Please join us in welcoming Mark Reutlinger to the MWA NW blog today!
Tell us about your upcoming release!
Oy, Vey, Maria! is the third book in my “Mrs. Kaplan” cozy mystery series. It takes place in a Jewish retirement home, and the amateur sleuths are septuagenarians Rose Kaplan and her “Dr. Watson” Ida Berkowitz, who narrates the story with an “old world” dialect and a bit of Yiddish. The young helper of a disabled resident is murdered, and the Home’s manager, who had been having an affair with her, is found standing over her holding the murder weapon—a genuine “smoking gun” scenario. The police consider it an open and shut case, but as Ida comments, “Open yes. Shut, not so much.”
These stories have all the usual elements of a cozy, with a large dollop of humor. As Chanticleer Reviews put it, Rose and Ida are “at times more Lucy and Ethel than Holmes and Watson, with a soupcon of Miss Jane Marple.”
Please tell us a little about yourself!
I’m a Professor of Law Emeritus at Seattle University. My wife Analee and I live in University Place. I was born in San Francisco and attended UC Berkeley, and Analee is from Vancouver, B.C. In addition to Seattle U, I’ve taught at such schools as the University of British Columbia, the University of San Francisco, Hastings College of the Law, and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. My hobbies include tennis, biking, playing the clarinet (I play in the Tacoma Concert Band), sculpture from found objects, model railroading, and exotic cars.
As a lawyer and law professor I wrote constantly, and when I retired from teaching, I wanted to keep writing. Legal writing is very exacting, requiring that everything one writes is absolutely accurate (and footnoted!), so a lawyer or law student reading it can rely on it, whether in court or in class. There is very little room for the use of one’s imagination, although I tried to be creative whenever possible. (My students no doubt remember such instances as the Torts exam based on the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears—trespass, anyone?) Writing novels gave me a chance to be creative and use my imagination (and no footnotes!). I hope I’ve done just that.
What was your journey to publication like with this title?
The journey to publication of Oy, Vey, Maria was somewhat convoluted. The first two titles in my “Mrs. Kaplan” cozy mystery series (Mrs. Kaplan And the Matzoh Ball of Death, and A Pain In The Tuchis) were published a few years ago by Random House/Alibi. I had intended to have “Maria” published by the same imprint, but because Alibi was digital only and I wanted my books to be available in print, I decided to take my stories to a different publisher. I negotiated for a reversion from RH and signed a contract with Black Opal Books, which had published my political thriller/romantic suspense novel, Sister-In-Law. But after Matzoh Ball was published, BOB changed hands, and the new owner, to be charitable about it, never quite got up to speed, and it looked like the second book might never see the light of day, much less the third. So one more reversion, and on to publisher number three, the Wild Rose Press. TWRP will publish Oy, Vey, Maria October 27th, and when it publishes A Pain In The Tuchis next January (yes, the third book before the second—I don’t know why, but they can be read in any order), I’ll finally have all three books in print at one time.
Did you do any unusual research while writing this book?
Not nearly as unusual as for some of my other stories, like Sister-In-Law, whose protagonist is a call girl. But I did have to perform some “unorthodox” research. All of my Mrs. Kaplan books revolve around a Jewish holiday. So far I’ve used Passover, Yom Kippur, and in this case Purim. I know quite a bit about the first two, having celebrated them almost every year of my life. But Purim is a holiday mostly celebrated by and with children, and it’s been some time since my wife and I have had a small child in the house. So it was necessary to go back to some biblical sources, and even consult our rabbi, to be sure I had it right. And in all of the stories Ida, the narrator, uses some Yiddish words or phrases and on occasional Yiddish curse, and as I speak very little Yiddish, I had to make sure I had the language right. Finally, I had to learn a bit about graphology, for the blackmail subplot in the story. All in all it was an interesting project.
What’s one of your favorite books that you’ve read in the past year?
I really enjoyed A Moment In Time by Elizabeth George. It’s a compilation of a century of short mystery stories by women authors, some well-known, like Dorothy Sayers and Ruth Rendell, and some not as well-known (at least by me), like Elizabeth Glaspell, whose fascinating 1917 story, “A Jury of Her Peers,” begins the collection. The introductory essay by Ms. George on crime fiction in general and crime fiction by women in particular is well worth reading for its own sake and sets the proper tone for the works that follow.
If you could go back in time and give your younger author self advice, what would you tell him?
I guess I would tell my younger author self not to be discouraged by an initial lack of enthusiasm by agents and editors, but not to have overly high expectations either. My younger self was a successful writer on legal subjects and had assumed it would carry over to writing fiction. What I didn’t realize was how much of the success of authors is attributable to factors out of their immediate control. In the past that wasn’t necessarily true. There were relatively few books being written and many outlets for their work, in terms of agents, publishers, and ultimately bookstores. Since the internet and the consolidation of the publishing industry, writing a book has become like a competition among millions of ants for a few crumbs from the last picnic. So I would tell my younger author self not to take rejection to heart, and just as importantly, to recognize success—getting published, whether or not by a “major” publisher—for what it is. Having by now experienced all three levels of publishing—self, major, and indie—I can truthfully tell my younger self to keep expectations in check, but hope and enthusiasm high.
How can people learn more about your book and follow you?
Publication date is October 27th. Before that, it’s available for pre-sale on most internet book sites, and through the first month of publication the ebook will be on sale for $2.99.
All my novels are described on my website, MarkReutlinger.com. If you should read any of them and have a comment, I hope you’ll send it to me at email@example.com.
Thanks for the opportunity to visit the MWA NW blog!