I’m often asked what I like to read and my answer is always M&M’s– Mysteries and Memoirs.
So, I was delighted to be asked to write a profile about Edgar Award-nominated Tamara Berry. (Spoiler alert: SHE WON!)
Here’s the story I wrote for The Spokesman-Review.
PS: I loved “Buried in a Good Book” and have already received an advance copy of the third book in series “Murder Off the Books.” Can’t wait to read it!
Tamara Berry always wanted to be a writer.
“But it seemed like such a pipe dream,” she said.
Yet, next month the Spokane Valley native and East Valley grad will travel to New York City to attend the 77th Annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Berry’s mystery novel “Buried in a Good Book” has been nominated for the Lillian Jackson Braun Memorial Award.
The Edgars honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television. Past winners include heavy hitters such as Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Patricia Cornwell. Spokane novelist Jess Walter won the best novel award for his 2005 book “Citizen Vince.”
The kid who once dreamed about life as an author has published under three pen names in a variety of genres.
Berry graduated from Eastern Washington University with a literature degree and in 2012 released her first e-book, “Love is a Battlefield,” as Tamara Morgan.
“I started writing romance when my kiddo was super young,” Berry said. “The only thing I had the mental capacity for was romances and I read a ton of them.”
Her first two contemporary romances were set in the world of the Highland Games.
“They feature burly, strong guys and romance readers go for that,” she said.
More than a dozen books followed before she retired Tamara Morgan and was reborn as Lucy Gilmore.
In 2018, her agent told her doggie romances were selling well – that is, romance novels featuring dogs.
Soon she’d written a three-book series about service dogs in training and two stand-alone romantic doggie comedies.
“I write mainly comedy,” she said.
When she pitched her next romance idea no one seemed interested except for one editor who asked “Can you put a dead body and a cat in it?”
And the Eleanor Wilde mystery series was born penned under Tamara Berry. Wilde is a pseudo-psychic/medium with a penchant for solving crimes.
“I love con artists,” Berry said. “There’s quite a few of them in my books. I’m drawn to the way they manipulate people. They’re interesting characters with a high level of insight and they tend to be more self-aware.”
While the Eleanor Wilde series sold well, the author had a new story in mind.
“I pitched a lumberjack series where a thriller author and her teenage daughter move to Winthrop, Washington.”
Her agent told her what was really selling was book-themed mysteries.
“Could you put a librarian or a bookmobile in it?”
Berry could and did.
“But I got to keep the lumberjack,” she said.
“Buried in a Good Book,” the first book in the cozy mystery series featuring thriller author Tess Harrow, is up for an Edgar award next month. This is the first year the Lillian Jackson Braun Memorial Award will be granted and it’s the only Edgar award that comes with a cash prize.
Braun, who died in 2011, wrote more than two dozen novels in her “The Cat Who…” mystery series. The award named after her will be awarded for the best full-length, contemporary cozy mystery.
Having read lots of Nancy Drew books as a kid, Berry said crafting cozy mysteries is well within her wheelhouse, but the formula is quite different from romance novels.
“There are no steamy sex scenes, no swearing and no gore,” she said. “The violence is hinted at, but not on the page. And of course, you have to have a murder and solve it.”
For Berry, that’s the fun part.
“I often don’t know who the culprit is going to be,” she said. “I get to be as surprised as the reader.”
Cozy mysteries are generally more gentle than hard-boiled detective fiction or grisly suspense thrillers. Think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series, or TV’s Jessica Fletcher of “Murder, She Wrote,” as examples of the genre.
Berry said there are two types of writers – plotters and pantsers.
“Plotters sit down and write an outline. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. I’m a pantser.”
The prolific author usually writes in bed or on her couch with her two dogs and two cats cuddled up next to her. She writes seven days a week and has a strict 1,000 words per day, daily word count.
“Once I hit 1,000 words I can free myself to do other things,” Berry said.
That includes promoting her latest Lucy Gilmore book, “The Lonely Hearts Book Club.” Due March 28, the lighthearted novel tells the story of the community created by a book club full of misfits including a young librarian and an old curmudgeon who forge an unlikely friendship.
And of course, she’ll be in New York City for the Edgars.
“I’ve been working at this so long,” she said. “It’s not glamorous, but it’s pretty great. If 16-year-old me could see me now, she’d be freaking out!”