Today’s Author Spotlight is on NC writer Robin Minnack, whom I first had the pleasure of meeting at a Fayetteville writers festival. Here’s Robin’s story with a little prodding from Auntie M:

Auntie M: Tell Auntie M’s readers a bit about your background and how you started writing.

Robin Minnack: When I was a child, I loved playing let’s pretend. I had a partner in crime who loved to play the hero and rescue me from burning buildings and play cowboy to my cowgirl. My imagination also activated whenever I rode the school bus or had to wait for someone. At home, reading over lunch or even informal dinner was the norm. Soon I was applying vocabulary and story structure I learned from reading to stories of my own. In 5th grade, I wrote a mystery in my notebook in cramped, ballpoint-smudged script that was 11 tightly-written pages long. All I remember about it now is that it was a mystery involving a magic vase. But I had completed my first mystery, and I was hooked on the idea of writing more stories from the ones that played inside my head.

AM: What genre do you write in and how did you come to choose this?

RM: Primarily mystery, although I’ve written a mainstream novel as well and have others planned. I have three books in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, with two more planned. All four of my books are available at or
I was raised on Agatha Christie, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. My mother loved Christie, and it was she who started me collecting Christie’s books. I love the puzzle; I love the idea of drama and justice; and I love the romance that is inevitable in so many mysteries, the relationship that develops when people are thrown together in dramatic circumstances.

AM: What was the genesis for your storylines? Where do you find your ideas?
RM: As it turns out, that little boy who always rescued me? He went into law enforcement. When I wrote WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED, he became the model for Lt. Bryan Jamison. I hasten to add, he knew nothing of this, and it was only so I could have a mental model for the character. That’s one thing I do. I take people I’ve seen – actors and real people – to play the roles of my characters. Having a physical image in my head to build on helps.
The other feature of my books, the classic boat part, comes from the vintage or antique boats my husband introduced me to in his hometown of Clayton, New York. Clayton is home to both the Antique Boat Museum and the Antique & Classic Boat Society. Every August since 1964 classic boats from all over the country converge on Clayton (Clayton is located on the St. Lawrence river, in the Thousand Islands region.) My husband took me to my first show, and I fell in love with these wonderful wooden boats. Sleek and shiny with layer upon layer of varnish after they’ve been restored, they carry history with them. Antique boats set my books a little apart, I think, and allow me to share my interest through my protagonist (Mackenzie’s) passion.

WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED stemmed from a nightmare I had as well as the experience of growing up in a small town/rural area.

came about from our living a good portion of our lives in Nashville TN. Our kids did some recording work there, and I got a peek at the inside of the music industry. Now I’ll admit to being a frustrated songwriter. Best compliment I ever got was when I attended a workshop with a Nashville songwriter. I showed him a song I wrote for SWEET CORN, FIELDS, FOREVER, and he liked it. I floated home from that workshop and went on to write all the songs for the book. Probably not good enough to be real songs, but good enough to be believable.

The third book, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER, was actually inspired by a 1938 Chris Craft cruiser that we were privileged to board. My mother-in-law made friends with a couple who brought their boat across Lake Ontario each year to the Antique Boat Show. The year we had our first baby, when she was only 6 weeks old, they took us aboard the cruiser for the Antique Boat Show Parade. Then again when we visited with our oldest three, and one more time when we brought all six of our kids with us. When I was finished writing the book, I tracked down the owner via the internet. At 91 he still enjoys life and his boat, and he was happy to give us permission to devise the book’s cover from a photo my husband had taken of his boat, The Roscommon.

My novel, REMAINDER, stems from life in a small town, events in 2001, and from living in Nashville for 24 years. The initial inspiration was when my daughters’ godfather died from pancreatic cancer. He was deeply involved in our church, and to keep up with his journey in the illness, a listserv was set up to send out communications. This was a new thing at the time, and it kept everyone in close touch in a moving way. REMAINDER is also available at and

AM: Readers love to hear about a writer’s process. Can you describe a typical writing day in your life?

