Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rosemary Harris Picks a "Dirty" Job

I was hooked on the Dirty Business Mystery series after the first page of the first book I picked up. Paula Holliday is simply a fascinating, fun character. She's the kind of gal I'd want as a friend.

When I had the opportunity to meet Rosemary Harris in person for the first time, I found out exactly where all of Paula's charisma comes from. Rosemary has done a considerable amount of traveling, both for personal trips and while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

Rosemary doesn't have to moonlight to write these days, but she in the past she's worked in book retailing, direct marketing and video/television/public television. Paula is a former television exec who turned in her business suit for a shovel, some pruning shears and a lot of dirty business.

Rosemary took some time out from her tour prep for SLUGFEST, her duties as MWA NY Chapter president and her golden retriever MAX to talk about why she choose a gardening career for her Anthony and Agatha-nominated series that includes PUSHING UP DAISIES, THE BIG DIRT NAP, DEAD HEAD, and coming out next week, SLUGFEST.

Position Wanted

Must be able to make own hours and not be tied down. Applicant can interact well with a wide variety of people and occasionally be the fly on the wall.

Will relocate – preferably to a city or town with a small or ineffectual (but charming and perhaps single) police force.

Contact : Paula Holliday

Most amateur sleuths need to have a job. Unless you’re writing about an English lord (see Peter Wimsey) or a kindly little old lady (you know who) you’ll most likely want your protagonist to be gainfully employed – preferably in a job that offers the above conditions.

As much as I enjoy gardening, the real reason Paula Holliday is a gardener is that it's a seasonal business which give her plenty of time to solve crimes. She can also reasonably come into contact with people from different socio-economic backgrounds, from the day laborers she hires at the local donut shop to the suburbanites - who aren’t always what they seem - and the bluebloods who hire her to care for their estates. As a gardener she can poke around homes and properties without arousing suspicions because all too often the people who provide basic services – nannies, waiters, housekeepers, hair stylists, etc. are treated as invisible. People will say or do things in front of them that they might not in front of other more “important” people. Is it eavesdropping if you're being ignored? This invisibility exposes her to characters with all sorts of motives for mischief and mayhem, the most common being greed, lust and revenge, all of which exist just as much in the suburbs as they do on the mean streets of the big cities. All Paula needs is a prop – a pitchfork or a pair of loppers – to fit right in. And in a pinch either of those garden tools can turn into a lethal weapon.

It's often said that one's villain needs MOM to commit a crime - means, opportunity and motive. I think an amateur sleuth needs MOM too. In this job, Paula Holliday has the means and the opportunity to solve the crime. But what’s her motive? That’s the hardest question to answer and one that writers of police procedurals, legal thrillers etc. never have to address. What’s a gardener or a golf pro, a tea shop owner or a television reporter doing solving crimes? Apart from the obvious answer that there would be no book if she didn't (and that would be terrible…) it’s generally that someone she knows is involved or accused. Or she is. Or she accidentally knows something the bad guys don’t want her to reveal. Or the cops don’t think there’s been a crime but our amateur sleuth knows better. Or maybe it’s just that writers know readers love them.

If you are a Twitter fan, like I am, you can follow Rosemary on Twitter (@rosemaryharris1). She's also on Facebook.


Beth F April 6, 2011 at 8:24 AM  

Since I'm a fan of the cozy, I'm very happy that gardeners, tea shop owners, pet sitters, and bookstore owners feel the need to solve crimes and live in places where there seems to be a few murders a year. Where would the mystery fan be without these amateurs?

Loved the book trailer and I'm adding this series to my ever-growing list.

Rosemary April 6, 2011 at 11:34 AM  

Thanks Beth - I hope you like them!

Word Lily April 6, 2011 at 1:58 PM  

This sounds fun!

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