M.M. CHOUINARD – Her Psychological Thrillers Will Grab You

M.M. Chouinard is the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon Charts bestselling author behind The Vacation, a standalone psychological thriller, and the Detective Jo Fournier series, featuring The Dancing Girls, Taken to the Grave, Her Daughter’s Cry, The Other Mothers, and Her Silent Prayer (releasing April 7th, 2022). She loves animals, coffee, amateur genealogy, and anything to do with Halloween, Serial Killers, or the zombie apocalypse.

When the body of single mother Melissa Rollins is found trapped inside a bedroom closet in her immaculate suburban home, Detective Jo Fournier is horrified to find that Melissa’s heating was turned up to the max while she died of thirst. As she delves deeper into the case, Jo uncovers a link between Melissa and a recent cold case: another single mother who was tied up and brutally murdered. Then, as the team works around the clock to stop a twisted killer, someone from Jo’s past catches up with her. They’re watching her family’s every move, and they will stop at nothing to get revenge. Can Jo save the people she loves and catch the killer before it’s too late?

Do you write in more than one genre? So far, my published books have all been in crime fiction, although I have written a women’s fiction manuscript and several literary shorts. I cover several sub-genres within Crime fiction, including my published police procedural series and a published standalone psychological thriller. I’ve also written an action thriller, a private-eye novel, and a traditional mystery I hope will be published someday.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I try to write in as many different locations as I can. I’ve been lucky enough to write full-time, and that means I have to work within deadlines, both those I put in place myself and those for my publisher. Writing on a schedule is an important part of that, and I can’t allow myself to lose time because I’m in an inhospitable environment for some reason. So I routinely write in cafes, at home, outside at parks, even at the doctor’s office. I write in quiet and noisy places, so I’m used to focusing in less-than-ideal settings when circumstances for me to do that.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I waited to join MWA and SinC until I had my first book contract, thinking it wasn’t a useful thing to do until I was a published writer. That was a HUGE mistake, and I’d advise every writer out there to immediately join whatever association brings together people in your genre. Between the events that have educated me on the publishing industry and craft, the write-ins that help keep me focused, and the ability to talk to people who’ve gone through things I’m going through, it’s all been invaluable.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? For me, there are two aspects to this. Raising the stakes for my protagonist in a within-book way is one thing, and it usually involves the antagonist taking action that impacts her in a personal way. Sometimes that means literally—my murderer may threaten her life or the life of someone she loves. But it always means psychologically. Even if the murderer isn’t threatening her directly, the murders they’ve committed always tap into some psychological struggle she has. So the race to get justice for a murdered child may tap into my protagonist’s own struggles with her mother, or a dysfunctional husband/wife relationship may challenge my protagonist to examine some dysfunctional attitudes she brings into her own romantic relationships.

In addition, I try to raise the stakes between books for the protagonist in my police-procedural series. She’s learning and growing, but life keeps handing her new challenges that build on the other things she’s learned.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? Hemingway. He was part of my curriculum fairly early in my school years (I believe when I was twelve or thirteen). At that age, I didn’t relate to the content or the pointedly masculine point of view. But what I did respond to even then was his writing style, and that kept me coming back. As I lived more life, his themes began to resonate with me, and I found myself fascinated with the points of view his work reflected.

 Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I’ve done both, and I think there are plusses and minuses for each. One big concern for me is that I’m not in law enforcement. I have never been, and that means no matter how much research I do and how many people I consult with, I’m always in danger of getting something wrong or writing a character that inadvertently reflects badly on a given law enforcement agency (or newspaper, or other agency I write about). It’s one thing for a mistake I make to reflect badly on me, but I never want it to reflect badly on anybody else. So for my police-procedural series, I set the stories in a fictional Western Massachusetts county and do my best to reflect how law enforcement functions in the actual region without pulling anybody real into it.

Where can our readers find you and your books?

Website: www.mmchouinard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmchouinardauthor

Link to Her Silent Prayer on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09Q3QQL98/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

 

15 Comments

  1. Heather Haven

    I’ve read all of Cindy Sample’s books and so loved the first book in her new Spindrift Cove Mystery series, BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, that once finished, I started reading it again. I just love her work and her mind! And she absolutely writes the best and funniest murder chases in the business. A rock-solid mystery writer with some laughs thrown in for extra measure!

