The Lit Chick Corner features 'Murder in Real Estate'. Read on!
~ Sylvia Massara
By the way, towards the end of September, 2010, is the launch of the “The Lit Chick Show” - a blog which will be run as a virtual TV show, featuring video and written commentary on authors around the world and their work. Looking forward to seeing you there!
This week, I bring you “murder most foul ...” with American author and real estate agent, Nancy Lynn Jarvis. So watch out if you’re buying a house - where Nancy goes, murder soon follows!
A brief bio on my guest author: Nancy has been a Santa Cruz, California, real estate agent (or realtor, as they say in the US) for more than twenty years. She still owns a real estate company with her husband, although they consider themselves mostly retired at this time.
After earning a BA in behavioural science from San Jose State University, Nancy worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian, and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare Santa Cruz - an annual professional theatre festival.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.
Sylvia: Nancy, welcome to Lit Chick Corner. You have an interesting background ... leading to “murder”. But we’ll get to the grizzly details in a moment. Tell me more about yourself.
Nancy: Well, from my bio you can see I’ve had a variety of jobs, and I’ve enjoyed each of them immensely. I also have two terrific sons who are grown; two wonderful daughters-in-law, and a fantastic husband.
Sylvia: Sounds wonderful. And now the moment I’ve been waiting for … the “murder” part. Tell me all - what made you turn to writing, and a bit about your books.
Nancy: I never thought about writing or had any aspirations to write, especially not books. I was happily earning a living as a realtor, which is a full time job and then some. But in 2007 the market collapsed in the States. I knew I didn’t want to work in the cruel world of short sales and foreclosures, so I decided to take a time out. I quickly got bored. That’s when I got the idea that it might be fun to try to write a book; a mystery, as an intellectual exercise and as a game, just to see if I could.
I never intended to do anything with a book if I succeeded in writing one, but we had a friend, a really dedicated writer, who wanted to see her name in print. I had finished ‘The Death Contingency’ and had so much fun writing it that I had started on ‘Backyard Bones’, when we got a call telling us she was dying from brain cancer. We dedicated ‘The Death Contingency’ to her, threw together a publishing company in less than three months and got a proof with her name in it before she died.
Sylvia: I’m sorry to hear that. It’s always so difficult when something like this happens, but I’m glad your friend got to know that the book was dedicated to her.
Nancy: Yes. So am I.
Sylvia: About the plot for your books. Please comment on that.
Nancy: I had a realtor friend whose family was originally from Iran. They came to the US after the Shah fell in 1979. He told me he once had a seller client who disappeared two weeks before escrow was to close, (that is known as ‘settlement’ in Australia), and he was never heard from again. For me, that was all I needed. I decided to put my friend and his background in a story and tell readers what happened to his seller. The result was ‘The Death Contingency’.
‘Backyard Bones’, my second book, starts with a seller warning a buyer that the family buried a large dog in the backyard years before, and saying she wouldn’t want the buyer’s children to accidently find it and be frightened. Of course the minute escrow closed, the kids started dinging. You can guess what happens next.
My third book, in the Regan McHenry Mystery Series, begins with a building inspector finding a body in an oddly constructed wall space. In real life, an inspector who was an extremely taciturn man, once stated, quite impassively, that he found Jimmy Hoffa in a similar space in a real house during an inspection. It was too good a line to let go; so I thought it needed a book built around it.
Sylvia: Wow! That is interesting. Amazing how one can write a whole book simply as a result of a statement someone makes or even an isolated incident in one’s life. Now, you mentioned that this third book is part of a series which features someone named Regan.
Nancy: Yes. Regan and Tom; the protagonist and her husband. It really began as me and my husband. All the characters except one began that way. The first thing that happened was that Regan, called Nancy at that point, had to find a body. I’m what you would call a method writer: I act out scenes before I write them. Well, when I, Nancy, had to find a body, that just about ended my writing career. So I had to change Nancy, and she became Regan.
Sylvia: If you’re a method writer, then it’s a relief you didn’t have to go out there and murder someone in order to see how it felt to ‘find a body’.
Nancy: Very true; and I’m relieved. Anyway, a curious thing happened once Regan (or Nancy, I should say) was renamed. She started to diverge from me and develop her own personality and ways of doing things.
Sylvia: As a writer, I can see how that can happen. So describe Regan.
Nancy: Regan is very tenacious, but then most realtors have to be. She is curious and willing to think independently, and outside the box. She’s empathetic. She’s good at reading people, although not as good as she thinks she is; which occasionally gets her in trouble. She’s also stubborn, impulsive once she makes up her mind, and unwilling to look bad, especially in front of her friend Dave, who is with the police department; and this also gets her into trouble sometimes.
Sylvia: This gets better and better. Did any of your real-life experiences factor into the plot of any of your books?
Nancy: All the real estate stories used for background in the books are real, and happened to me or someone I know. The murders are made up - thank God. I’ve had readers tell me they think it should be just the other way around and even argue with me, saying something wouldn’t happen like I said it would when it did to me exactly as written. I get a kick out of that because I can never seem to convince them otherwise.
Sylvia: And what about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
Nancy: Recurring, no - Regan isn’t Sherlock Holmes – but she certainly meets an evil equal in ‘Buying Murder’.
Sylvia: Beyond this third book, what are your future writing plans?
Nancy: I’m having so much fun doing this that I intend to keep writing as long as it’s fun and I sell books. I enjoy doing the research necessary for mysteries, but someday I may tackle something historical and really go into it. For now, though, I already have the opening chapter for a fourth book called ‘Widow’s Walk’ and have figured out how three of the four murders will occur.
Sylvia: Sounds awesome. Will you continue to feature the same subject line/protagonist in future stories?
Nancy: Three characters are recurring: Regan McHenry, the protagonist, of course; her husband, Tom Kiley, who is as logical as she is intuitive, and great for idea bouncing; and Dave Everett, her friend in the police force. He’s necessary for entrée into police procedures and is really fun for me to write because Regan and Dave are always teasing each other.
Sylvia: You’ve got me hooked, Nancy. I’m going to check out these books! Lastly, is there anything else you want to add?
Nancy: Readers can go to my website and read the beginning of the books to get a feel for their style. They can also pick up a copy of the ‘Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies’ recipe created to go along with the books.
Oh, and I also want to say “Hey, guys!” to Brennan, Rick, Laurel, Jack and Scott. You see, my eldest son is in Melbourne on business until the start of October, and my husband's nephew and his family are living in Sydney for a couple of years in a job swap.
Sylvia: Well, “Hi, there, and I hope you enjoy reading Nancy’s interview”. Finally, Nancy, where can readers find your books?
Nancy: You can visit my website or go to Amazon.com and do a search for Nancy Lynn Jarvis to find all of the books at once.
Sylvia: Thank you, Nancy. It’s been a pleasure having you on Lit Chick Corner, and I wish you all the best with your writing.
Nancy: Thank you, Sylvia. I’m thrilled to be interviewed for an Australian audience. It’s great!
This article was written by Sylvia Massara, Author of ‘The Other Boyfriend’ and ‘The Soul Bearers’, and co-host of the soon-to-be-released ‘The Lit Chick Show’. For more information or to contact Sylvia, please her website or official blog.
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Sydney, New South Wales, Australia