Saturday, October 27, 2012

Terri L. Austin on Waitresses in Diners, Nerds Who Speak Klingon, and Movies So Bad That They're Good

Thanks for chatting, Terri.

Your book is called DINERS, DIVES and DEAD ENDS.  So what came first, the title or the idea for the mystery?

First of all, thanks for having me on your blog, Julia! It’s a pleasure to be here.

The book came first. My editor and I cooked up the title. Originally, I had something different in mind, but I think Diners, Dives and Dead Ends sums up the novel pretty well.

Your heroine, Rose Strickland, works at a diner and has a sassy attitude.  Were you at all  inspired by the tv show Alice?

No, but that’s a great show! I made Rose a waitress because I wanted her to be a bit of an underdog who is struggling to make ends meet. Also, working at a diner that is only open for breakfast gives her flexibility to solve mysteries in her spare time!

Your characters have great names.  Ax Graystone is one of my favorites.  Do you spend a lot of time thinking of them, or do they just pop into your head?

Sometimes they suddenly come to me, but most of the time I give names a lot of thought. Names are important, giving the audience insight into the character’s standing, background, and place in life. But then I like turning those notions upside down. Ax was fun to play with. He has this very unusual name, Axton Graystone—an old family name—but he doesn’t live up to his family’s expectations at all. Rosalyn Strickland is a very proper, straight-laced name. But she insists on being called Rose and is anything but demure.  

True !  You reference a lot of movies in the book, and in your author comments you say that you love watching “really bad movies.”  What makes bad movies good?  Do you and Rose Strickland share this feeling?

I think Rose is stuck watching bad sci-fi movies with Ax. She wouldn’t go out of her way to watch a bad movie on her own. Me? I love nothing better than a cheesy movie. I just watched Surf Party the other day, with Bobby Vinton. It was awful, but awesomely so. The bad acting, the silly plot, the horrible, faux beach songs. I couldn’t get enough. I’m weird like that. Give me an MST3K movie and a bowl of popcorn, and I’m pretty happy.

MST3K is the greatest! Are there any other attitudes or ideas that you share with your heroine?

Some Rose-isms might pop out of my mouth from time to time. But my attitude is probably more in line with Roxy. She’s blunt, snarky, and doesn’t have much of a filter from her brain to her mouth.

Have you ever worked at a diner?

No, but I’ve eaten in a lot of them! When I go to my local diner, I watch the waitresses hustle to help customers. The way they whip those huge trays around is like choreography. I don’t think I’m coordinated enough to do that without breaking a lot of plates. I’m not sure I’d make it after the first shift.

It certainly is an undersung profession. Rose is fairly young, as heroines go.  What made you decide on a 24-year-old narrator?

I wanted Rose to have been away from her parents for a few years, but not too many. This way I could show the reader what her life is like. This isn’t a trial run for Rose, this is her reality. And she’s stuck. She’s been on her own for five years, and she still isn’t sure about her future or her education. The mid-twenties are a time of self-discovery. Rose is a conflicted character who is still trying to find herself.

You have a lot of strong women in this novel.   Did you create them consciously, or is it just instinctive for you to write women smart and sassy?

I like smart, sassy women, so I guess it comes naturally to me. I love snappy dialogue and creating distinctive characters. To me, Rose, Roxy, and even Ma are women flying solo and making their own way in the world.

Rose is twenty-four, and since her lawyer friend Dane was in her eighth grade class, that makes him twenty-four, too.  Can you already be an experienced lawyer at twenty-four years old?

I don’t consider Dane to be experienced. He has a foot in the door with a good firm and he’s been blessed with family connections. Now he’s out to prove he’s up to the task. He’s definitely a contrast to Rose. Dane knows what he wants and he’s determined to achieve it. Rose is floundering, unsure of what her next step should be. I like the dichotomy between the two characters.

Whenever Rose mentions the flapjacks at her diner, I want to eat pancakes.  Did you ever consider doing a signing at a diner?

I would love to do a signing at a diner! Just the smell of coffee makes me swoon. Add the smoky smell of bacon, and I’d be in heaven.

Ax is a real sci-fi nerd, loving everything from Star Wars to comic books.  Do you have an Ax in 
your own life?

My husband is an engineer and loves sci-fi movies, so I guess I drew a little inspiration from him. But Axton takes it to a whole different level. He’s fluent in Klingon, he owns action figures, and he collects graphic novels. Axton lives in his own little world and I enjoy that about him.

You mention in your acknowledgements that your husband Jeff made dinner while you wrote.  My           husband Jeff is also the dinner maker in the family.  What would we do without our Jeffs?

Go hungry! My Jeff has been a rock and my biggest champion. We’ve been married for 23 wonderful years and I’d be lost without him. And he makes omelets that rock my morning.

 So wonderful! Will there be more novels in the Rose Strickland series?

The second Rose mystery, Last Diner Standing, is coming out December 3rd. I’m very excited about it. Ma is on a rampage with a rival diner. We get to see more of the quirky characters that inhabit Rose’s world and quite a bit more of Rose’s bad guy crush. And it’s a Christmas mystery, which was a ton of fun to write.

That sounds great!  Thanks for talking with me, Terri, and good luck with the book!

Thanks for having me, Julia! It was fun.

More about Terri's book:

Diners, Dives and Dead Ends
A Rose Strickland Mystery
By Terri L. Austin      
Henery Press

As a struggling waitress and part-time college student, Rose Strickland’s life is stalled in the slow lane. But when her close friend, Axton, disappears, Rose suddenly finds herself serving up more than hot coffee and flapjacks. Now she’s hashing it out with sexy bad guys and scrambling to find clues in a race to save Axton before his time runs out.

With her anime-loving bestie, her septuagenarian boss, and pair of IT wise men along for the ride, Rose discovers political corruption, illegal gambling, and shady corporations. She’s gone from zero to sixty and quickly learns when you’re speeding down the fast lane, it’s easy to crash and burn.  

Terri L. Austin lives in Missouri with her funny, handsome husband and a high maintenance peekapoo.  She loves to hear from readers. Find her on Twitter, FB,, Goodreads and Henery Press. She and her writer friends have a book chat every Wednesday on Little Read Hens. Check it out and join in the conversation!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Invisible Murder

I was very excited to get a copy of this new Nordic thriller in the mail today!!  I enjoyed Larsson's Dragon Tattoo trilogy as well as books by Ake Edwardson (interviewed on this blog), Henning Mankell, and Karen Fossum.  Now I get to read a book by the "Danish duo" of Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis.  I'm very excited to read something from Denmark.

Serendipitously, I am teaching Hamlet, and the cover copy of INVISIBLE MURDER says "Something is Rotten in Denmark."  :)