RM: Writing day is nearly every day for me. Other than when I work my morning job or when I’m cooking (which I do for pleasure as well as preparing meals) I might be writing. Before work, after work, after dinner, if there is writing needing to be done, I might be at it.

For many years, raising our family, I fit my writing into bits and pieces wherever I could. With more time at my disposal, I am still in the habit of writing whenever I can. I am so in love with the process that I lose track of how much time I spend at it. I actually feel uncomfortable when I go for a few days without writing.

I confess to usually writing with music playing or the tv on. It’s a habit left over from when I used to do homework – I didn’t say it was a good habit! Sometimes I walk or stretch out in the hammock while I plot. If a scene is particularly difficult, I might even lie face down on my bed, hands cupped around my eyes, reciting ‘concentrate, concentrate’ or ‘focus, focus, focus,’ until I am unable to think of anything other than my story.

While all my submission drafts are done on the computer, I get a kick out of handwriting outlines and early drafts on different papers with things like colored pens or pencils. Or maybe I switch the program I’m using on the computer. Changing up my tools helps freshen my mind and stimulates the process.

And while I never thought I’d like research, I’ve gotten a kick out of what the Internet can turn up for me. I’ve browsed some strange goods on eBay, the weirdest being shoe tops sold to morticians for use by the dearly departed in the casket. I’ve looked up the types of guns carried by the Coast Guard Investigative Service as opposed to other branches of law enforcement.

Off-computer, I’ve traipsed around boat shows bugging owners about how they restored their boats and begged my doctor to vet a scene I’ve written for medical accuracy. I’ve interviewed servers at the Biltmore estate about how they handle it when attendees at the wine tastings taste too much and taken a helicopter tour of the Smokeys for the experience my characters are going to have.

AM: Who were your influences in reading? Who do you enjoy reading now for pleasure?

RM: My influences were Agatha Christie, Anne McCaffery, Isaac Asimov, and Dick Francis, with just a touch of James Michener (something I didn’t realize until just now, answering your question!) Also Anne George, writer of the Southern Sisters mysteries, poet laureate of Alabama, and one of the most delightful speakers I’ve ever heard. If any of my work evokes her writing, I am tremendously pleased.

Currently I enjoy J. Evanovitch for her Stephanie Plum series, a certain Marni Graff for modern classical-style cozies, and Fannie Flagg for Southern humor. My reading is eclectic, as I enjoy a touch of nonfiction, and authors as wide-ranging as Celia Rivenbark, Craig Johnson, and Piers Anthony. I will not read Stephen King, however. He’s too darn good at what he does. I can’t handle it.

AM: What’s next for Robin in her writing life?

RM: I have two more books to complete in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, two mainstream novels, and a Christmas epic to finish as well. That makes 5 books already planned. First drafts are mostly completed for 3 of them. I am also contributing to and editing an anthology our writing group is putting together. My son joined our group, and he headed up the committee to build the world all our stories are set in. After that, I am not sure. I was thinking about the state of things the other day, and an idea sort of came to mind, something I might call The Last Smuggler…. We’ll see.

RJ Minnick was born in the Capital District region of New York State. The youngest of five girls, she spent her childhood in a centralized school district on a farm that grew – when it grew anything – Christmas trees. She went to the State University of New York at Oswego in the days Al Roker was a student there; she can actually say she knew him then, although he might not remember her. Her major was sociology, and she knew she was destined for great things in that field. What she was actually destined for turned out to be quite different.

She’s spent a lifetime working at various jobs (she even sold Fuller Brush!) and another lifetime raising six terrific offspring with her husband. During all that time she kept writing – poetry, reviews, short stories, nonfiction, mysteries, mainstream novels, and Christmas epics. Some of it was for hire, some was freelance, some independently published.

Currently RJ Minnick lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, four cats and – from time to time – a child or two.

Contact Robin here: website and blog facebook page for the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries facebook page for Remainder (novel)