Headlines scream “University of Michigan Co-Ed Murdered” and the intrigue and mystery begin. Maze in Blue is a cozy murder mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s. In this debut whodunit, all Denney Silber wants from her senior year at the University of Michigan is to enjoy sorority parties, football games, and concerts – plants that go awry when she discovers her best friend, Helen, dead in the office of the faculty member Denney most despises. Compelled to solve Helen’s murder, Denney quickly realizes that her own life is in danger. She can no longer trust friends, teachers, or even the cutest guy in Poetry 331.
There was no question that Denney adhered to the give-and-take rules of friendship her mother had drilled into her head when she was a kid, but after being at Michigan, her definition of friendship had been refined. To Denney, a true friend was there when you had the proverbial bad hair day. A true friend dealt with your PMS moments and a friend was there when you broke up with your boyfriend (the mystery man Denney still was waiting to find).
Most importantly, friends didn’t kill friends.
Tell us something about yourself.
I hate to be pigeon-holed. Debra H. Goldstein, judge, author, University of Michigan graduate, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, civic volunteer, Yankee, English major, and Southern Woman writer are all words that have been used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Maze in Blue, my debut novel, was published by Chalet Publishers, LLC in April 2011, but I have won awards for my non-fiction and my short stories. So, even though Maze in Blue is a murder mystery, it is a safe bet that when it comes to my writing, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.”
My husband and I live in Birmingham, Alabama. Although his blood runs crimson and his dreams are filled with images of Nick Saban and Bear Bryant, even he admits that the Wolverines are always a team to watch.
What inspired you to write this book?
For me, fun and escape comes from reading a mystery. Whether a thriller, cozy or suspense novel, I love the challenge of trying to figure out whodunit. Consequently, when I decided to write a book, there was no question that my first book would be a mystery. I chose to set Maze in Blue on the University of Michigan’s campus because I fell in love with the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan when I was a student there in the 1970’s. Places like the Diag, Markley, Angell Hall, and the Michigan Law School quadrangle each hold special memories for me that I want to share with others. As my characters began to talk to me, it quickly became obvious that before they could be involved in stories about lawyering or judging, they had to experience life as undergraduates. To me, there was no better place to send the Maze in Blue characters to college than the University of Michigan (though my husband and a few of readers might dispute this).
How did you choose the title?
I was trying to think of a title that evoked memories of the University of Michigan. I thought about the maze of steam tunnels that run under the university and immediately had the idea for combining that thought with a play on the University’s colors.
What obstacles did you encounter in writing this book? What advice about writing or publishing would you give other writers?
Time and being willing to edit and rewrite were the biggest obstacles for me. Because I am employed as a full time sitting judge, I had to make time to write late at night or on vacations. I’m not a person who can write on a daily basis so it was important for me to stick to my goal of writing Maze in Blue despite many distractions. Once I did write my first draft, I had to force myself to listen and accept the criticism some of my family and friends, who were my first readers, offered and to then be willing to edit and rewrite. As my writing improved, I learned to show more than tell. I cut paragraphs and chapters that I originally thought were essential, but that I came to realize bogged the plot of the book down. The final version of Maze in Blue represents 21 rewrites, but it now flows in a way that makes it an easy airplane, beach or before bed read.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I began writing stories when I was a child, and continued to tinker with fiction as an adult. Until the last few years, all my published articles were legal articles. I decided to try to enter some other types of writing in competition in 2009. “Maybe I Should Hug You” won a 2009 Alabama Writer’s Conclave non-fiction award and was published in More Magazine online in April 2010 as “More Hugs Less Fear.” Excited by the success of the essay, I began writing and submitting short stories in competitions and for publication. “Malicious Mischief” won a 2010 Chattahootchie Valley Writers Conference Short Story Fiction Award while “Legal Magic” recently received a 2011 Alabama Writer’s Conclave Humor Award and was published in www.Alalit.com.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Although I have no formal rituals, I find that writing anywhere that I can see the ocean, gulf, or a lake in the distance is so calming that I focus better on my writing.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I read all types of books, but mysteries are my favorite release from everyday activities. Some of my favorite female mystery authors include Sue Grafton, Carolyn Hart, Faye Kellerman, Diane Mott Davidson, Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Clark, Agatha Christie, and Sara Paretsky — just to name a few off the top of my head.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Although I should be working on the second book in the Denney Silber series, I have been on a whirlwind doing signings and speaking to civic groups and bookclubs since Maze in Blue’s publication a few months ago. I am enjoying how well Maze in Blue is being received, but I haven’t quite figured out how to carve out time during this frenzied period for long periods of writing.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
There are many perfect readers for Maze in Blue: those who enjoy cozy mysteries; those who enjoy books that will keep them turning to the last page to find out whodunit; those who attended the University of Michigan and who will get a warm feeling remembering Ann Arbor; and, those who truly want to enjoy a fast paced book at the beach, on a plane, or before bed.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
www.DebraHGoldstein.com; Amazon.com; www.nicolasbooks.com; firstname.lastname@example.org — see my website to learn all the places that Maze in Blue is available from and follow my blog at http://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com/