Monday, April 30, 2012

Michigander Monday: Nina Wright

I'm pleased to welcome Nina Wright to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Nina, please tell us a little about yourself.

Nina:  Hi, Debbie. Thanks for giving me a chance to chime in on Michigander Monday! Although raised just south of the MI-OH border in Toledo, I’ve lived a good portion of my adult life in the wolverine state. That seemed to be my destiny even when I was a kid. From the time I was old enough to take my bike beyond my immediate neighborhood, I rode across the state line into the wide-open Michigan countryside. Little did I know that one day my mystery series protagonist Whiskey Mattimoe would be doing much the same! I’ve lived on a farm in Lenawee County and in the delightful Oakland County town of Lake Orion. Having resided in Ohio, Texas, West Virginia and Florida, I can fully appreciate Michigan’s natural beauty as well as the down-to-earth goodness of folks who call this place home. Michigan will always be a huge part of my heart.

So you want to know a little about me. My professional background is diverse. That’s my way of saying I’ve enjoyed several careers—although none so much as writing fiction and plays. In college I majored in theater and then worked for several years as a professional stage actress. Later I moved on to voiceover work, supplying the narration and character voices for commercials and documentaries. To this day I continue to act and direct, but now it’s a sideline. After earning graduate degrees in teaching English as a second language and English lit, I taught middle school, high school and college. I’ve also worked in public relations and marketing.

Before I began writing novels, I was a working playwright. Writing for the stage is excellent training for writing fiction, particularly for crafting dialogue and strengthening plot points. I teach workshops designed to help novelists sharpen those skills among others. One of my great joys has been seeing my plays produced in theatres around the country. Although my main focus today is on writing novels, I will write more plays. It’s a unique thrill to sit in a darkened theatre surrounded by strangers who are laughing or crying as actors bring my story to life! In 2010, my latest full-length play, On My Boyfriends’ Bicycles (do you spot a motif?), was produced in suburban Chicago.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Nina:  I’m the author of the Whiskey Mattimoe mysteries, a humorous cozy series starring a Michigan Realtor and her felonious Afghan hound. Think Janet Evanovich with dogs and a lot of heart.

The series takes place in fictional Magnet Springs, a Lake Michigan resort town that reminds some readers of Saugatuck. I’ve imagined my own kooky village, where tourists occasionally either get murdered or commit murder. Dogs are always involved, whether as accomplices, companions or canine cops. Being in the real estate business gives my amateur sleuth opportunities to meet tourists and snoop, when necessary.

Whiskey (a nickname for Whitney) Mattimoe inherited her Afghan hound Abra from her late husband Leo, who died suddenly. Whiskey and Abra have an uneasy alliance, with Abra inclined to chase every shiny object, including precious gems and designer handbags. She also likes to seduce studly male dogs. In short, Abra is the bad girl of dog fiction.

I recently completed the sixth book in the series, Whiskey and Soda, due out in trade paperback and ebook this spring from Martin-Brown and Ampichellis Publishing. The fifth book, Whiskey with a Twist, left readers wondering whether Whiskey Mattimoe was pregnant by her first husband, Jeb Halloran. Whiskey divorced Jeb years earlier when he cheated on her, and she married a “good” man who is now dead. But she recently rediscovered Jeb’s many charms. The problem for Whiskey is whether she can ever completely trust Jeb. Read the sixth book to find out whether she’s pregnant, and what she plans to do next! Of course, Whiskey bumps into a lot of lethal action along the way.

The series begins with Whiskey on the Rocks, but readers tell me that they can approach the books in any order. I hope to keep writing this series, assuming that readers keep wanting to know what happens to Whiskey and Abra the Afghan hound. In the sixth book, I’ve added a female rival for Abra, a French bulldog named Sandra Bullock. Stay tuned for girl fights.

I’ve also published two urban fantasies, Homefree and Sensitive, about a teenager from Indiana who thinks she’s losing her mind when she begins spontaneously astral projecting back to cities where she used to live. Though very different in tone and content from the Whiskey Mattimoe books, I would like to write more in that series, too.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Nina:  I always have other projects in the works. Next up is a non-Whiskey Mattimoe mystery, a private-eye novel set in Florida that I hope to finish in the next few months. For updates on projects and appearances, I invite readers to follow me on Twitter and facebook.  I’m happy to answer emails from readers, too.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Nina:  I’m still scheduling appearances for the remainder of 2012. Speaking of that, I’m available to teach writing and creative-process workshops at schools, libraries and for other organizations. See my website for more information or contact me if you’re interested in a “custom-designed” workshop. I recently taught middle-schoolers in Chicago how to develop characterizations for an original opera. A few weeks later, I taught busy executives how to master their time and talent in order to write a novel or memoir in a single calendar year.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Nina:  I’m partial to Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor—a delightful spot to shop for mysteries. As for libraries, I’ve never met one I didn’t love. My favorite these days is the Oxford Public Library in northern Oakland County. Great books, superb staff, stunning aquarium. 

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Nina:  Every beach in Michigan is my favorite place. I love to walk barefooted for hours along Lake Michigan. No doubt my love affair with sand and water started many years ago at Warren Dunes.

I’d like to give a shout-out, also, to professional theatre in Michigan. There is brilliant work on our state’s stages. My favorite theatres include Williamston Theatre (Williamston) and the Tipping Point (Northville) as well as the Purple Rose (Chelsea) and the Performance Network (Ann Arbor).

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Nina:  As much as I love small-town seasonal fairs and attend as many as I can, I consider every season in this state a miracle and a work of art. I swear that summer is more glorious here than anywhere else on earth with our lakes, beaches and woods. Autumn is crisp and vivid and forever linked in my memory to a return to serious business. Winter, although I grumble about it, challenges our fortitude and our sense of humor. Thankfully, every spring brings a fresh chance at wonder, warm sunshine, and revelry. It’s time now to take a book outside in the sunshine along with your favorite cold beverage.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Nina:  That it is a scenic and sensory wonder the whole year ’round. Few people realize that Michigan has more coastline than any other state, including Florida and California. Not to mention all our charming interior lakes; Nepessing in Lapeer County is one of my favorites, by the way.

During my years in Texas, I told folks that I had moved there from Michigan. One day a native Texan replied, “I’ve been to Michigan. Y’all come from the blue and green part of America.”

Debbie:  Love it!  Finally, last question:  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: what’s the better term, "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Nina:  “Michiganian” may sound more elegant, but I believe we’re all “Michiganders”— strong, friendly folks who love the outdoors, enjoy a good conversation, and know how to do what’s necessary, including shovel snow, swim, and laugh out loud. Thanks for the conversation, Debbie! Enjoy the weather.

Debbie: Thank you, Nina, for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Nina and her books, stop by her website, her blogs, her FaceBook page, or her Twitter feed.

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