Monday, December 14, 2020

#GIVEAWAY Meet Isabel Puddles Interview with author M.V. Byrne Kensington Publishing

 Today I'm so excited to be featuring M.V. Byrne today on the blog, this talented tv writer decided to try his hand at fiction and he shared some inside info about the book, the series and himself. And I'm happy to say that his publisher Kensington is sponsoring a #Giveaway Details below. I can't wait to read this and I know after you read all about it you'll want it too!

ISBN-13: 9781496728326
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: 11-24-2020
Length: 336pp
Mitten State Mystery #1
Buy It: Kensington



The only thing widow Isabel Puddles loves as much as her hometown of Gull Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is cozying up to a good mystery—but she never expected to be caught in the middle of one . . .

To the tourists and summer residents, Kentwater County is a picturesque community of small-town charm, fruitful farmland, and gorgeous freshwater beaches. To middle-aged widow Isabel Puddles, it’s where she enjoys breakfast every morning at a local café with her childhood best friend and spends her evenings cozying up with a good book and her devoted Jack Terrier, Jackpot. In between, Isabel makes ends meet through a variety of trades—preserving pickles, baking pies, working the counter at her cousin’s hardware shop, and occasionally helping “fix-up” the hair of corpses at the local funeral parlor.

When Isabel discovers a two-inch nail embedded in the skull of Earl Jonasson, it seems the octogenarian may not have died of a stroke. His son is quickly arrested when his alibi doesn’t check out. But Isabel has known Earl Jr. since they were kids and can’t believe he’d murder his own father, regardless of his financial difficulties. As gossip about Earl Sr.’s land and insurance policy money starts to spread around the county, Isabel finds herself conducting her own investigation to clear her friend’s name. But real detective work isn’t like what she sees on TV, and she’s meeting dangerous suspects who don’t like Isabel poking around in their business . . .

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Meet Isabel Puddles
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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Isabel Puddles was no hero. At least she didn’t think so. But if you asked anybody in her hometown of Gull Harbor, Michigan, a charming harborside hamlet tucked into the stoic, tree-lined shores of Lake Michigan, Isabel—Iz or Izzy to her family and friends—was the biggest thing to come out of Michigan since Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, and the Ford Mustang combined.

“Yep . . . she’s a regular Miss Marple,” Kayla, the waitress at Isabel’s favorite breakfast haunt, was fond of saying whenever the topic of her sleuthing skills came up.

Frances Spitler, another breakfast regular, had a slightly less demure take on the crime-solving abilities of the woman who had been her best friend since kindergarten. “More like Sherlock

Holmes with a C cup.” Frances was famous in her own right for saying pretty much whatever popped into her head.

Isabel and Frances started meeting for breakfast at the Land’s End nearly a decade before when the breakfast special was just $2.99. It was now up to $6.99. But in the summertime, when rich Chicagoans and Milwaukeeans sailed across the “Big Lake” to Gull Harbor to summer on their yachts; and well-heeled Detroiters, Hoosiers, and Buckeyes drove north to open their summer homes for the season, Gull Harbor’s population soared. And so did the price of the Land’s End breakfast special, which, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, skyrocketed to $9.99. But for regulars like Isabel and Frances, the price stayed fixed at $6.99. And for Isabel, that included a couple of extra rashers of bacon, which usually found their way onto her plate if Chet Morris was working. He had had a crush on Isabel since junior high social studies,

but, sadly for Chet, his unrequited love could now be expressed only through slices of thick-cut maple-smoked bacon.

Spending nearly ten dollars, including tip, on breakfast was still pricey for Isabel Puddles, but despite her overburdened checking account and her innately frugal nature, and because she had never in her life been able to cook an over-easy egg the way she liked it, Isabel still had breakfast at the Land’s End with Frances almost every morning.

The last time Isabel had cooked a proper breakfast at home was the morning her husband died, but she was always quick to point out that these events were unrelated. Like the good wife and mother she had always tried to be, Isabel had eaten scrambled eggs the way Carl liked them, and the only way her kids would eat them. For more than twenty years she never let on, or even admitted to herself, that she really didn’t care for scrambled eggs at all. She liked her eggs over easy and basted with butter the way her mother cooked them. Isabel Puddles was known

to be an exceptionally good home cook, but she was no match for her late mother Helen’s kitchen wizardry.. . . Over-easy eggs remained her blind spot.

