EN McNamara is the author of The Jamie Keller Mystery Series; here is a link to the Amazon page
Q: What inspired you to start the Jamie Keller Mystery Series?
A: Reading the book, A Course in Miracles, radically shifted my way of thinking. Change your mind and you’ll change your world. I found it to be true and wished I’d learned the lessons earlier in life. This new way of thinking brought me from the clamorous San Francisco Bay Area to the forests of western Oregon, where I purchased ten acres of property, off-grid, with plans of starting my own lavender farm and business.
In 2004, when we first arrived in Oregon, we got turned on to mushroom hunting. The forest was just outside our door and it was an enjoyable way to make extra money. (Chanterelles can go for as much as eight bucks a pound.)
One afternoon, our new kittens, Schwartz and Isaiah, insisted on accompanying us on the hunt. They were like mini-mountain lions.
As we marveled over their prowess, later that evening, over a glass of vin (perhaps inspired by the wine), I decided to write a story calledThe Chanty Cat Mystery. I excitedly began jotting down my cast of characters (never mind I could hardly spell, and knew nothing about grammar), starting with a fourteen year old protagonist named Jamie Keller, who’s father has just been killed by a roadside bomb. From there the story wrote itself. I later changed the title to Off the Grid, but the cats remain in the story, playing an important role. The first draft took only thirty days to write, but forever to refine and edit.
Without laying it on too thick, I try to incorporate some of life’s lessons, while giving people something fun to read. Many of my fans are not young adults. The dedication to On the Brink is for my hundred year old aunt who’s always asking for the next story.
Q: What happens in On the Brink?
A: The story starts off on a high note, when Jamie, Jenny and Catherine get their first real paying gig. Excitement wanes as certain realities creep into the picture. All of the Keller siblings are curious about the mysterious someone, Mrs. Keller spends hours on the phone with, and are none too impressed when they meet him. Also, sweet little Jana has fallen in with a bad crowd and finds herself in trouble deep.
Q: What makes Jamie a character worth reading about?
A: Jamie is a dichotomy, like most of us, which makes her relatable.
She can jump from generous to jealous at the drop of a hat. She’s a thinker and a stinker and a victim of instant karma who’s selfish tendencies tend to smack her in the butt. At times she is master at cloaking her emotions, while other times over-reacting to the point of ridiculousness. She’s curious and mostly honest. Being only fourteen she is creative, expressive, and oft’ times excessive.
Q: What life experiences do you draw from in your work?
A: Write about what you know they said. So I did. Sibling dynamics we’re easy, being the fifth out of six kids, and the action takes place on a one-horse, off grid, farm in rural Oregon, which is – let’s say – all familiar. I made Jamie a musician because I know how it feels. And animals, always animals, because I am surrounded by them myself.
I turn to current events for fodder. The Iraq War was raging when I started Off the Grid. Over the Edge, explores the generational effects of meth. Gay Rights were foremost in the news when I wrote In the Groove, and I used the Drought in the West as an issue in On the Brink.
Under the Weather (expect summer release) revolves around issues of Medical rights/Right to Die and much, much more.
Q: Who are some of your writing influences?
A: They’ve changed along the way. In high school my sisters and I adored Lenora Mattingly Weber’s WW2 era Beany Malone Series. Currently? Let’s see. . . Ursula Hedgy, Joyce Maynard, and Anne Lamott come to mind, but I admire anyone who dares artistic expression.
I heard a writer interviewed on NPR, who suggested if you find your writing below your standards perhaps you should lower your standards. That statement gave me courage and I wish I could recall the source.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how do you use it in your writing?
A: I’m a lavender farmer with an online product store, Lord and Lady Lavender, so I work from home in the day, out in the yard (weeding, planting, scooping poop) or inside on my website.
A few nights out of the month we play gigs. My partner and I have an acoustic duet, called Moonglow. We play mostly the beautiful old songs from the Hit Parade era, but also Country, Bluegrass, and Rock&Roll. You can find us (moonglow the duet) on YouTube, singingScotch and Soda and a few other hits.
As mentioned, my farm is the backdrop for The Jamie Keller Mystery Series. Jamie is a passionate musician, who experiences all of the highs and lows of the profession. Ouch!
Q: Why do you think series books are so popular with young people?
A: I think for the same reasons they watch the same movie over and over. Familiarity is comforting.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m just wrapping up Under the Weather, book five. The story is figured and very close to done. I still have to draw the cover art and deal with the ever tedious task of editing, but I think it will be ready by July.
Q: What are Lord and Lady Lavender Products?
A: Thanks for asking!
We specialize in lavender gift boxes for men and women; offering soaps, sprays, salts, lip balm, beeswax candles (we have three hives), and love potions. All are hand-crafted on our farm. We’re a small company so it’s more manageable than it sounds. We established in 2004 and grow a bit every year.
Q: If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would you pick and why?
A: I’d choose The Cat in the Hat, because he’s such an artful trouble maker. I received a set of Dr. Seuss books for my fifth birthday and remember loving them so.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)