Meet Terrie Moran
Terrie Farley Moran is thrilled to be co-author, along with Jessica Fletcher, of the long running Murder, She Wrote series. Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond, Murder, She Wrote: Debonair in Death, and Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court, will be followed by Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle (January, 2023). She has also written the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series, and is co-author of Laura Childs’ New Orleans scrapbooking mysteries. Her short stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly Magazine and numerous anthologies. Terrie is a recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer awards.
I write what are generally called cozy mysteries, which focus on an extremely likeable amateur sleuth who solves a crime. Although there is always a dead body or two, cozy mysteries do not contain graphic violence, bad language, or obvious sexual activities. And as a major plus, the setting, be it small town or, more rarely a section of a large city, is so vividly described that it contributes to the reader’s enjoyment of the sleuth’s investigation. Presently I am honored to write the Murder, She Wrote series, featuring the iconic mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, who seems to have murder investigations foisted on her wherever she goes.
What inspired you to become an author?
I grew up in a house of readers. As children we were allowed to read any book that was in the house plus we lived two blocks from the public library (Shout-out to libraries everywhere!) where there were thousands of books available to us. I used to marvel at how all those books came to be and decided that when I grew up I would write a book. About twenty years ago, I finally had the time and space in my life to begin writing only to find the process was daunting but I didn’t give up.
Who doesn’t love a cozy mystery on a rainy afternoon? What was it about writing in this genre that attracted you?
I write what I love to read. In nonfiction I read books about American history. Think David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Studs Terkel. When it comes to fiction my favorite books are cozy mysteries. Yes, there is a murder to solve but cozies are filled with engaging characters who invite me to visit the charming locales that serve as the setting of the books. (I especially love the places that don’t actually exist!) Once I decided it was time to write, I knew I couldn’t compete with Doris Kearns Goodwin, so it was cozy mysteries for me.
How wonderful that you are a coauthor on several books in the Murder, She Wrote, mystery series. How did you and your co-author, Jessica Fletcher, find each other?
The short version of how I got involved is: On St. Patrick’s Day 2020, a few days after the nation went into Covid quarantine, I was playing Irish music, baking soda bread, and bemoaning that there were no parades to watch when the telephone rang. My agent asked if I would be interested in writing some books in the Murder, She Wrote series. As a lifelong Jessica Fletcher fan I shouted, “yes” before she could even outline the contract requirements. Lest you think someone pulled my name out of a hat, the offer was made by the Berkley imprint of Penguin Random House, publisher of my Read ’Em and Eat series. I also co-wrote four books in Laura Childs’ extremely popular scrapbooking series, which, I suppose, indicated that I could write about characters that I had not developed in my own mind. Since these books were all under the Berkley imprint, the editorial staff was extremely familiar with my work and they must have thought my writing style would be a good fit for Murder, She Wrote. Honestly, for all I know the publisher approached twenty other writers who all turned them down. However it happened, I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to write about my favorite amateur sleuth, Jessica Fletcher.
You have also collaborated with Laura Childs on several of her, New Orleans scrapbooking mysteries. Please tell us what it’s like to collaborate with another author on a series of books. Describe the process – do you write separately and integrate your work or are you both physically in the same space?
I guarantee that no two sets of writers collaborate in the same fashion. I can tell you how Laura and I work together but that doesn’t mean that there is any other writing duet on the planet following the same process. Having gotten that out of the way, let me say that, although we have never met, I love working with Laura Childs. She is a consummate professional. I was asked to co-write on Parchment and Old Lace, book thirteen of Laura’s wildly successful Scrapbooking mysteries, and Laura was totally prepared for a writing partner. She sent me a lengthy synopsis of the book broken down by chapter and including suspects, red herrings and the killer. Basically, we would email work back and forth chapter by chapter until the book was ready to submit to the editor. Bear in mind that these are Laura’s characters and her series so she is always the team leader.
How long did it take to draft the first book in the, Read 'Em and Eat, cozy mystery series?
I wrote Well, Read, Then Dead in eight or nine months because it was under contract. You can take as long as you like to write your book that is not sold. But once a book is under contract, you have to meet the publisher’s deadline. I talk about how the contract for Well, Read, Then Dead came to be in response to your “bumps in the road” question.
Once your first novel in the, Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series was complete how did you go about seeking representation?
Skip on down to the “bumps in the road” question where all will be revealed.
