Interview with Zana Hart
Author of Dead in the Stacks: The Curious Librarian Cozy Mystery #1
I write memoirs and mysteries... I wrote a trilogy of cozy mysteries about a small-town librarian based loosely on my own experiences. Now I'm doing a series of memoirs about my life. No, I'm not famous, but I've done a lot of different things. The two that are published are about going around the world and about spending a summer on a workcamp in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I'll soon be publishing one about taking LSD as a research subject.
Future memoirs will include being the daughter of science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith, falling in love with a hippie, raising llamas, living in Mexico, and more.
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How would you describe Dead in the Stacks to a new reader?
- It's the first of a trilogy of cozy mysteries. Cozies, as they are often called, go easy on the violence and sex and typically have plots that challenge the readers to figure out what's going on.
To what extent is Dead in the Stacks based on your own experiences?
- A lot, though happily I never found a dead body in the library stacks when I worked in small public libraries much like the one in the book.
Why did you decide to write this book?
- To see if I could write fiction. My father was science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith and I never felt I could match his skills. But I decided to try in a completely different genre.
You make good use of locations in the book – there’s a real sense of place. Are these locations significant for you?
- Yes, most of my working life was spent in small public libraries.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Just start writing, with a rough plot outline or a detailed one, and see what happens. Take part in the National Novel Writing Month in Novembers.
How would you advise a new author about traditional publishing versus self publishing?
- I'm made a good chunk of my living from self-publishing, so for people who have at least a little entrepreneurial skill or are willing to develop it, I do like that.
Dead in the Stacks is an absorbing read. How important was it to you to write with pace and energy?
- Glad you liked it. It was my first novel so I tried to keep it moving.
Why do your chapters have titles?
- I'm just used to that from having been a children's librarian where it was more common. As I was writing, I found it helped me with the flow of the tale.
How have readers responded to Dead in the Stacks?
- They liked it.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I wrote two more cozies in the trilogy and now I'm writing my memoirs.
The Silvermine Public Library had never had a dead body on the floor before. The body was that of library board member Mark Wagner, and it could have been a heart attack.
But of course the possibility of murder came up. Who would have killed Mark? What about the many women he hit on, putting his big hands where they didn’t belong? What about the many people who had suffered from his rapacious real estate deals? If you counted up who was annoyed at Mark, it would be hundreds or even thousands of people in Silvermine (pop. 10,000). If you counted up who might really have done it, well, there were several suspects.
Some people were talking about the library director Lauren Long, but she had her hands full, trying to keep the momentum for a new library going forward while everyone’s attention was on the death. There was her love life to keep going, too, and then someone tried to break into her house, more than once.
Was she marked for murder? In this story, the first of the Curious Librarian Cozy Mystery series, author and librarian Zana Hart weaves a tale that leaves red herrings all over the library.