An Interview with Carolyn Hart

By Joan Leotta
(May, 2014)

As if you needed an introduction...

Carolyn Hart is the author of 51 novels, more than forty of which are mysteries. One of her most recently issued titles is CRY IN THE NIGHT which she actually wrote years ago but never published until its recent release by Berkeley. It is a standalone novel with a female archeologist as the protagonist. Her 52nd novel; DEATH AT THE DOOR is a part of her popular Death on Demand series and was published by Berkley Prime Crime in May, 2014.

Her official biography tells us that Hart was one of ten mystery authors featured at the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington D.C. in 2003 and again in 2007. In March 2004 she received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. In April 2004 she spoke at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on mysteries in American culture. She received the Ridley Pearson Award at Murder in Grove, Boise, Idaho, in 2005 for significant contributions to the mystery field. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic and received the Amelia Award in May 2013. She will be honored as a Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America on May 1, 2014 at the annual Edgars dinner.

She is a native of Oklahoma City, a Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and a former president of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Crime Writers Association, the International Thrillers Association, and the American Crime Writers League. She taught professional writing in the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism from 1982-85. She is the winner of three Agatha Awards for Best Novel, two Anthony Awards and two Macavity Awards. Her home state is featured in a standalone, LETTER FROM HOME, that brought her one of those Agatha Awards in 2003 and was a New York Times notable book You can learn more about her at

Interview for OMDB!

Hart graciously opened up about her writing to OMDB! readers, even giving us an advance spoiler on the Death on Demand series! I asked her a few questions about the issuance of the archeological book and the rest of the questions concern the Death on Demand series. Following the interview is my review of the latest installment in that series, DEATH AT THE DOOR, available for $25.95 in hardback and for $10.99 on Kindle. CRY IN THE NIGHT is available in paperback for $7.99 and for $5.99 on Kindle.

The questions are divided into two sections. The first section deals with CRY IN THE NIGHT.

* * *

Question: When you wrote CRY IN THE NIGHTwhich writers influenced you to write about archeology? Was Elizabeth Peters one of them?

Hart replies: My influences were Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart. I didn't discover Elizabeth Peters until later and then devoured her books.

Question: Where did you develop your very apparent love and knowledge of Mexican mythology and archeology?

Hart replies: I attended Mexico City College in the fall of 1954. That also resulted in my writing RENDEZVOUS IN VERACRUZ which was recently reissued by Oconee Spirit Press.

Question: Why didn't you publish it when you wrote it?

Hart replies: No one wanted to buy it! That was a period when there were very few books published by American women mystery writers.

Question: What made you issue it now?

Hart replies: I found it in my closet, my agent liked it and offered it to Berkley. Berkley first published it as an original ebook. The sales were good enough that they then issued it as a paperback original.

Question: What are your feelings about the book?

Hart replies: It was fun to see something done so long ago finally reach readers. I like stories about missing treasures. Another of my early books, SKULDUGGERY, concerns the whereabouts of the missing Peking Man Bones. It has been reissued by Seventh Street Books.

* * *

Part two, questions on Death on Demand series and some general questions on writing mysteries.

Question: What was your inspiration for the development of the Death on Demand cast of characters? They are quite far (geographically and in personality) from the characters in CRY IN THE NIGHT. Or are there similarities I am missing?

Hart Replies: The Death on Demand books are traditional mysteries. CRY IN THE NIGHT and the other standalones are suspense novels. Suspense usually involves unusual people with more exotic backgrounds. Traditional mysteries focus on what happens in ordinary lives when someone succumbs to evil.

Question: DEATH AT THE DOOR is a fun read. The relationship between Henny and Annie seems to have grown closer? Was that intentional?

Hart replies: They have become close friends over the course of the series. DEATH AT THE DOOR is the 25th in the series.

Question: Your plotting in this most recent Death on Demand book is superb as usual. Do you plot out your novels in advance, or let the characters dictate a good part of the action?

Hart replies: I know these facts when I begin, the protagonist(s) which determines the setting, the victim which creates the cast of characters, and the identity of the murderer. I have no idea how the story will develop. The story happens and I write it down.

Question: Do you know who did it, when the crime is committed and let the characters find out or do you, the writer find out along with them?

Hart Replies: See above. I know who committed the crime and why.

Question: I like the fact that you used the yellow legal pad at the end almost like an Agatha Christie, old style, get them all in the room and solve the mystery. What made you decide to use that device at the end in this book rather than earlier for thinking about who might be guilty?

Hart replies: I felt it was the most effective way to unmask the murderer in this instance. The circumstances of each book dictate the resolution.

Question: I love the device of the paintings and the old mysteries. How did you get started on that? I imagine quite a bit of research goes into it. How do you feel it enriches the story you are telling. (I know that sometimes, the paintings give clues to the plot, or is it more than sometimes and am I dense!?)

Hart replies: Usually the paintings aren't related to the particular mystery in the book. They are books I have enjoyed and think other readers will enjoy. I had the paintings in the first book as a way to share more information about mysteries and have continued throughout the series.

Question: How do you keep the series and the characters fresh for yourself?

Hart replies: If you are at a party, each person in the room is distinctly individual and each person there, if you really knew them, is fascinating. That individuality is what makes each book different. The people caught up in the mystery each time are new and fresh. Their stories are not the same as previous stories.

Question: Will there be a baby Darling any time in the future?

Hart replies: After the last Anne and Max is published, they will be joined by a gorgeous blonde daughter, MaxAnna. Her grandmother Laurel will have many ideas about MaxAnna's care and upbringing.

Question: Please tell OMDB! readers anything else you would like them to know about creating a mystery in general and about Max and Annie in particular.

Hart replies: Mysteries can be about anything and everything. If a writer cares passionately about their story, somewhere an editor will care. I have enjoyed spending time with Annie and Max. To me, they are always young and happy on their sea island.

Thank you for your time.

Please click here to read a review of DEATH AT THE DOOR by Carolyn Hart.

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