It was around the time that Isabel had become a widow that Frances decided it was time to retire. After twenty years working as a secretary at a local canning factory where her husband, Hank, was a first-shift foreman, Frances decided her shift was up. Daily breakfast for Hank ended the day after she retired. “The only way you’re getting breakfast out of me at six thirty in the morning anymore is if I get a job at the McDonald’s drive-through!” she ranted defiantly after Hank objected to his wife’s revised breakfast policy. Frances was late to embrace feminism, but she got up to speed pretty fast once she figured it out.

“Poor Hank,” Isabel once remarked to Frances. “He married Harriet Nelson and ended up living with Gloria Steinem.”

And so the Land’s End Breakfast Club was born—two independent, middle-aged women finally enjoying breakfast on their own terms, and with no dishes to do.

Isabel and Frances were as close, and as different, as two people could be. Frances was brash and to the point; Isabel, circumspect and thoughtful. Frances was brutally honest; Isabel, cautious and diplomatic. Frances was excitable and high strung; Isabel, calm and measured. But these were guidelines, not rules, and on occasion, if the circumstances called for it, they flipped the script. What never changed after forty-plus years of friendship was their unconditional love for each other and a fierce loyalty, going back to the first day of kindergarten, when Jacqueline Klinger bullied Isabel out of her chocolate milk. Thanks to Frances’s intervention—after finding her new classmate Isabel sitting on a swing and crying—Jacqueline Klinger ended up wearing that same chocolate milk all over her head, and all

over her crisp white, Raggedy Ann pinafore. . . and Frances ended up in the principal’s office.

Isabel returned the favor the following year, when their first-grade teacher, a mean old battle-ax named Miss Marlin, came up behind Frances and flicked her ear so hard, it made her cry, just for whispering to Isabel during morning announcements. Miss Marlin returned from lunch that afternoon to find several thumbtacks planted on her chair, waiting to greet her rather large posterior. Their occasional recollection of the shriek that came out of Miss Marlin made them laugh out loud to this day. Theirs was an unbreakable bond, and although it had been strained a time or two over the years, it was a bond that always held fast.

Unlike Frances, Isabel was shy by nature, and not somebody who wanted or needed the sort of attention that had been recently visited upon her, so playing the role of local hero was more a burden than anything else. Her snowballing notoriety as a small-town crime fighter was

becoming more and more difficult to deflect, but it would appear she was stuck with it, at least for the time being. Her reluctant celebrity began a few years after her husband, Carl, died, very suddenly, following a heart attack. Carl’s modest life insurance policy covered his funeral expenses and paid off some bills, but that was about it. Both her kids were out of college, so there wasn’t that expense, but if she was going to survive, Isabel knew she had to go back to work. But doing what? She had long ago given up her “career” as a hairdresser, which was a job she enjoyed about as much as she did scrambled eggs, but as a middle-aged widow with no college degree, Isabel didn’t have much choice. The Michigan economy was a mess, and jobs were hard to come by, so eventually she started doing hair again, converting the mother-in-law apartment attached to her garage to a hair salon. She also managed to toggle together a handful of other part-time ventures—enough to keep the lights and the heat on, and keep herself and the dog fed. But in the years of widowhood that followed, she never really felt she was ever in the clear financially. There always seemed to be an accumulation of bills and an assortment of other expenses looming, along with the occasional big-ticket surprise expense, so she was continuously on the lookout for new revenue streams to fish. She was open to any and all possibilities. Provided she was physically able, and it was legal, Isabel was game.... Which was how she ended up accepting a job doing hair and makeup at a local funeral home.

It was not a job she particularly relished taking on, and she wasn’t anxious to meet the person who would, but it was more money than she could pass up for an afternoon’s work, so she braced herself and decided to at least give it a try. Not only would she be helping out her bank account but she would also be helping out a dear old friend who was in a bind, and who happened to be the owner of the funeral home. Little did Isabel

Puddles know how fateful this decision would be or where it would eventually take her....