    Reply
  2. Jan M Flynn

    I have heard both Ana Manwaring and now George Cramer sing the praises of Michelle Chouinard, and now I see that I’ve been missing some wonderful reads — a situation that I intend to correct immediately. I learned a lot from your thoughtful answers to the interview questions, and, Michelle, you set a sterling example, in terms of work ethic and self-discipline, to other writers, myself most definitely included. What a pleasure to make your acquaintance here!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Jan, you’re too kind! The thought of missing a deadline is terrifying to me, lol, so I guess that’s my secret. 😉 It’s lovely to meet you! <3

      Reply
  3. Katy

    I love the way this incredible woman’s mind works, and I have enjoyed reading her work. I very much look forward to celebrating her brain babies for a very long time.

    Loved getting to read more of the process!!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Aw, thank you, Katy! BTW, ‘brain babies’ is now my new favorite phrase…<3

      Reply
  4. Ana Manwwaring

    I’m a total MM Chouinard fangirl and I’m itching to get my hands on the new book. I agree with Michelle about joining writers associations . I joined SINC and MWA long before I had books, and every step of my journey has been informed by the knowledge and talent within these groups. Michelle is one of my guiding lights. George too, for his informative interviews. Thanks both of you.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      SinC and MWA are THE BEST. So much expertise and so many awesome people, like you! <3

      Reply
  5. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about our multi-talented Michelle!

    Great advice about joining organizations. For short story writers, I also recommend the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

    I liked The Vacation and look forward to reading another of Michelle’s works.

    For what it’s worth, Hemingway was one of the three authors on whom I focused for my master’s degree oral exam. I’ve read every published thing he’s written, every major critical analysis of his work, and more than one biography. I’ve visited his homes in Key West, Paris, and Cuba and even have a file-cabinet novel titled Hemingway’s Lover!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      How cool is that?! I’ve purposefully gone to some cafes he frequented in Paris, and read A Moveable Feast the last time I was there–I’d love to see his homes and meet the six-digited cats! I’m definitely glad I kept going back to Hemingway. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Peg (Margaret) Roche

    Thanks again, George, for introducing another very interesting author. I look forward to reading M. M. Chouinard in the near future.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    You certainly sound like you’ve got it all together when it comes to your writing. I envy you being able to write anywhere. I’m always too leery about writing in a public place because I’m always looking around and can’t drop my guard enough to get in the zone. If it works for you, more power to you, but remember to be aware of your surroundings. As far as researching cops, you should consider joining the PSWA. It’s an organization that both George and I belong to and it’s a great place to get advice on police procedures. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Hello! Well, if it sounds like I have it all together in terms of my writing, that means I’ve successfully pulled the wool over your eyes! 😉 Thanks for the tip–I just joined PSWA. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Hi, George, Hi, M.M Chouinard, I’ll have the pleasure of meeting you next week! Great interview, and I especially agree with your admiration of Hemingway and that the murderer isn’t threatening your protagonist direction. She’s still invested and that’s what counts. Enjoying reading book one of your series.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Hey Donnell! So excited to be a part of your panel next week! Can’t wait to meet you in person, and thanks so much for coming and checking out this interview! 🙂

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

BARBARA BUTTERFIELD – Is currently working on her 60th novel.

Ms. Barbara Butterfield is California-born and raised and currently resides in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her favorite feline friend: Baybee.

Romance, integrity, suspense, playfulness, and personal growth are all values that play a vital role in her novels. More importantly, the gospel and spiritual growth are also an aspect of life into which she delves.

Ms. Butterfield has written for many years, her first novel having been penned at the age of fourteen. She also studied writing and journalism, becoming the Editor-In-Chief of the school’s newspaper.

My latest work, “A Curious Christmas,” will be coming out shortly. These days, I primarily write in the military and law enforcement genres, so this light-hearted romance with a touch of psychology, mixed with a healthy dose of poignancy, is a bit different for me.

“A Curious Christmas” synopsis: Alysha Dunsworth is running from haunting memories of tragedy but soon discovers there’s no guarantee of winning the race.

Two recently published novels were a particular favorite to write: “The Last Flag” and its sequel: “Partners in Crime.”

     

 At the time, Charles and Zach, the two leading characters, were co-workers of mine. I used their names because of their personalities and the way they interacted with each other, but the storyline was created.

