Frankie Bow is a teacher and the author of The Musubi Murder; here is a link to her website:
Q: What is The Musubi Murder about?
A: The Musubi Murder is the first campus crime novel set in Hawaii. The protagonist is professor Molly Barda, a reluctant sleuth who is very much a fish out of water. She’s a big city girl recently transplanted to remote Mahina State University, using her top-ten literature Ph.D. to teach resume-writing to business majors. She just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble until she gets tenure, so naturally she ends up getting dragged into the middle of a grisly murder case.
Q: What life experiences did you draw from when writing the book?
A: Everything in the book is entirely fictitious, but I do work in higher education. We seem to have a lot of “Rewarding A While Hoping for B,” or what economists call perverse incentives. A lot of this, in my opinion, comes from the fact that we reward or punish short term results, when we’re hoping for long-term improvement. For example, Molly’s dean refuses to turn away a tuition-paying customer under any circumstances. Even if the “customer” plagiarizes an assignment, fails every test, or waves a machete around in class. These kinds of conflicts are kind of fun to write about, because everyone thinks they’re the put-upon hero of the story.
Q: What makes Molly Barda worth reading about?
A: Molly is obsessive and neurotic, and she overthinks everything, but I’ve tried to write her so that the reader can understand and even identify with her. For example, as she’s taking her seat in a theater, she thinks: “I can never decide whether to face front or back when I’m squeezing into a row of seats; which intimate body part does the average theatergoer want hovering inches from their face? Someone should do a survey.” I’m hoping that the reader will recognize that they have wondered this exact thing themselves.
Q: What makes her different from other characters?
A: Molly’s superpower is reading. There’s some research that shows that exposing people to literature makes them more adept at reading the emotions of others. These are lab experiments, not observational studies, so it’s not just that empathetic people like to read. Because of her reading habit, Molly, as socially awkward and insensitive as she can be, is better than average at reading peoples’ emotions and motivations.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences?
A: Dorothy Parker, P.G. Wodehouse, Sarah Caudwell, Dave Barry, Molly Ivins, Alexander McCall Smith, and E.F. Benson.
Q: What are some things you have done to promote your book?
A: I set up a WordPress blog using Simon Whistler’s tremendously helpful video tutorial. The blog is where I post things first, but I’m also onTwitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Blogger. As the hardcover launch date gets closer I’m thinking of using Buzzfeed and Storify a little more.
Q: What elements do you think a good murder mystery contains?
A: I think there should be enough clues planted along the way that when you re-read it, the murderer’s identity and motivation should be obvious. It should also be entertaining enough that you actually want to re-read it!
Q: What challenges did you face in writing the series?
A: One big challenge was Molly’s love life—I didn’t want it to be too perfect. It had to be flawed enough to generate some interesting conflict. I wanted her love interest to be appealing enough that you can understand what Molly sees in him, and I wanted it to be believable that he would pursue her. I didn’t want him to be Astronaut Mike Dexter.
Q: What is your weirdest teaching story?
A: Living in a small town (not entirely unlike the fictional Mahina), I realize that there are no secrets, but even so, this was a weird one. My husband and I had just learned that we would be having a daughter. I was visibly pregnant, but we hadn’t told anyone (except for his mother) the sex of the baby. Imagine my surprise when two of my students announced to the rest of the class—in class—that I was going to have a girl. And they wouldn’t tell me how they knew.
Q: If you could meet Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes, who would you pick and why?
A: I would pick Nancy Drew. Sherlock Holmes is likely to be in bad humor and might not speak at all. Nancy Drew would be gracious and willing to recount some interesting stories.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)