* * *

Although she never finished college, Isabel did graduate from the Whitehall Beauty Academy, with honors. But putting her skills to work on the newly departed was not something that had ever occurred to her—and why would it? Still, when it came to postmortem makeovers, she was not a complete novice. Isabel had in fact provided this slightly cringeworthy service once before, not for money but purely out of love and a sense of duty. And it was just her luck that she seemed to have a flair for it. This unexpected addition to her résumé happened after her favorite high school teacher, Gladys DeLong, passed away.

For more than half a century, Miss DeLong had been a pillar of the community, a beloved high school teacher, and a revered figure in Gull

Harbor. Gladys came from a prominent Grand Rapids family that for many years owned an impressive summer home on Lake Michigan. Her father had made a fortune in office furniture but died penniless, and their stately summer home was now an elegant, very pricey bed-and-breakfast. Gambling was rumored to be the cause of Raymond DeLong’s downfall, although nobody ever knew for sure. But while the getting was good, Gladys was sent east to Miss Porter’s School and went on to Smith College. When she decided to become a teacher, she returned to the place that brought back her happiest childhood memories: Gull Harbor, Michigan. Although Gladys DeLong’s pedigree was highly unusual for such a small town, she was anything but pretentious, never exhibiting any hint of snobbery, unlike many of the summer people who paraded around town with their noses in the air, and with far less to be snobbish about.

Isabel had Miss DeLong for both her junior and senior years, first for English

lit, and then for American lit. Later in life—long after Isabel Peabody had become Isabel Puddles and raised a family, and after Miss DeLong had retired, the two became close friends when Gladys began volunteering at the Gull Harbor Library a few days a week. Isabel, who was an avid reader, thanks in large part to Miss DeLong’s influence, was a library regular. For years they had been chatting at the front desk in hushed tones, mostly about books, gardening, the weather, Isabel’s kids, and recipes they had recently tried or wanted to try, all of it peppered with a healthy dose of local gossip, along with Gladys DeLong’s dry, but razor-sharp wit. Every few weeks, the two would get together for lunch, and Gladys always came to Isabel’s annual Christmas Eve party with her famous curried shrimp dip and mango chutney, an appetizer as exotic for Gull Harbor as it was delicious. Isabel was convinced that some of her guests came only for the shrimp dip. Gladys was a handsome woman of Dutch descent—a staunch, no-frills, midwestern matron. In Isabel’s memory she never wore much, if any, makeup, and her long, thick salt-and-pepper hair was worn in a bun that always looked about ready to come undone. Round tortoiseshell glasses completed her professorial look. No slave to fashion—but then who needed to be in Gull Harbor, Michigan?—Miss DeLong owned a half dozen or so classic knit suits, with skirts that fell just below the knee. The suits came in various shades of beiges, grays, and blues, some patterned, some not, and looked to have been purchased sometime in the late 1950s, probably in some posh New York City department store. Her impeccably made suits were always accessorized with a smart print scarf—of which she seemed to have many—along with an impressive collection of simple but elegant gold brooches, always worn on her left lapel. Isabel could still hear her revered teacher clicking through the halls of Swift Lather High School, always in a hurry, her plain black purse hooked around her elbow, an armful of books or loose papers, and wearing the same pair of sensible black heels. In retirement, Miss DeLong segued seamlessly from schoolmarm to librarian with no costume change required, although she had taken to wearing shoes that looked slightly more orthopedic, and she had done away with the scarves and the brooches. The suits gradually became a little snug over the years, but she once admitted to Isabel why she had more or less maintained her weight all these years. “I’m Dutch . . . I’m too frugal to buy new ones.” Isabel could relate—if she couldn’t find something she liked that fit her on the clearance rack, then she was done shopping.

Isabel last saw Miss DeLong at the library in August of that summer, just a week or so before she passed, when Isabel came in to return a book, rather sheepishly. It was the latest James Patterson novel, and she wasn’t at all sure that the woman who had introduced her to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor,

Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens was going to approve of her former student reading anything so commercial. Gladys took the book and winked at her, then leaned over the desk and quietly confessed, “I’ve read everything John Grisham has ever written.” Isabel laughed. So had she.

