This week my guests are mystery authors, Lorna and Larry Collins, a married couple who write together and separately. Let’s get to know them.
Patricia: Where did you grow up?
L&L: We both grew up in Alhambra, California, just a few blocks from each other. Larry’s mother was the Avon Lady, so Lorna knew her from age five. Our mothers were very close friends. In fact, if there had been arranged marriages, we’d have married each other. And we still don’t know how they pulled it off.
Patricia: Did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer?
L&L: We had some of the best teachers on the planet, so we learned to write well. Lorna was an English major. In high school, Larry had a real taskmaster as a teacher. Every Monday morning he had to turn in a story of at least two pages on any subject. At first it was a real challenge, but he grew to enjoy it. He became so proficient that he was published twice in the school’s literary magazine.
Patricia: Where do you live now?
L&L: We live in Dana Point, California, about halfway between L. A. and San Diego. We’re about a mile from the ocean. Since Larry’s a surfer, he can go out nearly every morning.
Patricia: Do you use that locale for settings in your novels?
L&L: We use the ocean in our mysteries. They’re set in Hawaii. In Murder in Paradise, we used surfing as a subtext for the plot. Lorna’s latest fantasy/romance/mystery, Ghost Writer, is set just up the coast in and around Laguna Beach.
Patricia: What inspired you to write your most recent novel?
L&L: Lorna’s book, Ghost Writer, was inspired by the title itself. We were carpooling, and started talking about a ghost writer. Lorna suddenly said, “What if the writer WAS a ghost?” And the story was born.
Our most recent mystery together, Murder in Paradise, was inspired by a conflict currently happening on Oahu. Developers want to change the character of the North Shore, and preservationists want to keep the status quo. As a surfer, Larry was quite interested in this. We also had a friend who had taken up competitive outrigger canoe racing, so that also featured in the book.
Patricia: Did you plan to write a series before or after you wrote the first book?
L&L: No. We never even planned on writing mysteries! But we found our protagonist, Agapé Jones on Maui and wrote the first one, Murder… They Wrote. But he refused to stay retired. And he’s clamoring for us to finish the next two adventures, currently in the works.
Patricia: Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery genre.
L&L: Marilyn Meredith writes wonderful contemporary mysteries. Conan Doyle is classic, of course, and Janet Evanovich just for laughs.
Patricia: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not reading or writing?
L&L: Larry surfs. Lorna enjoys spending time with family and friends. But mostly we read and write.
Patricia: Do you like to travel? If so, what are some of your favorite places to go?
L&L: We set our books in locations we love to visit. We’ve been to Hawaii dozens of times and never grow tired of it. We’ve been all over the world, including spending nearly three years in Japan. Our first published work, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, is a memoir of that experience. We’ve also been to Europe, other places in Asia and the Pacific. And our bucket list for travel is long. Each time we visit someplace new, other locations beckon.
Patricia: How would you describe yourself personality wise?
L&L: Larry’s a classic engineer: logical, linear thinking, introverted, most interested in the facts. Lorna is the extrovert who loves people and collects friends like others collect postage stamps. She writes the emotions and feelings. Somehow, we’ve been able to marry these two styles into a format that works well for us.
Patricia: What’s your favorite color? Why?
Larry: Blue because the ocean is blue and it’s cool.
Lorna: I like the whole teal/aqua/peacock/blue-green spectrum. Our house is decorated in blues and greens, except for the hospital-white walls to accent our artwork. We both gravitate toward the cooler colors.
Patricia: How would you finish this sentence? If I won a million dollars, I would…
L&L: tithe ten percent, then buy a condo in Hawaii, travel a lot, and help others. (We did separate ones, but they were exactly the same. You think we’ve been married too long?)