LEA WAIT: I first met Maddy Hunter at a mystery conference. We shared a publisher, she had a wicked sense of humor, and we discovered a shared passion for sneaking out of the conference occasionally in search of clothing boutiques unknown in our usual environments. At first I took for granted Maddy’s name tag: she was from Wisconsin. But then she shared her secret: she, too, was from Maine. She just happened to live in Wisconsin, (You never really leave your roots.) From then on our friendship was sealed.
I’ve invited Maddy to join me today and re-introduce herself to her old stomping grounds. She’s the author of the absolutely hilarious (or wicked funny, depending on how Maine you want to be) Passport to Peril mysteries. First: Maddy, how did a Mainer end up in Wisconsin?
MADDY HUNTER: After my husband completed grad school he was offered positions as an assistant professor at several schools. He chose the University of Wisconsin because people we’d met from Iowa and Wisconsin were so delightful, we figured there must be something about the Midwest that brings out the “nice” in folks. Thirty-three years later we agree we made the right decision, though having little access to lobster and steamed clams has left us in a constant state of seafood withdrawal!
LEA: You wrote romances before you wrote mysteries. I don’t think of romances as funny. What gave you the idea to turn to writing mysteries – and Charlie Chaplain laugh-out-loud mysteries, at that?
MADDY HUNTER: I was able to sneak a little humor into my historical romances, but the majority of it always got edited out. After my career as a romance novelist tanked, I picked up a Janet Evanovich book and became an instant fan. She both revolutionized and legitimized humor in mystery novels, and put a new spin on a very old art form. When I decided to try my hand at mysteries, I knew I wanted to make other people laugh as much as Janet had made me laugh. My mother swears I was a serious child and continue to be a serious adult. My fans disagree!
LEA: The Passport to Peril mysteries feature a protagonist, Emily, who leads tour groups of senior citizens to wonderful places all over the world. (And solves amazingly strange problems – and murders – while they’re abroad.) Do you travel to all those places – for research, of course? And have any of the crazy happenings in your books really taken place?
MADDY HUNTER: Yes, I’ve really had the good fortune to travel to all those places. My favorite places for food? Ireland and Sardinia. Wine? Italy. High tea? England. Cleanliness and order? Switzerland. Scenery? Every place has truly been spectacular. Most beautiful women? Finland. Handsomest men? Australia (in my humble opinion.) Nicest people? Everywhere. Except one embroidery shop in Bayeux, France. Ouch. And, thankfully, crazy things do happen on my trips that provide fodder for my novels.
We really did take a sightseeing cruise in the fog in Switzerland; someone did get locked in the tour bus in Pompeii; we did lose one of our tour guests in the Red Light District in Amsterdam; my mother really did have a latex glove stapled to her ear when she had her ears pierced; I really did kayak down the Wailua River in Kauai and have to dodge the ferry headed for the Fern Grotto; my husband and I really did take the wrong path to the Secret Falls in Kauai and ended up hiking along an insanely dangerous trail.
Did I mention how everyone got seasick on the ferry to the Orkney Islands and balked at taking the return trip to the mainland? Ooops. That’s the next book.
LEA: Any murders yet on the tours you’ve taken?
MADDY HUNTER: Thankfully, no, but there have been a few guests I would like to have killed myself!
LEA: Now, tell us a little about your current book.
MADDY HUNTER: My current book is called Dutch Me Deadly. In this adventure the group from Iowa heads to Holland with a group from Bangor, Maine, who’re celebrating their 50th class reunion. Naturally, old rivalries emerge and long-hidden secrets resurface. Something happened at Cascade Park five decades ago, but none of the reunioners want to discuss it, especially the ones who end up dead. Not only must Emily and her intrepid band of seniors find out who’s killing their tour members, they have to track down the person who may have committed murder 50 years ago.
LEA: What fun! And a definite Maine connection.
MADDY HUNTER: For sure. I attended John Bapst High School in Bangor, so the high school in the book is a thinly veiled version of my alma mater. And Cascade Park was my favorite haunt when I was a kid, so writing Dutch Me Deadly was wonderfully nostalgic.
LEA: And your next book?
MADDY HUNTER: Bonnie of Evidence will be published February 8, 2013. It’s a crazy cocktail of fun things, including Loch Ness, an ancient curse, and the relatively new (to me) art of geocaching. Throw in a few kilts, Scotland’s desolate highlands, and a devious killer, and we have the 8th in the Passport of Peril series!
LEA: Which I’ll definitely look forward to reading! Thanks for making an on-line return to Maine via Maine Crime Writers today, Maddy. And I look forward to seeing you in person in 2013 – along the mystery conference road!