shoulders eased. “Where is she?”

The old woman grinned. “I done told you. A safe place.”

Trula closed her eyes and breathed through gritted teeth. If she wanted information from Granny, she’d catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “If you speak to her, would you please tell her the police are all over the district looking for Belmain’s murderer?

Granny laughed softly. “The New Orleans police aren’t gonna catch that killer. Least half those men couldn’t catch fish in a barrel. This ain’t somethin’ they understand. Darkness is roamin’ round the city.”

Trula shuddered. Eulie Echo had warned her about Baron Samedi, now Granny had as good as confirmed her suspicion that a spirit committed the murders.

“Cora’s not the only reason you rode clear out here in the middle of the night.” Granny’s faded eyes glittered in the dim light.

“I’m worried about my own girls as well.” That wasn’t a lie, either. She did worry about the girls. The man who’d invaded her thoughts wasn’t worth mentioning. Trula scrubbed at her tired eyes. Had he followed her?

Granny’s disbelieving laugh grated on Trula’s last nerve. “Maybe. But that’s not why you came. The cards have answers for you.” She shuffled the ornate deck and fanned it on the table. “Pick three.”

For more information on Julie Mulhern, please visit her website:

http://www.JulieMulhern.com

 

THE DEEP END

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

I took another sip of coffee and glanced around the pool. The morning light still looked delicate enough to break. The weeping cherry tree had lost a few leaves and they skittered across the pool deck in the soft breeze. The police conferred around the body. Then they stepped away and I saw it. Saw her. In that second, my morning went from plain dreadful to the worst ever. (Excerpt from THE DEEP END.)

Funny how you stumble across strangers who instantly become close friends. I’d judged a writing contest a couple years back, and the anonymous entry, THE DEEP END, was a total standout! Who WAS this author?! The snarky tone of the heroine (the only sane character in a zany cast of 1970’s preppy, country club wives and a mother from hell) had me howling. Enter the requisite dead body (and not just any corpse- it’s a fantastic twist- ALL in Chapter 1) and I was hooked!

Naturally I gave this entry a perfect score, left my name/contact info and an entire page of gushing remarks…mostly over my shock that this hilarious cozy mystery hadn’t been snapped up for publication. And then I did something I’d never done: asked a complete stranger if I could beta read the rest of it. (Yeah, like I have that kind of time on my hands!) But that is HOW GREAT the novel is.

To my delight, the writer- Julie Mulhern, wrote back and (yes!) sent the rest of the hilarious cozy mystery. Now we’ve not only become close friends, but we were nominated for 2014 Golden Heart awards together and we will be published by the same publishing company in the near future.

And, dear readers, I’m honored to announce that Julie’s debut, THE DEEP END, releases TODAY!toast Naturally, on the busiest and most exciting day of her life I insisted she stop everything and answer my nosy questions. (Because that’s what friends do.) Introducing Julie Mulhern-take note of her name, folks!

Q-Your heroine’s glib ability to balance the fine line between hysterical snark and nasty sarcasm is honed to perfection. AND it’s written in 1st person. Do these type of thoughts come to you in real life or do you channel someone inside when you sit down to write?

The snark and internal sarcasm are all me. Ellison lets me give voice to things I would never say. 

Q-How on earth did you come up with this premise?

I wanted to create a straight-laced world, perfect on its surface, then flip the rock. Everyone thinks the 60’s changed everything but really it was the 70’s. The ideas that existed on the fringes of society in the 60’s went mainstream. The roles of women changed – even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis got a job. Divorce rates skyrocketed. I am woman, hear me roar.

Q-I’m assuming you’re a child of the 70’s since you nailed the culture so well. Why did you choose that era rather than contemporary?

You guessed right. I grew up in the 70s and felt a certain nostalgia about the decade. I was too young to go to discos so I remember the sweet parts – rainbow socks with individual toes, deodorant called Tickle, how no self-respecting kid showed up on the playground if they’d missed Happy Days.

THE DEEP END coverQ-WHERE did you come up with all the foods, commercials, songs, teen accessories, etc that are in your story? Research? YouTube? There’s no way you remembered Cherry Lip Smackers for example (in your 2nd novel of the series.)

Research. Fun, fun research. I got on ebay and bought magazines from 1974. I am the proud owner of a full year of Gourmet plus many, many Vogues, Glamours, Cosmos (oh, my) and Architectural Digests. Looking at those ads and reading those articles was amazing.

And Pinterest – I LOVE Pinterest. My board for The Deep End (http://www.pinterest.com/juliemulhern/the-deep-end/) captures the clothes, the vibe and the original Mr. Coffee.

Q-How long do you expect this series to run, because I totally see a new “Cabot Cove” mystery series here! 

I’m hoping The Country Club Murders finds an audience and that Ellison has the opportunity to solve lots of murders.

Q-When is the next story due/what’s the title/can you give us a couple of sentences on the plot?

Guaranteed to Bleed (remember the madras labels?) will release in November. When Ellison finds a dying boy beneath the stands at a high school football game, her life is again upended. Now she’s dealing with a teenage daughter with an attitude, an unexpected house guest and another body on her lawn.

Q-Why stretch out the love triangle between your heroine and two yummy men?

Could you decide between Hunter and Anarchy? Ellison is recently widowed, she’s not ready to make up her mind.

Q-You also have other novels in the works—are they cozy mysteries in 1st person too?

My novel, A Haunting Desire, which was a finalist in the 2014 Golden Heart contest is a romance. It releases in August from Entangled Select. It’s not written in the first person, but there is a murder mystery which my heroine solves. The story is set in New Orleans in 1902 – think voodoo, ghosts, plenty of eerie ambiance and a yummy hero.

Q-On a personal note, what’s a food you cannot say no to?

Bread pudding with crème anglaise

Q-Favorite movie and why?

One? Yikes! Casablanca because I never get tired of watching Rick change from a cynical ass into a hero. Romancing the Stone because I love watching Joan Wilder transform into a strong woman.

Q-What’s your favorite ’70’s song?

Again, one? You’re So Vain by Carly Simon. I’d like to title a book Clouds in my Coffee. Who can hear that song and not sing along? I also love You’re in my Heart by Rod Stewart for the chorus: You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul. You’ll be my breath should I grow old. You are my lover, you’re my best friend. You’re in my soul. Isn’t that how we all want to be loved?

Which ’70s songs do you love and why? Julie is giving one lucky commenter a $10 Amazon gift card! Stop by next Tuesday to see if it’s YOU!

Back cover blurb.

Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It’s 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes—kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her.

Find out more about Julie HERE: http://www.JulieMulhern.com

BUY THE DEEP END HERE: http://amzn.to/1vCHnCS

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