I first met Martha at one of her and my Mom’s Sister’s in Crime lunches. I always enjoy when I get to join that crew. They have the best stories (pun intended) about what they are working on, their research, and what they’re reading. I finished Martha’s book Love Power this spring and LOVED it! Love Power is a mystery that takes place in New Orleans (NOLA) where we meet Jane Byrne, Gigi Pascoe, Voo Doo queens, and more while trying to find a hate crime serial killer before it’s too late. I was in New Orleans twice in a month while reading this book so it was cool to be reading it and be able to look out the window and see it unfold before my eyes. I wanted to know more about her other books and she agreed to answer some questions for us.
Martha Reed is a multi-award-winning crime fiction author who loves writing crime fiction, meeting new people, exploring exotic places, and discovering great coffee.
BB: Was all your detail and knowledge on New Orleans research or first-hand knowledge? From the culture to the streets and detail I felt like I was really there.
MR: I’m delighted to hear this. Fortunately for me, it was both. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited NOLA repeatedly and I’m ready to go back anytime. There’s so much to do and see – from the complicated and extensive history, the multiple and blended cultures, Frenchmen Street jazz music clubs, the distinctive neighborhoods, and most importantly, the incredible cuisine. There’s nothing better than walking around to get a genuine feel for a place, and then searching the internet for interesting details and using street-view maps to put it all together.
BB: I see you have a series and short fiction books. How many books have you written, and which one is your favorite?
MR: Gosh. That’s like asking which kid I like best.
First, I love writing novels and short fiction. Because the novels generally take me a year, I keep fresh by also working on short stories which are more easily doable at 5,000 words. This way, I feel like I’m still producing new material while drafting the lengthier novels in the background.
Four novels and eight short stories have been published. The first three novels are part of the John and Sarah Jarad Nantucket Mystery series. I’ve very proud of The Nature of the Grave, book 2 because it won an Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Award for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction.
I’m editing book 2 in my Crescent City NOLA Mystery series. This series features Jane Byrne, an ex-detective and Gigi Pascoe, my transgender sleuth. I think I’m on the right track. Love Power, book 1 was a 2021 Killer Nashville Best Mystery Finalist, and it won a Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Attending Author.
To answer your question, luckily my favorite book is the one I’m currently working on.
BB: Does any particular character hold a special place in your heart? Why?
MR: Aunt Babette Broussard is a joy. She’s a feisty straightshooter who tells it like it is, a feminist, and a practicing Voodoo queen. Every time she walks onto the page, I expect fireworks.
BB: How long is the creative process when writing a new story or creating a series?
MR: I give myself a month to write a new short story. I was producing a book a year at a pretty good clip until COVID-19 disrupted our lives. Now it seems to be taking me two years to produce a full length novel. We’ll see if that time frame shortens when I write NOLA book 3.
BB: What are you currently working on?
MR: I’m editing Up Jumped the Devil, NOLA book 2 to prep it for publication in October 2023. My characters have already given me suggestions for NOLA books 3 and 4, but I’m not allowed to start playing with the new ideas until the editing on book 2 is finished. After work, comes play.
BB: Have you always known you wanted to write?
MR: Yes. My kindergarten teacher sent me home with a note. She told my mother that I didn’t like to play with clay or coloring books because they made a mess. I preferred to gather the other children around and tell them stories. I only wish I knew what story my six-year-old self was telling.
I tried writing in college, but I realized I hadn’t lived enough yet to know what to say. So, I went out to experience the world, and then one day, I knew I was ready to begin.
BB: What inspires your stories?
MR: For the short fiction, it’s usually a submission deadline. For instance, I wrote “The Honor Thief” so I could submit it to This Time For Sure, the Anthony Award winning 2021 Bouchercon anthology edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan.
It’s more intuitive for the novels. When I start to frame them out, something wild bubbles to the surface of my mind. I don’t know where that comes from, but I figure if it interests me enough to catch my wandering attention, it will interest my readers, too.
BB: Where can locals and tourists alike pick up your books?
MR: I attend as many in-person events like conventions and festivals as possible. Those are great for meeting readers face-to-face. Bookstores can order my books from Ingram. Trade paperbacks and e-books are also available on Amazon.
BB: Tell us more about Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the local chapter here? Can aspiring mystery authors join or do you have to be published?
MR: I’ve been a member of the national Sisters in Crime, Inc. for over twenty years. It’s a terrifically supportive and inclusive organization for crime fiction writers and fans. You don’t need to be a published author to join. I should mention that ‘Misters’ are welcome, too.
The Florida Gulf Coast chapter is very welcoming and active with close to 60 members. When I moved to Florida, I didn’t know a single soul, but I knew that as soon as I attended my first FLGC SinC meeting, I would gain plenty of new friends.
BB: What are you jamming out to right now?
MR: I’m addicted to Purple Disco Machine and the Studio 54 disco channel on Sirius Radio. It’s so bad I probably need an intervention.
BB: Before we dive in your favorite local spots, I have to know- this moment of “great folly” that led to you join the New Orleans Bourbon Society (N.O.B.S.)- do tell.
MR: True confession. Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I love the lore behind creating booze. At Bouchercon 2016 in NOLA, some writing friends and I visited a local establishment that had a wall-to-ceiling glass case filled with limited production bourbons. While they enjoyed the free samples including a bourbon milkshake, I took notes. I was so entranced by the sheer history of bourbon I joined N.O.B.S. to support the cause. I’d make a great bootlegger.
BB: And your favorite local spots?
MR: The French Market Inn on Decatur as the place to stay. Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait, of course. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 for the family tomb histories. Any jazz club on Frenchmen Street for late night musical entertainment. That’s my short list of to-dos. I could go on.
BB: What do you like to do in your down time when you have it?
MR: I love reading other crime fiction authors on the dock overlooking Boca Ciega Bay. My TBR stack is shoulder high and it never seems to shrink.
Martha, thank you for your time and I’ll patiently wait for book 2 in your Crescent City NOLA Mystery series.