Paige Sleuth is a pseudonym for mystery author Marla Bradeen. According to Marla’s bio, she plots murder during the day and fights for mattress space with her two rescue cats at night. When not attending to her cats’ demands, she writes. Marla’s latest cozy mystery is Murder in the Cards.
Murder is bad
“With this particular book, I didn’t have a specific issue in mind when I wrote it. My goal was simply to write an entertaining mystery with diverse and interesting characters. The only real moral to the story is that murder is bad, and if you commit it you’ll probably get caught by a nosy amateur sleuth who should be playing poker. But I have written books focused on issues before. The very first book I wrote back in 2004, The Amicable Divorce, is the one that comes immediately to mind. Although it’s a light, chick-lit read, there’s a mystery aspect as well, and the mystery revolves around something that I personally believe is and will continue to be a real-life threat. It has yet to happen, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time. At the risk of being somewhat spoilerish (look away if you plan to read the book), I will say the issue in question relates to modern agricultural practices.”
Where do those characters come from?
Marla said that she shares a number of characteristic with her protagonist. “I am half Vietnamese, used to be a software consultant, have a somewhat sardonic way of looking at things, and play poker on occasion (although not professionally). So I guess you could say my own lot in life inspired the creation of Tiffany. But other than the basics, she’s her own person. She’s much more extroverted and exciting than me (in other words, she actually leaves the house sometimes), and I don’t have any psychic or telepathic abilities that I know of. Nor have I ever solved a murder, unless you count finally figuring out whodunit in my own books (and no, I often don’t know immediately). I wish I could recall what sparked the plot aspect of the book, but I started writing this one over a year ago and I have a hard enough time remembering what I did yesterday.”
Marla also said her characters are never based on real people, but it can be difficult to find Vietnamese names that don’t belong to someone she knows personally. “They’re just not mainstream enough to hear them in movies or read about them in books very often. To that effect, Tiffany’s mother Lan shares the same first name as my real-life sister. However, their name is the only thing they share, for although my sister runs a restaurant, she doesn’t bang pots and pans around with nearly the frequency of Tiffany’s mother (at least, not that I know of). And I really do have a distant relative named Tuna. Just like Tiffany’s Aunt Tuna, her real name is Tuyen Anh, but she says it so fast Americans hear “Tuna.” Unfortunately, the real Tuna hasn’t embraced her nickname as readily as Aunt Tuna, nor has she ever used it in a marketing slogan.”
Of animals and body dumps
“I love animals, and I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that didn’t have at least one animal in it (okay, once I only mentioned lab rats, so maybe that one doesn’t count). As you can probably guess from the series name, cats especially feature prominently in my Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series. My new series isn’t as cat-centric, but there is a wonderful orange tabby named Amber who makes her debut in Murder in the Cards. Amber is based on a real-life cat I once knew and loved. I fostered her for six months in 2001 until she found her forever home, and I still think fondly of her. But I’m getting sidetracked from answering the question. My point is, if you hate cats (and yes, I have actually had people tell me they hate cats; can you imagine?), you’re probably not going to like my books very much.”
When asked about researching her books, Marla does admit to having driven around looking for body dumps. She said, “Obviously that was for research and not because I needed to find one for personal reasons. And there’s still that confused customer service representative I talked to once to figure out if the utility company she worked for serviced a rural area featured in one of my books. Except I wasn’t quite sure what my address or zip code was, I just knew the name of the town I ‘lived’ in. I still owe her an apology.”