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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author Interview: Marva Dasef

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Marva Dasef, whose newest book Missing, Assumed Dead is scheduled to be released July 29 from MuseItUp Publishing. Next week Marva is also beginning a virtual book tour for the book. You can follow her tour stops here.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about the book.

Missing, Assumed Dead begins when Kam McBride gets a letter from a court in a tiny town in eastern Oregon informing her she is the administrator of the estate of a man named Salvadore Vasco. She's never heard of the man and brings the letter to her mother to see if this is some long lost relative. He turns out to be a distant cousin of Kam's deceased father. Kam thinks she should just write the court and tell them to find somebody else. Her mom, though, is a genealogy fiend and wants Kam to go to the probate hearing and see if there are any old family photos or records.

En route, she and her rental car run afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem . . . accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when she meets the probate Judge, and he tries just a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.
Marva usually starts with some idea about the main character and what that particular character will do. Then she develops the plot to get her main character (MC) from the beginning of the story to the end she has in sight. This end may change more than once. New characters will come in to fill the main character's world. She also outlines the plot and finds that many of the scenes come from research as she develops the MC's world.

"For example, in Missing, Assumed Dead, the character of Kam McBride came from my own work with computers," Marva explained. "She's a systems analyst. Should she be married? No, because she's got to find the love interest. I first had her being divorced, then thought that would be irrelevant to the tale. But she couldn't be footloose and fancy free. She had to have obligations to drive her actions, so I made her a part-time caretaker of her mother who has multiple sclerosis. Since I'm a part-time caretaker of my aging parents, I understand the pull of responsibility.

"I had already decided I wanted a murder mystery, so I needed a setting and at least one body. Since I'm familiar with the high desert of eastern Oregon, I went with that because it has remote areas where a person can become lost, cell phones don't work, and there are a few nasty people lurking around. Everything else came from research about eastern Oregon, police procedure, how probate courts work, etc. And there you have it."

"What was the hardest part about writing Missing, Assumed Dead?"

"Getting enough from the internet to combine with my memories of eastern Oregon's high desert country. I wanted to make sure it was right, so I spent a lot of time finding out things like what's a good restaurant in Jordan Valley, are there cell phone blackout areas, how much leeway does a small court have in dealing with such things as probate. I even had to find a make of rental car that fit my scenario.

"I say all this was hard, but it was also the most fascinating part of the process. I got whole new scenes when I discovered something in my research that I didn't know about."

Marva has another book coming out in October, Bad Spelling, the first book in her Witches of Galdorheim fantasy series. Much of the series revolves around Scandinavia, because Marva's maternal grandmother was Norwegian, and that's the closest group with which she identifies, even taking Norwegian in college.

I asked Marva where she got her titles and she told me that it depended on the story. For Missing, Assumed Dead, about half the story was written before she thought of the title. For her upcoming book, however, she had the title before she even had the main character clearly in mind, because she wanted to write a fantasy about a witch who couldn't pass a proper spell.

Marva's first book, Tales of a Texas Boy, is still her favorite, however.

"It's not even a novel, but a set of twenty short stories based on my father's boyhood growing up in West Texas during the Depression Era," she said. "The stories appeal to southwesterners, older folk who grew up in a rural setting, animal lovers, fans of writers like Mark Twain (not comparing myself to him, just saying my book is similar in flavor to Huck Finn). It's also my best selling book."

"How long have you been writing?" I asked.

"Unlike other authors, I did not spring from the womb with pen and pad gripped in my tiny fingers. I was always a good writer who loved essay questions while others in the classroom groaned. I did my teenage share of stories and poetry (really really horrible poetry). At college, I made up my own curriculum combining English composition and computer science courses to create a brand new major: technical communication. I worked as a tech writer for the next thirty-five years. Five years ago, I retired with the notion of writing a bit of fiction. I've been a professional writer for more than forty years."

Marva has a wonderful writing area in her family room, "right next to the kitchen for quick snacking," she explained. The oak computer desk faces out a big window.

"Not much of a view, but I can watch the squirrels at play. When I write, I find any music distracting so there are no iPods hanging out on my desk. I've become used to the sound of the dishwasher, hubby running power equipment, and my cat vocally worrying about those danged squirrels."

Finally, I asked Marva, "What advice would you give to a new writer just starting out?"

"Get your web presence set up RIGHT AWAY. Start with a blog, but I strongly encourage you to snag a website with your name as soon as possible. Get on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, but don't make enemies by expressing strong political or religious views. If you want to do that, use a pseudonym. You want to be prepared to jump out of the gate running when you sell your work."
You can keep up with Marva on her blog,

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