USA Today bestselling author Paula Munier burst onto the mystery scene with A Borrowing of Bones. That fast-paced debut was not only nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark Award, Publishers Weekly declared the Mercy Carr series “a series to watch.” Since then, the books have gained legions of devoted readers and garnered voluminous praise.
In The Wedding Plot, Paula takes Mercy and her faithful Malinois Elvis into truly dangerous territory: a wedding. Sure, drama and tears and standard features at these events, but a dead body? Read on…
1. What’s the title of your book—and was that always the title?
Coming up with this title was a challenge. My editor didn’t like any of the ones I offered up—and I offered up dozens of them. I had an entire Word doc full of them. But they were all either too dark—“It takes place at a wedding,” he’d remind me—or too light—“it’s not a cozy,” he’d say.
I write traditional mysteries, not cozy mysteries, so too light was as unsuitable as too dark. I struggled, but eventually I came up with The Wedding Plot, which my editor loved because: 1) It has wedding in the title, which is a selling point; 2) Adding the word “plot” makes the book seem traditional but not too dark; 3) Given the storylines, The Wedding Plot works on many levels. As least I hope it does. You’ll have to read it to find out. Let me know what you think.
2. Who’s the main character of your book—and was that always their name?
I write the Mercy Carr mysteries. Mercy Carr was always my heroine, and that was always her name. Mercy, because I love the so-called virtue names favored by the Quakers and I wanted her name to reflect her empathetic and compassionate nature. Carr, because it’s a surname drawn from the New England branch of our family tree, and the books are set in New England.
Elvis, the retired bomb-sniffing dog who shares top billing with Mercy (at least in my mind), is named after the King. Because he’s the king of dogs. I didn’t want to give him a stereotypical tough-dog name like Duke or Fang or Gunner, and I knew from my research that many military working dogs are named after rock/country stars—Garth, Cash, Willie, etc. So his name is Elvis, and it suits him. The name is thought by some to be Scandinavian, meaning “all wise”; Elvis is also said to be an Anglicanization of the Irish name Ailbe. Saint Ailbe is the patron saint of wolves. How perfect is that?
3. At the start of the book, what’s the character’s goal?
Mercy’s grandmother is getting married in a luxe weekend-long extravaganza at a swank venue in Vermont. When the spa director at the resort goes missing a couple of days before wedding, her mother—the wedding planner from hell—asks Mercy to find him, pronto. That’s her initial mission, to find him and get him back on the job in time for the wedding guests to enjoy their “complimentary spa day.” But she finds a body instead….
4. What was the core idea for this novel—a plot point? a theme?—and where did it come from?
In The Hiding Place, the book that precedes this one in the series, Mercy’s grandmother and her long-time beau get engaged. Each book is set in a different season, to take advantage of New England’s distinct seasonal weather patterns. My editor said, “No more snow!” so I figured June would be perfect. June is wedding season in Vermont, and Weddings can be murder….
5. At what point did you come up with the final version of the first line?
Not until the book was laid out in pages and ready to go the printer. My publisher was not pleased.
6. Did you know the ending of the book when you started?
I knew some of the ending. I plot out my stories fairly extensively before I write them, but there’s always another shoe that drops at the end. I don’t know what that will be until around page 350 (of 400). I just have to trust that I’ll figure it out. So far, so good.
7. What’s something in this book that you’ve never done before?
I usually don’t start writing until I have an opening image in my mind. But this time I sat down and wrote a scene at the very beginning that came out of nowhere. I mean, the action wasn’t in the outline, the character wasn’t in the outline, the backstory wasn’t in the outline. But there it all was on the page. It was like I channeled it. Which was cool, except that it meant I had to change nearly everything I’d planned….
8. What part of your tour (or launch week) are you most excited about?
I’m so excited that for this launch we’ll have both in-person events and online events. I’ll be doing my very first appearance on The Mighty Blaze / Crime Time online with our own fab Hank Phillippi Ryan. And a virtual event with everyone’s favorite mystery bookstore, the Poisoned Pen. And just like in the Before Times, I’ll be at a swell in-store event at the wonderful indie bookstore Gibson’s in Concord, New Hampshire with my fellow mystery writer and great pal Sarah Stewart Taylor.
And lots more! Click here for a full schedule of events.
9. Who in your #writingcommunity deserves a special shout-out for supporting you in writing this story?
My editor Pete Wolverton. My dad died unexpectedly just as I was beginning to write the story, and that stopped me cold. It took me awhile to get back to the book, and Pete was endlessly patient and kind and understanding. Like my dad, Pete is a gentleman through and through. I could never have written it without him.
10. How do you want readers to feel when they close the book?
My hope with every book is that readers reach “The End” and feel good about the time they’ve spent with Mercy and Elvis, and look forward to spending more time with them in the future.
11. What did you learn from this book?
The best part of writing a book is everything you learn along the way. I learned so many things, from where to see the showy lady’s slippers in bloom (Eshqua Bog in June) to who makes the best chevre in Vermont (Lazy Lady Farm, Vermont Creamery, Blue Ledge Farm, take your pick). But most important, I learned that in fiction as in life, weddings are about family, and marriage is about love.
To congratulate Paula—and ask her all about THE WEDDING PLOT: go to our Career Authors Facebook page!