Because of their inspiration, those books were so much fun to write. Total ‘guy’ books, these two novels don’t even have a leading lady.

The Last Flag goes from Charles and Zach serving in the Marine Corps to Partners in Crime, where we see they have been discharged (honorably, though just barely) and now recruited into the FPI (Federal Piracy Interdiction), which is a division of the FBI and the trouble they get into there. When all is said and done, and the angst and laughter have subsided, Charles and Zach save the day and go from being toast…to heroes. Both are exceptionally entertaining yet complex stories.

So, years ago, friends said, ‘you ought to write a book.’ It seems they got a warped kick out of my letters. One person even complimented me by saying my humorous writing style was a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. I have to admit that was quite humbling.

One day, while waiting for the moving van to arrive, I was bored. Everything was packed, except the computer. I sat down and tapped out a single paragraph that later developed into a 7-book series, and that was that. Now, eighteen novels later, I’m still writing.

I write in my living room at a little table that I pull over in front of my easy chair, with my old laptop (that I should replace.)

I write from emotion, which means I feel what I write. Consequently, my books are not written sequentially, but each chapter is written based on how I’m feeling at the time and then inserted where it belongs in the story, like driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles by way of Denver.

Writing comes very easily to me. In twenty years of writing, I can only think of one time that I had ‘writer’s block.’ I had a friend at the time who was a lawyer in Texas, I lamented to him, and within minutes he sent me a 1-page ‘idea.’ I was off and running, and “The Rogue of Port Cuevas” was born (my own 1800’s pirate’s story).

For me, the most challenging aspect of writing is suspense. I’m in too much of a hurry to let my readers know what’s going to happen. So, I have to pace myself. Not always an easy thing to do. That said, the only people that die in my novels are the bad guys. The bad guy in “For Love or Money” was particularly obnoxious, and he did get it good in the end.

I do my research online. Google can be handy. But also, as applicable, my friends can be a resource: an RN (who also edits for me), a retired USAF colonel who was a pilot, a retired USMC captain, etc. I belong to one writers association, and the expertise of its members is also a good resource.

I rarely use an outline to write from. But I have at times, depending on how convoluted the plot/sub-plots are.

My characters are created, but I often use my friend’s names for my characters. I’m fascinated by names, so when I run across one that is particularly interesting, odds are… it’ll turn up in a book.

Another aspect of my writing is that I create the covers. I have used some ‘stock’ photography, but I moved into doing my own cover and interior galleys quite some time ago.

I orchestrate the whole gig: models, locations, props, and costuming. For “Journeys with Jesus,” I produced a music video to compliment the story. It was a unique and moving experience to watch the production unfold and see the story spring to life.

I choreograph the entire production: scene by scene and time it to include both camera time and costume changes. Depending on the complexity, I’ll host a pre-production meeting. In short, it’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

Lastly, hmmm, advice for new writers? Writing can be a special and unusual calling. It can be rewarding and frustrating. Getting into writing is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. It almost seems as if literary agencies exist merely to reject your work, thereby kicking you to the proverbial emotional curb. Roll with it, learn, and keep going.

I self-publish for this very reason. It still gets the book out there where people can read it and like it. In my case, people love my work and have told me so. But all I get from agencies are rejections. Hence, I self-publish…and keep going.

Also, writing doesn’t pay, not until you build a name and reputation, and that can be a long, hard climb, and it surely doesn’t happen overnight, if at all. So, you write not for the money, but because it is the heart of who you are.

So, in short, write. If there’s a story inside of you, it will find a way to make itself known.

Also, you never write a final copy when you first sit down at the computer. You will write and then fix it. Then read it, and change it. Eventually, you’ll end up with a manuscript that is just the way you want it.   If you’re having a hard time starting, just sit down, jot out a paragraph and see where it leads. Remember, you don’t always need a map to see where the road may lead.

Readers are welcome to contact me at my email babsbutterfield@hotmail.com. Books may be purchased through any online retailer like amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, etc.

 

2 Comments

  1. Gail Chavez

    It has been such a joy working with Barb and reading her books. A few are not my cup of tea and she has shared that is the writer’s prerogative. But I love reading them and about the characters she creates. Journey’s with Jesus is one of my favorites. Keep writing Barb and never let go of the dream.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, sixty novels and still going strong is an inspiration to writers everywhere. Keep going. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.