That particular day they chatted about who had the best sweet corn that season and who had the juiciest tomatoes (the battle of the farm stands was an ongoing one in Kentwater County), and Gladys lamented about how the wisteria she had planted when she bought her house in 1966, although beautiful to look at, had become so prolific that it was overtaking her garage and making it almost impossible to get her car in and out anymore. Isabel then checked out a book by a new author Gladys thought she might like, and they made plans to get together for lunch again before the Labor Day weekend. She never dreamed it would be the last time she ever saw Gladys DeLong again . . . alive.

After hearing at breakfast just a few days later that Gladys had dropped dead trimming that out-of-control wisteria herself, Isabel was devastated by the news. At eighty-six, on a stepladder, with garden shears in hand, it was a fittingly noble way to go, but the despair Isabel felt losing someone who had been so much a part of her life for so long was hard for her to take in. Without Gladys, the town instantly felt different to her, and she was going to miss her teacher and friend terribly. Isabel feared she was reaching that age where good-byes were going to start becoming more common than hellos.

Later on that dismal day, Isabel drove by Miss DeLong’s neatly kept Cape Cod cottage on Westbury Road and saw her equally well-kept, twenty-five-year-old light blue Buick still parked in the driveway. She slowed to a stop and stared at the wisteria, blooming victoriously, fondly remembering her friend until she was struck by another crashing wave of sadness, and slowly pulled away. Isabel

continued on her way to the Cook Funeral Home in Hartley—a little town about five miles southeast of Gull Harbor—where a viewing was scheduled for that afternoon. With a year-round population of only about 750, Gull Harbor wasn’t large enough to support a funeral home of its own, nor were any of the other surrounding villages and hamlets in the county, and the summer people seemed to prefer dying at home, so if you were a local who died in Kentwater County, Cook’s was probably where you were going to end up.

Isabel was a Gull Harbor girl, but Hartley was her parents’ hometown, as well as her grandparents’ and great-grandparents’, on both sides, before them. The Peabodys had been in Hartley ever since Great-Grandfather Manchester—“Chester”—Peabody arrived from England in the late 1800s. Chester escaped a childhood of abject poverty in London to seek his fame and fortune in the Michigan lumber industry. . . but failed. He did, however, manage to

convince the town’s most beautiful girl, Zelda Gerber, a doctor’s daughter, to marry him. Ironically, he did end up in the lumber business, managing a lumberyard. The couple lived modestly on Chester’s salary, and along with a small inheritance from Zelda’s father, they were able to send all three of their kids to college, which was quite a feat at the turn of the twentieth century. Chester and Zelda’s offspring managed to do pretty well for themselves. Their two girls, Madeline and Marjorie, both gifted with their mother’s beauty, married well and moved to the East Coast, never to return to Hartley. Their son, Isabel’s grandfather, Charlie Peabody, moved back to Hartley after college and, being a shrewd investor, eventually became a local land baron of sorts, owning an entire city block in Hartley known as the “Peabody block.” Isabel’s grandmother, Hazel, was a MacGregor, another prominent family in Hartley, who owned a furniture store in town, and another in nearby Wellington. But after the Great Crash of 1929, both families found themselves in “diminished circumstances,” as her grandmother Hazel used to say.

Hartley was the county seat, and although it was about five times the size of Gull Harbor, it was still a very small town. But because it had the only traffic light in the county, was home to the county fairgrounds, and had its own highway off-ramp, it was practically a metropolis by comparison. With a timeless stateliness, less beachy and casual than Gull Harbor, Hartley was a dignified old town with beautiful old homes—some in better shape than others—lining either side of the main drag, State Street, with its canopy of hundred-year-old maples. A few of the grandest old homes hugged Hartley Lake, a man-made lake Charlie Peabody had helped develop in the 1930s, and where he later built the family home. The old Peabody home was not as grand as some of the others on Hartley Lake, but it was a handsome old Queen Anne revival with a wide, sloping lawn and a sweeping view

of the lake and the town beyond it. Isabel had very fond memories of her grandparents’ house on Hartley Lake, and in fact every holiday season she was invited to a Christmas party hosted by the “new” owners, Robert and Bonnie Bagley, who purchased the home after Grandmother Peabody died. The Bagleys were convinced Hazel Peabody, known as the consummate hostess, was still there with them, but given the eerie, unidentifiable racket they heard in the attic from time to time, Hazel Peabody was not as gracious in spirit as she had been in life.

