Meet the nominees for the 2018 Best First Novel Agatha Award. Ever wonder which character they most enjoy writing? Join the conversation to find out! Who is your favorite character to write and why? Micki Browning:This is a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I certainly like spending time with my protagonist, Mer Cavallo. She’s wicked smart, which means I have to stretch to keep up with her. She’s someone I’d like to have as a friend—and dive buddy. But sometimes I want a little more levity than Mer provides, and that means it’s time for Captain Leroy Penninichols. I love his Southernisms. If he had to describe someone as small, he’d bust out with “Well, she ain’t bigger than a bar of soap after a hard day’s washing.” His gruff exterior hides a tender heart and he dotes on his wife. He always cheers for the underdog, and took Mer under his wing when she first arrived in the Keys. They constantly banter, and one day Mer asked how his wife put up with him. In typical Leroy fashion, he responded, “There’s a lid to fit every skillet.” Leroy reminds Mer (and me) that there’s always another way to look at life. V.M. Burns:I love writing about my protagonist’s grandmother, Nana Jo and the sleuthing seniors. Nana Jo and ‘the girls’ are older and less inhibited than Samantha. They take martial arts classes, hang out at the bar, and enjoy spending time at the casino. They are honest, funny, and courageous. Each one has a zest for life which I find refreshing. Samantha is cautious and reserved, but Nana Jo and the girls are helping her see that life can be exciting and unpredictable, which is something I often have to remind myself. Kellye Garrett:I love writing all my characters for different reasons. One because she talks only using acronyms. Another because he never uses apostrophes. My main character, Dayna, because she has the exact same sense of humor as I have. However, my favorite character to write is Dayna’s best friend/roomie Sienna. Sienna is determined to set a Guinness World Record for only wearing red and says whatever she wants, whenever she wants. My fave exchange is from when Dayna and Sienna are trying to tail a suspect:“We should take turns following her so she’s not suspicious. Whatever we do, we don’t want to get burned,” Sienna said.“What the fudge does that mean?” I asked.“No idea, but it can’t be good. STDs. Forest fires. Freshly baked cookies. Burning is never a good thing.” Laura Oles:While my protagonist, Jamie Rush, has been wonderful to write, I have to say that her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, has been the most fun. His charisma and sense of humor play so well off her deadpan demeanor. His love for Hawaiian shirts is second only to his loyalty to Jamie and their crew. I tend to hear his voice first in my head, and his words come easily. Cookie seems to be a reader favorite, and if I’m being honest, he’s at the top of my list with Jamie. Kathleen Valenti:I have a feeling that the answer to “Who is your favorite character to write” is supposed to be my protagonist. After all, Maggie O’Malley is the hero of not only my debut novel, Protocol, but the entire series from Henery Press. But if I’m honest, the answer has to be Constantine, Maggie’s best friend.A goofy cutup with a fondness for Lucky Charms and Star Trek memorabilia, Constantine does more than act as a sidekick or play comic relief to Maggie’s straight-man routine. He’s a complex character who brings his own story and his own personality, with all of its attendant strengths and foibles, to the page. Like Maggie, Constantine is smart, loyal, and funny. However, Constantine’s funniness, his predilection for gallows humor, and his knee-jerk reaction to cover discomfort with wit, is at the very core of his personality. He’s fun to write, and because he’s handsome and sweet, he’s fun to imagine as the perfect BFF or life partner. I’ll always love Maggie, but when it comes to writing dialogue, Constantine has my heart. And my pen. Surprised? Which of their characters do you most love to read? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/missdemeanorsbooks Bios: A retired police captain, Micki Browning writes the Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. In addition to the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Adrift has won both the Daphne du Maurier and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. Beached, her second novel, launched January 2018. Micki’s work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines, and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.” Learn more about Micki at MickiBrowning.com. V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Receiving the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel has been a dream come true. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com. Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, was recently nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the TV drama Cold Case. The New Jersey native now works for a leading media company in New York City and serves on the national Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime. You can learn more about her at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com. Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. She served as a columnist for numerous photography magazines and publications. Laura’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Murder on Wheels, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, Daughters of Bad Men, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award Finalist. Laura is a member of Austin Mystery Writers, Sisters in Crime and Writers’ League of Texas. Laura lives on the edge of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, daughter and twin sons. Visit her online at lauraoles.com. Kathleen Valenti is the author of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. The series’ first book, Agatha- and Lefty-nominated Protocol, introduces us to Maggie, a pharmaceutical researcher with a new job, a used phone, and a deadly problem. The series’ second book, 39 Winks, releases May 22. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running. Learn more at www.kathleenvalenti.com.