I'm back at my blog for an interview with author Helen Grochmal who writes the Carolina Pennsbury Mystery series. I asked her the usual questions, but her wonderful answers melded into one beautiful piece, so I left the questions out.
I am so impressed with Helen's writing. She is a "late Bloomer" like many of us. It's never too late to be really good! Here she is in her own words:
I never liked writing anything for 60 years. I enjoyed doing my yearly taxes more. However, I churned out the required departmental reports for 25 years in boring “educational speak” and even wrote journal articles for library periodicals. Then I went through a life altering experience of the most unpleasant kind that was the equivalent of a journey through the underworld. Unlike Odysseus, who had more fun, I woke up one day after two years with a desire to write. Yes, it was just like that. Was it worth it? I presume you are clamoring to know but are just too polite to ask. The answer is no, I would prefer to have skipped the experience and stayed in my very nice condo where I watched TV and scrubbed the bathrooms in peace. I write cozies because I am a little old lady who took that old advice about writing what you know. And I love Agatha Christie.
I have been writing now for five years since I moved to my first retirement home with my cat. It came upon me with inspiration, almost like channeling or what I suppose that to be. Of course it is a craft too that I had to learn, I mean writing fiction. I am still learning and hope I am a quick study since I don’t have 50 years to perfect my art. (Why is everyone encouraging only young people to write? It seems like we senior people who start writing need as much help as quickly as we can get it.) Cozy Cat was there when I needed encouragement. I have a new and better mystery novel ready to be published but have to write about another 20,000 words to finish it, difficult in these times of my terseness. This last year I have been trying to learn new forms and genres. My eyes are still stuck wide open at what has changed since last I looked, around 1973 I guess. Steampunk and slipstream and such. I have been writing flash fiction and horror stories and comic stories and other different short forms to improve my overall writing. I am shocked at my horror stories, which I think are my best. How embarrassing.
I take the Fifth on whether I am like my protagonist. I am a mixture of several of my characters but want to be like Carolina Pennsbury the most. I met librarians like her in the old days who would tell me about going about on tramp steamers with other women teachers because teaching didn’t pay for luxury trips and they had the summers off and wanted to travel around the world. I guess that was between the wars (I and II).
My style is mainstream. I try to push boundaries sometimes in my experimental ventures but always end up understanding everything I write no matter how hard I try not to. I write as the spirit moves me, but writing has deserted me lately and I am frantic about it. I feel somewhat like the main character in “Flowers for Algernon” or the movie Charly. Our new gifts might vanish as quickly as they came. I used to relish how easy inspiration came and now I am paying for it. I think it is being lost in the short story slush piles that have done me in. Do you all remember how wonderful it was when the act of transcribing your thoughts couldn’t keep up with the wonderful things you were trying to take down? When I can’t write, my typical day consists of watching TV and taking out the garbage. I have a balance disorder that keeps me close to home. My neighbors are kind people and are hoping that I make good.
I live in an independent living community with assisted care nearby. I chose it because my place is a little cottage a bit like Miss Marple’s, I like to think. I would rather be in St. Mary Mead though. I don’t talk about the most exciting thing that ever happened to me, although I plan to write about it someday under a pseudonym.
Hobbies: I watch TV about as much as Peter Sellers did in that famous movie Being There. Of course, I am surrounded here by all of the characters I have read in literature and have seen in movies. Don’t worry, I know they are only in my mind.
So far my work has been published by Cozy Cat Press (fine people there, by the way) and a short piece in With Painted Words. I have about 22 short stories out but they keep sending them back like bad children, or I never hear from the magazines at all. Learning how to use computer programs and such is harder for me than writing fiction but I am willing to learn if it is not too hard. My friends here consider me a computer expert, isn’t that nice of them? Blogging might be fun, although it sounds like it is very improper. I never do anything improper.
Thank you, Helen for sharing so much of your life with us. You do it so well that I feel like I just spent the afternoon with you, sipping tea and sharing stories. Here is Helen’s first book, Manners and Murder, available at Amazon.
Retired librarian Carolina Pennsbury is quite content living in a retirement home. She just wishes that her meal time tablemates felt as she did. However, all seem to have their own complaints. But those complaints are put on the back burner when one of the retirement home’s residents is stabbed to death in her apartment and the police arrest one of Carolina’s tablemates, Margie, for the murder. Carolina, knowing her friend cannot possibly have committed such a deed, sets about to prove Margie’s innocence––a difficult feat for an elderly woman with a cane. Knowing the real killer is probably still roaming the halls, Carolina uses her wits and her wit to investigate, and ultimately––after a fake fire alarm and a lengthy blackout––manages to ferret out the killer. But clearing Margie and getting her out of jail is not the end of Carolina’s tasks. She has work to do for all of her tablemates and she won’t quit until they are all happy.