Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she’s having too much fun writing to ever sell another house and let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate. She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. If you’re one of her clients, colleagues, or contractors, read carefully — you may find characters in her books that seem familiar. You may know the person who inspired them — who knows: maybe you inspired a character yourself.
Minty Fresh Mysteries (MFM): Your Regan McHenry mysteries are known for having lots of plot twists and turns. Have you ever drafted an epic twist (à la The Sixth Sense or Planet of the Apes) only to realize that — amazing as it is — it’s just not going to work?
Nancy Lynn Jarvis (NLJ): I’ve never had that experience, but I have had a character throw a plot twist at me. When I started writing Backyard Bones, I couldn’t decide which one of two characters was the murderer, but knew the choice could be put off until I was part way through writing the book. By the time I reached the deciding point, it was clear neither prime suspect was guilty; the villain was another character. No worries. I thought I’d just go back, do a little rewriting, and plant clues in the appropriate places. When I got to the revision points, the clues were already there. My character was in charge the whole time and laughing at me as much as at my protagonist for missing them.
MFM: Real-life events from your 25-year real estate career form the basis of your mysteries. With all that experience, have you done all the usual realtor things like walking in on naked homeowners, trying to sell a crazy cat lady house, or shoving dirty dishes in the trunk of your car before a viewing? Have you done anything even wackier than that, say, shoving a naked crazy cat lady in your trunk before a viewing?
NLJ: Several of the wacky things I’ve encountered or friends in the business experienced have found their way into the books. The (very common) naked homeowner story made a great little bit in a book as did the crazy cat lady (mine was a crazy dog lady) who wore tinfoil hats to keep the space aliens from reading her mind. The most unusual wacky story may have been a friend’s experience of finding a dead seller during a showing. The realtor was upset and assumed the potential buyer, who left the bedroom where the body was while he called 911, was too, until he found her in the living room sitting in a yoga pose, communing with the dead seller to negotiate the purchase of his condo. I used that in “The Death Contingency.” FYI readers, all the murders in my books are made up; the real estate stories, no matter how implausible they may seem, are all true.
MFM: Tell me about the absolute weirdest house you ever took clients to view. Did any elements of that experience find their way into your books?
NLJ: Let’s see. The one that was so cold the evil in it was palpable? No, I ran out of it and never took clients to see it, although it was the model for The Murder House. The one with the working dungeon dug under the house? Maybe. My clients and I got out of there quickly once we noticed the massive lock on the dungeon door and heard noises upstairs indicating the owner had come home. I haven’t used that one…yet. Oh, I know! The one where the building inspector announced he found Jimmy Hoffa. There was an anomaly in the structure of the house that created a perfect hiding place for a body. The inspector was kidding about Hoffa, but the house and that space are in Buying Murder.
MFM: You’ve now published more than half a dozen books, so I’m sure you’ve learned a thing or two about what works and doesn’t work for getting the word out. What are your go-to marketing strategies? For example, I was thinking about buying ad space for my book series on Kim Kardashian’s butt…
NLJ: Back in the day, I had great success offering a free download of a series book. It’s counterintuitive to give a book away to increase sales, but it worked beyond my wildest dreams, which is saying a lot because I’m a writer and dream up all sorts of things. Recently I convinced 128 cozy mystery writers to submit recipes related to their books for a cookbook and asked them to include biographies and links for buying their books. Authors are now a promotional army mentioning the cookbook everywhere. Sales are good and we are all getting publicity from Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes. It doesn’t hurt that “Cozy Food” is full of witty stories, terrific and entertaining recipes, works equally well for recipes and for discovering new authors to read, and is garnering rave reviews.
Check out more cozy mystery author interviews:
- Want to know why I challenged Julie Anne Lindsey to a duel?
- Curious about Allison Janda’s “blogaholism”?
- Learn how RP Dahlke turned a personal tragedy into a change of scenery for Lalla Baines in A Dead Red Oleander.
- Drool Baby author C.A. Newsome dishes out writing advice, dog love, and opinions on Jane Austen and zombies.
- Read about the time Cindy Blackburn and I invented a new drinking game.