Character names are important. Tell us about how you name and develop the characters in your books.
When thinking about a novel or short story there is always the famous starting point, “what if?” “What if Jessica Fletcher was visiting an old friend and the friend’s husband was found dead in a Koi Pond?” Murder, She Wrote Killing in a Koi Pond. Or, “what if an Irish Banshee discovers that a member of the family she keens for was murdered?” The Awareness and Other Deadly Tales. Once I have the germ of an idea, I think about the people who are involved. Then I decide how I want them to appear to the reader. Is the police detective a sloppy grumpy old man or a snappy and stylish young woman? Once I see the character and start talking to them in my head, they sort of name themselves.
Talk about one of your favorite characters and which book is this character in?
I cheerfully acknowledge that of the many characters I have written Jessica Fletcher is everyone’s favorite. So I will set her aside and introduce you to Miss Augusta Maddox, who is a major character in Well Read, Then Dead and continues to appear in Caught Read-handed and Read to Death because I enjoy her too much to let her go away. Augusta is fiercely independent seventy-something woman with strong opinions. Although she is not terribly social, she is extremely loyal to anyone she does consider a friend. Some might consider her to be crotchety but I love her.
Where do the ideas for your mysteries come from?
Well the good thing about murder mysteries is that from the get-go I know someone has to die. I think about who, in the abstract, that might be. Once I know who dies then I have to figure out why that person dies, that is, who would want them dead? When I have identified the victim and the killer, I look for two more groups of people. The first group is four or five red herrings, that is, other people who might have a reason to want the victim dead. The second group is the rest of the cast, the ones I call the innocent bystanders who are affected in some way by the murder, friends, family, co-workers, etc. Once I fill in the slots, I am on my way to a full-fledged story.
You’re an award-winning author with many books. I’m sure aspiring authors would benefit from hearing about your journey and whether there were bumps in the road you overcame. Can you briefly share something about your writing path?
I actually laughed when I read this question. Bumps? Ha! More like climbing mountains then falling in trenches over and over again. I started writing my first novel, the still unpublished Driven to Death in 2003. I played with it for about two years and then decided it was ready to meet the world, so I began querying agents. Most never replied. Those that did reply sent a form response—NOT INTERESTED. In 2006 I went to a writers’ conference and learned that there were organizations for mystery writers: Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. I joined both and, lo and behold, my local Sisters in Crime chapter (Sisters in Crime New York Tri-State) had a call for submissions for an anthology of short stories. I wrote a story, realized I loved writing short mystery fiction and spent the next few years writing and submitting short stories. Several were published.
In the meantime I started going to conferences where I could meet agents in person and “pitch” my book. Once in a while some kind agent would ask me to send a few chapters for their review, but nothing clicked until 2012 when an agent, the fabulous Kim Lionetti of Bookends Literary, asked for a sample. After she read it, instead of rejecting me outright, she deemed Driven to Death unpublishable but said she liked my style of writing and asked if I would write something else. I jumped at the chance and as a result Well Read, Then Dead was published by the Berkley division of Penguin Random House in August 2014. So that was eleven years of mountains and trenches. And, as in any career, mountains and trenches still litter the path occasionally.
Congratulations on the upcoming book, Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle, due out January, 2023. Can you share a tidbit?
Jessica Fletcher is quick to accept an invitation to replace a speaker who, due to an injury, couldn’t attend a Book Festival in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When her Cabot Cove neighbor Maeve O'Bannon hears about the trip, she asks Jessica to deliver some paintings to her family in the village of Bushmills. Happy to extend her travels and see more of the Irish countryside, Jessica agrees. The festival goes off without a hitch, and it seems like Jessica is in for a relaxing vacation until Maeve’s cousin Michael is discovered dead under suspicious circumstances. Jessica finds herself once again in the midst of a murder investigation, and she’ll have to dig into the O'Bannon family’s secrets to unmask the killer.
What’s your best advice for aspiring authors?
Finish what you start. Don’t dismiss your current project because a new idea pops into your head and you think that it is better than the project you are currently writing. Discipline is essential. You cannot submit a project that was never completed.
To learn more about Terrie Moran or to purchase her books, visit:
Terrie Farley Moran is online at www.terriefarleymoran.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/terriefarleymoran/
To Pre-order Murder, She Wrote - Death on the Emerald Isle