INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL.
In Julia Spencer-Fleming’s life – it’s pouring awards, accolades, starred reviews, legions of adoring fans clammoring for more, and book sales to make us all green with envy. But then – Julia has given us four books that have touched us. Yes, there is murder, yes there is mayhem, but there is faith as well. Is it any wonder she has won an Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Macavity, Dilys – and was short-listed for an Edgar, Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and a Romantic Times? And did you know that her debut book – IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER won more awards than any first mystery novel? EVER?
I was thrilled to receive an ARC for Julia’s latest – ALL MORTAL FLESH – and while I loved all of her books, I was especially touched by this one. You’ve heard this before – and felt it yourself, I know – but I didn’t want it to end. Oh, and this just in – ALL MORTAL FLESH already received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal! Talk about a trifecta!
Here’s Julia: Oh – me too.
EE: I was told by someone close to you that you can’t write unelss you’re listening to Cajun music. Uh, Cajun music in Maine??
JSF: It’s true I can’t dance unless I’m listening to Cajun music. It takes a mighty musical force to break the entrenched non-rythmic ways of my people, the Espiscopalians.
Oh, you poor dears. But then – my people ain’t very rythmic either. But we’re good with Latin chants and guilt.
EE: Living in Maine must be bleak in the midwinter, where is your favorite retreat? And what do you do there besides conjuring your next best seller?
JSF: My favorite retreat is the Leeward side of Oahu, where I slather myself with SPF 500 sunscreen and sit on the beach watching my children frolic in the warm waters of the Pacific. Alas, that oppportunity rarely presents itself, so my second favorite retreat is the Salmon Falls Library, where I write while my children frolic at home, completely out of earshot.
I hope you don’t venture out to Lualualei Beach though-da kine beach pilikia! Mo betta you go Pokai Beach, yeah?
EE: Ah, now that I know you have the aina of Hawaii in your soul, surely you must have a wonderfully romantic Walter Mitty Dream. 30,000 words or less will suffice. And please keep it clean. I mean, it’s best not to get the clergy in an uproar.
JSF: "Spencer-Fleming jammed her hand in the rock’s vertical crack, ignoring the gasps from the climbers belaying behind her. ‘Don’t do it!’ Kuiper, the Swiss, whispered. ‘Hush, man’, Spencer-Fleming said cooly. ‘You’ll frighten the others. Up and over is the only way off this mountain.’ ‘But this ascent has never been done!’ The taut, muscular climber ignored him and proceeded to pick her path across the almost-featureless rock wall. Above them, the rotors of the rescue helicopter that was waiting for them turned with a lazy ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. Spencer-Fleming swung up, grasped the final outcropping, and chinned herself over the top, to the cheers of the stranded climbers. ‘We’re saved!’ Welles, the Englishman, shouted. In a moment, Spencer-Fleming’s face reappeared over the edge. ‘The pilot’s unconscious from altitude sickness,’ she said grimly. ‘I’m going to have to fly us out of here.’ She hammered in the belaying pins…
‘Huh? What, sweetie?’
‘Are you going to get that can off the shelf or just stand around on that chair all night long?’
Holy Moly! You had my hands sweating there for a minute! I was all ready for some starlight night, gentle swaying palms, the soft sounds of the surf…
EE: Okay, Julia! Let’s get serious, okay? Word on the street is that there is an underground movement among female Episcopalian priests to move to small villages and find their own Russ Van Alstyne. And – they’ve been contacting you for guidance.
JSF: Hah. If they want a Russ Van Alstyne, they’ll have to go out and find him like I did.
Julia! How uncharitable of you! The least you could do is give them a few pointers. Kinda like a trade off instead of a tithe?
EE: Oh, this is a hot one running around Manhattan! Rumor has it that Donald Trump is building a chi-chi gated community on Long Island-and he not only wants to call it ‘Millers Kill’ – he’s asked you to pose for a bronze bust to set at the entrance, but you turned him down. What?
JSF: I didn’t want my bust to be responsible for a bronze shortage, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
Ahem. Well, darling – I’m always up for a compliment, but truth be known – in my case it’s the result of too much pasta.
EE: My favorite little spy told me that you have a fetish for M&M’s and you can’t write unless you have the pantry stocked with them. Not that you have to eat them, just that they’re there. Like a talisman kinda thing? Is that it?
JSF: Talisman? Huh? I mean – yeah. That’s right. I would never dream of touching one of those three-pound Party Size bags. Uh uh. Why are you looking at me? I’ve got candy-coated shell bits on my teeth, don’t I?
Uh, no…not really. I, uh…well, I thought maybe it was a new trend. You know…multi-colored caps? Striking though…I mean, really different. You could start someting here.
EE: Mysteryville is abuzz about the rumor that you and Ross are leaving for Hollywood to have talks with an un-named network about a reality show portraying the life of a best-selling author. Care to comment?
JSF: I’m trying to picture this reality show. You’d have a scene of Ross taking the kids to school-and then a scene of me sitting in front of a computer. Maybe some comical stuff with the kids getting into trouble or with my whacky next-door-neighbor–and then a scene of me sitting at the computer. A phone call from my agent–and then me sitting in front of my computer. The big exciting part would be when I make dinner.
Oh, this has got legs! I tell you, I’m rivited. Now about that wacky neighbor-has it been cast yet? I’m free for a few months after October.
EE: Denise Hamilton told me you’re direction challenged. And Ross even said you get lost at the supermarket. How do you cope with this? I mean, I have the same problem, so any help would be appreciated.
JSF: Okay, hold your hands up in front of you. Pretend to pick up a pen. Shake your writing hand around. That’s your right. Write-right, get it? If you’re left-handed, I can’t help you.
