Everyone, please give a warm welcome to author Phyllis Entis. We chat about the mystery genre, tougher side to being a microbiologist, and plenty more. Also, The Green Pearl Caper, Book 1 in the Damien Dickens Mysteries, is currently on sale on Amazon at 99 cents through the end of December 2016. You can also pick up the discounted Audible audiobook (narrated by Tom Lennon) for $1.99 when you get the Kindle version of the book.
If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?
Murder, She Wrote. And, what do you mean by an extra? That’s no fun! I want to be Jessica Fletcher. If I can’t be the mystery writer/solver, I’ll settle for the part of Jessica’s beta-reader. Or her editor. Or her proof-reader. Or the snoopy neighbor who drops in and reads the unfinished manuscript. Anything that will allow me to read more than the single page that appears on the opening credits.
What makes you cringe?
Sloppy grammar, bad spelling, erratic punctuation, and writers who believe that adverbs are dead.
It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?
Agatha Christie. The three books on the discussion list would be the debut novels of Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs), Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi) and Louise Penny (Still Life). I would love to hear Dame Agatha’s take on how the genre has evolved, and how these three very different practitioners of the craft of mystery writing differ in their approaches to story-telling.
What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?
I was a teenager during the 1960s. Looking back, I think that I was pretty fortunate. The economy was good, opportunities for women were opening up, and college education was affordable, at least in Canada. My full-time undergraduate tuition at McGill University, one of the top science & medicine schools in North America and located right in my hometown of Montreal, was just $700/year. I lived at home and commuted to school every day. I graduated in 1970 with a B.Sc. in microbiology and zero college debt.
I am so much a repeat reader that I’ve never really considered this. When I come back to a book that I loved, it’s like catching up with an old friend, finding different wrinkles, and immersing myself into a world that I want to revisit. The first time I open a book, I read for the plot; the subsequent times, for the love of the phrasing, the details of the descriptions, and the sheer joy of rediscovering what I loved about the book the first time around.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
Marketing, hands down. In 1979, my husband and I started our own business. We developed, manufactured and marketed a rapid testing system to find and count bacteria in foods. As the microbiologist in the family, I handled most of the telephone contacts with potential and actual customers. I loved talking technical, but hated the selling aspect of the job. As an Indie writer, I’m now finding myself in a similar situation, except that the ‘marketing’ now takes place on social media and blogs like yours. I would rather wrestle with a bad case of writer’s block than spend my time on marketing. And I’ll take proofreading over promoting every time.
Since you spent a chunk of your life as a microbiologist, what is the most interesting gross fact you know?
That’s a tough one – there are so many. I think that the most gross experience I had was a consulting assignment in a poultry processing factory. The practice back then was to hang the slaughtered, defeathered chickens by their feet on an overhead conveyor belt (like one of those amusement park rides where the seats dangle from a monorail), with the entrails draped over the backs so that the government inspector could look for signs of disease. That was bad enough, but it wasn’t the gross part. The company had walled off an area to produce chicken weiners. They had a large holding tank filled with water that was sprayed on the chains of weiners coming out of the smokehouse to cool them down quickly. The holding tank was emptied and cleaned only once a week. There were bits of meat, casing, and unidentifiable objects floating in the water. And, why was I being consulted? Because the company couldn’t understand why their cooked weiners were contaminated with such lovely microbes as Listeria and E. coli.
I don’t really have any, although I confess to a certain affection for one of the villains in my debut novel, The Green Pearl Caper. I was ambivalent about one of the characters – Gordon Sethwick – through most of the book, alternating between considering him to be a victim or a villain. My ambivalence made him into a more interesting and sympathetic character. One of my beta-readers told me that Sethwick was her favorite character in the novel.
The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?
If I’m permitted a solar-powered charging device, I’ll take along my Kindle with my entire library! If not, I shall have to content myself with my three favorite works by Charles Dickens (Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield), The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, and Caesar’s Women by Colleen McCullough. These are all books that I have read multiple times and like to revisit from time to time. Depending on the size of my trunk, I would add the rest of McCullough’s Rome series, and all of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache books.
Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?
As far as I’m concerned, being gushed over by a fan who loves my work is never awkward!
Places to Find Phyllis Entis
Phyllis Entis was born and raised in Montreal, Canada and is a graduate of McGill University and the University of Toronto. She turned a love of science into a career in food safety microbiology that lasted for thirty-five years.
Book Blurb for The Green Pearl Caper:
Celine Sutherland is dead – her body half-hidden under the Atlantic City Boardwalk – and Damien Dickens, P.I. killed her. Detective Lt. James Holmes found Damien’s gun and wallet near the crime scene, and discovered Celine’s cash-filled, emerald-studded evening bag hidden in Damien’s apartment. Sylvia Sutherland, Celine’s older sister and CEO of the family’s tobacco empire, insists that Dickens pulled the trigger. And the Sutherlands carry a lot of influence in Atlantic City. Even Damien’s secretary has deserted him – gone to work for the Sutherlands. Only Celine’s younger sister, Susan, believes in his innocence.
After Susan bails him out of jail, Damien follows his gut and a series of clues in order to clear his name. His quest takes him to several Atlantic City landmarks, inland to Everettville, a small New Jersey town, and north to Vermont, where he confronts Celine’s killer.
The Green Pearl Caper, set in the summer of 1979, is the first in a series of Damien Dickens mysteries.