Author Interview: Marjorie McCown

1) What inspired the idea for your book?

MM: I spent 27 years in Hollywood working on the costumes for movies like Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — and I’ve thought for a long time that a big movie would be the perfect setting for a murder mystery because a movie company is its own unique community, like a very specific kind of small town, with its own set of relationships and always plenty of drama brewing. So that world provided the inspiration for the books in my Hollywood Mystery series, FINAL CUT and STAR STRUCK, both featuring movie costumer Joey Jessop. It’s fun for me to take my readers on an insider’s guided tour behind the scenes of a big budget movie in production.

2) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

MM: I was eight years old when I read The Wind in the Willows for the first time, and I was so sad when that beautiful book ended, I decided I was going to write my own fan fiction adventures for Badger and Mole (not that I knew back then “fan fiction” was a thing.) From then on, I was hooked. Writing has been one of my favorite creative pastimes throughout my life, even though I made my living for many years as a costume designer for theater and film.

3) What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

MM: Read all the time and read a broad selection of authors. Start with authors whose books you love and read all their work, then try new authors. Find either a writing group or a collection of trusted colleagues who are willing to read your works in progress so that you have a source for objective criticism to inform your writing process. And make writing part of your daily routine if you can. If not, then just make sure to give yourself regularly scheduled time to write so that you continue to practice and hone your craft.

4) What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I need an uncluttered desktop and a quiet environment. I don’t want any visual or auditory distractions because the whole time I’m writing the book, I have the movie version playing in my head. When I made the transition from costuming to being an author, I was surprised by how my years working in film influenced my writing. Movies are made piecemeal, one shot at a time, and that piecemeal method of putting a story together taught me about plot structure — which helps me every day as a writer. I outline my books before I start writing them, but I use those outlines almost like the daily shot list of camera setups on a movie, and that helps keep me moving forward through the story.

5) What are your favorite series or series authors?

MM: Too many to name all of them here, but I do love:

Kathleen Donnelly: National Forest K9 Series

Barbara Ross: Maine Clambake Series

Erica Ruth Neubauer: Jane Wunderley Mystery Series

Wendall Thomas: Cyd Redondo Mysteries Series

Ashley Weaver: Electra McDonnell Series

Matt Coyle: Rick Cahill Series

Mark Pryor: Henri Lefort Mystery Series

Ellen Byron: Cajun Country Mystery Series

Tess Gerritsen: The Martini Club Mystery Series

6) Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

MM: Absolutely! Creating a character based on someone with whom you’re familiar or friendly is not only fun, it gives you a head start putting literary flesh on the person in your story to help your character come alive on the page. My polydactyl cat, Monkey, is the model for Bigfoot, movie costumer Joey Jessop’s cat in my Hollywood Mystery series books. Monkey has a big personality –plenty of source material to make Bigfoot memorable. At least, that’s what many readers have told me. And of course, it’s always a guilty pleasure to model a villain after someone you may feel less than fond of.  

7) How do you use social media as an author?

MM: I use social media mostly as a tool to connect with my readers, to let them get to know me a bit as a person, sharing some of my interests and activities (and my pets!) with them through short posts and photos. I also post occasionally about my writing process or ongoing research for a work in progress. And I do some marketing, posting photos of ARCs when they arrive from the publisher, sharing links to my books on Netgalley, as well as purchase links to my books. But I do try to keep the marketing to less than a third of my social media activity.

8) How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

MM: Not everybody is going to be interested in — or enjoy — my books. That’s a fact I accept: those people are not my readers. But there are people who will enjoy my books. That’s also a fact. I write because it fulfills me creatively, and my goal is to write the best book I can at any given time and to keep improving with each book, so I do my best to keep my attention focused on my work.      

9) Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

MM: Writing is one of the few activities that completely absorbs me, to the point that hours can go by without my noticing. It’s a joyful, relaxing, and stimulating experience. Especially when I’m on a roll with a sequence of scenes, writing can become a very real organic flow of energy that invigorates me mentally, emotionally, and physically.   

10) If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?


JENNIFER LAWRENCE: Joey Jessop, savvy movie costumer who finds herself backed into the role of amateur sleuth in FINAL CUT when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a coworker.

JOSH BROLIN: Marcus Pray, the arrogant producer-director.

COLIN FARRELL: Eli Logan, first assistant director of the movie they’re all working on (and Joey’s ex-boyfriend.)

EMMA STONE: Maggie Fuller, investigative reporter who antagonizes Joey at first, then becomes her frenemy.

ZACKARY ARTHUR: Malo, the young production assistant Joey takes under her wing to mentor.

HAILEE STEINFELD: Courtney Lisle, second assistant director on the movie, Eli Logan’s new girlfriend, and the murder victim Joey is suspected of killing.