Monday, April 19, 2010

A Conversation with Carolyn Hart

A bestselling author with more than three million books sold, Carolyn Hart is best known for her Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins (Henrie O) series. Her most recent series features red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma, who returns to earth to save a young boy from greedy relatives when his wealthy grandmother dies during the Christmas holiday.

Carolyn is giving away copies of her latest novel, Merry, Merry Ghost, to two lucky blog visitors who leave comments here.

Carolyn, when did your Death on Demand mystery series originate?

In 1985, I attended a meeting of the southwest chapter of MWA in Houston and visited Murder by the Book. I had never been to a mystery bookstore and I was enchanted. I had just started a new mystery set in a bookstore. I immediately decided to have a mystery bookstore named Death on Demand.

Tell us about Dare to Die.

Dare to Die is the 19th title in the Death on Demand series which is set on an idyllic South Carolina sea island. My protagonists are Annie Darling, who owns the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, and her husband Max Darling, who runs Confidential Commissions, a small business devoted to helping people solve problems. Annie and Max’s move into a refurbished antebellum home is on hold after water damage and they are staying at Nightingale Courts, the resort cabins managed by Ingrid Webb, Annie’s clerk, and Ingrid’s husband Duane. Annie and Max agree to take care of the Courts when Ingrid and Duane are called away by a family emergency. As they are leaving, Duane asks Annie to keep an eye on the young woman who checked in yesterday. "She came in the rain. Alone. On a bicycle." Annie befriends the young woman. When she is murdered, Annie and Max are plunged into fear and danger.

How much of your series is autobiographical?

Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins, a retired newspaper reporter, is the protagonist of the Henrie O series. Henrie O is taller, thinner, smarter, and braver than I but she reflects the author’s attitudes.
I’m intrigued with your impetuous red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma. How did the series come about?

I loved the Topper books and films when I was growing up. I see ghosts as reflections of the person who lived. I always wanted to write about a fun-loving, energetic, impetuous ghost returning to earth to help someone in trouble and Bailey Ruth answered the call.

You’ve received an amazing number of awards including the Malice Domestic Lifetime Achievement Award. Has the recognition resulted in increased book sales and reader awareness of your work?

I hope that the awards, which I very much appreciate, help to attract readers. It’s hard to know whether such awards increase sales but any mention of a book or books is helpful to an author.

What's your writing schedule like and do you aim for a certain amount of words each day, no matter how long it takes?

I try to write five pages a day (approx. 1,500 words) when working on a book. Some days I meet that goal. Some days I don’t. When I am stuck, I take a long walk and usually something will occur to me.

Tell us about your writing background.

I worked on school newspapers and majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. When we started a family, I didn’t return to reporting but decided to try fiction. I wrote juvenile fiction, then YA, and in the 1970s began writing adult suspense and mystery.

How much research do you conduct before you begin a novel and do you always visit the locale?

The novel dictates the amount of research. I wrote several early novels, preceding the Death on Demand books, which had World War II backgrounds and required extensive research. I’ve visited the locales of all the books written since Death on Demand. Once I set a book partly in the Philippines which I have never visited and a woman who grew up there asked me how many years I’d spent in the islands and I knew my library research had been successful.
What lies ahead for your well-known character Henrie O? How did her character come about?

My original ambition was to be a foreign correspondent. Henrie O enjoyed the career I didn’t have. One of the joys of writing fiction is living out lives that appeal to you. I am currently committed to write one Death on Demand and one ghost book each year so Henrie O is currently "resting," as they say in Hollywood.

Advice for novice writers?

Care passionately about what you write. If you care, somewhere an editor will care.

Thank you, Carolyn, for taking part in the series.

Carolyn's website:


Carol M said...

I enjoyed your interview and would love to read this book! It sounds really good! Thank you for the giveaway!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

km25lis said...

I love the Death on Demand series as well as the Henry O. series. I am just starting the Bailey series, but I am sure I will enjoy it just as much! Carolyn Hart is a wonderful writer! I would love to win a copy of Merry, Merry Ghost! Thanks for having such wonderful author interviews.


Dana Fredsti said...

I remember reading the first Death on Demand mystery and the joy of discovering a new mystery series I knew I would just love... I can't wait to read Merry, Merry Ghost whether I win a copy or not!

Vivian Zabel said...

Jean, Carolyn is one of my favorite authors, so I'm always glad to read more about her.

I have the first Baily Ruth book and want the second so much.

Thanks, Carolyn, for being generous enough to give away copies.


caryn said...

Hi Carolyn,
I'm reading Bailey Ruth's efforts to protect little Keith right now so obviously I don't need to be entered in the drawing.
I love Bailey Ruth. I like her spunk. We have a Hallmark Christmas ornament of a red headed angel with this devilish expression (which was very fitting for our redheaded son and granddaughter) and that's sort of the image I have of Bailey Ruth.
Which brings me to the one problem I have with her...I keep forgetting she's a ghost and not an angel!

Jan Buck said...

I am in the middle of the first Bailey Ruth and enjoying it very much! I would love to have #2. Thanks for the opportunity to win. I follow all your series.

Helen said...

I really like your advice to writers. I think it's the first time I've heard that.

What a great idea, to have a ghost star in a mystery. Is this a standalone only or do you see a possible series? (I'm seeing a series here.)

Straight From Hel

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a great interview, Jean. I enjoyed "meeting" Carolyn and learning about her books. Ghost storie are some of my favorites. Would love to read Merry, Merry Ghost.

Thank you, ladies, for an interesting post.


Barb Schlichting said...

Thanks for sharing the interview. I enjoyed reading it.