Uh, okay. I think. But, see – it’s when I get out of elevators. I never remember which way I’m supposed to go. What the hell – I’ll give it a try.
EE: While I try to figure that one out – tell me who would be your ideal panel mates.
JSF: Why, Jeff Shelby, Peter Spiegelman, Marcia Talley, and Kathryn Wall, of course. With whom, as chance would have it, I am appearing Thursday, September 28th at noon at the World Mystery Convention in Madison, Wisconsin.
Yes, that is about as blatant a panel-plug as you can get. But look at us! It’s the first panel on the first day of Bouchercon! We’ll be lucky to have an audience of three! Please, somebody, keep us company. I’m begging here.
Oh, pshaw! You’ll have an SRO crowd! The only begging you’ll have to do is ask for a bigger room!
EE: So, Julia-move in close, and tell me the real scoop about that dinner date with Harrison Ford you refused. Was it really because he insisted Ross stay at home? I mean, I know you two are as lovey-dovey as can be, but Harrison Ford???
JSF: I got all excited because I thought he wanted to fly both of us to Las Vegas and then pay a cool million to spend the night with me. But then it turned out my cell phone number is one digit off Demi Moore’s, and the whole thing fell apart.
Oh. Okay. Wink, wink. I get it. No problemo. Gosh, just imagine. One digit off, huh?
EE: On a safer note (?) – which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at Bcon?
JSF: Janet Evanovich. In the shadowy darkness, I would slip an undetectable poison into her drink. Then, after removing her body under the guise of ‘helping out a friend who had too many’ (an utterly believable alibi at Bouchercon) I would fly to a South American country where a bribeable yet skilled plastic surgeon would give me Janet’s face. I would then seamlessly step into her life, with none the wiser, except maybe for a few suspicions when in 14 Points Stephanie Plum joins the Episcopal church and developes a hopeless yearning for a married man.
You wouldn’t! Would you? Think it might really work? Tell you what – you give it a try. I’ll check back with you and then maybe you could help me with…….
EE: Whilst I jot down a few names for this caper, tell me what – Heaven forbid (excuse me Clare) would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
JSF: Oh, Lord. I’d be working in a law firm somewhere, wearing panty hose every day, sucking up to the partners and spending 50-60 hours a week trying to make idiot clients look good. Thank you, everyone who has ever bought one of my books, for saving me from such a fate!
Funny you should say that – I was talking to John the other day – oh, excuse me – Grisham, I mean – and he feels the same way. Lawyering seems to do that, doesn’t it? Is that why so many of them become writers? Hmmm.
EE: You’re going on the road – it’s gonna be a long tour – but hey, your publisher is paying the freight – but still, it’s lonely. So tell me who would be your ideal tour mate. You can have more than one, okay?
JSF: This sounds like the beginning of that joke that goes, "I’ve had both of ’em…," but I’ve already found my ideal book tour mate. Denise Hamilton and I not only have similar tastes, interests and habits, she also makes me laugh more than should be allowed. When we’re on the road, Denise forces me to eat good food and understands when I drop everything to call my kids. She navigates, placates, orates and she lets me take the driver’s seat. Her only drawback is that her wildly successful Eve Diamond series is now on a different publishing schedule from my books. We have to do something about that.
Uh, don’t get me wrong – I adore Denise – and I love her Eve Diamond series – but, uh, I did say you could have more than one. I mean, I don’t mind sitting in the back seat. Honest. And I don’t hum to myself anymore.
EE: You’re having six guests for dinner. Who would they be, and what would you serve?
JSF: They’d be Anthony Bourdain and five of his chef buddies. And I’d serve drinks while they cooked.
Now, here is a woman after my own heart! That’s the ticket, kiddo! I have a great receipe for Sazerac. Ali Karim suggests adding a cucumber, but I prefer champagne. Shall I send it on?
EE: This rumor is burning up the internet, Julia – and an inferno is threatening. Even Otto Penzler has taken notice! I really must insist you clear the air. I’ve been told by Paul Guyot is ready to leave his family for you if you’d only run away with him to watch a Portland Sea Dogs game.
JSF: Elaine, I know you undestand what it’s like to be the sort of woman men just throw themselves at no matter what you do. I simply can’t be responsible for every Tom, Dick and Harrison out there who shows up on my doorstep, carrying flowers, threatening suicide, etc., etc. That being said, everyone knows I’m a big booster of the Sea Dogs, and this August they’ve been wilting like the Red Sox. No. Wait. I can’t say that anymore…HURRAH! The Sea Dogs need energetic cheering to get them back into first place in the Northern Division of the Eastern League (got that?), so I suppose I’d be willing to let Guyot tag along. He has to buy the Sea Dog Biscuits, though, and get me home at a reasonable hour.
Sigh. Yes, Julia – I do understand. It’s something you and I just have to accept and learn to live with. And, I must say, you’ve done it with the utmost grace. Nonetheless, Guyot is one persistant, but oh-so loveable devil. I am sure, however, he will comport himself well, and have you home before the witching hour. Right, Guyot?
EE: And last, but not least, Julia – what’s in store for Clare and Russ? You can tell me – you know my lips are sealed. More or less.
JSF: The fifth book – ALL MORTAL FLESH – is coming out at the beginning of October, and you can take a sneak peek at my website. In the meantime, I’m hard at work on the as-yet-unnamed sixth book in the series. As far as what will happen with Russ and Clare – well, I’d tell you, Elaine. But then I’d have to kill you.
Oh. In that case, I’ll just wait and buy the book. I mean, I’m dying to know (scratch that word), but then – who would do On The Bubble?
So very many thanks to Julia for being here with us today! And to those of you who have dropped by, I hope you’ve had as much fun as Julia and me. If not -then, well…never mind.