A Day in the Life of Author Karen MacInerney

Death Runs AdriftWhen I first started writing the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, it was summer in Texas; I was the mother of two small children, one of whom was a big fan of both projectile vomiting and tantrum throwing; and the most riveting part of my week was Gymboree class, where the topics included such things as — and I am not making this up — “What is your favorite baby accessory?” (Wipe warmers won by a landslide.)

It may not come as a surprise that I found myself doing a lot of escape reading during that period of my life. And, as I strapped belligerent children into car seats and endured yet another round of storytime at the library, I started to think seriously of dreams I’d not yet fulfilled. In particular, dreams of writing a book.

The problem was, what kind of book? I had always written vignettes, and some of them weren’t half bad. Whenever I tried to stretch them into something bigger, though, I found myself grinding to a halt. But I’d always liked mysteries. I’d cut my teeth on Nancy Drew mysteries, moving on to Miss Marple’s adventures (usually paired with butterscotch candy and M&Ms) in my junior-high-school years, and was a lifelong lover of cozy mysteries. And one afternoon, as I slid the minivan door shut, it occurred to me that mysteries had a built-in plot. Somebody died! And your protagonist had to figure it out!

It was a Eureka moment. I would write a mystery novel! My plot problems were soon to be a thing of the past! But that led to a new question: Who was my main character, and where on earth was I going to set it?

I was stumped again. But, as luck would have it, my parents took a vacation to a bed and breakfast in California called the Lost Whale Inn. They loved everything about it – the food, location, and above all, the cozy feel of the place. As I pored through the recipe book they returned with, salivating over the recipes, I found myself thinking that an innkeeper would be a great main character for a mystery. The problem was, I hadn’t been to Northern California, and my second setting choice (Newfoundland, where I’d spent summers with my grandmother) had so much dialect I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Serendipity struck again a few months later, when friends invited us to visit them on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine. As soon as we stepped onto the mail boat and felt the breeze as we cut through the cold blue water, I knew I’d found my book’s home.

I started writing the Gray Whale Inn mysteries 11 years ago, sitting in bed at ten o’clock at night and scrawling in a composition book. The first scene, which involved an islander coming to the inn with a basket of fresh wild blueberries, never made it into the book, but it succeeded in launching me into a new world.

Three afternoons a week, for five months, I fled… I mean, I left my children in the care of a babysitter and hurried to a Starbucks with the ambient temperature of a meat locker. I’d sit in my favorite green chair in the corner and pretend I was in Maine (not a challenge, given the chill in the air), imagining a different kind of day from the ones I usually led. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons were spent filling 20 notebook pages (double-spaced) with dreams of what life would be like on a Maine island, with no toddlers, loads of sinful cakes and muffins, and interesting guests. (With a few dead bodies tossed in, of course.)

Cranberry Island and the Gray Whale Inn were my haven for many years, and still are. Simply by picking up a pen (or a laptop), I could travel to an island where blueberries abounded, the cool sea breeze ruffled my hair, and I got to live in a gorgeous, gray-shingled Cape on the rocky shore of an island. There were no diapers. There were no clinging toddlers. Sure, there were murders and avaricious developers, but at least you didn’t have to feed them strained peas.

Now, more than a decade later, I’ve written lots more books, but the Gray Whale Inn is still special to me. Natalie, Charlene, Eli and Claudette are like old friends, and I love finding out what Natalie’s got cooking – and maybe whipping up something in my own kitchen to accompany a scene I’m working on.

So that’s how an imaginary “day in the life” turned into something much bigger.

But enough about me. What are your dreams?

You can read more about Natalie, Charlene, Eli and Claudette in Death Runs Adrift, the sixth book in the “Gray Whale Inn” mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. The first book in the series is Murder on the Rocks. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on May 29, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of DEATH RUNS ADRIFT. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Critically acclaimed author Karen MacInerney teaches writers’ workshops and drives a mean carpool. Her book KarenMMurder on the Rocks was selected as an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. When she’s not writing or chauffeuring children, she loves to read, drink coffee, attempt unusual recipes, and hit the local hike-and-bike trail. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two children, and a rabbit named Bunny, and escapes to Maine as often as possible. Visit her online at karenmacinerney.com.

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46 responses to “A Day in the Life of Author Karen MacInerney

  1. I’m very glad that you had your Eureka moment and that you fully pursued it. The Gray Whale Inn series is one of my favorites and getting a bit of insight to it’s origins just makes me appreciate it, and you, more. Please, keep writing!

  2. I have the first one on my t-b-r list, maybe it’s time to put it at the top.

  3. Maureen Hayes

    I love hearing the back story behind how each author got her start. Yours is fascinating, funny and touching. Now I want to read your series! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Death Runs Adrift.

  4. Karen MacInerney had quite the process to get to a complete story idea and a series. Her follow through and determination are commendable with a family. I am glad I found a new author to read.

  5. I have not read anything by this author, story looks great.

  6. Debbie Carnes

    Sounds like a wonderful book, look forward to reading it

  7. Kathy Gonzales

    I have every book in this series, it is truly good cozy series !

