Car here. This is a series of interviews I’m doing for my author, Rebekah Webb, for the participants of the 2016 Brain to Books Cyber Convention. (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/154267-brain-to-books-cyber-convention-2016) Since I only interview inanimate objects, I have used the power of booze and lack of sleep to transform my interviewees into assorted objects of their choice.
Today I am going to interview a cow clock named Nan Sampson. When she isn’t keeping time, ticking away, or mooing the hour, she’s the author of Restless Natives, a cozy mystery with paranormal elements.
Book: Restless Natives, a cozy mystery with paranormal elements:
The weekend before her coffee shop’s Grand Opening in the small Wisconsin town of Horizon, former Chicago marketing exec Ellie Gooden opens the back door to her business… and finds murder. The former owner is dead in the middle of her kitchen, tied to a chair, covered in syrup and feathers, with a butcher knife sticking out of his chest. Alone in a new town, she climbs immediately to the top of a suspect list of one. To make matters worse, someone is vandalizing both her new shop and her new home, delaying her opening. As she struggles to launch her new business and salvage her reputation, she digs into the murdered man’s past, unearthing long-buried small town secrets – secrets that have driven someone to kill and turned Ellie from suspect to potential victim herself.
Nan Sampson has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a crayon (before that, her mom simply called it ‘making stuff up’). Never one to limit herself to any one interest, she writes in a variety of genres, including mystery, fantasy and science fiction. She is a nerd of the first water, an original Trekkie, Whovian, 221B Baker Street Irregular and Firefly fan girl, with a penchant for history, quantum physics, and gardening. Her biggest fan is Admiral Horatio Nelson, her very pushy poodle, who deigns to reside with her, along with her handsome, long-suffering husband and fabulously nerdy daughter, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
What made you start writing? As a cow clock, I bet your writing was influenced by all the events in your life that have mooved you.
I’ve been telling mooving stories ever since I was a young calf clock. My father tried to steer me away from a career in writing, but I was too bullish to listen. I’m sure he was just worried that I’d never be outstanding in this field… but now with one published novel and another being released in April, I think he’d be proud of me. I find that all of my experiences, with the proper twisting and turning, make excellent story fodder – heck even this interview could be farmed for a story!
How does a cow clock write? Do you dip your minute hand in ink and scratch it on a page? Fall off the wall onto a keyboard? Or is there another way to be able to put words to paper/screen?
Ah, Car, where there’s a will there’s a way! I used to use the old minute hand trick – but recently I’ve discovered moo-tooth technology! I simply moo into the air and my words are picked up by a microphone, transmitted to the computer on the counter and appear on the screen. Gotta love those chicks in IT.
Do you hang out with other novelty clocks and if so, what are they like?
Before this gig, I used to hang out with some other clocks. Mostly cows, but a couple of pig and chicken time pieces too. Now that I’m here at the Sacred Caff Coffee Shop, though, I’m pretty much Top Cow. I think there’s a digital clock in one of the back rooms, and of course the obligatory time-punch clock – but you know how it goes – management and the grunts don’t fraternize much.
Tell us about your inspiration for Restless Natives. Did it involve staring into the sun until the afterimages turned into an interesting story? That’s how I come up with interview questions.
Hah! Yes, inspiration can come from the most glaring events! For this novel, I knew I wanted to create a world that readers would want to come back to visit, again and again. Kind of like Nancy Atherton did with her Aunt Dimity series. It was a little about physical location – I love the scenery in southwestern Wisconsin — but even more about the people who lived there. So it was important to create a cast of “locals”, who recur through the series, and who I thought would be interesting and quirky and fun. The plot for this book – as well as some of the others in the series — came naturally out of those characters, and the ways in which small towns work.
What made you choose to write a mystery novel? I always imagined cow clocks writing western themed word a day calendars.
Mysteries are eternal!
Even as a calf clock, I was always fascinated by mysteries – novels, TV shows, movies. I cut my teeth on television detectives like Starsky and Clutch, Ironflanks, Stalls of San Francisco. In terms of books, I adored Sherlock Hooves, devoured absolutely everything written by Agatha Clover (I mean, who doesn’t love Hermule Poirot!), then mooved into many, many cozy mystery series as I got older. I also love historical mysteries too, Lindsey Davis being a particular favorite.
I adore puzzles – delving for clues, picking apart what is known then extrapolating the unknown. It’s a bit of an obsession , really!
Is it true that cow clocks are udderly excellent when it comes to figuring out what makes people tick (tock)?
Well, I don’t like to brag. But, I mean, think about it. I hang around here all day, in a coffee shop, where literally, drama plays out before my eyes almost every moment. Little stories, big stories, stories important to the whole town, stories only important to maybe one insignificant person. I witness them all! And to me, each story has its own merit. But, with those stories come questions. Why? How? Where? With Who? I find that if I’m patient, and pay attention, all questions can be answered – even if those answers are only in my own mind!
Is there a special cow clock in your life? Or are you currently unattached?
I have a wonderful cow clock partner. We’ve been together for over 25 years. He totally gets me, even when he sometimes has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s been very supportive of my writing which, in this business, is like a life line!
What else have you written and have you ever accidentally forgotten to set yourself?
Hah! You’re such a clown Car! No, I’ve never forgotten to set myself, although I once went six months an hour ahead. Kept thinking the folks in town had turned into slug-abeds, since everyone was always an hour late to everything!
In terms of other projects, the second Ellie Gooden mystery (Office Heretics) is due out at the end of the month and I have three more in this series in the planning stages. I also have a Steam Punk mystery due out at the end of the year, and there’s a fantasy series I’m actively world building for. Plus there are many more ideas sitting in my head or in my notebooks, waiting for their turn – kind of like cows coming home at milking time. So many udders, not enough stalls!
What hobbies do you have? Are you a tour guide to a kitschy clock museum?
A clock museum – well, I guess if this writing thing doesn’t work out, that might be something to look into. Thanks, Car! Hobbies… hmmm… well, I’m an avid gardener, I love to bake and of course, I’m a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction. Mysteries, fantasy and science fiction primarily, on the fiction side and physics, astronomy, archaeology and history on the non-fiction side. If I could have, I would have become a full-time Cowllege student. Sadly, no one would pay me a living wage just to learn – so I became a writer instead!
Do you have any advice for young cow clocks out there who might want to try their hand at writing?
Best advice I ever got was to keep writing. Every day. To quote a favorite movie, ‘Never give up, never surrender!’ I also work hard to turn off the inner editor when I draft. Drafting is for magical possibilities. They may not all pay off, but you never know what wondrous things will happen if you don’t abandon that nasty critic that lives in your head. You can’t sell a “perfect” half-finished novel. So keep writing, finish things, THEN go back and make them pretty. After that, rinse and repeat! If writing is what you truly want to do, the best way to live the dream is to DO IT! Don’t talk about writing – just WRITE! Following that dream is the best thing I ever did for myself, and I wouldn’t want to live any other way.
Thanks for talking with me today, Car! It’s been fun!