Judy Alter said...

Carolyn, Henrie O. is a great model for all us "older ladies." But I'm also a huge fan of the Death on Demand series and sort of wish you could blend the two. The older woman who always identifies the paintings (sorry, I forgot her name) isn't quite the role model Henrie O. is, but I like them both. Anxious to meet the red-headed ghost.
I think maybe we met years ago at a writers conference in Austin with Robert Olien Butler. Maybe my imagination. Anywway, I'm a fan. Congratulations on your well-deserved success.

Laura said...

I just want to thank Ms. Hart for her hard work in providing us with WONDERFUL novels! I've loved every book of hers that I've read, and can't wait to get my hands on her newest...

pattyfris said...

Looking forward to the new book.

Sarahlynn said...

I've heard such fabulous things about Carolyn Hart's books; I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read one. I tried to remedy that at a mystery book exchange I attended yesterday, but the one Hart novel anyone was willing to part with went way to quickly. I'm off to the library this morning instead!

Coco said...

Carolyn, I love your books! I, too, enjoyed Topper as a youngster. Good luck with Merry, Merry Ghost and I hope I win a copy!!!

Lonnie Cruse said...


I enjoyed both this interview and meeting you at a couple of mystery cons years ago. I've read books from the Death on Demand series and Henry O and I enjoyed Letters From Home. Would love to wind a freebie of your new book.

Rosemary Harris said...

Hi Jean and Carolyn,
For anyone who hasn't yet had the good fortune to meet Carolyn check her schedule and run don't walk to her next signing. She's just as wonderful as she sounds in this interview! And I started Merry Merry Ghost this weekend and it's delightful. Who ever wins has a real treat in store.

pennyt said...

I've been reading your books since the first Death on Demand mystery. I enjoy "catching up with characters lives" in each new book. I really enjoyed the first Bailey book and would love to win a copy of the newest one - she's a hoot.

shirley said...

I've enjoyed every Carolyn Hart book I've read, so I'm sure I'll enjoy meeting Bailey Ruth. Thanks for the interview, very interesting.

boots9k at wowway dot com

Anonymous said...

I love Carolyn Hart's work. I am so delighted to hear that "Merry, Merry Ghost" had a bit of Topper inspiration.

Thanks for the wonderful interview and the giveaway!

Brenda W.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Carol,
I hope you will enjoy Bailey Ruth's Christmas adventure.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Kelly,

There will be a new Annie and Max in the spring, Laughed 'Til He Died. I do hope you like Bailey Ruth, too. Carolyn

Carolyn Hart said...

Thank you, Dana. If you like Annie and Max, I think you will enjoy Bailey Ruth.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Vivian,
I am so pleased that wonderful readers are welcoming Bailey Ruth. Thank you for being a wonderful reader.

Carolyn Hart said...

Hi, Caryn,
Obviously we both have a soft spot for redheads and I love picturing your red-headed angel. I doubt Wiggins sees Bailey Ruth as angelic, but he has a growing fondness for her.

Carolyn Hart said...

Thank you, Jan. Authors appreciate devoted readers. Readers such as you make it possible for us to to continue to write.

Carolyn Hart said...

Hi, Helen,
Bailey Ruth's first adventure was Ghost at Work. Merry, Merry Ghost is her second. I have just turned in Ghost in Trouble which will be published in fall 2010.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Beverly,
I, too, love fun ghost stories. I grew up enjoying the Topper books and movies. Blithe Spirit is one of the funniest plays ever written. It was my pleasure in these stories that inspired me to write about Bailey Ruth.

Dear Barb - I appreciate Jean taking the time to talk with me about writing.

Carolyn Hart said...

Hi, Judy,
Henny Brawley is the expert on mysteries in the Death on Demand books. I enjoyed writing about Henrie O, too. I hope you like my redheaded ghost as well.
I attended a Bouchercon in Austin some years ago butnot a writing conference.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Laura,
Your kind comment adds warmth to a very cold and gray winter day.

Carolyn Hart said...

Thank you, Patty.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Sarahlynn - I hope you found one of my books. I love libraries and library readers.

Carolyn Hart said...

Thank you, Coco. Here's a cheer for happy ghosts!

Vivian Zabel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vivian Zabel said...


We need you to speak at the OWFI conference. I understand 2010 speakers are set, but I'll be asking the board to consider you for 2011, if you don't mind.

As soon as I can get out to Best of Books, I'll pick up Merry, Merry Ghost -- if I'm not fortunate enough to get one here.

Henry O. was my favorite of your characters until Baily Ruth appeared.

Carolyn Hart said...

Thank you, Lonnie. I have a special fondness for Letter from Home and I am glad you enjoyed reading it.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Rosemary,
You are wonderful. Thank you very much!

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Penny,
Bailey Ruth thanks you. She's having fun - as am I.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Shirley and Brenda,
I'm so grateful to you as readers. I hope Bailey Ruth affords you fun.

Carolyn Hart said...

Dear Vivian,

I have always heard great reports of OWFI. Unfortunately, it is almost always scheduled at the same time as Malice Domestic in Washington , D,C. We'll see what 2011 brings. Thank you for wanting me.

Vivian Zabel said...


The 2011 OWFI conference should be somewhere around May 5 - 7.

It's always the first Saturday of May and two days previous.


Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Oh! I'm a winner. I'm excited. Thank you, Carolyn. I love ghost stories. Look forward to reading Merry, Merry Ghost.


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Ramla Zareen said...

Hi, I realize that it's a very old post, but I just wanted to mention that Carolyn G. Hart is one of my favourite authors, and I love her Death On Demand Mystery Series...! :-)