So although Gull Harbor was home, Isabel also felt very much at home in Hartley. She still had family there, she did her grocery shopping there, she went to church there, and she worked part time at her cousin Freddie Peabody’s hardware store, also in Hartley.

* * *

After parking her old minivan on State Street, just up from the Cook Funeral Home, she sat back and took a moment to reflect on what lay ahead. She had been to Cook’s more times than she cared to remember, but knowing Miss DeLong was in there now was especially unsettling for Isabel. She hoped she would find her old friend Gil inside to help her get through this. Gil Cook was now a third-generation funeral director, and the two went back many years.

Hartley and Gull Harbor kids all went to the same high school back in those days—Swift Lather High School—named after a wealthy and eccentric lawyer who gained fame, and a fair amount of fury, for being a card-carrying, FDR-LOVING Democrat in a staunchly Republican county. There was no stauncher Republican in Kentwater County than Isabel’s grandfather Charlie, but surprisingly he and Swift Lather were great friends and had been for decades, despite Charlie’s overt contempt for President Roosevelt, and Swift’s similar

feelings toward Herbert Hoover. Swift was a true philanthropist, giving money away anonymously wherever he saw a need, and defending anybody in the county who needed defending, whether or not they could afford it. He was a small-town hero in Kentwater County, revered despite his “radical” politics. Charlie Peabody had done his fair share of service to his community, too, but in the end, it was Swift Lather who had the high school named after him and not Charlie Peabody. “I’m sure the Roosevelts were behind that decision,” Charlie snorted to his wife when he heard the news.

It was the start of their freshman year at Swift Lather when Isabel Peabody and Gil Cook first met, and Gil asked Isabel to the homecoming dance. She accepted, and although they enjoyed each other’s company, nothing romantic ever developed. When she met Carl Puddles in the fall of their sophomore year, the handsome new transfer student from Wisconsin, she was immediately smitten by the boy from that mysterious land of

cheese across Lake Michigan. But despite being jilted, Gil Cook still adored Isabel, and vice versa, so the two had remained the best of friends all these years. Frances was sure Gil was still carrying a torch for her, a suggestion Isabel dismissed as nonsense.

Carl, a star athlete, and Isabel, a cheerleader, dated for the remainder of high school. When they became the Asparagus King and Queen in the spring of their senior year—Kentwater County was, after all, the asparagus capital of Michigan—it was as if the Fates had deemed them Kentwater County royalty, destined to one day marry, raise a family, and reign happily ever after. But that plan went south the following fall when they went off to Michigan State, where Isabel excelled and Carl struggled. When she got pregnant eighteen months later, they married quickly before anybody could do the math, left college, and moved back to Gull Harbor. The plan was to return to school together after the baby got a little older, or at least that was Isabel’s plan.

She was determined to go back and finish her two remaining years and get her teaching degree. But in the meantime, she was happy to stay home with the baby, while Carl went to work for the County Road Commission. He eventually got his degree in civil engineering by going to night school at a nearby college, which the county paid for. In exchange, he committed to working as the county engineer, which he did . . . for the rest of his life. But Isabel remained a stay-at-home mom, first with their daughter, Carly—not named after Carl, as he liked people to think, but after Carly Simon, her favorite singer at the time—and a year and a half later, a son, Charlie, named after Isabel’s grandfather, joined the family. She never intended to give her children rhyming names, and she was still apologizing to them for it today. Sadly, Isabel’s dream of going back to school and one day becoming a teacher like Miss DeLong was one that faded away over the years. Not finishing college was one of her biggest regrets in life, although there had been times when marrying Carl Puddles was pretty high on the list, too.

My Interview with M.V. Byrne

Interview with M.V. Byrne


Hi M.V.
I can’t wait to open the pages of your debut novel, first in a new Mitten State series, Meet Isabel Puddles. So please introduce my readers to Isabel and her first foray into amateur sleuthing.

