Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interview with Maddy Hunter, author of the Passport to Peril series

I’ve had quite a few exciting moments in my two years as a book blogger, but I don’t think any of them compare to what I have for you guys today.

I’ve talked about this a few times before, but in case you’ve missed it, one of my favourite series prior to blogging (back when I read mostly romance and cozy mysteries and very little young adult - hard to believe there ever was a time!) was the Passport to Peril series by Maddy Hunter. I discovered them at my library and fell in love from the first book. The characters are kooky and hilarious, the mystery is always tightly woven, and with each book you get to visit a destination that some people only ever dream of.

I was so sad when the series ended after the sixth book. Everything was wrapped up nicely, but I knew I was going to miss Emily and the gang. A little over a year ago when I was doing a Top Ten Tuesday post either about favourite series or books you wished more people knew about, I was looking up the order of the Passport to Peril books and discovered another book was coming out. Thrilled beyond belief, I rushed to Facebook to see if Maddy Hunter had a Facebook page, and she did.

I messaged her and told her how much my mum and I loved her books and how excited we were another book was coming out. Long story short we got to chatting, became online friends, and here I am over a year later interviewing her. To say it’s surreal would be an understatement - how many people actually get to talk to their favourite authors on a semi-regular basis? Maddy is one of the sweetest people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, and it’s my great pleasure and honour to share this interview with all of you!

Hi Maddy! Thanks so much for being here today, it’s a real honour to have the opportunity to talk to you about the Passport to Peril series, which has been a favourite of mine for many years.

I know you conceived of the idea of the Passport series when you accompanied a friend's mother on an escorted tour of Switzerland*, but where did the characters come from? 

Some of the characters started out as stereotypes based on a few of the people I traveled with on that first trip. The three Dicks, for instance, were based on three actual men who'd grown up together and were still basically joined at the hip. Bernice made an appearance because there's *always* someone on the tour who's a pain in the neck. Since I decided to write this book in first person, which I'd never tried before, *I* automatically became the main protagonist, so Emily is me. Her character is governed by what *I* would or wouldn't do, so I hope her logical streak comes through! Of course, *I* would never jump off a tourist boat into Lake Lucerne, so she can be a bit braver than I am. 

I needed a foil for my character, so since I grew up with my grandmother and often went on adventures with her, I invented Nana, named after my own Nana. And Jackie, Emily's transgender ex-husband, appeared for two reasons: I'd once worked with a man who later became a woman, and, having majored in anthropology in college, I loved trying to see the world from other people's perspective. I thought it would be fascinating to chronicle the dynamic between Emily and the woman who used to be her husband. Turns out, they're better friends as women than they were as husband and wife! So that's how I initially imagined the characters, but once they leaped onto the page and started talking, they all took on their own personalities. From stereotypes to fleshed out characters. I take no responsibility for it. They did it themselves. 
Have you traveled to every destination you’ve written about? And do you travel with the intention of writing a book about a certain place, or do you decide once you’re there whether you’re going to write a book?

I've visited every destination I've written about. Sometimes twice! I've incorporated all my travel since 1999 into the series, so when I go, I know I'll be writing a book based in the area. And if I'm part of a tour, the other guests usually get into the act and try to help me find places to kill my characters. I know it sounds a little warped, but it's great fun. The added benefit of a tour is that I have a viable itinerary to work with. Interestingly though, the books usually take place within a three day time span. I have no idea why it works out that way; it just does. So my reader never sees the group actually completing the whole tour. But trust me. They really do! 

Do you have to do additional research after you’ve traveled?

Normally, when I return from a trip, I buy a guidebook to tell me more about where I've been and what I've seen. I can rely a bit on video that my husband shoots (unfortunately, we have different opinions of what's interesting enough to be on tape), and I shoot still photos (mostly of flowers, which have no mystery value at all, but they're really pretty). What helps me immensely is Googling the area I've visited and being placed right in the midst of it online. Click on the map and boom, you're right there. What a boon! Thanks to Google mapping, I can retrace the whole tour and reacquaint myself with everything I've seen that I've somehow managed to forget or didn't think was important at the time. I have no idea of a plot before I travel. I'm there to be a sponge, soak up atmosphere, and then figure out what to write about. 

Is there a place you’ve been that you consider your favourite?

I absolutely love England. I love the high tea, and the flowers, and the accents, and the pervasive politeness, and the coast of Cornwall, and the history, and the castles. Not so crazy about driving on the opposite side of the street, but it's a small price to pay. And I've yet to write a Passport mystery based in England. I might need to do that. I *did* publish an historical romance entitled, The White Raven, that took place in 18th century Dartmoor. It was the story of a thieftaker and a noblewoman and I became quite enamored with the hero. His name was Cain. Sigh. What a man! 

Who’s your favourite character to write about?

Barring none, I LOVE to write about Nana. She's evolved into a composite of my Irish grandmother and my 90 year-old aunt, and if I'm in a pickle with the plot, she always manages to get me out of it. When she first appeared on paper, she was pretty whacky. I seemed to have included her mostly for comic relief. But after I had a writer friend read a few chapters of the first book and ask the question, "Why is she so dotty?" I realized that I had to flesh her out more and make her less one-dimensional. In doing this, I discovered that Nana wasn't dotty; she was brilliant! She was a woman with lots of life experience, little education, a great deal of practicality, and a hunger for documentaries on cable TV. She's so real to me it's scary! And my mother swears Nana once sat in front of her in church. For a fictional character, Nana obviously gets around.

How do you come up with the clever titles for your books?

My book titles have been a group effort from editors, friends, fans, and me. I'm actually horrible at thinking of titles, so I need lots of help. My brilliant editor at Pocket (Christina Boys) came up with the first two titles (Alpine for You and Top O' the Mournin'), I thought of Pasta Imperfect, an Iowa friend who writes romantic fiction (Anne McAllister) thought of Hula Done It? and G'Day to Die, I came up with Norway to Hide, the editorial board at Midnight Ink provided Dutch Me Deadly, an awesomely clever fan (Christina Ward) thought of Bonnie of Evidence, and another awesome fan (Gail McDonald) came up with the title of the book I'm presently working on, Fleur de Lies. It takes a village!

*If you want to learn more about how Maddy came up with the idea for the Passport to Peril series, she talks about it (and a bunch of other interesting stuff) in an interview with Shelley from Shelley’s Book Case.

Find Maddy Online:
Alpine for You {GoodReads || Buy}
Top O' the Mournin' {GoodReads || Buy}
Pasta Imperfect {GoodReads || Buy}
Hula Done It? {GoodReads || Buy}
G'Day to Die {GoodReads || Buy}
Norway to Hide {GoodReads || Buy}
Dutch Me Deadly {GoodReads || Buy || My review}

Maddy's latest book, Bonnie of Evidence

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving your story about getting to become friends with one of your favorite authors. How exciting! Thanks for letting us get to know her better!


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