Interview with Cheryl Hagedorn

Disclaimer: When you first asked me to keep this light and funny, my system went into shock. One of the killers in my book, PARK RIDGE, does use a banana as a weapon. And one reviewer wrote that she thought my book was “uproarious,” “delightful,” and “extremely funny.” (Reader Views: http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewHagedornParkRidge.html)First, give us the basics. Who are you, personally? Got a family? Any deep dark secrets you’d like to share? Wanna tell us wear you hang your hat or pantyhose or something?

Geez, I’m a senior citizen! You need to slow down and speak up.

My partner and I have aged together over the last 28 years. I practiced the murder by banana on her.

Second, what do you write? And how do you do it? Spill it all. Are you a shower poet? Pet your cat while you type one handed? Get the name of your next character by what appears in your Alphabet soup or cereal?

I feel like I’ve wandered on stage with a stand-up comedienne. Uh, let’s see. I write mysteries. I do it sitting at my computer and lying on my back in bed just before I fall asleep listening to the cat snore. The only time I typed one-handed was when I broke my left hand. I prefer baths to showers so I don’t do poetry. Naming characters is trickier than opening a new can of soup if you don’t like Xandra Zaria.

My first book has four elderly pinochle players who are main characters. I needed to name them and describe them in ways that would help my readers keep them separate. Do it think it was too obvious when I made Jack short and hairy, the Professor tall, thin and handsome, Ellie morbidly obese with long red (from a can) hair and Margaret a tiny vegetarian with earrings?

Two major characters in the second book were named Gina and Joan. The physical descriptions were almost opposite but my critique group found the names confusing (the initial g-sound) so I renamed Gina to Ceci.

Third, how long have you been writing professionally? Any cool stories about how you got started? Or mistakes you’ve made. Feel free to elaborate. Just paragraph in between, but, by all means, ENTERTAIN US.

Actually, after I got my MA in Writing from DePaul University in 2005, the plan was teach at Truman College in Chicago, not write mysteries. (Midwest Book Review called me “a late bloomer”!) (http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/feb_07.htm#shelley) But as the writing instructor at the Park Ridge Senior Center (yes, it’s a real place!), I had given my class the task of writing a 700-word mystery. That project evolved into a center-wide contest: it had to be murder, had to happen at the Center, could only be 700-1500 words.

I entered the contest – imagine five murders in 969 words! Anyway, I decided to rework it and it kept growing.

I will confess to getting interrupted on a frequent basis by my unconscious. That’s where the banana came from. And the bit about the detective’s mother dating one of the suspects.

Fourth, any cool stories about meeting other writers or industry professionals that have influenced or helped you? We like to hear the silly stuff. Ever stutter at an agent? (I have.) Ever sidestep an editor? Or have a margarita downing contest with one? (Pleading the fifth on that, myself.)

Sorry.

Fifth, tell us about your first published work. What was it? When did it come out? Got any awards to brag about?

PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder is the first of three (maybe more?) It came out in September, 2007. It’s about four elderly pinochle players who finally reach the breaking point with people telling them to get off their butts and do something other than play cards. They form a mini-gang and begin offing the overzealous activity boosters. It’s a WHYdunnit, not a whodunnit.
The second is tentatively titled Senior Games and is at the publishers now. This book, too, is based on something real, the Six County Senior Olympics. The games seniors play with and against each other involve athletics, sex and murder. I really enjoyed killing the victim in this one.

The third will be about Des Plaines. This real-life situation intrigues the heck out of me. The Senior Center currently occupies two facilities as they transition to a renovated strip mall which they’ve purchased. The schizoprhrenic component, the neither-here-nor-there thing provides some phenomenal twists.

Do you have any dreams as a writer? Go ahead, give us your best fantasy.

When I wrote one of my short stories, which was then adapted as a play to be produced by the Senior Center, I thought, “How cool if I could find someone to videotape it!” I really saw it as a short-short movie.

And then, at the tail-end of her review, Shelley Glodowski wrote,PARK RIDGE is an entertaining whodunit that rates with Agatha Christie and could easily convert to an enticing television movie.” (http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/feb_07.htm#shelley)
What are you up to now, writing wise? Got any projects in the works? Please tell us it’s amazing and give us a short excerpt or something to make us HAVE to go and buy it. What makes it so great?

I’ve got four books I keep bumping into when I sit down to write. Des Plaines is a WIP. Another is a biography of a woman that I’ve put a year and a half of research into. Theodora Van Wagenen Ward made a name for herself by helping to date Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts, but very little is known of Teddy herself.

I’m also working on something I refer to as sci-fi but don’t know if it really is. It could be fantasy. The distinction escapes me. The working title is GS, Obs.

Then there’s a novel-length allegory – my writing group really liked this excerpt (draft excerpt: http://www.cheryltime.com/murderblog/snakeexcerpt.html)Do you have any tidbits of help for other writers that you’d like to pass along? Please, by all means, inspire us. Point us in the write direction.

I’ve been following the current buzz about making books available for free – notably ebooks, but also serializations (http://murder.booklocker.com/2007/04/12/giving-your-novel-away-serialization/). I’m involved with the Lobe Library from the State of Illinois in a project to make my book available as a free audio file for the visually-handicapped.

Do you have any suggestions as to what a writer should avoid? Any mistakes you made that you could give us fair warning on?

I’m tempted to say something about agendas. Most writers tell you that if you’ve got an agenda, keep it to yourself. Maggie Abrams didn’t and she’s had great success with her books about murder and the environment (I’ll give you the link to Maggie’s interview as soon as I post it). In the same way, I’ve gotten good feedback from professionals who work with senior citizens.

Give us links to your websites, blogs, etc.?

Website: http://www.Cheryltime.com/books/

Emily Dickinson Stuff – http://www.cheryltime.com/ED/interim.htmlBlog: http://murder.booklocker.com

Crimespace: http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/clh760

Excerpts:http://www.booklocker.com/books/2637.html (Chapter Four is the beginning of the romance between the suburban-cowboy detective and the curvaceous Italian center director)

For the first murder (http://www.cheryltime.com/books/PRch2.html)

Book Trailer:http://thoughtgarden-cheryl.blogspot.com/2007/04/park-ridge-trailer.html

Reviews:Midwest Book Review – http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/feb_07.htm#shelley

Reader Views – http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewHagedornParkRidge.htmlPurchase:Available as Ebook ($8.95) or trade paperback ($14.95)

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/PARK-RIDGE-Senior-Center-Murder/dp/1601450230/ref=sr_11_1/002-1923302-5712014?ie=UTF8

BookLocker – http://www.booklocker.com/books/2637.html

Thanks for giving us your fifty cent interview. Come back and see what other authors and readers have to say. Send your friends this way, too. K?

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One Response to “Interview with Cheryl Hagedorn”

  1. Annie Says:

    Sounds like Cheryl has been really busy. I have read Park Ridge and hope to see the others soon.

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