Pretty things can be deadly. It’s springtime in the small town of Hopeful and gardens are abloom. Unfortunately, some of the lovely plants are pure poison. Between work, friends, and new neighbors, insurance agent Merry March has her hands full. To complicate matters, her boyfriend, newspaper owner Rob Jenson’s difficult mother and her brand-new husband are in town for a visit. When the visit ends in murder, Merry investigates and finds ugly truths growing in some of the most beautiful places.
We all know there are different paths in publishing. Some writers love not only the actual writing but also the full production of a book, from formatting the pages, producing cover art, and developing publicity materials to setting pub dates and generally seeing things through from plotting to launch and beyond. Eileen Curley Hammond is such a person.
I met Eileen three years ago when she joined Buckeye Crime Writers, our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. She was working on her first cozy mystery then, published by her very own Twody Press. I was immediately impressed by her professionalism—and her writing. Her cozy mysteries are just plain fun to read. Three years later, we are now both board members of Buckeye Crime Writers. Last year, Eileen released the fourth book in the popular Merry March Mysteries: Murder So Deadly. I caught up with her recently while we were sheltering in place.
How did you decide on your genre and main character?
Growing up, I was a big fan of Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series. Then I discovered Agatha Christie. As a college psychology major, I’ve always been fascinated by peoples’ motivations. With that background, it was natural I would gravitate toward cozy mysteries. My previous career was in insurance, which is why my main character, Merry March, owns an insurance agency in the Midwest town of Hopeful.
Let’s jump into your latest book, Murder So Deadly. Merry’s love interest is Rob Jenson, owner of the local newspaper. A lot of this latest book focuses on Rob’s family. Why did you go in that direction?
Rob and Merry have gotten close over the last few books, and it felt it was time to learn more about Rob and his family.
Rob’s mother, Wanda, is (ahem) a fun character. Did you enjoy writing about her?
I loved writing about her! Since the tragic death of her first husband (Rob’s father), Wanda has turned into a serial bride, always looking to better her situation. Unfortunately, her current husband dies under mysterious circumstances, and Wanda becomes a suspect in his death. Here’s a passage from the book, which will give you a sense of her: “Wanda strutted into the kitchen. The light floral aroma of Jean Patou’s Joy scented the air. Her hair was teased and shellacked into a careful bob, and her makeup, though heavy, was expertly applied.”
We find out Wanda’s husband was poisoned. What made you choose this method of killing, and how did you learn about poisons?
My husband is a gifted gardener, and over the years, I’ve picked up a few surprising tidbits from him. Last year, the Franklin County Chief Toxicologist spoke to our Buckeye Crime Writers’ group. He was extremely knowledgeable, and I was able to ask him questions at a very opportune time for this book. Many people do not know how poisonous some of the more beautiful plants are.
Rob’s sister, Elizabeth, is also introduced in this book. How did you decide on her character?
I liked the juxtaposition of two relatively normal people who come from someone who is quite quirky. It was also interesting to see how tragic events impact people in different ways. After their father’s death, Elizabeth became a respected surgeon and Rob a reporter.
I always end up hungry after reading one of your books. Why does food play such an important role?
All life’s significant moments involve food. Funerals, weddings, even simple dinners are times for busy people to connect. Merry shows she cares by cooking for those she loves.
What’s next for Merry?
The next book in the Merry March series, Murder So Hot, should be released in early September. Life heats up for Merry as her daughter, Jenny, gets in trouble while visiting her father, a charming swindler, in London. While Rob flies to England to sort things out there, Merry’s best friend, Patty, needs her help. In Murder So Deadly, we found out that Patty’s husband was adopted and his birth mother is still alive. Things get dicey when he explores these new family ties.
Eileen Curley Hammond moved to Ohio twelve years ago to join a Fortune 100 company. Now retired, she’s turned to her passion, writing. Eileen is the author of the Merry March Mystery Series. The series centers on a successful businesswoman and mom whose history, unfortunately, includes being previously married to the man who swindled the residents of her small town. The first four books have been published: Murder So Sinful, Murder So Festive, Murder So Heartless, and Murder So Deadly. Eileen is hard at work on her fifth book.
Her work can also be found in the Twitter VSS365 (Very Short Story) Anthology. All proceeds from this book go to a children’s literacy charity.
Eileen was a panelist for two sessions at the 2019 Magna Cum Murder Writing Festival in Indianapolis.
Her website is eileencurleyhammond.com.