Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
Erica imagined that her trip to Florida would be a slice of heaven—a chance to get away from it all and catch up with her best friend, Wendy. But one day into her vacation, all hope of fun in the sun is dashed when she stumbles, literally, over a dead man on Wendy’s driveway. With police closing in on her friend as their main suspect, Erica must find the real killer before Wendy ends up behind bars.
With Erica’s skill, solving the mystery should be a piece of cake but then a second homicide-attempt hits close to home and generates a whole new list of suspects. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, a murderer is on the prowl, and no one is above suspicion.
As the plot thickens, it appears Erica may have bitten off more than she can chew, but she forges on, sifting through mounting evidence until she hones in on the killer who has a surprising motive for murder. With a dash of romance and some surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
I have a weakness, okay I have more than one, but when it comes to books, I enjoy a good whodunit, which is why I was pleased when author Marlene Bateman was coming back to the blog after I reviewed one of her previous works. Please join me in a big welcome to Marlene!
An Interview with the Author
What inspired you to write this book?
I love mysteries so much that I finally decided to write one. My first book, Light on Fire Island, was a combination mystery/romance, and while there is some romance in Motive for Murder, it is more of a full-blown mystery. I loved the idea of a quirky, OCD private detective, so created Erica Coleman, who will star in forthcoming mysteries. Erica is both helped and hampered by her OCD tendencies, which alternately charms and irritates people.
Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
It was definitely meant to be. I’ve wanted to write ever since I was young. I started writing stories in elementary school. When I married and had children, it was hard to find time to write, because let’s face it, you can’t do everything. I concentrated on writing for magazines and newspapers and as the children got older, and I had a bit more time, began writing books.
Do you have a favorite character in Motive for Murder? Who and why?
Probably Erica Coleman. I loved her OCD and it was interesting to see how the other characters reacted to it. It annoyed some of the other characters, and charmed others, but it always kept things interesting. I also had a lot of fun with Myrna and Coby Kincaid. They were only in one chapter, but they were such fun people, especially Coby. I loved it when Erica helped Coby sneak some cookies while his wife wasn’t looking!
What three words would best describe Erica Coleman, private detective?
Annoying. Charming. Dedicated. Oh, can I add one more? Smart!
Do you share any personality traits with Erica Coleman,?
I’m very organized like Erica—and proud of it. Think what the world would be like if we lived in a world of slobs—like those who don’t line condiments alphabetically. J Thankfully, I’m not as bad as Erica—I haven’t yet made square pancakes!
Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
When does a mother ever have the luxury of quiet? I learned early on that if I was going to write, I had to be able to write while the hubbub of family life went on around me. I had to train myself to come back to my thought when my daughter came to tell me the baby needed it’s diaper changed, or if my son broke a glass in the kitchen, or if another daughter wanted to tell me what happened in history class that day. It also meant I had to learn to shut out undone chores, put those dirty dishes and laundry out of my mind, and concentrate on writing the next scene. Heaven only knows, the dishes would be waiting for me when I got back to them.
You write fiction—murder mysteries, as well as religious non-fiction. How do you juggle going back and forth between the two? Do you have a preferred genre?
For a long time, I wrote nonfiction because I was afraid I couldn’t write fiction. I longed to write fiction, but didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t realize that non-fiction writers must also write well. I didn’t believe in myself. But since writing fiction was something I really wanted to do, I decided to try. It was hard, but I kept working and re-writing it until I felt I had a great book, Light on Fire Island and it turned out to be a bestseller. Yay!
Do you have plans for a new book? Is Motive for Murder part of a series?
I have BIG plans. Motive for Murder is the first in a series that feature Erica Coleman as a private eye. In fact, the next two books in the Erica Coleman series have already been accepted. In future books Erica continues ferreting out clues, and annoying people with her OCD even though it helps her pick out clues that others miss. At times, Erica will be in danger, and have to work to overcome her fears as she works to uncover the murderer.
Also, I hope to do a sequel to my non-fiction book, Gaze Into Heaven, which was published earlier this year. Gaze into Heaven is a collection of 50 near-death experiences in early Church History. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers, and that has been very encouraging.
Do you write as you go or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?
Since I write mysteries, I have to know how the book is going to end before I can start the first chapter. I write a rough draft of the last chapter, then the first chapter, and go on from there. I have to plot very carefully to keep up the tension and so that all the clues are in place. Plotting can be hard, but its very important and actually saves time in the end, since you don’t have to rewrite and add important information that should have been there in the first place. Once you get your storyline laid out, you have a structure to follow. A contractor would never begin building a house without plans, and to my way of thinking, a mystery writer would never write without having a basic plot down on paper.
What would you like your readers to get out of your writing?
First, I want readers to be entertained. That’s why, after all, people read—to be entertained by an engaging story. Second, I like to explore specific problems, such as in relationships or moral issues, the kind of thing all of us face. In Light on Fire Island, I had the main character deal with a fractured relationship with her father. She felt he didn’t love her, but he was just a crusty old sailor who didn’t deal well with relationships. They both needed to learn to forgive and accept others for what they are. In Motive for Murder, there is conflict between Wendy and her teenage daughter, Megan. So often teenagers think the world revolves around them. But we also see things from Megan’s point of view and come to understand why and how Megan feels that her mother’s actions indicate a lack of caring toward her children. It’s interesting to see how each person sees the same thing differently and each character has valid points.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
Not really, but I have four furry friends who keep me company. I have three cats and two dogs and both dogs and two of the cats follow me around wherever I happen to be working. My husband built a little gazebo in the back yard, and I often go out there to write and my little friends always go out with me and curl up in the shade.
An Excerpt from Motive for Murder
“As she drove back to Wendy’s house, the headlights cleaved the darkness and shone through the rain, which was falling harder now. Erica parked across the street and was nearly to Wendy’s door when she stopped suddenly, catching herself as she nearly fell over something.
It was the still figure of a man lying face down on the driveway. He was strangely unmoving. The light from the porch illuminated a puddle alongside him, which was growing bigger by the second. A chill shivered down Erica’s spine as she noticed that the puddle was streaked by dark red threads that ran and merged with rivulets of rain.”
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Meet the Author
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, and Brigham’s Boys. Marlene also wrote the best-selling novel, Light on Fire Island.
A busy writer, Marlene is set to have three books published this year. Gaze Into Heaven, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences in early church history, was published earlier this year. Next is Motive for Murder, the first in a mystery series featuring the quirky Erica Coleman. In July, Heroes of Faith, a collection of stories about people who risked their life for the gospel, will be released by Cedar Fort Inc.