Librarian, anthropologist, research assistant, Congressional aide, speechwriter, nonprofit director—M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents. She holds a BA from Vassar College, a diploma in Arabic Studies from the American University in Cairo, and Masters in Anthropology and in Library Science from the University of Chicago. All of this tends to insinuate itself into her works.
Ms. Spencer has published fourteen romantic suspense and mystery novels. She has two fabulous grown children and an exuberant granddaughter and currently divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write? And why?
M.S.: I started out writing romantic suspense—heavy on the spicy romance. But corpses kept showing up in the middle of the plot and I finally gave up and went with cozy mystery. There’s still plenty of romance (although not as spicy as it used to be) but the emphasis is on the mystery. I enjoy writing mystery because concocting a puzzle, with lots of red herrings and complex twists, is very stimulating. Of course it means I go through 10 to 14 drafts before the story’s usually ready to submit!
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
M.S.: I have never known a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. Writers of the classics (except Charles Dickens) were especially influential. I have been a fanatical reader since my Dick and Jane days (I wonder who of your readers will know who they are?). I read everything I could get my hands on, focusing on biography, history, and fiction.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
M.S.: Often it’s a setting. I’m traveling and the place just cries out for a story. Flotsam & Jetsam: the Amelia Island Affair was born that way. Amelia Island is the southernmost of the Sea Islands and has a very rich history.
I first visited Amelia Island to attend the Amelia Island Book Festival, and was struck by the crazy quilt of events it had witnessed. Known as the Isle of Eight Flags, it had seen wave after wave of conquering armies, some big—like the Spanish, and some tiny—like the Patriots of Amelia Island, who mustered nine gunboats and maybe a hundred men. Timucuan Indians, French, Spanish, pirates, Scots mercenaries, Confederate and Union soldiers—all occupied the tiny island at one point or another. It also has a sizable Geechee (Gullah) community. Faced with a setting like that, who wouldn’t want to craft a nice little murder mystery?
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
M.S.: My favorite animated movie character is Megamind. He is sooo sweet and wistful. I’m not generally big on animated cartoons. If you mean the funny papers—it has to be Calvin and Hobbes. We (my family) have the entire set of his published compilations—and regularly steal them from each other.
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
M.S.: A new love of my life. Widowed for 20 years, I would so like to meet a nice, companionable, interesting, lively man.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Beverley: What are you working on now?
M.S.: I’m eagerly awaiting the January release of Mrs. Spinney’s Secret from The Wild Rose Press. I don’t have a date or link yet, but here’s the blurb:
What do you do when Hollywood takes over your tiny Maine village to make a movie?
Cassidy Beauvoir, chair of the board of overseers of Amity Landing, is ready to throw the bums out; that is, until she meets Jasper MacEwan, the director of American Waterloo: the Rout of the Penobscot Expedition. It’s instant attraction until a series of deadly incidents threatens their budding romance. Are the attacks directed at the movie crew or the townspeople?
As the two search for answers, the trail leads them to long-held secrets of the worst naval defeat of the American Revolution—including betrayal, murder, and a lost hoard of English gold.
My current WIP is tentatively entitled Hidden Gem: The Treasure of St. Augustine. Here’s the story:
In 1982 Byron Preiss published The Secret, which told the tale of the fairy folk who left Europe and made their way to the New World. The twelve nations carried with them their totems--twelve precious gems. When Men began arriving in the New World, the Shining Ones buried the stones and hid themselves. In Hidden Gem: the Treasure of St. Augustine, Philo Brice, proprietor of an antique map and book store, meets Barnaby Swift, in St. Augustine to teach a seminar in research methods. His plan is to use the Secret hunt as a guide and sets them to search for the sapphire thought to be hidden somewhere in the city. Their adventure begins with a murder, and continues in the same vein with bodies dropping here and there. Meanwhile, Barnaby and Philo explore the First City, seek the treasure, and bumble their way into romance.
Blurb for Flotsam and Jetsam: the Amelia Island Affair:
State Park Rangers Simon Ribault and Ellie Ironstone are used to dealing with messy campers and ravaging raccoons, but when three bodies wash up on the beach, they mobilize all their powers of deduction. Who are they and how did they get to the shore of Amelia Island? Are they connected to the secretive League of the Green Cross? Or linked to a mysterious Jamaican drug ring?
Ellie, new to Amelia Island, must penetrate a close-knit community if she wants to find answers to the mystery, all while deciding between two rivals for her affection: Thad, the handsome local idol, and Simon, the clever, quirky bookworm.
Simon, for his part, will have to call on his not-so-well-honed romantic prowess to lure Ellie away from Thad and at the same time use his wide-ranging research skills to solve the case.
Simon has been mooning over Ellie for six months, with little to show for it. It takes three corpses—plus a bit of goosing from his best friend Georgia—to bring them together.
Excerpt: Hope Springs
As they crossed the street, a fire-engine red Miata barely missed them. It skidded to a stop, and a woman who would put Christie Brinkley to shame leapt out of the car. Simon, accustomed to the sight of her waist-length black hair and eyes a remarkable malachite green, didn’t notice Ellie’s slack jaw. He called, “Hey, Georgia, how’s Santa’s garage? You didn’t unwrap any presents, did you?”
She ran over to them, her short skirt making the long, Tina Turner legs seem even longer. She kissed Simon’s cheek and smiled at Ellie. “You must be Simon’s new partner. Does he treat you as badly as he treats his other colleagues?”
Ellie made a garbled sound in her throat.
She turned to Simon. “Dollink, I’m only down for a few days, and I need to talk to you. Can you come to dinner tonight?”
Simon started to make a joke about checking his social calendar but caught sight of Ellie’s face. She looked pained. What the—?
“Well?” Georgia tugged at his arm.
“Oh, um, sure. What do you want me to bring?”
“Some of that fabulous Italian bubbly you brought the last time. It gave me such a buzz.” She winked at
Ellie, who blinked. “Seven?”
Georgia turned on her heel and ran back to her car, starting up just as the two drivers behind her had stopped admiring her attributes and begun to fret. She roared off.
“Who…who was that?”
Simon turned surprised eyes on her. “I’m sorry. I should have introduced you. Georgia Petrie.”
“Oh. Your friend from law school.”
“Uh huh.” He gazed at the cloud of dust, the only sign of her passing. “We grew up together.” Ellie muttered something.
“Did you ask if Georgia had seen me naked?”
“Me? That’s absurd.” Ellie plopped into the driver’s seat and waved angrily at Simon. “Get in.”
Simon did as he was told. On the drive back to the station, they were both quiet. Simon rubbed a meditative finger over his lips, wondering. What set Ellie off anyway? A thought intruded. No, couldn’t be.
He checked her profile. Nah. But his mouth formed a hopeful smile, and he leaned back, humming his favorite tune.
Buy Links for Flotsam and Jetsam: the Amelia Island Affair:
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