Julia Munroe Martin writes The Empty Nest Can Be Murder series as J.M. Maison. For many years Martin was a work-at-home writer and stay-at-home mom to two (now young adult) children. These days you’ll find her at her dining room table, in an old house on the coast of Maine, where she is happiest and most comfortable with her family or when writing or researching her next story.
Time to chat with Julia!
What is your latest book?
Desired to Death is a mystery featuring Maggie True, an amateur detective. This book answers the question: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” After her daughter leaves for college, and former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes, I’m already busy on the second book featuring Maggie True, The Empty Nest Can be Murder mystery series.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
The Empty Nest Can Be Murder
What else have you written?
I just finished a manuscript, historical time travel. I also have one adult novel and four middle grade novels “in the drawer.” I’ve had short romantic fiction published in Woman’s World magazine, creative nonfiction published in a variety of regional publications, and I’m a long-time freelance technical and business writer and editor—a glamorous way of saying I’ve written a lot of dull computer manuals and annual reports.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
I love social media. I started blogging two years ago (and love it), and it helped me kick all my writing into high gear. Tweeting is a big part of my daily life, and The Writer magazine named my twitter handle (@wordsxo) as a top Twitter feed to watch in their July 2012 issue. It’s been wonderful way to meet other writers—like Lisette—who are an important support system to me everyday in my rather solitary writing world. The downside of social media is the time it takes away from writing, and it does tend to get fairly addictive for me, and I have trouble breaking away from it to focus on writing.
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?
First, I love, absolutely love, good non-fiction. I’ve thought of writing a couple of books. My top choice would probably be a cookbook because I love cooking and it would allow me to merge two of the things I enjoy. My second choice would probably be something about houses and homes because I’m fascinated with the concept of home and how we define it. Perhaps not coincidentally, most of my novels have had the theme of home in them as well.
Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?
I love this novel and the series because it is near and dear to my heart, but I have to say the novel I am currently working on is my personal favorite. It’s an historical time travel novel, and although it has no connection to my personal life (like Desired to Death does) – this current WIP’s two main characters are just 19 years old – it is a really personally significant project in many unexpected ways. I think as I grow as a writer, I am finding more and more connections to my fictional characters in more subtle ways. I love that.
How would you define your style of writing?
Spare. Approachable. And very introspective, and by that I mean my characters often spend a lot of time “in their heads.”
Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?
Very much. First, I don’t know if this is weird, but I always cry when I’m writing the end of my novels. I don’t’ know if it’s the sadness of saying good-bye or not, but it very much feels like that. Also, when I finished the novel I wrote before this one (women’s fiction, in the drawer for now), I spent a good week seeing my main characters everywhere I went. As I write, it’s like I’m watching a movie in my mind, and I can visualize my characters going about their daily life. I also write about small towns in Maine (like I live in) so I fully expect to see my characters at the grocery store. With this current novel (Desired to Death), since it’s a series, I will see the main characters many more times, so I don’t need to miss them. However, I will miss the sexy victim in this book—A.J. Traverso—he kind of got under my skin.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
I traveled a lot as a child—a lot. I was born in France and by the time I left for college I’d lived in Belize, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as in three states. It was a bit of a struggle as a child to move so much, and I really didn’t enjoy saying good-bye so often, but now as an adult I can look back and really appreciate my varied geographic life. So to answer this question… I’ve traveled extensively by all of the above!
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
I would love to be able to draw and/or paint. I have zero (and I mean zero – stick figures challenge me) visual art talent, and it’s something I’ve always felt sad about.
What makes you angry?
What makes me angriest is when people are disrespectful, mean spirited, rude, or cruel (intentionally or not), especially when it involves people different than themselves. It frustrates me that people can’t be kind and good hearted and get along, and I often think of Maya Angelou’s poem, Human Family, especially the words: “We are more alike, my friends,/than we are unalike.”
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
Funny story, actually. My husband (then boyfriend) and I went to see The Shining when we were college students. And I was TERRIFIED. I got up about ten minutes into the movie (first scary scene), and I thought my husband heard me say I was leaving, but he didn’t. I went outside and about five minutes later he came out, saying, “Where were you?” I guess he was so engrossed in the movie that he didn’t even notice I was leaving. I think it’s the only movie I’ve ever walked out on!
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People at the grocery store who are so impatient that they reach around me to reach an item on the shelf. In general, I have zero patience for impatient people, LOL.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
This ties into my earlier answers (about what makes me angry and my pet peeves). I think if everyone just slowed down and took the time to be kind to one another, I think the world would be a better place. A few years ago, I threatened my family that I was going to start a “just say hi” campaign because I think we all get so busy and focused on our own little worlds that we lose sight of the fact that there is a big world out there full of lots of “quiet lives of desperation,” as Thoreau said. And we all need to just take the time to be good to one another. So three things? 1-Be kind. 2-Be patient. 3-Be tolerant.
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