by Marilyn Meredith
& by Pat Browning
Interview by Marilyn Meredith, book review by Pat Browning, and a contest to win an autographed copy of How To Crash A Killer Bash by Penny Warner at end of this post:
Marilyn: Hi, Penny, I’m so happy to finally be catching up with you. First off, please tell me and the readers a bit about your background before you started writing mysteries.
Penny: I got my degrees in early childhood and special education and began teaching at the college level. With my background in ECE, I started writing non-fiction books on childcare and parenting — books like Healthy Snacks For Kids, Happy Birthday Parties For Kids, and so on. I’ve written about 40 books on the topic, over the years.
Marilyn: What led to you writing mysteries?
Penny: My kids became teenagers … and I started thinking about murder. Seemed like a good way to channel that “energy.” I’d read a lot of mysteries and loved the ones featuring amateur female sleuths.
Marilyn: When I first met you, you were writing about a deaf woman who ran a newspaper in a mountain community. I loved that series. What happened to it?
Penny: My first book in the Connor Westphal series came out 13 years ago! Amazing. She lasted through seven books, and at that point it seemed like the series had run its course. She was about to get engaged, and once you’re married, you know ….
Marilyn: I know you’ve written all sorts of things since then, what came next?
Penny: The Official Nancy Drew Handbook was the most fun to write. I got to reread the first 50 books in the series and remember everything I’d learned from reading the series. Nancy was quite a heroine to many of us. She gave us a sense of power, that we could do anything if we wanted to, and we didn’t need the Hardy Boys to help us.
Marilyn: And then? What is your latest book?
Penny: The party-planner series is my latest adventure. There are two books out in the series, How To Host A Killer Party, set on Treasure Island and Alcatraz, and How To Crash A Killer Bash, set at the de Young Museum. I’ve just finished the third, How to Survive A Killer Séance, set at the Winchester Mystery House, which comes out in March, and am working on the fourth, How To Party With A Killer Vampire, set in Colma, home to fourteen cemeteries. The books offer party tips throughout, and a full party plan at the back.
Marilyn: I know you do lots of other things besides being an author. Do you want to tell us about some of them?
Penny: I teach child development at Diablo Valley College, write for the local newspaper, have a blog (Lady Killers), read, travel in the RV (to Fresno this weekend!) and enjoy my grandchildren.
Marilyn: Where can we purchase your books?
Penny: My books are available at most bookstores and online.
Marilyn: What’s up next for you?
Penny: I have a new middle grade series coming out next year, called The Codebusters, filled with puzzles and codes to solve along with a mystery. Must be my Nancy Drew roots.
Marilyn: What else would you like the readers to know?
Penny: I think you’ve covered everything! Thanks, Marilyn! Hope to see you soon!
Marilyn: Thank you, Penny. That was fun.
Review by Pat Browning
Penny Warner’s party tip at the beginning of Chapter 1 sets the tone for How To Crash A Killer Bash. She cautions against using real weapons as props because some of the guests might find a use for them.
Now we know we’re in for a mystery with humor and an edge – murder. A professional party planner, as well as a veteran mystery writer, Warner makes good use of both talents to craft this saucy story of a murder mystery party gone awry.
Presley Parker is hired to stage a fund-raiser at San Francisco’s historic de Young Museum. Hard experience has taught her if anything can go wrong, it will. For starters, socialite Mary Lee Miller, a major money-raiser, demands that her son, Corwin, and other employees of the museum be cast in the play, with herself playing the “victim.”
Miller has a nasty encounter with Corwin and his girl friend, Del, who is Presley’s best friend. Then there is Presley’s mother, a constant worry. She’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and most of Presley’s party planning profits go for her mother’s care. Presley casts her in a bit part to keep her happy, enlisting Brad, a crime scene cleaner, to keep an eye on her.
“Murder at the Museum” gets off to a colorful start. Guests arrive in costume as famous mystery characters such as Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher and James Bond. Champagne flows freely, and Murphy’s Law kicks in. Del’s scripted scream is the real thing. “Victim” Mary Lee Miller is discovered lying in a pool of real blood with the phony dagger sticking out of her back.
Horrified when Del is arrested and hauled away in handcuffs, Presley gets out her party planning guide, modifying it to plot a way of finding the real murderer. Theme, timing, location, guests, surprise – she ticks off all the elements and ends up with 200 suspects.
Undaunted, Presley begins an old-fashioned gumshoe-style investigation. Under the watchful eye of Brad, who seems to be in cahoots with an obnoxious detective named Melvin, she deals with yet more murders, bugs people with questions, uncovers dark secrets and puts herself in great danger along the way. The ending is a nail-biter.
In the back of the book, Warner includes a list of instructions for hosting a Killer Murder Mystery, and a sneak preview of her next book, How To Survive A Killer Séance, due out in March 2011.
To learn more about Penny and her books you can visit her website.
To enter to win a copy of How To Crash A Killer Bash, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Penny’s Book”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen next Saturday.