  8. Love the author photo!

  9. This is a new author for me. I would love to start reading this series. It sounds good!

  10. carolee888

    I haven’t seen this series before but I would really love to win this book. Thank you for the chance!

  11. This is incredibly sad. I’ve read all your books and had no idea you were so miserable, and only able to escape 3 afternoons a week. Wow! Please don’t enter me in the drawing, as I just came to read the blog post as a fan. Again, so sorry things were so tough for you.

  12. Nancy Bradford

    I do love this series.

  13. Dawn Frazier

    This sounds like such a great series! Thanks for the chance to win.

  14. Nancy Roessner

    Maine is a lovely locale for a cozy mystery. As an aside, my grandmother was also born in Newfoundland, though she moved away. Sorry to say, I’ve never visited there. Keep writing your lovely mysteries!

  15. Truly enjoy reading this series and look forward to this one. Thanks for the review and giveaway.

  16. I love cozy mysteries that take place in Maine. Thanks for the chance to win one.

  17. I love hearing how this series came to be, I always wonder how a series is started. I’ve been to Maine once and loved it, we have plans to go back some day and spend a little more time. Thanks for the chance to win.

  18. Great story although I’m afraid I have no idea what wipe warmers are. It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me, I’m fine with that. Thanks.

  19. Love the series, and really enjoyed getting to know Ms MacInerney. Thank you.

  20. I now live in landlocked Minnesota but for many years I lived on the coast. I love to “travel” to Maine an it’s rugged shores through reading books like this.

  21. Vicarious vacations from writing. Great idea. Can definitely see Texas in the winter and Maine in the summer. As a kid, I used to visit my cousins who lived on the boarder of Maine and Canada. There were some real life mysteries then, as my cousin was a customs agent long ago. Me, I just had fun. Would love to read this cozy mystery from the Maine shores!!

  22. Ah, time away on Cranberry island. Maine is a perfect choice–one of my favorites.

  23. Barbara Tobey

    A Whale Inn on either coast would be delightful.

  24. Love this series and enjoyed hearing about its beginnings. Thanks for the chance to win.

  25. I love her books and it was great to hear how she started all those years ago. Would love to win her newest book in the Grey Whale Inn Series.

  26. Why is it that I am not already a stalker and a fan of yours?
    I love that you can use your writing time to escape, the end result you take us away when we read.

  27. Thank you for a chance to win a copy of Death Run Adrift. I enjoyed Murder on the Rocks and would like to read more.

  28. Love her books this would be a perfect read for me.

  29. Cynthia E. Blain

    Would love to get caught up with the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series. I have both book 1 and 2 and now I need to add the remaining four to the series. I love all books written about New England as I have said many times, as I am from New England and have lived here my entire life. We vacation in Maine almost every year, so when I first saw book 1 I just had to get it, and I am very glad that I did. Karen, your writing is amazing, and so believable. Now I just need to get caught up and find out what is going on at the Inn.

    Would be honored to win the book as would everyone. Reading a lot these days of recuperation and books have filled my days.

    Thank you. Really enjoyed the write up and information in the blog; I love to learn something new about a writer each time I read an interview, etc.

    Keep up the great work, Karen.

    Cynthia in Massachusetts

  30. Sherry Card-Smith

    I love this series! Without even having to close my eyes, I can hear the breakers hitting the shore. Outside, I also hear the sea gulls singing their praises of the leftovers, placed outside for them. I can picture myself sitting at the breakfest table, as a guest at the inn…smelling homemade muffins just out of the oven, Ahhhh….this series is glorious!

  31. Anita Yancey

    It sounds like a wonderful story. I haven’t read any books by this author. Thanks for this chance.

  32. Sounds like a great story .Haven’t read this series yet.

  33. Kaye Killgore

    It sounds like a good series. kaye.killgore@comcast.net

  34. Dina stout

    This is a fantastic series by ones of my favorite authors!!

  35. One of my fave series! Would love a copy.

  36. Tonya Urbatsch

    I loved her story about starting to write. Her book sounds like fun.

  37. Eleven years! Just in time for me to discover your writing. 🙂

  38. One of my favorite summer reads. Looking foreword to the new one.

  39. Eleven years! Just in time for me to discover your writing. 🙂
    (Used wrong email address above).

  40. I do love this series, though I admit to being behind. As for my dreams-to not worry about money, have a successful second business, care for more animals, get healthier, and have fun!

  41. Debra Woloson

    Thank you for the interesting blog and great giveaway. I haven’t read this author but am going to start. I have dreams of getting more healthy, and getting more projects-quilting, knitting, and reading done.

  42. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a good one.

  43. Sounds like a great series.

  44. I love books that feature Inns. They are a nice warm setting for a murder…lol!! My dream is to travel to the English countryside and drink tea while overlooking the rolling hills engrossed in a great murder mystery. I loved your post!!

  45. Dotty Kelley

    I love this series and look forward to reading this one.

  46. contest is closed.