Thursday, February 4, 2010

Authorsday - Penny Warner

Author of How To Host a Killer Party Penny Warner is on the hot seat today.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t plan to be a writer when I grew up. When I was a kid, I placed writers on pedestals—“writers” like Carolyn Keene, “author” of the Nancy Drew series. Larger than life, they seemed as fictional as their characters. Turns out some of them were—like Carolyn Keene. But not my other favorites like E.B. White, A.A. Milne, L. Frank Baum. With authors like that, I found it hard to believe that an ordinary person like me could become a writer. Then, when I was in sixth grade, I got mono and missed two months of school. That’s when my mother handed me a copy of my first Nancy Drew mystery—“Secret in the Old Clock.” It wasn’t long before I became obsessed with the girl sleuth. I started wearing a trench coat, made my own sleuth kit, and wrote my first mystery, “The Mystery of Mr. X.” While Nancy Drew was fiction, she inspired me to follow my passion—and that passion turned out to be writing mysteries.
How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first book over 30 years ago, soon after my first child was born. I’d taken a leaving from teaching and decided to write down parenting tips as I learned them. I sold my first book, HEALTHY SNACKS FOR KIDS, in 1983, and have had over 50 books published since then. I write a lot of non-fiction, such as parenting and child activity books, and am on my second mystery series.
How did you pick the genre you write in?

I love mysteries and read a lot of them as a kid and an adult. I especially loved the copy mysteries that featured strong women sleuths, written by women. When I started writing mysteries, I was given the advice, “Write what you know.” It just so happened that I was looking for a fresh protagonist for my new mystery series and realized this is exactly what I would do—write what I knew…about planning parties. I’d had about a dozen party how-to books published, so it was something I was familiar with.
What drew you to the subject of HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY?

It all started when I was three and had my first real birthday party, around age 5. I got to dress up like a princess, invite all my friends over, open a bunch of presents, and eat chocolate cake decorated with M&Ms. I knew from that point on that parties were my destiny. Trouble was, my birthday only came around once a year, so I had to think up other reasons to party. Now I have to think up plots that have to do with parties.
What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

I wrote two mysteries before I finally sold the third one. I realized I needed an interesting character, setting, and plot, so I chose a deaf reporter who lived in the California Gold country and solved mysteries by running her own weekly newspaper. DEAD BODY LANGUAGE, the first in the series, won a Macavity Award and was nominated for an Agatha Award.
What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

The late Robert B. Parker was once asked about “Writer’s Block.” He replied something to the effect that there’s “no such thing. Can you imagine a plumber getting ‘Plumber’s Block?’” I’m a teacher and I can’t indulge myself in “Teacher’s Block.” The same with writing – I just have to sit down, start typing, and hope that something sticks.

Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?

I was born in Okinawa because my mother and father were there after the war. I “speak” fluent American Sign Language. I’ve driven nothing but “roadsters” all my life (MG Midget, MGA, Miata, now a Mini-Cooper). And I’ve been on TV hundreds of times promoting products related to my books.
Describe your book.

Presley Parker (named after Elvis—her mother was a big fan), was recently downsized at her abnormal psychology teaching job at San Francisco State University. Forced to move from her Marina apartment and find work, she ended up renting a condo on Treasure Island and setting up her new business in an old barracks there. Her mother, once the party queen of San Francisco café society, encouraged her to try the event-planning business, since Pres often helped her mom at various functions. Reluctantly Pres gives it a try, promising herself she’ll donate a percentage of her profits to important causes like the Alzheimer’s Foundation—her mother has early stage Alzheimer’s. After the City’s premiere party planner mysteriously dies, Presley finds herself hired to plan Mayor Davin Green’s “surprise” wedding on notorious Alcatraz—with a “ball-and-chain” theme. But a major party foul occurs when the bride-to-be is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates—and Presley becomes the prime suspect.
What do you do when you are not writing?

Since I majored in partying the first two years at the University of Oregon, I do enjoy hosting themed parties. I teach child development at the college level and love it. I lead workshops at writing conferences. I read a lot, create party invitations and favors, host murder mystery events at libraries, and enjoy my four grandchildren.
What’s next for you?

I’m working on edits for book two in the series, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, in which Presley Parker is planning a Murder Mystery Party at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. And I’m starting book three, HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE, set at the eerie, bizarre Winchester Mystery House. I’ve also just sold my middle grade series that begins with THE SECRET CASE OF CODY JONES. It’s filled with codes and puzzle to solve, along with a mystery.
Author Bio):

Penny Warner has published over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children, including over a dozen party books. Her latest book, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, is the first in a new mystery series. Her books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries. Her first mystery, DEAD BODY LANGUAGE, in her Connor Westphal series featuring a deaf reporter in the California Gold Country, won a Macavity Award for Best First Mystery and was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her non-fiction book, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, was nominated for an Agatha Award. She and her husband Tom create interactive murder mystery fundraisers for libraries across the country. She can be reached at
Book Blurb:

Mixing fun and fundraising for charities seemed like the perfect job for Presley Parker when she’s suddenly downsized from her position teaching abnormal psychological at the university. Pres is psyched about her first big gig—hosting a “surprise” wedding for the San Francisco Mayor at notorious Alcatraz prison. But the party’s over when the bride bolts faster than an escaping prisoner, and is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates. When Presley becomes prime suspect, she looks to the attractive, mysterious crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. If she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

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