by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Peril and Prayer by Olivia Matthews aka Patricia Sergeant, and an interesting interview with Olivia. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Peril and Prayer, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Peril and Prayer: A Sister Lou Mystery By Olivia Matthews
Reviewed by Sandra Murphy
You’d think nuns, I mean sisters (nuns are cloistered, sisters are in the community, at least according to Sister Marianna and it doesn’t pay to disagree with her). Anyway, you’d think sisters would be able to plan a retreat for their congregation’s annual Advent retreat without disagreement. However, Sister Marianna has decided they should all eat healthy this year. That means beets and broiled fish rather than a vegetable lasagna and green salad. Sister Lou knows which would be popular—lasagna, no contest. Try convincing Marianna of that. Autumn, the resort owner, is almost as stubborn as Marianna. A compromise of sorts is reached, tabling the issue for the moment.
When Autumn is found strangled in her office, there’s no shortage of suspects. Apparently, Autumn had other problems. Her business partner, Rita, wants out of the business. A big corporation wants to buy the retreat. Autumn’s ex-husband’s new wife is hounding Autumn to sell so hubby can quit paying alimony—it’s cramping their style. Unfortunately, Sister Lou had previous run-ins with the two detectives assigned to the case. They think Marianna makes the best suspect and think the scarf she was wearing was the murder weapon, in spite of the fact they can’t find it.
With the help of her nephew, Chris, and a reporter friend, Shari, Lou investigates. She’d had success in the past when a friend was murdered and Marianna has decided she should do it again to protect the image of the church—and of course, clear Marianna.
Mayhem and Mass was the first in this enjoyable series. Readers will learn about inner workings of the church, with emphasis on how the sisters remain human with quirks and foibles, and still manage to work within the community. The mystery is a good one with suspects who can be dismissed fairly early, some who remain questionable and some who seem like a sure bet—although you may be surprised. A hint of romance adds spice.
Interview with Olivia Matthews aka Patricia Sergeant:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Olivia: Thank you so much for inviting me to chat with your community. I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve been writing seriously since 1991. I was offered my first publishing contract in 2006. I’ll spare you from doing the math! That’s a 15-year time span. I’ll wait until your head stops spinning before I continue. All I can say is that, if traditional publishing is something that you really want, then it takes as long as it takes.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and can you tell us a little about it?
Olivia: I’m happy to tell you about my first story. Thank you for asking. You Belong to Me is a romantic suspense, which was first released November 2006. I re-released it in 2016, after I got my rights back. You Belong to Me reunites a divorced couple in a race to unmask a serial killer. The heroine/ex-wife is a popular sci-fi author who reluctantly sells the movie rights of her first book to the hero’s/ex-husband’s production company. Unknown to either of them, a delusional fan doesn’t want the series to be made into a movie and the fan is willing to do anything – including commit murder – to “protect” the series. Now, I’m not saying that this story was in any way influenced by some of the movies that are based on Stephen King books …
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Olivia: Thank you so much for asking. I actually started in suspense but when, allegedly, the bottom fell out of suspense marketing, my publisher asked me to switch to contemporary romance. I’ve also written a contemporary romance with paranormal elements. My author brand is, “A Story to Match Your Every Mood.” I’m also working on an epic fantasy. My goal has always been to return to suspense/mystery, though.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Olivia: I’d love to tell you about Sister Lou and the Congregation of the Sisters of Hermione of Ephesus. The fictitious Congregation of the Sisters of Hermione of Ephesus was inspired by the very real Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Peace, which is located in Columbus, Ohio. I worked with the Congregation for about seven years and was so impressed by the Congregation members. They are warm, welcoming women who are passionate about social justice. Members of the Congregation are also highly intelligent, critical thinkers who put great emphasis on lifetime learning. I thought that an amateur sleuth inspired by this Congregation would be like Sherlock Holmes meets Sister Agatha.
The Sister Lou Mystery series is set in a fictitious small town, which I’ve decided is outside of Buffalo, New York. Sister Lou is a critical thinker and very observant. She prefers listening to speaking, and she’s diplomatic to a fault and because of that, she has a very rich, outspoken inner voice. Shari Henson, a local investigative reporter, is a member of Sister Lou’s informal amateur sleuth team. Shari doesn’t have any filters. She has a very rich, outspoken outer voice. The final member of Sister Lou’s informal amateur sleuth team is Sister Lou’s nephew, Chris. He’s the worrier. Every team needs one!
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Olivia: That’s a great question and you’re asking it at a very interesting point in my storytelling development. At first, my stories were more about entertaining people, but as I gain confidence with my storytelling, my stories do seem to have stronger subliminal messages. The common message is the perils of judging people without getting to know them. I admit that I’m concerned by our tendency to make snap judgments about people based on how they look, what they wear, how they talk. It seems to me that we’re afraid to talk with each other and equally uninterested in listening to each other. What would happen if, the next time we said to someone, “Hi. How are you?” we actually stopped to listen to his or her answer?
