For this interview, I actually met with an author who I’ve interviewed several years ago. Since then she has released a few new books, so I thought I would check up with her. Her name is Nan Sampson, and she writes MYSTERY. If you’re interested in her first interview, you can find it here: https://meetingwiththemuse.com/2015/07/08/author-interview-nan-sampson-bach/. However, this interview we discuss her mystery series and get caught up to date. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Nan’ was written ’Nan Sampson’.
Kelly dusted off shelves in her Muse Shop as she waited for the timer for her cookies to go off. A few minutes passed, and she heard the timer sound, so she put down the dusting cloth and went to the kitchen in the back of the shop to pull the cookies off the cookie sheet.
She had just finished plating the hot cookies on a plate when she heard the door to her shop chime. Taking the plate, Kelly made her way back to the front and she smiled widely when she recognized Nan Sampson. “Nan!” Setting the plate of cookies on the kitchen, Kelly went to Nan and embraced her then pulled back. “You’re just in time! Just finished baking some cookies.” She turned back and grabbed the plate. “Care to sit at that table and chat?” She gestured to a table near the front window. “Afterwards, you’re welcome to meander about the shop. So how have you been?”
Nan grinned. “Oh, my gosh. I could smell the cookies out on the sidewalk. I’ll bet they draw a lot of customers inside!” She took a seat at the table and smiled warmly at Kelly. “I’ve been great! It’s so good to see you again!”
“It’s great to see you as well! By all means, have cookies!” Kelly sat down across from her and took a fresh cookie too. “So, before we talk about your writing and books, catch me up briefly. How have you been in life? Everything going well?”
“Gosh. It’s been…an interesting year. The day job has been particularly demanding, I suffered a rather ridiculous fall that took me down for about eight weeks, and my teenager is, well, a teenager. But really, on the whole, we’re blessed to have the life we live.”
Kelly winced when she heard about the fall. “You doing okay though? I mean, after the fall? That can knock anyone back for a bit. And yeah, teenagers will be teenagers!” She chuckled, shaking her head.
“I’m good. The broken nose was just humiliating and the broken hand has mended. The real damage was to my pride! Sooooo embarrassing as it happened at work! The trick now is getting back to my publishing schedule. I had a rather ambitious schedule back in September and the fall sort of… forced me to revise that.” Nan grabbed a cookie off the plate and savored it. “OMG, these are so good.”
Kelly smiled. “Glad you like them! And on the bright side, at least you can write about having a broken nose!” She shrugged. “Okay, so, catch me up on your writing endeavors. You’ve recently published another book. Is this the second or third one of the series? I think when I last interviewed you, you had just released the first book. I’m not sure how far behind I am.”
Nan relaxed back in her chair. The atmosphere of the shop was so beguiling. You couldn’t stay anxious here. “I’ve just released the third book in the Coffee and Crime series titled ‘Forest Outings’. I think it’s my favorite so far. I’m STILL in draft mode on the Steampunk novel, as well as the first book in a space opera trilogy. Those were supposed to get finished in November and December respectively, but now will get pushed back until late spring.” Her stomach fluttered. It felt so odd talking about ‘her’ novels. She was proud of what she’d accomplished, but sometimes talking about her own work felt a bit like bragging, which she’d been raised to believe was rude.
“Well, I hope you get to publish those steampunk and space opera books. I’d love to hear about them. However, I think we need to focus on the book you have published. Since it has been a while since our last interview together, remind me again, what is the Coffee and Crime series about? And how has it progressed since Book 1?”
Nan eyed the plate of cookies, then mentally shook her head. Maybe later. “The Coffee and Crime series features marketing manager turned coffee shop owner Ellie Gooden. In the first book, Restless Natives, we see her moving from Chicago to a small town in southwestern Wisconsin to open her shop, The Sacred Caff, and getting embroiled in a murder. Book Two, Office Heretics, has her returning to Chicago for a visit and to help solve the murder of an old college friend. And Book Three, Forest Outings, takes place back in Horizon, Wisconsin, where a dear friend’s son is accused of murdering a colleague from Madison. There is an element of the paranormal in the series—Ellie frequently encounters the shades of the dead— and then there is the ongoing mystery of who killed Ellie’s own parents, which won’t be resolved for quite some time.” She plucked nervously at the hem of her flowing purple Boho blouse. “Why does it never sound as interesting when I say it aloud as it does when I’m writing?” She looked back up, gave Kelly a grin. “Haven’t quite perfected my elevator speech yet.”
Kelly laughed when she heard Nan’s last statement. “I know. Summaries never sound as good as we come up with in our head once we say them aloud, but you’ve done well. Don’t worry.” She sat back in her chair, smiling at Nan. “Now, are these books surrounding the same original murder from the first book? Or was that was solved already and Ellie just got roped into solving yet another murder?” She tilted her head, curious.
“All separate and unrelated murders. Each one gets solved by the end of each book.” Nan laughed. “Just call her Jessica Fletcher of the midwest! Pretty soon, people will run when they see her coming, knowing someone is going to die.” She considered. “I guess that’s a trope of amateur sleuth mysteries. You have to suspend disbelief there. I mean, most cops don’t see as many murders as these amateur sleuths do. But that’s also part of the fun!”
Kelly nodded. “She’s not an actual police detective though, right? That’s what makes this whole series interesting. But she has Charlie with her, right? And he’s with the police? I can’t remember the details!” She shook her head, chuckling. It had been about two years since she interviewed Nan last, so she was rusty on the details.