I can’t wait for you to read it! Isabel Puddles was born and raised in Gull Harbor, Michigan, a charming hamlet along Lake Michigan where her family has lived for generations. Gull Harbor, and surrounding Kentwater County, is a sleepy, picturesque agricultural community most of the year, (cherries and asparagus primarily) but in the summers, an influx of rich summer residents changes the demographic dramatically. The home on Gull Lake where Isabel lives is the same home she grew up in, and where she raised her own family. Today, Isabel is a widow with two grown children, Carly and Charlie, who now live on opposite coasts, and she’s a dog mom to Jackpot and Corky, a Jack Russel and a Cocker Spaniel. Her best friend since kindergarten, Frances, and her cousin Ginny are her two closest friends, but everybody in Kentwater County knows and loves Isabel, and have ever since she was crowned Asparagus Queen in her senior year of high school… Money is always tight, so Isabel does whatever it takes to keep the heat and the lights on, which in the summer includes selling her jarred pickles at local farm stands, and baking pies for local restaurants. And she works year-round in her Cousin Freddie’s hardware store. Isabel comes to the art and practice of sleuthing reluctantly, at least in the beginning. The murder she investigates is one she discovers innocently, and then investigates out of loyalty to a dear old friend, whose father is the victim. Her investigation is also about proving the innocence of the person wrongly accused of the murder, and bringing the true murderer to justice. Isabel is a busy woman, and solving a murder was not something she needed on her to-do list, but if local law enforcement wasn’t going to do the job, she was going to have to.   

Why did you choose a middle-aged widow for your protagonist?

Isabel kind of chose me… I’ve had an idea for a while about a small town sleuth in Michigan, which is a state I love, and one I feel is underappreciated. I also wanted to pay homage to my Aunt Isabel, my mother’s fraternal twin sister, who was as kind-hearted as she was hilariously funny—and frugal. Isabel’s cousin in the book, Ginny, who is more like a sister, is loosely based on my mother who, although very funny in her own right, was a calmer and more circumspect person. As far as why I made her middle aged? I just think characters who have crossed the threshold into middle-age, like me, are more interesting to write because they’ve had more life experience, and can also bring a certain level of gravitas and wisdom to a character.

Tell us something that surprised you about Isabel during the creative process.

I think what surprised me the most was how easily her voice came to me. I never had to ask myself, “What would Isabel do, or say?” because the answer was always right there. Part of that is because I have a lifetime of vivid memories of my aunt, who we lost five years ago, and how she would react to certain circumstances, or the kinds of things she would say or find funny. There is a saying in my family attributed to my great-grandmother: “No laughing matter, but no matter if you laugh.” She probably stole it from somebody, but irreverence and teasing each was a family tradition… I was also surprised by how often her character would speak or react in ways I hadn’t outlined or expected, especially when writing dialogue. I could be writing a scene between, say Frances and Isabel, and Isabel’s lines and reactions just materialized in the writing.  It was as if her character was instructing and informing me in the moment and feeding me the lines.

The novel’s setting is a small hamlet on Lake Michigan an area you know intimately because your family’s summer home built by your great-grandfather is also along the shores of that great lake.
Is Gull Harbor a real place too or is it made up?

Gull Harbor is a fictitious name, as is the county it’s in, Kentwater County, but these are real places that I have known and loved all my life. But I didn’t want to lock myself into being too geographically literal and then have to adhere to reality. I wanted to take artistic license when I wanted or needed to. Although I do mention larger towns by name, i.e. Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, etc., I played around with the names of the places where the story takes place so they wouldn’t necessarily be identifiable to readers. But many Michiganders, and those who have visited or summered in Western Michigan, will instantly recognize the world of Isabel Puddles. Maybe the best way to describe my approach, oxymoronically,  is fictionalized reality.

How will the novels connect?

I think that remains to be seen. A cast of regular characters will also connect each novel, but the “cases” that Isabel finds herself involved in will be cases she is personally invested in, either because she knows the key players, or in some cases the victim, or because she is invested emotionally in seeing justice done. Isabel is not naïve. She lives in a cocoon of sorts, but she recognizes how unjust the world can be, and she wants to do her part to correct injustice when and where she can. Not to get too deep, but Isabel, whether she realizes it or not, is acting as the voice of the murder victim. I think in her mind, in order for somebody to rest in peace, the person who sent them to the grave prematurely needs to be held accountable.

Do you have a certain number in mind?

