Nancy Lynn Jarvis wore many hats before she started writing cozy mysteries. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News, as a librarian, as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz, and as a realtor.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, which she applies to her writing and life. She has just started growing hops commercially.
Elevator pitch for Santa Cruz Ghost Stories – If you want to be entertained or, in some cases, made to shiverꟷ by the creative minds of writers telling you their Santa Cruz ghost stories, this is the book for you. There’s even an AI-generated ghost story so you can see what future ghosts may look like.
I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. I’m on too many writer-related Facebook groups to list.
Do you write in more than one genre? Does editing count if I contributed a story to the book? Mostly, I write cozy-style mysteries, where I began and am currently working, but I keep getting sidetracked. After the fourth book in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, I swerved into a stand-alone novel titled Mags and the AARP Gang.
A little later, I thought my book covers needed refreshing, and while searching online for ideas, I found a graphic that I thought would make a perfect cookbook cover… not that I ever intended to do a cookbook. I bought it and showed it to some writers I knew, instructing them to talk me down from an increasingly growing and intruding idea that I should ask other cozy mystery writers to contribute recipes from their books and create a cookbook. They failed miserably. Over one hundred of them submitted recipes and delightful autobiographies, and the result was Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.
I was asked to write a short story for a proposed anthology titled Santa Cruz Noir. I thought that was the wrong vibe for my community and convinced seventeen other writers to contribute stories about our weird hometown. The result was Santa Cruz Weird.
After that, I finished the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series and began another one, PIP Inc. Mysteries, about a downsized law librarian who turns to private investigation to support herself. Things were going well. I was four books and six thousand words into book five in the series when I sold a ghost story for an anthology.
I was not bragging—okay, maybe I was a bit—to friends who suggested I do another anthology, this time one full of ghost stories. Santa Cruz Ghost Stories is in the final throes before publication and hopefully will be ready for preorder on December 1st.
What brought you to writing? I started writing as a game because I was bored. I was a realtor in 2008 when the real estate market collapsed. My husband and I had our own small real estate company, and we decided to take a time-out until things settled down. Within three weeks, I was going crazy with too much time on my hands.
I had just finished reading everything Tony Hillerman had written and thought it might be entertaining to see if I could take what I thought was a great beginning and terrific book ending and somehow connect the two of them. Instead of Navajo police officers on the Big Reservation, I decided to set my story in the world of real estate in Santa Cruz. I wrote about what I knew and what I saw. The result was The Death Contingency. I’ve never stopped because it only took one book to get hooked on writing.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I start each book by writing a short psychological profile (behavioral science was my college major) about each character. Still, they typically start out with me using the name and persona of someone I know. They quickly get renamed because the first time I want them to do something they wouldn’t do, they have to be changed into a character who will do what I want them to do.
It usually works well, but in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series I’m doing now, the protagonist continues to be based on a person I know. Like my character, she was a law librarian turned private investigator. My Pat character is half her age and has green eyes because the real Pat said she always wanted green eyes, but other than that, she is pretty much herself. (And yes, she is a markswoman with a magnum 357 in her briefcase.)
I have had some problems with the primary characters in this series, though. Pat was supposed to be interested in two men: Tim, the deputy sheriff she met on her first case, and Mark, an attorney she’s had a crush on for some time, for several books. But the chemistry between Pat and one of the men was so strong that it only took one book for her to choose her love.
Supposedly, having characters wed is the kiss of death in cozy mysteries, but Pat and her guy made me break the rules. In Dearly Beloved Departed, there’s a wedding scene.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’ve only killed one character I loved, and readers probably did, too. It broke my heart to do it, so much so that I spent time curled up on a sofa in my office sobbing and shaking after writing the murder scene. It had to happen, though, for the story to work properly.
What kind of research do you do? You’d think there wouldn’t need to be much research done to write contemporary mysteries, but you’d be mistaken…wildly so. I’ve delved into everything from bone spurs on primitive human heels, redwood trees, the evolution of cat litter, and the history of sin eaters, to name a few topics I’ve researched. I now have more useless facts crammed into my brain than most people. For me, it’s imperative to get small details right to make the stories believable so I may spend considerable time researching something only a few paragraphs long in the books.
How do our readers contact you?
They can contact me from my website http://www.nancylynnjarvis.com. They can also find me on Facebook, where I am Nancy Lynn Jarvis, or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2918242.Nancy_Lynn_Jarvis