Thursday, October 8, 2015

An Interview with mystery writer Marilyn Leach

As part of my author spotlight, today, it's my pleasure to introduce you to my friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Leach. At the age of nine, Marilyn wrote her first play with a childhood neighbor--a mystery called The Ghost and Mr. Giltwallet. Since that time, she has been writing in various formats for various audiences, as a hobby and as a livelihood. In addition to teaching art, she’s had the opportunity to co-author several plays that have been performed on both church and secular stages, as well as two screenplays. Marilyn has had the good fortune of “discovering her roots” while visiting England where she developed lasting relationships with wonderful people.  It has greatly impacted her writing. A fervent fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and David Cook’s Hetty Wainthropp series, Marilyn was inspired to write her Berdie Elliott Mystery series. The series takes place in a small English village where the vicar’s wife, Berdie Elliott, is the divine sleuth. Marilyn lives lakeside in a cottage on the outskirts of Denver near the foothills.

Interview Questions:
What is the genre of Into the Clouds? Why did you choose this genre? 
Into the Clouds is an English cozy mystery.  When I was nine years old, my neighbor and I wrote a play, The Ghost and Mr. Giltwallet.  It was a neighborhood hit when we presented it amid blankets pegged on wash lines to create a stage.  Trixie Belden mysteries were my favorite read as a child, and I never out grew the “guess who did it” instinct.  My mystery series is a good brain tickle with inspiration and high energy humor to move it along.

What inspired you to write Into the Clouds? Are there sequels planned?
I love reading and watching Agatha Christie’s Miss Marpel series, a fun model to write from.  Actually, Into the Clouds is the third mystery in the Berdie Elliott mysteries.  Because my sleuth is a vicar’s wife, the mysteries are tied to liturgical holidays.  Candle for a Corpse is an Advent mystery.  Up from the Grave is a Lenten mystery.  Into the Clouds is an Ascension mystery.  And my fourth book in the series, Enigma of Fire: A Pentecost Mystery is due out in 2016.

How is your protagonist the same/different from you?
Berdie Elliott is a hoot to write.  I love her optimism, practical thinking, and ability to puzzle out the truth amidst the rubble of lies.  She’s very high energy, I’m relaxed.  She speaks her mind, I’m often a bit more timid.  She’s fearless, I’m cautious.  But we both have personal faith at the core of our world view.

What/who inspires you when you feel writer’s block coming on?
I pour a cup of tea and pop a British mystery DVD into the player, then watch with a “how can I learn from this?” mentality.  It often does the trick.

What advice would you like to give aspiring writers?
Learn your craft.  So many people have fantastic ideas buzzing around in their heads.  But until you learn how to present them in a dynamic way, really study the masters, read “how to” books, and review your old high school English grammar book, it is not likely to reach readers in an effective way.  Give your story wings by grounding it in excellent practices.  And go for it!

Blurb: Into the Clouds

When the small English village of Aidan Kirkwood              
gathers for the great Ascension Sunday fete, it’s found that one hundred released balloons are not the only thing vanishing into thin air. A well-to-do widow has gone missing.  Enlisted by the family to  find the woman, Berdie Elliott, the local vicar’s wife and sleuth extraordinaire, flies into action. Adventure rises when zealous cat fanciers, a  clandestine informant, Portuguese intimations, and the home with an odd tree all lead Berdie to grasp the truth. Youwon’t want to let this whodunit out of your sight.

Enigma of Fire a Pentecost Mystery, Berdie Mystery #4  will release in 2016
Into the Clouds an Ascension Mystery, now available at
Candle for a Corpse an Advent Mystery  
Up From the Grave A Lenten Mystery 
Threads of Love: a romance


  1. Donna, the page is so colorful and nicely designed. Thank you for having me visit your site today. Let me ask your blog followers a question. What is the "it" element that draws you into a mystery? Love to hear your responses. Cheers

    1. You are so welcome, Marilyn. It's been fun to learn more about my fellow writers at FRCFW. And I love your themes! Congratulations on your success with the Berdie Mysteries.

  2. Donna, love the blog. And I like the mystery as topic.

    Thanks Marilyn for offering up a fine series of traditional English cozy mysteries. Definitely worth a read for those who like the Agatha Christie style via Miss Marple. Her character, Bertie Elliott, knows human nature and studies people.

    The "It" factor in a mystery for me is when the Character has more of a personal investment in solving the mystery. Take a female investigator following up on a kidnapped victim. Personal and professional pride is at stake. But now imagine that victim is her fiancée! Feel it? Tension ratchets up! The potential is there for our investigator to become a very different person depending on the outcome. Bitter? More cautious? Reckless? That’s the “it” factor – for me at least.

    1. Yes, I would agree with you, Brad. I think we feel a deeper sympathy toward the protagonist (in this case Berdie) when she is personally connected to the victims. Definitely makes more interested in seeing justice served!

    2. Brad, I like your point about it becoming personal. I need to always bear that in mind while writing. Cheers!

  3. Thanks, Donna, for giving us the opportunity to learn more about the 21st century's Agatha Christie, which is how I refer to Marilyn.

    As for your question, Marilyn, I agree with Brad. The stakes are far higher when there's a personal connection between the sleuth and the victim. That results in a higher reader buy-in, at least for me.

    1. Absolutely! I love these interviews. See my reply to Brad's comment for the rest of my response.

    2. Thanks so much, Amanda. A vicar's wife will have many opportunities for affinity, and I need to build that up. Cheers

  4. Enjoyed this interview with Marilyn. For me, the "it" factor could be where an injustice has been committed. The innocent one is imprisioned while the guilty is free to offend again. The crime solver is driven to see justice served..

    1. Pat Jeanne, I love this idea. I think it needs to be incorporated in my next story! That would be an excellent page turner. Cheers

  5. Oh, Pat, I just realized I replied to Brad's comment and it is virtually the same as yours. So there you have "it"! :)

  6. I think this personal stakes is also why the TV series, Murder, She Wrote, was so successful. Berdie is such a lovely lady; we really care about her, and care about her relationships, too.

  7. Loved reading the post and the comments. Comments are so much fun and insightful to read. Well done both of you, all of you.