In the Handbasket: Debut Novelist Meredith Cole

I recently met filmmaker and mystery writer chick Meredith Cole at the Love is Murder mystery conference in Chicago and knew immediately that you would love her inspiring, incredible publishing story. She got started in June 2008 when her short story, Exercise is Murder, was an Ellery Queen Department of First Stories selection and now she’s a regular blogger at The Debutante Ball. Her novel Posed for Murder came out just last week. But there’s more….

Weigh in with a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a signed copy of Posed for Murder!

(If you don’t win, or want a copy for a friend, you can order Posed for Murder here or here.)

Welcome, Meredith!

How wonderful for you that Posed for Murder was the winning submission for the St. Martin’s Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition! Did you have a literary agent when you first submitted the manuscript? Did a hundred agents call you immediately after the announcement?

I didn’t have an agent when I entered, and luckily the contest doesn’t require one. Winning the contest certainly did open a few doors for me (although I can’t say the phone was ringing off the hook…). A friend recommended her agent to me. After the agent read my book, and revealed what a classy smart lady she was, I signed on with her.

Did you set out specifically to write a traditional mystery when you wrote Posed for Murder? What is it about the form that you find appealing?

I set out to write the kind of mystery I enjoy reading. I subsisted on a diet of Agatha Christie as a teenager, and then branched out to Dorothy Sayers, PD James and Ruth Rendell. I thought the artist community where I live was interesting, and I imagined it would be a great setting for a mystery. I don’t enjoy super violent books as a rule, and I like fair play mysteries (knowing as much as the characters do about the killer). I want life to be just and fair, so the killer will never get away with murder in my books.

Now that you’ve been around the mystery and thriller literary community for a while, how would you compare it to the film community?

The mystery and thriller community has been incredibly nice and welcoming. The film community always felt a bit cutthroat to me. There was definitely an awareness that there were limited amounts of money out there for movies, and if someone’s film got made or into a festival, then another film wouldn’t, etc. But in the mystery community, it feels like everyone is rooting for one another. And since most writers love to read, we’re always looking for great new authors and books.

Have you written an accompanying screenplay for Posed for Murder? If you could have any director that’s ever lived direct the film of the novel, who would it be–or would you want to do it yourself?

I made a TV proposal for it, but I haven’t attempted the script yet. I’ve been too busy writing sequels. But it’s a pretty visual story, so I think it would translate easily to the screen.

Choosing a director–that’s hard. I don’t think I would want it to be me right now (my son is still pretty young). I would be interested in offering the job to Mary Harron. She directed “I Shot Andy Warhol” and “American Psycho”–films about crimes and art. What could be better? Besides–there still aren’t very many women directors, and there should be more.

Is there a writer whose career you’d like to emulate?

I know a lot of great writers who have been amazingly generous with their time and energy on my behalf. Julia Spencer-Fleming and Donna Andrews both won the same award as I did and have had remarkable careers since. If I could follow either one of their career trajectories, I would be in great shape. I think I would also enjoy being a “Dame” like Ruth Rendell, churning out books into my eighties and nineties.

I read in another interview that one of the reasons you turned to writing novels was because of the demands of parenting. What’s your daily schedule like now that writing novels is your full-time job?

I take my son to school, swim, and then try to sit down and write (or do one of the tasks that pop up daily–like marketing my book). I still freelance in TV promotions (perhaps by book three or so I can quit that), so occasionally I have to push everything aside for a paying gig. After I pick up my son in the afternoon, I don’t usually get back to work on my writing until after his bedtime. But if I’m under a deadline, I somehow figure out a way to squeeze it all in.

Tell me about the most fun you’ve ever had writing.

I enjoy those moments when the writing feels effortless. That often happens when I’m writing scenes with some of my secondary characters that are really great–like Mama D’Angelo, or Emmanuel (a car service driver in the second book), or Candi Stick (a drag queen–also in the second book). I feel like I’m more of an observer then an architect, and I can’t wait to hear what they’re going to say next.

I also have fun writing about art and clothes, and putting lots of details in about my neighborhood.

Now, here’s a question from my nine year-old son Bengal:

Do you like Spongebob or Squidward better?

Definitely Spongebob. He’s always so cheerful.

Thanks, Meredith!

12 thoughts on “In the Handbasket: Debut Novelist Meredith Cole”

  1. Mary-Frances says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of Meredith Cole. I met her several years ago at Malice Domestic. She’s an amazing person and a great writer. I’m so excited to see you interview her on the Handbasket.

    I urge anyone interested in reading a great book to pick up a copy of Posed for Murder.

  2. Hi Meredith

    I agree–PFM would make a great TV episode. SO–who plays the main characters?

    Have fun and much success!

    (And Hi Laura! it’s always fun here in the Handbasket..)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I “met” Meredith over at Jungle Red Writers, and have been wanting to get her book since then. Sounds like something I’d love to read.

    And, Laura, it now looks like I have yet another blog to read and enjoy!

    Paula Matter

  4. Thanks for coming by Mary-Frances, Hank and Paula!

    Actors for the main parts in PFM… Hmm… I enjoyed casting when I was working on my own films, but I tried not to have too many preconceived notions (or else you miss someone fabulous). But for Lydia, I love the idea of Maggie Gyllenhaal… She’s so smart and interesting, and I like that she’s not a “classic” beauty.

    Great question, Hank!

  5. Hi, Mary-Frances and Hank–and welcome to the Handbasket, Paula!

    Meredith, I think Maggie Gyllenhaal is gorgeous and kind of looks like you!

  6. Thanks for having me
    “In the Handbasket” today–and for calling Maggie and I gorgeous! It’s been a lot of fun.

  7. JT Ellison says:

    Hi ladies! Meredith – we met in Chicago too – so glad to see you here. Glad everything is falling into place for you – congrats on the release!

  8. I hope you’re having a swell time in SC, J.T.! I imagine it’s lovely and warm….

  9. JT Ellison says:

    You won’t believe this – it’s pouring rain, thunderstorm today and SNOW tomorrow night into Monday. I hope I’ll be able to get home!

  10. G.M. Malliet says:

    Meredith – Totally agree: “I think I would also enjoy being a “Dame” like Ruth Rendell, churning out books into my eighties and nineties.”

    Also PD James, in her eighties now and going strong.

    See you very soon now, in Charlottesville!

  11. Thanks again for stopping in–nice to “see” you again JT, and I’m looking forward to Virginia GM.

    I’m in Rhode Island, and its snowing up here. Very pretty, but I’d prefer crocuses.

  12. Jenni says:

    What a wonderful interview! What a wonderful story. I loved the cover! It is now on my must buy list.

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