Mystery Thriller Week: Q&A with Morgan Talbot

Mystery Thriller Week, a celebration of the genre and its authors and readers, is underway through February 22. If you’ve done the math, yes, it’s 10 rather than the usual seven days. It’s a super-sized week for a super-sized genre. For more information, stories, and author interviews, pop over to

In conjunction with the event, I’ll be sharing Q&As with mystery and thriller authors throughout the week (and a half).

Today, I’m happy to welcome Morgan Talbot, author of Smugglers & Scone

About the book

Pippa Worthy runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.

Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.


What would you like readers to know about your book beyond what’s in the blurb?

I grew up visiting the Oregon Coast most summer weekends and occasionally throughout the rest of the year. It’s the first place I thought of as special, exotic, different. Yes, it’s often cold and rainy as well. But we didn’t do annual vacations. We drove out to the beach. It was a place worth seeing, over and over. I have tried to incorporate my nostalgic love for the left edge of the North American continent in my book because it holds so many memories for me. If you’ve been, it’ll sound familiar. If you haven’t, maybe it’ll make you want to visit.

Do you start writing at the beginning of a story or to reach a future point you see in your imagination?

I plan my stories ahead of time, and I write them according to a scene list I create. Not because I couldn’t pants a novel, but because the last time I tried to write without a detailed outline, I accidentally turned a 100k book into a 250k duology. I stick to the plan so I can focus on the story I want to write. All the other ideas dancing at the edge of my firelight will have to wait their turn.

What are your protagonist’s best and worst qualities?

Pippa is a practical person—unlike myself—but her greatest strength is her ability to pick up on things that other people know well and apply them when they’re the most useful. The guests in her B&B are mystery authors of all stripes—published, unpublished, bestsellers, newbies, sweet old ladies and crusty war veterans. Over the years, Pippa has picked up all kinds of mystery-related trivia from them, such as how to pick a lock and how to stall a villain for time. Pippa is a blend of her guests’ main characters, while still living in a practical world and running a small business. On the other side of that coin, she lives in a town steeped in mystery-writing traditions, and she couldn’t stop thinking about murder plots if she wanted to.

What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing that happened to your characters as you were writing the story?

Jordan, Pippa’s BFF, showed up in her first scene and demanded that I dye her hair. I just typed it without even questioning her, because she was right. And Lake, the handsome boat pilot, decided he needed a slight limp, which told me everything I needed to know about his turbulent teenage years. It’s stuff like this that has me pretty convinced that these characters are actually real people. They tell me stuff out of the blue!

What’s the first book you can remember loving? What’s the last great book you read?

When I was four, I had a Golden Books version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I can remember reading it to my stuffed animals over and over, even when my mom was peeking into my room. The last great book I read was The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. That woman has a vocabulary that makes me swoon.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard or been given?

“Keep writing.” No other advice matters unless you keep writing.

What did you wish I’d asked, and why?

If you’d asked about the recipes in the back of the book, I’d have told you that I grew up cooking and baking with my mother, and I was particularly interested in baking, because that’s where all the desserts are! My scone recipes aren’t quite dessert, but they’re deliciously sweet and perfect for sharing with friends.

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

I’m on Facebook here.

I’m on Twitter here.

And I have a website: Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser.

More Mystery Thriller Week Q&As:

Q&A with Edwin Herbert

Q&A with Joynell Schultz

Q&A with Paul Russell Parker III

Q&A with D. M. Barr

Q&A with Elena Hartwell

Q&A with Marie Jones

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