In plenty of time for the spookiest holiday of the year, Casey Daniels, whose Pepper Martin mysteries are a must read for anyone who loves paranormal mysteries, is visiting Southern Exposure today.
I first met Casey when I was part of a writer’s group in Cleveland, Ohio. We’ve stayed friends through the years and are still brainstorming buddies.
This time of year it is always a treat to visit Casey’s house. While other people collect Christmas decorations, Casey’s attic is filled with Halloween goodies. This, of course, is only a fraction of the fun.
Not only are the Halloween decorations out now, so is Casey’s latest book in her wonderful Pepper Martin series. Here’s Casey to tell us all about it.
1–You’ve written in more genres than anyone I know, Casey. Start by telling my readers your writing history.
Actually, I began my writing career with nonfiction. I was a corporate writer and a journalist for a while. Once I “retired” from that, I started writing fiction. The first books I published were historical romances (writing as Constance Laux and Connie Lane). I’ve also written contemporary romance (as Connie Lane), YA horror (as Zoe Daniels and Connie Laux), and one book for children. My first book was published in 1992 and “Dead Man Talking,” my newest release, was book #45.
2–What made you decide to write the fabulous Pepper Martin series? What’s the draw of cemeteries? And am I right or don’t you offer cemetery tours in Cleveland, where the books take place.
Well, the whole idea for Pepper started because I love cemeteries. I like walking through them, taking photos, looking at the art and the architecture. Then a few years ago, one of my favorite historic cemeteries in the area was looking for a part-time tour guide. I applied for the job and didn’t get it, but I did realize that a cemetery tour guide would make a fabulous detective in a mystery series. At least to me, there’s not one bit of doubt that there are ghosts in cemeteries, so it just seemed natural that they’d be Pepper’s clients.
And yes, I do host Pepper Martin tours of Cleveland in conjunction with local libraries. We rent a trolley, get on, and visit a lot of the spots mentioned in the books. We always have a blast! Did a tour just a week or so ago and visited four historic cemeteries. It’s a great way for folks to learn more about Cleveland history and to visit places they might not otherwise go.
3–For all who don’t know, Pepper is a cemetery guide, and somewhere along the way, ghosts began to demand she solve their mysteries, since they were no longer able to do it themselves. This is such a great idea. Can you tell us about the newest book, just released?
The newest book is “Dead Man Talking” and in it, Pepper’s been assigned to work on a restoration project in a city-owned cemetery. The cemetery where she usually works, Garden View, is big and elegant and well-maintained. The one she’s sent to-Monroe Street-is a real mess. She finds head-high weeds, drug paraphernalia, lots of feral cats. She also finds out that she’s going to be heading a team to work on the restoration and that there’s another team they’ll be competing with. Pepper being Pepper, she assumes she’ll be in charge of the team composed of ladies from the historical society and the Junior League. Me being me and wanting to make Pepper’s life more complicated, I’ve given her the team of felons out on probation and doing community service. To make matters worse, their work is being filmed and shown on a PBS show called “Cemetery Survivor.” Sure, Pepper hates working in a cemetery, but she hates losing even more, and she’s determined that she and her team are going to win the competition. Of course a ghost shows up, a former prison warden who claims he was wrongly convicted of a murder. In addition to pulling weeds and making sure she looks good for every scene of the TV show, Pepper has to investigate-and make sure the real killer who’s still out there doesn’t make her his next victim!
As an aside, there really is a Monroe Street Cemetery in Cleveland and yes, just a few years ago, it was a disaster. Then a group of dedicated volunteers got involved, and they’ve transformed the place. Just yesterday, I did a book signing there as part of their annual “Meet the Neighbors Event.”
4–You’re a long time Clevelander. I love the story about the “field trips” your dad, a detective on the Cleveland police force, used to take you on. Will you share that here?
My dad was one of those type A personalities . . . when I was a kid, he worked as a detective in what was known as the Auto Bureau. In other words, they looked for stolen cars. On his days off, he’d put me in the car with him, and we’d cruise the city, searching for stolen cars. Dad had a fabulous memory, and as we drove, he’d check out license plates, then when we got home (before the days of cell phones!) he’d call the station and let them know where the stolen cars could be found. It was my first introduction to detective work, and Dad always sweetened the deal by stopping for ice cream cones!
5–What’s up for you in the future? Tell us what you’ll be working on next.
Pepper’s sixth adventure is done and in. It’s tentatively titled “Tomb with a View,” and will be out next July. I won’t give too much away, but I will tell you that she’s going to work for a very important client, none other than President James A. Garfield. I’m currently plotting and planning book #7 which will feature a ghost who was killed in 1966, right after the Beatles concert at Cleveland Stadium. After that . . . well, in addition to these, I’m contracted for two more Pepper books, so she can still get in plenty of trouble!
A lot of readers don’t know, but I also write another series, the Cooking Class mysteries, as Miranda Bliss. The fifth book in that series, “Murder Has a Sweet Tooth,” will be out in December.
Thanks so much for visiting, Casey. And Happy Halloween.