Suspense Sister Ellen Kennedy interviews E.E. Kennedy, author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mysteries. (Note: I’ve known this author all my life and have been told I’m her worst critic. I will try to control my judgmental attitude for this interview.)
SS: It’s interesting that you wanted to be interviewed this week. You don’t have a new book coming out anytime soon. What’s up?
EEK: Well, that’s true, it’s been about a year since my last Miss Prentice mystery was published, but my publisher and I have some exciting news: the first book in the series, Irregardless of Murder, is soon to be released in an audio version!
SS: And this is significant, how?
EEK: I’ve been asked many times if the Miss Prentice books are available in audio. More and more people are listening to books rather than reading them these days, so I’m excited to announce this innovation!
SS: Whatever floats your boat. How did you go about getting this accomplished? Did you record the book yourself?
EEK: I tried; I really did. After all, I’ve had experience recording commercials back when I worked for an advertising agency years ago and more recently, used to be a volunteer recording books and newspapers for the blind. The problem is that today’s recording equipment has become very sophisticated, pretty much beyond my understanding. Despite that, I was determined to try. I was offered a corner of a local advertising agency’s studio to record on a once-in-a-while basis, but the place was about 30 miles away from my home in a busy urban area and once I did get there through all the traffic, I kept messing up and having to re-record. I only got through the first two chapters and once-in-a-while soon became virtually-never.
SS: But you’ve just said that the audio version of Irregardless of Murder is about to released. How did that happen?
EEK: I have a good friend and fellow author, Linda Loegel, who’s a member of my weekly writers’ circle and who has self-published a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, including Saving Lou, Leaving Mark, Stop Procrastinating—Get Published!among many others.
My personal favorite title of hers is If You Don’t Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut!
SS: These sound good. Are they available on Amazon?
EEK: They are very good. And yes, you can get them on Amazon. Anyway, Linda told us about her experience having books recorded through Amazon’s audio arm, ACX, and it sounded intriguing. I shared this idea with my publisher and they thought it would be a great idea.
SS: So how does it work?
EEK: It’s pretty neat! Once your publisher—or you, if you’re self-published—register at the website, you can describe your book and wait for interested potential readers to audition. You can listen to samples of other work they’ve recorded and if you’re interested, offer them a piece of the story to read. We listened to a number of readers before we finally found Sheila Stasack.
SS: What were you looking for?
EEK: Somebody who could sound like my narrator, Amelia Prentice, a 40-something high school teacher from Northern New York State. But she also needed to do a number of other voices, such as five-year-old Meaghan O’Brien, Scotsman Alec Alexander and French Canadian Steve Trechere.
SS: Aren’t those last two men’s voices?
EEK: Sure, but we don’t expect Sheila to sound like a man, just like Amelia imitating a man.
SS: Okay. So does Sheila Stasack fulfill these requirements?
EEK: She sure does. She’s a good actress, too. I just listened to the last few chapters of the book yesterday. She had me on the edge of my seat, and I wrote the cotton-picking thing! She made me laugh in the right places, too. I think she understood the material. That’s very satisfying for an author.
SS: Speaking of the word, “author,” we haven’t heard anything new from you lately.
EEK: I know, and I apologize. I got tied up in a project that later fell through and I’ve also written a few short novellas that were included in several different anthologies. I have four novellas that I want to put together in an anthology of my own.
SS: That’s all well and good, but what about Miss Prentice?
EEK: Well, about that. My publisher has declined to publish any more of her books. However, I do have the beginnings of book #5 and I’d like to finish it. And when I do, I’d like to probably self-publish it.
SS: What’s the title?
EEK: The working title is The Village Idiom. I like my titles to be puns that include not only English terms, but perhaps a hint of mystery. This one doesn’t have “death” or “murder” in it, but I still think it works.
SS: And what’s The Village Idiom about?
EEK: Amelia’s husband Gil, a newspaper editor, finds himself out of work when his local newspaper fails, so Amelia is glad to oblige when the high school secretary calls to ask her to take the place of an English teacher who suffered a heart attack. Gil will stay home with toddler Janet while he searches for another media-related job.
Back at work, Amelia is distressed to learn that the old high school principal has retired and been replaced by a Dr. Lorraine Airedaile, who has a boatload of new ideas about how things should be run.
I had lots of fun writing the first few scenes. Here, let me show you one:
She lifted her chin. It was a sharply-defined one and gave the distinct impression of disapproving authority. “Tell me, have you read the new policies and practices booklet?”
I pulled out a drawer and retrieved the thick packet. “I’m afraid I haven’t had time to do that yet.”
“I suggest you make time, Ms. Dickensen. This paper is evidence of three distinct infractions.”
“Three? Infractions? Really? I can only find two little errors.” I leaned forward and squinted at the blue-lined paper.
“Infractions on your part.”
“Certainly. First, the assignment was too narrow, too dictatorial. We are now endeavoring to give our students free reign to express themselves, you see. Spelling rules have no part in this.”
“Yes, but don’t you think—“
“Second, the paper is written in cursive. We discourage that now.”
“Third, this arbitrary alphabetical grading system has gone the way of the chalkboard, Ms. Dickensen. Such competitive comparisons between students is demeaning, to say the least.”
“Surely not demeaning—“
She pulled the paper towards herself across the desk. “Oh, I should have said four infractions: you used red pencil.” She clicked her tongue and shook her head. “I’m afraid your methods are quite of another century. Please see that you use green pencil from now on. In fact, green is now the signature color of our classes. Reflective of nature, you see. We stock them in the supply room. Each teacher is allowed three.” She stood.
“I hope you understand that it is imperative that you read and follow what is in the booklet.”
“Y-yes, ma’am;I do, now.”
“’Ma’am’ is not a word we use any more, either, Ms. Dickensen.”
SS: Looks pretty good. Is that all we get to see?
EEK: It is for now. Sorry. It’s a work-in-progress. I will tell you this: the story begins with a statement from Amelia. “I can’t honestly say that I ever liked Principal Airedaile very much, but nobody deserves to be murdered.”
SS: Intriguing! By the way, usually the interview-ee takes the names of those who leave a comment, puts them in a hat and selects a winner. So, what are you going to give away this time?
EEK: I thought I’d give the lucky winner an audio copy of Irregardless of Murder when it’s released. What do you think?
EEK: Yes, it is. How did I do?
SS: Not too bad.
EEK: Coming from you, that means a lot!
Please leave a comment (along with your EMAIL ADDRESS!) to be included in a drawing for an audio copy of the first Miss Prentice Mystery, Irregardless of Murder!