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Olivia: I get so upset if I don’t write for at least four hours each day. Oh, it’s just horrible. I understand that life happens (marketing, promotion, bookkeeping, day job, etc.), and I may not get my full four hours, but the fact of the matter is that writing is my business and my productivity is crucial to my business’s success.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Olivia: I do copious outlines before I start my story. Outlining is one of my passions. I’m a Plotter and I find outlining my stories critical, whether it’s a short story, novella or full-length book. My outline for Alibis & Angels: A Sister Lou Mystery (book 3) was 39 pages. I’ve offered workshops on plotting and outlining. I’m actually developing an online course on outlining your manuscript.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Olivia: Oh, my ideal writing time is getting up at the butt crack of dawn to get my critical four hours of writing in before my day runs over me like a truck. I love the deep silence of the predawn hours. That’s really great “thinking” time.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Olivia: Lol! Well, my friend, as we briefly discussed, it did take me 15 years to get my first publishing contract. Part of the problem is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the writing craft and getting published. Discovering and joining a professional writing association – in my case, Romance Writers of American – was one of the best decisions I ever made.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Olivia: Actually, with your permission, I’d like to share two critique anecdotes. The first deals with writing romance. An editor once told me that, if you can substitute a “buddy” for the “love interest,” then you’re not writing a romance. So, one romance story test is to ask yourself, “Are my couple buddies or love interests?” Be honest with yourself.
The second critique I’d like to share is another “pre-story test.” Before you start your story outline, ask yourself, “Is this a story worth telling?” One way to help make your story one that would be compelling to readers is to create a protagonist that is “larger than life.” Even if your protagonist is “ordinary,” put him or her in a situation in which he or she has to perform extraordinarily and that will help make your story compelling.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Olivia: Well, this book signing anecdote is interesting to me. Your interest mileage may vary. Lol! It was one of my first-ever book signings. I was signing my first book, You Belong to Me. The event was a multiple author signing and there must have been 30 authors in the room. So, picture in your mind a large room crowded with people. Do you have the image? OK. An author who I dearly love also was at the signing and she’d already read my book, which thrilled me to no end. We were assigned to tables that were on opposite sides of the room, but we could see each other. Suddenly, apropos to nothing, the other author calls out !!from across the room to me, “Patricia! Why did you kill So-and-So Character?!?” But of course, instead of saying, “So-and-So Character” she used the character’s name. I was dumbstruck. I thought, “Well, I guess that little plot twist won’t be a surprise anymore.” Lol!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Olivia: Oh, thank you so much for asking. I want to publish my epic fantasy trilogy, either traditionally or independently, and I want to make that happen in 2021. I’m so excited, I can hardly breathe. Lol! But first, in 2019, I’m going to re-release a couple of titles, then in 2020, I’m going to finish my contemporary sports romance series.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Olivia: Oh, my. That’s so hard. OK … for today, I’ll say that my writing heroes include LA Banks because her stories are unique and rich and unique. Jayne Ann Krentz because I love, love, love her dialogue. Have I mentioned that I really love her dialogue? Oh, and I’d like to BE Tami Hoag. Her stories are so smart and they’re page turners.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Olivia: Ah, terrific question! I take research VERY seriously. Fiction should be firmly anchored in fact. I read nonfiction books and articles, and watch documentaries about the subject that I’m writing about. If possible, I’ll talk with/interview people in the professions/industries that I’m writing about. For example, for my Sister Lou Mystery series, I spoke with several members of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Peace, including members of the Congregation’s leadership. They were so very generous with their time and insights. I also read nonfiction books and blogs written by Sisters.
KRL: What do you read?
Olivia: I think an easier question for me to answer would be, “What don’t you read?” I love fiction and nonfiction. I read romance, mystery, suspense, paranormal. Full disclosure, though: Because of my work schedule, I don’t read as much for pure pleasure as I used to.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Olivia: Outside of news programs, the one show that I don’t like to miss is Death in Paradise. Love it! As for movies, I’m really “jonesing” on the Marvel universe right now although Avengers: Infinity Wars owes me an apology. False advertising!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Olivia: Yes. Yes. Yes. It’s NEVER too early to build your platform. Develop your brand. Grow your social media following. Launch your e-newsletter. Your writing talent will launch your publishing career, but your marketing savvy will launch your sales. And the cold, hard, ugly truth is that without those sales, you won’t be able to maintain your publishing career, either traditional or independent.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Olivia: Developing your writing craft is very important, but remember to also develop your business skills, especially in marketing and promotion. It’s so important to write the very best book that you can. But unless you know how to promote your very good book, readers won’t be able to find it.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Olivia: I think people would be surprised to know that I am a horrible, terrible introvert. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy for me to “sell” myself and my stories. So, to all the introverts in the world: Take heart! If I can promote my work, so can you. LOL!
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Olivia:Thank you for asking.
Website: www.PatriciaSargeant.com; visitors can find my Patricia Sargeant books and my Olivia Matthews books on this site.
To enter to win a copy of Peril and Prayer, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “prayer,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 18, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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