MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. The cover had 10 little Indian dolls on the cover, but one was broken. I had to know why. That’s what pulled me into the story. I was ten yrs. old.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: On my 50th birthday my husband said to me, “Didn’t you tell me you always wanted to write a novel? Don’t you think it’s time you started?”
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I’ve published non-fiction articles in newspapers and magazines, and short stories in EQMM and AHMM. I’ve written some children’s books but they have never been published. My grandchildren like them, though.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: Definitely the characters. If you create them first then they will write the story for you. It’s an old trick.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: Not at all. I’m not even sure I can solve the crime I’m writing about until the book is finished. You see, I don’t use an outline and the story is always changing until the very end. (I’m not recommending this method, by the way. I’m always afraid one of these days I won’t be able to come up with a solution!)
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: I’m not well disciplined. I’m afraid. I’m a terrible procrastinator and I write sporadically. As the deadline draws near, I write longer and more often. I used to be a graphic designer and ran a printing company with my husband called Barnhouse Press. (We had one press in the barn and one in the house.) No one wanted to come for dinner for fear they’d find ink in their mashed potatoes, but the rhythmic beat of the press used to lull my two daughters to sleep.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: I’m retired now; the things I like to do best besides write--are read, browse in bookstores, and spend time with my family—especially my grandchildren!
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: There are so many, but I tend to gravitate to the older ones. I reread Dorothy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Josephine Tey and Simenon often. Among the newer authors, I like the darker ones--Alan Furst, Ken Bruen, Henning Mankell, and Charles Todd. I would like to emulate these people, but unfortunately I can’t write dark myself. My childhood was too happy I think and I’m doomed to write cozies with happy endings.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: SLEIGHT OF HAND is the third in the Jo Banks series. In this book Jo falls in with a mysterious recluse, Max Rawlings, an intriguing mix of printer, farmer and magician. In her usual impulsive way, she plunges in to help and causes harm as well as good in the process.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: I would like to continue with both my series. I’ve grown fond of Dr, Fenimore (but then he is a clone of my husband!) and I like Jo, too. I would hate to let them go. I think if the unthinkable happened I would try to keep them both alive through short stories.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: No. I love it when they take off on their own. I think they write much better than I do. Whenever I try to rein them in, they become stiff and cranky.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: : As I said earlier, Dr. Fenimore is really a clone of my husband, and he knows all about it. He’s not always happy with the way he is presented, but he never interferes. Jo Banks, on the other hand, is sort of my alter ego. She does all the things I would have liked to do in my youth, but didn’t have the nerve to—such as ride a motorcycle.
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: Much too long. I was fifty when I began to write, about fifty-three when I began to send my stuff out, and was sixty before I was published. I suffered through many rejection slips. I was about to give up when someone urged me to enter a contest. The St. Martins Malice Domestic Contest for “Best First Traditional Mystery.” I decided to give my ms. one last chance and sent it in. Nine months went by, I had almost forgotten about it, when a woman called and said I’d won. Won what? I wondered, the lottery? But no, it was the contest, and the prize was publication of my ms. I almost fainted. Instead I got a migraine headache that lasted for three days!
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I attend Malice Domestic and Deadly Ink regularly. And I go to Bouchercon whenever I can. I’m going this year because it is close by. I would like to attend more, because I enjoy meeting fans and other writers, but it can get to be pretty expensive.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: It’s a joint effort. St. Martins is very good at getting my books reviewed and into libraries. I tour and talk at bookstores, libraries, book fairs, book clubs, etc., send out postcards to my fan list, and recently have begun a blog on my website. All this is very time-consuming and interferes with my writing, but the market is so competitive today you have to help out.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: : I can’t point to one method. I think it is a combination. You have to do everything you can--mailings, personal appearances, conferences, blogging…
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Not really. My theory is, if they ask for another one they must be selling OK. If they don’t, watch out!
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: This may not have been the best, but it was the funniest. In my last book, SLEIGHT OF HAND, I was trying for a darker, noir-like vein and I really thought I’d succeeded until I read the following review on the Internet. It went something like this: Hathaway’s latest Jo Banks novel is a perfect cozy…You could safely give it to your grandmother, your maiden aunt or your adolescent niece…It was after reading this that I decided I’d better stick to cozies.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: THE DOCTOR DIGS A GRAVE won an Agatha Award in 1998, the year after it was published. And last year Deadly Ink shocked me completely by awarding me a certificate for my contribution to the mystery world! Completely undeserved, I’m afraid.
AUTHOR: Yes! Just recently I got an e-mail from a reader who completely understood my last book, SLEIGHT OF HAND. She told me she appreciated the way I wove the theme of hands throughout the book and presented the duel aspect of “helping hands” that Jo represents. My heroine likes to help, but sometimes she goes overboard and her help hinders and even injures others. “Help” can sometimes be selfish, benefiting the helper more than the victim. This reader really hit the nail on the head.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: The book I’m working on now is a standalone. A spy story set at Cape May Point, NJ, just before the U.S. entered WWII. The research is so interesting that I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing the book!! But I plan on working on it all summer. Its tentative title is TRACE.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I’d write a memoir about my childhood. The trouble is, it was too happy and would probably never sell.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: It’s never too late! And, don’t ever give up!
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: One night, over sixty years ago, a lighthouse keeper, a nun, a coastguardsman and a teenage girl were on a beach in Southern, New Jersey. Something happened that night that none of them would ever forget.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: That some readers would want to read my books more than once.
MMLC: Please give us your website url and your email address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.