I love that today’s special guest wrote about St. Augustine. Hubby and I returned just last night from Florida. We visited St. Augustine last year. My cousins live there. While I pour us a chilled beverage, why don’t you get us started, M. S., by telling our visitors who you are other than the official bio.
Thanks so much for letting warm myself at your fire! I was—until I’d had enough—a perennial student (did you ever watch the movie The Librarian? That was me). I hold a BA from Vassar College, a diploma in Arabic Studies from the American University in Cairo, and Masters in Anthropology and in Library Science from the University of Chicago. Among other posts, I’ve been a librarian, a nonprofit president, a Congressional aide, and a speechwriter. I’ve lived or traveled on five of the seven continents. Antarctica is not really on my bucket list, but Australia is!
I finally came back home to DC in 1980 and landed a temp job on Capitol Hill which turned into a professional staff position. While it was thrilling to be involved in creating legislation, it was the brushes with celebrities that blew me away. Charlton Heston graciously allowing this breathless legislative assistant to have her picture taken with him. Or standing in the Rose Garden when Margaret Thatcher came to visit Ronald Reagan. There were embarrassing moments as well, as when Paul Newman called my husband and I answered the phone, “Joe’s racetrack and speedway, place your bets.” I distinctly remember the puzzled pause at the other end of the line.
I started publishing in 2009 and have released fifteen romantic suspense or murder mystery novels, with two more on the way. I have two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter and currently divide my time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
Huh, I’m sort of speechless. That rarely happens to me. Ask my husband. Wowzah! What an exciting and unique life. I’ll bet you have tons of stories to tell, and this was only the iceberg. What do you like to read? Which books or authors are your inspiration?
I don’t read as much now as I did before I started writing—mainly thrillers and mysteries. As a child and adult I was a voracious reader—especially of those books called “classics,” figuring it was a classic for a reason. I devoured English writers—Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Evelyn Waugh—for their delicate, precise prose, and the mystery writers—Christie, Sayers, Allingham, and Marsh—for their deceptively simple puzzles. I loved biographies as well—a more interesting way to learn history.
I’m a voracious reader and also enjoy biographies. One of my favorites was Gracie A Love Story by George Burns. What is your neighborhood like?
My husband died in 2010, and after hours spent staring at my bedroom ceiling, I picked myself up and moved to Florida. My complex—on a Gulf coast key—is full of fascinating characters retired from all walks of life. It is an intellectually diverse population with one common element—we love the constantly blue Florida sky. My neighbors perfectly blend the art of being socially welcoming while sensitive to one’s need to be alone.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I am, however, in awe of someone who is able to put their life together and find their place again. Do you have any fun or outrageous talent?
The ability to wiggle out of any public speaking engagement. Oh, also: I had vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens at my house in Virginia, and learned to make all kinds of pickles, relishes, jellies, and preserves. Here in Florida, I’m experimenting with recipes from my Meyer lemon, my Beautyberry, my fig and maybe someday my passionfruit vine and my grapefruit tree. I think of it as free food 😊.
I love gardening. When I was in Perry, Florida, tomatoes went into containers and traveled back with me in the shower of the camper. Herbs in the front of my DH’s truck. Do you have a particular object like a piece of jewelry or a keepsake of some sort? Can you tell us what makes it special to you?
Sitting on my desk is a ceramic statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh. Underneath him runs a mouse. It depicts the Indian tale of the mouse who became so proud he made the gods angry, so Ganesh sat on him. It had pride of place on my father’s desk while he wrote his books, and on mine now. Not sure why.
Favorite childhood book?
I loved the Oz books & collect them now. When I finished my BA thesis at Princeton I went to the library and borrowed all the Oz books they had.
If you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be?
A tin of the finest Russian beluga caviar, with toast points, chopped boiled egg, and sweet onion. Washed down with a bottle of Bollinger brut.
Did you ever win something?
I suffer from a strange malady—I can have a thousand chances to win $2 and still fail. I once spent three hours in a charity bingo event. Several hundred people attended. There was only one person who never got a bingo. Guess who. I have only won one thing—a sixteen-pound Butterball turkey. The day after Thanksgiving.
Lol, I won a turkey once. My aunt dropped it on her foot and broke a toe. So, it really was a loss. What was your first job?
If you don’t count the lifeguard gig and research assistantships in the Library of Congress, National Academy of Sciences, and the American Museum of Natural History, then I’d cite the first real job with benefits: a publishing assistant for the magazine Electric Light & Power.
How do you select the names of your characters?
That’s one of the more entertaining aspects of writing. Sometimes—not often—the character chooses her own name and I can’t dislodge it no matter how many “find & replace” I insert. In many books I choose a theme related to the story. In Whirlwind Romance, every character had a 17th-century English name. In Hidden Gem, the heroine is named after an obscure island, because her father loved maps. Usually the names are in place by the third chapter.
M.S., thank you so much for joining me today. You are such an interesting person. Before you head out to either the garden or another adventure, will you leave us with some information about your new release and where to find more about it and you?
The Secret Of St. Augustine
M. S. Spencer
Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.
Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city.
Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.
Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine
The Wild Rose Press, April 4, 2022
Cozy mystery/Romantic suspense
418 p.; 96,570 words
Barnes & Noble
4/19/2022 11:57:57 am
Florida is so pretty. Glad you got to stay a while there DV!
D. V. Stone
4/20/2022 08:48:15 am
Thanks, Pam. We really enjoyed it. D.
4/19/2022 12:16:16 pm
Oh, my, M.S. What a fabulous life you've led! You'll never run out of ideas for interesting books. Wonderful interview, ladies. I've truly enjoyed getting to know you better. Wishing you continued best of luck.
4/19/2022 12:54:21 pm
What a fun interview! Wow, that's certainly a lot of various life experiences, M.S. I am also a widow, having lost my husband in 2009. I too had to totally reinvent myself. It isn't easy, but writing is a great way to get lost from the world! Thank you, Donna, for featuring M.S. today!
4/19/2022 04:51:05 pm
This was so much fun, Donna! I'm glad you got to visit St. A--such a fascinating city. I do have a lot of stories about my life--I thought about writing an autobiography, but it's not as much fun as weaving them into fiction. If readers are interested in a novel with a bit more autobio detail, you'd like Lapses of Memory. Once again, thanks so much for having me!
4/19/2022 06:44:43 pm
I was so happy to have you. Thanks for being such a great guest. D.
4/20/2022 06:16:29 am
Wow, what an interesting life! I enjoyed reading about it.
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Your Host D.V. Stone
Award winning multi-genre author and blogger. Fantasy, romance, mid-grade. Nothing better than a campfire, book, and glass of wine. Okay maybe there is.📚
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