Cindy Sample is a former corporate CEO who decided plotting murder was more entertaining than plodding through paperwork. She retired to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a mystery author. Her eight-book Laurel McKay Humorous Mystery series is primarily set in the California Gold Country unless Cindy feels like traveling. Then the characters tag along with her on trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Las Vegas.
Cindy is a five-time finalist for the LEFTY Award for Best Humorous Mystery, a two-time finalist for the SILVER FALCHION Award for best traditional mystery, and a two-time finalist for the Chanticleer MURDER & MAYHEM AWARD for best cozy mystery. BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, the first book in her new Spindrift Cove Mystery series set in Washington state, was just released.
BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER – After Sierra Sullivan moves to Spindrift Cove, Washington, she soon discovers gigs for middle-aged entertainers are scarcer than good hair days. She reluctantly accepts a party-princess gig. Little does Sierra know she’ll soon be upstaged by a corpse and become the leading-lady suspect.
What brought you to writing? I discovered Nancy Drew in the first grade, and by the time I turned eight, I’d read all the books in the series. One night, I decided to use my spelling words and dashed off a sixteen-page sequel. It would have been longer, but my mother made me go to bed at 8:30. I received an A+ and was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a mystery author. Although it took a half-century for me to realize that dream.
What are you currently working on? I just released BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, the first book in my new Spindrift Cove Mystery series set on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m currently plotting the sequel while also writing DYING FOR A DECORATION, a holiday novella that will be the ninth book in my Laurel McKay Humorous Mystery series. Laurel manages to get in trouble without much prompting from me.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? In the first two Laurel McKay Mysteries, my characters behaved and aligned with my original plot concept. When I began writing DYING FOR A DAIQUIRI, the third book in the series, the victim absolutely refused to let me knock her off. So she was upgraded to a suspect. At the time, I was vacationing in Hawaii, the book’s setting. The next day, while dining at my favorite oceanfront restaurant, I visualized the new victim, a hula dancer who worked at Laurel’s brother’s Daiquiri bar. More suspects than I could ever have imagined walked into that story. At first, I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out who the killer was. But I also discovered how much fun it is to play detective while writing a book. The murderer was finally revealed to me around page 170. Since then, I have let my characters evolve on their own.
Do you have subplots? I have a very fertile imagination and so do my characters. I never experience writer’s block, but I dream up so many plots that sometimes it’s difficult to choose. I try to weave in subplots about my protagonist’s family that are relatable to readers. Domestic issues can range from her eight-year-old son and teenage daughter to her bossy mother and feisty octogenarian grandmother. I also added a 150-pound Bernese Mountain dog in book seven who provides plenty of humor all by himself.
What kind of research do you do? I love my research, whether riding an ATV, performing at a ballroom dance competition, sampling daiquiris in Hawaii, or donuts in the Gold Country. My Laurel McKay series is known for its comic chase scenes. I’ve ridden backhoes (slowest chase scene ever), snowmobiles, wave runners, gondolas, stagecoaches, and tandem bicycles to make sure the details were just right. And I watch a ton of YouTube videos, too as well. Since Laurel and I are equally klutzy, the humor comes naturally to both of us.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I live in the California Gold Country, a beautiful area with historic gold mines, wineries, and apple orchards, close to the Sierra Nevada mountains. I wanted to profile the town and some of my favorite places. The series has become so popular locally that business owners frequently request that I “stuff a stiff” in their venue. The Spindrift Cove series is set in a fictional town which gives me more latitude in certain respects, such as the size of the local police force. But I also refer to real places on the Olympic Peninsula that people are familiar with. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, and I love showcasing it.
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Thanks for hosting me on your blog, George.
Cindy Sample is as witty on the page as off. I love “I’ve ridden backhoes (slowest chase scene ever)”! She certainly does her homework when writing her books. The Laurel McKay series is a fun read and “Birthdays Are Murder,” Book One in the new series featuring Laurel’s slightly older cousin, Sierra, does not disappoint.
Thanks so much, Karen. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying Laurel and Sierra’s adventures.
It sounds like you’re having as much fun writing your books as the readers are reading them. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you. I loved the “slowest chase scene ever.” Which book was that in?
Thanks, Michael. The backhoe chase scene was in my first Laurel McKay mystery, DYING FOR A DATE. I was determined to have an original chase scene!
Her joie de vivre really comes through! So glad she found her niche.
Thanks so much, Vicki. I believe I have!
Cindy and George, lovely interview! Don’t you hate it when your characters refuse to cooperate? And one that refuses to die as required? That’s beyond the pale if you ask me. Did you tie him/her up? Bribe him to come back as a spirit in the next series? Your problem is you don’t know how to negotiate with your characters. See me for valuable character tips when this happens next time! 🙂
So fun seeing you shine!
Donnell, you’re so funny. The character that refused to let me “off” her was smarter than me because it made for a much better plot. I now let my characters “guide” me for the most part. If they don’t behave, they could be the next victim!
Nice interview! I’m glad you have a new series. Very fun.
Thanks, Pamela. It’s been fun creating a whole new set of characters in a different environment.
Love finding out all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into writing a mystery. It sounds like research can be a lot of fun if you do it right! I never knew how you come up with all the plots and scenarios that your characters find themselves in and now I know… they come up with them themselves! Too funny! Love all your books, Cindy. Can’t wait for the new ones down the road.
Thanks, Jana. That’s the magic of writing. Just let the characters do it for you!! Although sometimes they are a little slow and I have to help them out.
Love your comments about finding the killer on page 170. I never know who did it until somewhere late in the book. I’m so glad other people do that, too. Best of luck with Birthdays are Murder.
Thanks, Glenda. It sure makes it exciting when you don’t know whodunit until the end!
Enjoyed the interview.
Thanks for reading the post, JoAnn.
Enjoyed getting to know about you and your writing. Thank you.
Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
I’m a long-time Cindy Sample fan. With all the current real-world mayhem, it’s a delight to have your mystery book mayhem mixed with mirth. And Cindy’s a master at it!
Thanks so much, Linda. We can all use more humor these days!
This was a great interview–and wow, you’ve come a long way since that festival in Elkgrove where I met you–and I think you just had your first book out. I’ve been following your career and congratulations on how far you’ve come. You books are such fun reads.
Thanks, Marilyn. You were so helpful to me that day. You continue to inspire me with your wonderful books!
You continue to be inspirational, Cindy! great catching up on what you’re working on now, and continued success!
Hi Madeline. How nice to see you here. It’s been so long! Thanks for reading the post.