Connie: Hi Candy! Itís a pleasure to have you here at OUAR. Iím looking forward to picking your brain and getting to know you better, but first, would you tell the readers a bit about yourself and perhaps what youíre working on now?
Candy: Iím tickled to be here, Connie, thank you for having me!
To answer your question, hereís me "in a nutshell":
Iím a longtime nurse, and blame my wacky sense of humor on what I call "survival tactics learned in the trenches of ER." In all seriousness, Iíve learned that love and laughter are the best medicine--and thatís exactly what I offer to readers of my funny and romantic Darcy Cavanaugh mystery series.
As for what Iím currently working on: Iíve submitted a proposal for a medical romance series aimed at the inspirational market--think "Greyís Anatomy . . . with soul." Iím excited about it!
Connie: And I wish you well with it!
Murder and mystery on the high seas, with the amateur sleuth being a nurse. Thatís quite a combination. Do you have endless plots, murders, secondary characters waiting to be written into stories, or do you find being confined to a ship a bit of a challenge that stirs the creative juices?
Candy: The cruise experience is great fodder for stories. It lets me take my continuing characters to all sorts of exotic ports, and (rather like the TV series "Love Boat"), there are all sorts of new characters who climb the gangway and enter the plots. Plus, thereís something deliciously scary about characters confined to a ship at sea--knowing that a killer walks (or Chicken Dances?) among them!
Connie: Thatís what I thought when reading one of Darcyís stories. The suspense ratchets up a notch among the mayhem just knowing the characters canít leave.
Research can be extensive, have you taken more than one cruise in order to have Darcy and Marie, as well as the other passengers/suspects accurately portray the shore tours?
Candy: Oh, yes, dressing up in sequins and sipping Mojitos is grueling, but I am dedicated. Seriously, Iíve been on 9 cruises now and, in fact, just returned from a 12-day adventure in Greece, The Black Sea, and Egypt--where I rode a camel at the pyramids!
Connie: Hmm, just thinking of the possible Darcy scenarios with that trip.
Riding the camel would be, for most, a once in a lifetime opportunity, which some would perhaps pass on. Is there anything on a shore tour, Candy, you werenít thrilled about doing for research/accuracy but knew that Darcy would jump at the chance? Such as the stingray excursion in Mai Tai to Murder?
Candy: Iíll admit that I push myself to try new adventures because of my gal Darcy; but Iíve never regretted it--even swimming with the stingrays on Grand Cayman. Strangely, I originally wrote the stingray scene with Marie doing an imitation of the Crocodile Hunter. And turned it in to my editor just a WEEK BEFORE Steve Irwinís tragic accident. The timing still gives me goosebumps. Of course, I did some editing on the final copy of Mai Tai to Murder.
Connie: Swimming with stingraysÖoutside the comfort zone for me. But you never know.
As you said, youíre a nurse, so youíve got that end of research/knowledge covered. How about the textbook/internet side of research? Is there anything you had to dig for that you hadnít anticipated?
Candy: I do a fair amount of internet research for my books, mostly details on the ports. Though Iíve been to each locale my books depict, itís fun to dig up more information for my readers. And--because my stories take place on cruises--I spend plenty of time researching things like interesting cocktails, fabulous food, and great clothes. For each scene, I "dress" my main characters from real clothing on sites like: Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, J Crew, Abercrombie . . . and LL Bean for Darcyís sidekick, Marie!
Connie: Ok, you dress the characters from pictures. What about when creating your characters, at least those recurring and closest to Darcy, do you, as many authors do, use pictures from magazines and online to give you that visual? For instance, Marie compares Lukeís (Darcyís boyfriend) looks to Matthew McConaughey; was this the look you had in mind for Luke from the beginning?
Candy: Itís funny you should ask that, Connie. Originally I described Luke as "a young Robert Redford," but my editorial team (not one of whom is much past 30, likely) wanted a younger reference. Brad Pitt was suggested, but I held out for Matthew--who really is a dead ringer for my hero, Luke Skyler. The ad team actually wanted celebrity comparisons for all the characters, so I gave them Debra Messing for Darcy, and a young Rosie OíDonnell for Marie. It was a fun exercise!
Connie: Darcy is quite unlike any other amateur sleuth Iíve ever read about. Iím not sure I can put my finger on what it is exactly that sets her that far apart from other characters. What was her development like? What is important to you, to her, for the readers to see, to know about her?
Candy: Iíve attempted to give Darcy Cavanaugh sort of an "Everywoman" appeal, so that folks of any age can relate to her--and I even have an 80-something reader whoís taken Darcy under her wing! But I think the key is that Darcyís a crusader, sheís impulsive and overly responsible, and doesnít hesitate to jump into the fray to right a wrong. But sheís vulnerable too, and has doubts about herself in relation to both career and love--that makes her very human.
Connie: Thatís a great way to visualize her when reading and trying to get into her mind. And speaking of reading, itís very subjective. Not every reader is going to be thrilled with every aspect of the characters and their traits, or perhaps even various scenes. Have there ever been any traits pop up or perhaps even scenes (in any of your books: Dressed to Keel, Aye Do or Die, or Mai Tai to Murder) where you knew/thought there might be an audience out there who, while they enjoy Darcy and her escapades, might be less than thrilled about the traits or scenes? If so, how do you finesse your way through, make the character or scene balanced to where the reader isnít completely "unthrilled"?