I do not, but I will say that as long as people are interested and entertained by whatever mysteries Isabel Puddles is embroiled in, I will be happy to write them because I am thoroughly enjoying it!

Should they be read in order?

Ideally, yes. The first book offers a lot of Isabel’s family history and backstory, and it really paints a vivid picture of the world Isabel inhabits, as well as delving into her personality traits. That said, having just finished book two, you can’t assume people will have read the first book, so you have to be mindful of that. There are relationships and places you have to reestablish without it being repetitive for those readers who did read the first book. And although you can make reference to the case/cases in the previous book/books, you have to be careful not to give anything away for those readers who, hopefully, will want to go back and read the others. So you have to walk a rather fine line in places. 

What led a successful TV writer into becoming a novelist?

I’ve always been an avid reader. My mother, who was a grade school teacher, used to assign books for me to read. She didn’t think there was enough emphasis on literature in middle school and junior high in our Northern California school district. So I would have to read twenty-five pages every Saturday morning, and then report on those pages before I could go out to play. There were times when I rebelled against that practice and my mother’s oppressive literary regime, but eventually I came to appreciate what she was trying to do. THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Steven Crane was the first one I remember reading in maybe 5th grade, and then it was a series of books she deemed age and gender appropriate. She was big on Hemingway and Steinbeck for a young man, so I had read most of their works by the time I got to high school... The first book I remember reading -- that wasn’t assigned by my mother -- was CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and I still remember how much I relished that experience. So writing novels had always been a pipe dream for me.  After years of news/documentary TV writing, and writing for on-air talent, which is more of a skill and a craft than an art (although there is some artfulness to it if you’re good) I didn’t know if I had the chops to write prose. It took a long time for me to find the time and the voice to even attempt to write a book, and I had to teach myself to do it. But being careful, and not rushing the process paid off, because MEET ISABEL PUDDLES was my very first book, and thankfully, it was well received by Kensington and my incredible editor there, John Scognamiglio.

Do you do your novel writing on a schedule, on breaks during your day job or just whenever the mood hits you?

If I’m being honest, I’m not the most disciplined writer in the world. Writing for my day job is very deadline intensive, and I’m usually producing too, so there are a lot of plates spinning. I’ve never missed a deadline, although I have pleaded for an extension more than once. But if I’m working on a show, at the end of a 10 or 12 hour day, I have neither the energy nor the inclination to write. My first book I wrote while in-between shows, which is a very familiar place to find oneself in my line of work. But because it was purely speculative, I wrote when the spirit moved me. The last show I worked on was very intense, and required a lot of writing. Not just outlines and scripts, but also story pitches and questions for subjects I would be interviewing. And I had a team to supervise too. There was usually some writing work required over the weekend too. I was on that show for six months with a deadline looming to submit book two, so that was a bit of challenge at times. The only time I knew I could devote exclusively to the book was very early in the morning, so there was a lot of writing done between 5/6am and 9am when I had to leave for the office. As the deadline for book two grew closer, there was no need to set my alarm to get up and write thanks to my ongoing early morning anxiety attacks. In an ideal world I would be able to write only when the mood hits me, but I don’t know if that’s realistic for any writer.

Talking about your day job, you’ve got quite an extensive resume, from David Letterman, Saturday Night Live to other network, cable and subscription channels. Do you have a favorite show and episode you’ve done?

The most memorable shows I’ve worked on almost always have to do with the people I’m working with as opposed to the show itself. I’ve worked on shows that I didn’t think were very good, but I was working with a lot of very smart, funny people -- who shared the same view -- so it made going to work a lot of fun. Of course you want to make the show as good as it can be, even if you don’t like it, but there are limitations. The network wants what the network wants, so in reality, writers/and producers are the foot soldiers responsible for delivering that. My first job working exclusively as a writer was a show on E! Entertainment called MYSTERIES & SCANDALS. I love old Hollywood, so to be able to tell those stories in a slightly irreverent voice was a blast. And some of my closest friends to this day are people I worked with on that show. Being a Page at NBC was probably the most exciting experience in TV for me because it was my first job out of college, I was living in NYC, and I was working in 30 Rock surrounded by celebrities. The energy there was palpable. On my first day as a Page I was working on the Letterman show and standing in the hallway outside the studio, feeling a little nervous. There were a lot of people milling about, and I backed into someone and stepped on their foot. “Ouch” I heard, as this person grabbed me by the shoulders. It was David Letterman. Great first impression! I’ve also done a lot of  memorable celebrity interviews for shows I’ve worked on as producer. And it’s quite a cross section: Faye Dunaway, Paul Rudd, Michael Caine (such a nice man) were all fantastic interviews. I also got to interview John Irving, my favorite writer, who I was able to spend two days with and enjoy a Merlot soaked dinner with him and his wife in Vermont. I went to Sweden to interview one of my favorite directors, Lasse Hallstrom, and interviewed singers, Kenny Rogers and Huey Lewis for a show I did at Vh1. I feel very blessed to have had the experiences I’ve had and continue to have working in TV.