“No, she’s no cop. She can’t stand the cops, after the way they bungled the investigation into her parents’ murders. And yes, Charlie is there, although he’s a P.I. now.” She couldn’t help grinning. “Is it bad for a writer to have favorite characters? I mean, as a parent, you can’t have ‘favorite’ children, but Charlie has got to be my absolute favorite character ever. I love the sparks between he and Ellie. Not just the romantic ones, but the snappy patter. They’re oil and water and yet they work so well together.”
This caused Kelly to grin, and she leaned forward, setting her forearms on the table. “So, how have the characters evolved over the last few books? Have they surprised you? Are they what you expected? Or a bit of both?”
Nan took another cookie off the plate and bit into it before she even realized what she was doing. Dang magic cookies. “Oh, the relationship between Charlie and Ellie definitely heats up over the course of the series. That’s another fun element, that romance.” She pursed her lips, thinking. “Originally, during the inception, Charlie was just a one-off, a bit part. I had envisioned Ellie taking a different path in her relationships. But leave it to Charlie—he can worm his way into anyone’s heart. That really surprised me. And the way Ellie is growing…I hadn’t anticipated some of what is happening. Especially the way things are starting to go with the riddle of who killed her folks. It’s evolving and morphing, but in such a great way. As a writer, you gotta love it when the work takes on a life of its own!”
“Yes, when the story takes a life of its own, and all you can do, as the writer, is hang on for dear life—that’s the best.” Kelly grinned then took another cookie and sat back. “So this third book, was it just the next natural step for the series? Or did something specific give you the idea and inspire it? If that makes any sense.” She shrugged and ate the cookie.
That made her stop and think. “You know, I don’t really know where the idea for Forest Outings originated. There’s a certain pattern, or rhythm I’m working towards in the series, where the books take place alternately in town or someplace else. So I knew I needed a murder in town, but I just wasn’t ready to kill off a townie yet. And I had just read an article about some eco-warriors doing some tree-sitting in California, and then things just kind of jelled. The next book, however, which doesn’t have a tile yet, will take place in the Wisconsin Dells and was inspired by a trip a couple of friends and I took up there for a mini-writing retreat. We all got plot ideas from that trip!” A movement from one of the shelves caught her eye. Something had scurried or slithered or flittered or something. She wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if it had been the Golden Snitch, there were so many fabulous curiosities in the shop. Focus, Nan, focus.
“Sounds like a wonderful time.” Kelly smiled. “So, you said you have another book already in the wings. Any idea how many books will be in the series, or will you just see where it takes you?” She lifted her brows.
Nan giggled. “Oh, I have so many ideas in the wings, the inside of my head looks like the skies over O’Hare! As for this series, I have no particular number in mind. I’ll let the series take me wherever it wants to go. As long as readers are still enjoying them and I’m still having fun writing them, I’ll continue.” She took one final cookie. “But there are so many other things I want to write too. We’ll just have to see where the journey takes me.” She brushed crumbs off her ample bosom and onto a napkin, thinking her bosom would be less ample if she could just stop eating cookies! Oh, what the heck. Life was short and these were magic cookies anyway.
Kelly saw Nan’s conflict and grinned as she scooted the plate of cookies toward her. “Enjoy them.” She smiled. “However though, in addition to this series, you want to write and publish other series! How are you going to split your mind with all those different stories? I can’t even imagine doing that!!!”
Nan thought briefly. “Actually, it’s not really that hard. I have a different set of musical tracks I end up associating with each series, each world I create. Music is hugely important to my creative process. So when I want to get “into” a particular world or character, I just play that set of tracks and BAM, I’m there. And to be honest, I’m kind of ADHD. I can only really concentrate on one book for about two months straight. So I do a two month draft process, set the book aside to, um, ferment,” she chuckled, “and either start the draft of something completely different, or work on a revision of something I’ve already drafted. I usually have about three WIPs going at any given time, in various stages of either drafts, first pass revision (the hard one), or outlining.” She rubbed at her temples, grinning. “And people wonder why I can’t remember where I’m supposed to be most days.”
Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, I am glad you can manage that because I know I couldn’t. Fantastic for you!” Then a clock on the wall chimed, and Kelly looked up at it then frowned. “Our hour is up.” She looked back at Nan. “Unfortunately I need to get back to work, but I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you.” She smiled as she rose to her feet. “If you’d like, you’re welcome to take a look around. Be careful though. Got plot bunnies lurking that like to jump out and bite people.”
Nan stood, thrilled at the opportunity to rummage around in the shop. She reached out a hand to Kelly. “Thanks so much! I loved catching up with you as well, it’s always a blast talking with you. And remember, O Great Muse, if you’re ever in Horizon, Wisconsin, stop into The Sacred Caff for a cuppa. Ellie wold love to treat you!” Then, abruptly eschewing a handshake in favor of a brief, heartfelt hug goodbye, she let Kelly go about the rest of her day and headed straight for the shelf where she’d seen movement earlier. Plot bunnies beware, she announced mentally, Nan was on the hunt for inspiration!
Nan Sampson’s third novel in her Coffee and Crime series, ‘Forest Outings’ is now available. You can find it, along with the other books of her series, at the following links:
Amazon Link to Restless Natives, Book 1 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series: https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Natives-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01EQTOTOS
Amazon Link to Office Heretics, Book 2 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:
Amazon Link to Forest Outings, Book 3 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nan-Sampson/e/B00LSWJ4Z6/