Today we're excited to talk with Hannah Reed (a.k.a. Deb Baker), author of Buzz Off.
FQ: Manny Chapman was Story Fischer’s beekeeping mentor. There are a lot of how-to-do-it books about beekeeping out there, but your incredible knowledge about bees was obvious in Buzz Off. The time spent with your mentor, Andy Hemken, must have been very productive. Can you tell us a bit about how he taught you about the life of bees?
Andy was very receptive from the moment I called him. The guy loves honeybees! So I drove out to his beeyard (aka apiary) where he explained as much as I could absorb while all his bees checked me out. They are naturally curious creatures and gentle. At least his were. I take total responsibility for any mistakes in the book, but it’s hard to focus with a zillion tiny creatures landing on you for a look-see.
FQ: I fell in love with Grams, her laid back mannerisms, and, of course the visuals of her driving her antiquated Cadillac Fleetwood. No doubt everyone will be anxious to get to see her again in this new series. Ummm, was this charmer patterned after someone you know?
Yes, my husband’s grandmother had many of the same characteristics, including the name Grams. She thought well of everyone she met, finding good, spreading kindness, and not letting negative people get her down.
FQ: P. P. Patti Dwyre, otherwise known as Pity-Party Patti, is Moraine, Wisconsin’s incurable town gossip. Do you think she’ll have that telescope aimed toward another murder in Moraine in your next book? Just a little teaser, please!
You can count on P.P. Patti and her snoopy ways. She also plays an integral part in Mind Your Own Business, book two in the series. Patti will do anything to get a job with the local newspaper, and her schemes cause all kinds of problems for Story Fischer.
When Story was on the Oconomowoc river she said, “Kayaking was like meditation to me.” What are some of your favorite things to do when you need to meditate, unwind, and watch the world go by?
I’m a lot like Story in that respect. Water is a big draw. Kayaking, sailing, sitting on a bench and watching the river flow. I actually live close to the Oconomowoc River.
FQ: Story’s business, the Wild Clover, would be a dream business for many of your readers. Is this the kind of store you love to browse? What would you put in your cart if you were in the Wild Clover?
You ask interesting questions! The Wild Clover specializes in Wisconsin products, so Door County wine, for sure. A few artisan cheeses, a big bouquet of flowers for my kitchen table, packages of dried lemon balm for tea, and of course, honey products – beeswax candles, a jar of cranberry honey, that wonderful honey candy with the soft centers...
FQ: Story claimed that “Not only are bullet points important in my life, so are priority lists.” Writing can be very hectic at times with deadlines, rewrites, and 101 other details that need attending to. How do you keep up with everything?
I’m organizationally obsessed. I write a certain number of words every day. I strategically plot my promotional efforts, which are incredibly time-consuming. Lots of to-do lists. And I make sure I have time for hanging out with old and new friends on Facebook. Although I had to give up Farmville. It was taking over my mind and life.
FQ: In Buzz Off you exhibit an endearing, quirky sense of humor in your writing. In ‘real life’ are you known for having a good sense of humor?
Not at all! I can’t tell the simplest joke without botching it. I think my characters just take over and do their own things, dragging me along on their adventures and misadventures.
FQ: You’ve penned two successful series under your real name, Deb Baker. The Queen Bee mystery series looks like it will be a winner! How did you come about creating the charming name, Hannah Reed?
My publisher bought my concept to write a beekeeping mystery in a matter of days. Agreeing on a pen name took much longer. When my agent finally would like a name, my editor wouldn’t. So we went around and around until I combined two family names. That clicked with all of us.
FQ: You obviously are in love with the marvelous state of Wisconsin and call yourself a Yooper. Can you briefly tell us a few of its most endearing qualities and why you love it?
A Yooper is someone lucky enough to have been born in, or living in, the Michigan Upper Peninsula. I was born in Escanaba, Michigan, still have connections there, and wrote about the Finns and Swedes I grew up with in Murder Passes the Buck. But Wisconsin has been my home for many, many years. We are much more than flat farm fields, cows, and cheeseheads. I love the season changes, the open spaces, waterways, friendliness of our communities, all the wildlife. Life is good here.
FQ: It’s not easy to be a successful writer, but you’re now breaking into the big time, so to speak. Do you have a ‘rejection slip’ type story you’d like to share with us?
It took several years of constant rejections. At one point, I gave up on ever having a writing career and ran for public office, because that was the only other place I could still make up stuff. I lost the race, but right after that, a publisher picked up my first mystery. Buzz Off is book number eight for me with a contract for two more.