I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Maggie Pill to talk with me about her book, The Sleuth Sisters. Maggie writes mysteries, loves fine chocolate, and has a very old cat who is allowed to do pretty much anything she wants to. Maggie and her husband love to travel and might be found hiking interesting landscapes, but they seldom prepare properly for it. It’s more of a “Let’s see what’s over that hill!” type of lifestyle.
Maggie, how did you discover indieBRAG?
I’m not sure where I first saw information about indieBRAG, but it sounded like a great help for authors like me who do their best to put out a quality product: Saying, “My mom read it and she says it’s perfect!” isn’t enough for me. I’m traditionally published (as Peg Herring), so I know the process, and I want Maggie’s books to be just as well-edited and produced as Peg’s.
Please tell me about your book, The Sleuth Sisters.
Sisters Barb and Faye decide to start a detective agency. Retirement from her law practice isn’t what Barb imagined, and Faye needs to work to provide for herself and her disabled husband. They agree that baby sister Retta will NOT be part of the business, because she’s bossy and manipulative.
Once they’ve done what’s required to open the Smart Detective Agency, the sisters find that small-town northern Michigan isn’t quite ready for middle-aged, female private detectives. Faye suggests they might take advantage of Retta’s contacts and scintillating personality, since as the widow of a state police officer killed in the line of duty, she knows everyone from the governor to the local county clerk.
Barb insists it’s a bad idea.
Eventually the sisters get a real case: a man accused of murdering his wife has been on the run for years, and his sister wants them to find him and prove his innocence. Faye and Barb agree to try to locate Neil Brown, though they doubt they can save him from being charged with murder. As she watches from the sidelines, Retta becomes certain she can help. She has definite ideas on how a detective agency should be run. She hates the name Barb came up with. And she’s convinced her sisters are clueless as to how a real woman gets what she wants out of life.
The sisters are close, but often their outlook on life is quite different. Barb, who likes order and correct answers, goes out nights to secretly correct grammatical errors on billboards around town. Faye, for whom family is most important, consults with Retta behind Barb’s back, feeling guilty but sensing they need Retta’s bull-dozer sweetness in order to be successful. And Retta, whose world revolves around fashion and social success, can’t decide if she’s fascinated by the whole detective thing or amused by it. Things get really tense when they meet the new police chief, Rory Neuencamp. Both Barb and Retta are impressed by the most interesting man to arrive in Allport in years. Barb is shy about letting Rory know she’s interested, but when has Retta not been able to get any man she wants?
Why did you choose Northern Lower Michigan, as the setting of your story?
I live in Northern Lower Michigan, so that makes the setting part easy for me. I grew up on a farm much like the one in the third book of the series, MURDER IN THE BOONIES, which is the sisters’ childhood home. I love the change of seasons in Michigan and the combination of long-established families and newly-arrived transplants, along with tourists and summer people who are only around for a few days, weeks, or months. In addition to all the area’s natural beauty, there are endless possibilities for plot-lines and sub-plots.
Did you face any challenges writing this story?
A challenge I didn’t expect was keeping up with who knows what. Each sister tells part of the story. First you hear from Barb, then Faye narrates a chapter, then Retta, and so on. (My audio book producer chose three actresses to read the books, so listeners hear the different voices, which is very cool.)
With multiple points of view, I have to make sure that what each sister learns is transmitted to the other sisters. For example, Retta might tell the reader that she phoned the FBI and talked to the agent who handled the original case. I must then remember to have her tell Faye what she did, and then Barb has to find out somehow as well. It gets a little tricky sometimes to keep three protagonists involved and informed.
As sisters, what is Barb and Faye’s relationship like?
Barb and Faye are the type of sisters who finish each other’s sentences and know without being told what the other is thinking. However, they’ve had vastly different life experiences, so they often don’t look at things in the same way. Barb moved to the West Coast and served as a lawyer for several decades before retiring to her home town. Faye married young, raised three boys on a shoestring budget, and has always lived within the tiny circle of Allport. Her life has made her empathetic; Barb’s experiences have made her cynical, but they each recognize the other’s strengths and use them in their business. Because she’s less sure of herself, Faye takes a secondary role, acting as bookkeeper and secretary for the agency. Barb tries to encourage Faye to think of herself as a true partner, but Barb herself is naturally inclined to take the initiative and be the leader.
Please tell me a little about Retta.
Retta is the baby of the family. Pretty, feminine, and very, very social, she might be considered a flibbertigibbet (my grandmother’s word). At first she wants to be part of the agency simply because she isn’t. It irritates her that her sisters left her out of things, just the way they used to when they were kids. What she finds, however, is that investigating comes naturally to her. She knows a lot of people, she’s good at extracting information by asking seemingly innocent questions, and she can wrap most men around her finger. The detective agency is a game for Retta until her sisters face real danger. Then she shows determination and courage that might be unexpected but should never be underestimated.
Who designed your book cover?
Clarissa Yeo, at Yeocla Designs. She’s fantastic!
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It was pretty obvious to me: Sleuths who are sisters=The Sleuth Sisters. Another author used that title about the same time I did, but that’s the way it goes in the pub biz. Titles can’t be copyrighted, so readers have to make sure to look for my name: Maggie Pill.
When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?
That’s an easy one: I get moving. Driving long distances is great for plotting, and walking works well for me to resolve plot-knots and get a rein on characters who won’t do as they’re supposed to.
What are you working on next?
The 4th Sleuth Sisters is circling in my head. No title yet, just a main plot with a few funny subplots as the sisters try to work together and get along. Barb and Retta are going to disagree on the Oxford comma, and Faye will be required to referee.
Do you stick with just 1 genre?
My first book was a romance, because “they” said it was easier to get published in that genre. Macbeth’s Niece was published by Five Star Publishing in 2008 (using my real name, Peg Herring). It did pretty well, but I prefer mystery because I like creating puzzles for my readers to solve. Of course, a hint of romance doesn’t hurt, even in a mystery.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
I mostly work in my office on my PC, but I have a “stand-up station” in one corner to ease my aching back. I prefer to compose in the morning, and I write in layers: first a general plot, then additional material to reveal character, describe settings, offer clues, and inject humor. Later in the day I often edit as I watch baseball (now moving to football) on TV.
Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?
Water, lots of water, and my home-made trail mix: pecans, walnuts, almonds, dried pineapple, dried cherries, and a few M&Ms for color.
Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I love flowers, so my yard takes up a lot of my time in the growing season. I love reading, of course, and I’m a fiend for the crossword puzzles in the Sunday paper.
Contact Maggie at
Find THE SLEUTH SISTERS at
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Maggie Pill who is the author of, The Sleuth Sisters, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Sleuth Sisters, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.