What’s more challenging writing novels or for TV?

That’s difficult to answer…  Writing for TV is challenging because, as I said, it’s very deadline intensive work for one, and you’re also writing in another person’s voice, which you have to adapt to, which isn’t always an easy groove to get into. My last show for History Channel, THE UNXPLAINED, is hosted by William Shatner, so I had to write for a voice that’s iconic which was a bit daunting at first, but also very exciting when you hear Captain Kirk delivering copy you’ve written. When I worked at GOOD MORNING AMERICA, I was writing for four different hosts -- Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Charlie Gibson and Chris Cuomo -- who each have very different delivery styles, so that could get confusing. If a story was reassigned to another anchor, you often had to revise the copy on the fly. And in TV you have a lot of cooks in the kitchen who are constantly giving you changes, from the talent, to the executive producers, to the network, and not all of them know how to cook. And it can be like a game of Whack a Mole when those changes are at odds with each other, which is often the case. And in TV if you don’t deliver, you’re fired. Period! But after twenty plus years it’s become less challenging because I’ve kind of honed my skills and have a certain level of confidence. I don’t get rattled easily anymore. As far as wring the novel… In the beginning it was far more challenging for me because it was uncharted territory, and I had no idea if what I was writing was any good or not. I was flying completely blind. Now that I’m feeling confident about my abilities in this realm, and my first book is about to be published, there is no question that writing novels is vastly more rewarding. It’s your world, your characters, and your story. One kitchen, one cook. And when you’re lucky enough to have an editor and a publisher that supports and believes in your work, it’s incredibly freeing. At some point I’ll retire from TV, but I can’t ever see a time when I’m not writing novels. Isabel has many more adventures ahead of her, and I have some other ideas percolating for the future if she ever decides to give up sleuthing.

M.V. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, good luck with the new book and series!
Are you having any virtual events to promote the book?

Thank YOU for your interest! Yes I do have a couple of virtual events coming up. Even though the events will be over by the time this posts, you should be able to watch the recording of the Facebook Live with Mysterious Galaxy, which will be saved in their videos on their Facebook page.

The first is a virtual event on November 21st, 2020 with Murder by the Book on Sassy Sleuths of a Certain Age, which will also include authors Lee Hollis, Amanda Flower, Barbara Ross, and Julie Anne Lindsey.

The second is a virtual event with Mysterious Galaxy on December 3rd, where Lee Hollis and I will be having a conversation about our new releases!

About the author:
M.V. Byrne was born and raised in Lansing, and much like the heroine of his Mitten State Mystery Series, his family has had a home on Lake Michigan for nearly 100 years. He has an extensive career in television, first working at NBC on shows including Today, The David Letterman Show and Saturday Night Live, and later writing for Mysteries & Scandals on E! Entertainment, Behind the Music at Vh1, The Tyra Banks Show, Good Morning America and Nancy Grace, to name a few. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he continues to work as a writer/producer in unscripted television, but still goes back to his home state of Michigan every summer. He can be found online

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  1. That sounds like it would be a good book. I've always liked William Shatner so to be able to write and hear him speaking your lines must have been awesome.

  2. Awwww cozy mysteries are always fun :D

  3. I am just getting into cozy mysteries and this one sounds good, and starting a new series is a good place to be.

    1. I love cozies Kathryn I'm surprised you're a recent convert

  4. Thanks for including the excerpt -- it's fun to read a bit of the author's writing style.