Like the fictional professor Molly Barda, author Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, a loving family, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining. In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally. The Musubi Murder is her first novel.
What is your book about?
The Musubi Murder is a lighthearted murder mystery that affectionately portrays small-town life and big academic egos in rural Hawaii. It’s also the very first campus crime novel set in Hawaii.
The protagonist is professor Molly Barda, a reluctant sleuth who is very much a fish out of water. She’s a big city girl recently transplanted to remote Mahina State University, using her top-ten literature Ph.D. to teach resume-writing to business majors. She just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble until she gets tenure, so naturally she ends up getting dragged into the middle of a grisly murder case.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
Molly is supposed to be a complete invention, a character so comically obsessive and neurotic that she couldn’t possible exist in real life. So of course everyone thinks she’s me.
As a new author, what surprised you about the publishing industry?
The industry is very weird. Publishers are desperately trying to guess what readers want to buy. Agents are desperately trying to keep up with what publishers think readers will buy. The twenty year old intern whose job it is to sort through the agent’s slush pile is desperately trying to figure out what the agent thinks the publisher thinks that readers will buy.
Add to that the fact that everyone in that decision chain has read so many books that they have formed preferences and prejudices very different from those of the typical reader. For example, the average reader probably doesn’t mind if the book opens with the main character waking up, or a description of weather, but those things are a death sentence for your book as far as an agent is concerned.
I should say that I am very happy with my publisher, Five Star. Although they’re part of a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate (Cengage), they are very helpful and easy to work with.
What writers influenced you the most?
My influences–I should say role models– are P.G. Wodehouse, Sarah Caudwell, E.F. Benson, and Dorothy Parker.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Any of Sarah Caudwell’s four Hilary Tamar books. I’ll go with Thus Was Adonis Murdered. Just about every sentence makes me incandesce with envy.
What advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Number one: If you’re in this to be wealthy or universally beloved, you’re in the wrong business. Writing takes a lot of time and effort and humility, and there will always be people who won’t like your work. Number two: Read every day, and make sure you’re reading good writing.
What’s the best part about writing?
Finishing the first draft of a book is an amazing sensation. It wears off quickly when you realize all of the editing that’s ahead, but it still feels great while it lasts.
What was the worst writing experience you’ve had?
I was writing a character inspired by a good friend, and showed him the book. This friend had lived near me for a few months, and during that brief time he went through several broken-down used cars. He’d buy a car for something like $500 and drive it until it stopped working and buy another one. Well, I thought that was funny, so I put that in the book. He was so offended that he stopped reading at chapter three! He wasn’t a hypersensitive guy, but I think he felt that I was disparaging his auto mechanic credentials.
Do you think that people who don’t work or go to school at a university will relate to a campus crime novel?
The university is an organization, a workplace, so I think that much of what goes on is universal. You don’t have to be an academic to have worked with someone like Bill Vogel, the bottom-line-obsessed dean, who never turns away a tuition-paying “customer.” (Not even when the “customer” cheats on a test. Or turns in a plagiarized assignment. Or brandishes a machete in class.)
The audiobook is out now, on
The hardcover is coming out August 5. You can buy it on
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or visit my website http://www.frankiebow.com