Candy: Interesting question. Actually, I expected that my sidekick character, Marie, would raise some eyebrows because sheís a lesbian--but, so far, sheís been widely accepted. Maybe because thatís only a small part of who she is, an incredibly warm-hearted and loyal friend to Darcy Cavanaugh. Who just happens to smoke cherry cigars, make great, irreverent wisecracks, and owns more "collector" socks than anyone alive! Truth be known, Marieís my favorite character.
Connie: Candy, are you one of the authors who know who the perp(s) are before Darcy does? Or do you follow the clues along with Darcy?
Candy: Oh, I definitely know my perps. I donít understand how some mystery authors are "surprised" by the identity of the killer. I must be too much of a control freak to let that happen. But plenty of secondary characters come onboard while Iím writing the stories, totally unplanned. Like the sailor-mouthed parrot in Mai Tai to Murder. He was a hoot--and left feathers all over my office!
Connie: And all over the ship, too, among other things.
Do you plant clues along the way, or do some of them plant themselves? How do you keep track of whatís been revealed and what needs to be revealed? How do you figure how often clues need to pop up?
Candy: Another good question. And a tough one to answer. Clues are a challenge and, yes, sometimes new ones just "happen." Then itís a challenge to go back and make sure I include (plant) them from the beginning. In truth, a mystery writer must have a sort of "clue map," to be sure that all the bases are covered, and be "fair" to the reader. All the clues should logically play out, with no "convenient" insertions at the end.
Connie: The "convenient" insertions of wrapping up a story can sometimes leave you with a deflated feeling at the end. We readers appreciate the extra steps authors such as yourself take for us.
Wow, Iím almost out of time. Iíd better move this along in a different direction now. In a hopefully fun get-to-know-you direction.
Pretend youíre stranded on a deserted island, Candy; you have the chance to have four different people real (family, movie/TV stars, friends) or fictional (TV, book, movie) 1) build your dream shelter and maintain it, 2) be your chef (the island is fully stocked!), 3) be your masseuse/manicurist/hairdresser, 4) feed you grapes and fan you with palm fronds. Who would you pick and delegate to each duty?
Candy: Oh man. This is fun!
1) Iíd have a team from Home & Garden TV, probably--and have them create a rambling tree house like in Swiss Family Robinson. But with great art, a wonderful English stable--and wireless access, of course.
2) If this is fantasy, I could eat anything I want and never gain weight, or bloat out of my perfect bikini, right? Then Iíd pick Paula Deen--queen of Southern cuisine--to cook all those forbidden, butter-laden comfort foods. Even her "Elvis" peanut butter and banana gross-outs! Iím compulsively "healthy" about my diet, so it would be an amazing adventure. Maybe this is why Darcy Cavanaugh secretly binges on macaroni and cheese?
3) I think it would be funny to have the Queer Eye team do all my frou-frou stuff; with my good friend (nurse and BeautiControl consultant) Cindy overseeing. She did my wedding day makeup. And talked me into buying a copy of that fabulously sexy black dress that Demi Moore wore in "Indecent Proposal."
4) Oh, Iíd love to see my big Texan hubby peeling grapes and manning a palm frond!
Connie: What a team, with the best and most important duty saved for your husband!
What is your biggest self-indulgence?
Candy: Food, probably--a chilled glass of great, California chardonnay, with a crumbly chunk of Maytag bleu cheese. And floating on a pink raft in my pool, daydreaming and plotting books.
Connie: Sounds good. Would you tell us some of your favorite tv shows? Oh, and whatís your favorite snack; sweet or salty?
Candy: Gad. TV. Tivo has changed (or chained?) my life! Some favorite shows: CSI (all), Without a Trace, Closer, NCIS, House, Greyís Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, My Name is Earl, Monk, Psych.
Stop me, Iím making a fool of myself!
Snack: Salty probably. Popcorn. But if you added sugar, then it would be Kettle Corn and thatís really good too, and . . .
Connie: Okay, itís time to relax, unchain yourself from the Tivo : - ) and make a cup of coffee or tea, pick up a good book and snuggle into your most comfortable chair Ö tell us what genre you like to read.
Candy: Right now, Iím reading Jan Karonís charming and funny Mitford series, the warm and wacky adventures of a lovable Episcopalian priest. Iím laughing out loud and choking up at the same time--wonderfully written and addictive!
Connie: Writer or not, we all wish and hope for success in our lives. What does success mean to you?
Candy: Hmm. Wow. Big question.
Iíd have to say that, for me, success would be using what gifts Iíve been given to touch the lives of others in a positive way, to "pay-it-forward", make a difference.
Connie: Beautiful. A perfect place to offer my thanks, Candy. I appreciate you taking the time to visit with me. Before I let you get back to work, is there anything I forgot to ask that you want the readers to know?
Candy: Thank YOU, Connie. Iíve really enjoyed visiting with you here at OUAR.
The only thing I would add, is that I welcome readers to hop onboard my website at www.candycalvert.com. And happy sailing!
Connie: It's been a pleasure!
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