Featured Mystery Author
everyone need a guardian angel? Award-winning author Mignon Ballard
created her own as Augusta Goodnight. This whimsical angel learned
first aid from Florence Nightingale and horticulture from Luther Burbank.
This guardian angel cleans like Merry Maids and cooks like Julia Childs.
Plus, this angel rides shotgun as the heroine solves the mystery.
This guardian angel cleans like Merry Maids and cooks like Julia Childs. Plus, this angel rides shotgun as the heroine solves the mystery.
should give you an idea of the capricious creativity taking place inside Mignon Ballard's
mind. She thrives on blending humor and suspense in her southern
Goodnight is definitely An Angel to Die For. She cooks, cleans, and
organizes Prentice's home. Sounds like a writer's real life dream
for sure. How was guardian angel Augusta Goodnight created?
An Angel to Die For, you blended in southern humor, added a touch of
eccentrics, and mixed in traditional southern themes of family and place.
What influenced your style, and how would you describe your voice?
grew up in a small town in Georgia (Calhoun) at a time when you knew just
about everyone and I heard stories coming and going. I'm like a teabag
steeped in Southern brew, and I don't know how else to write. I was born
during the depression, and World War II took up most of my childhood.
People had to laugh to keep going. This influenced me, I think, along with
the patterns of speech and the tales they told. For instance, my maiden
name is Franklin, and when I complained of my looks, my daddy would remind
me that "The Lord spake and said unto Moses, 'All the Franklins shall
have big noses!'" (It didn't help, of course!)
voice, I hope, is the voice of any woman who is faced with loss, grief,
fear, and/or loneliness but is willing to face her demons when Augusta
offers her services. I can't identify with a wishy-washy, spineless
protagonist or one with no sense of humor. She wouldn't be worth Augusta's
time or the reader's.
of your mysteries are set in the South. What elements of the region
make it a good choice for the genre?
elements don't? The colorful speech, the variety of the people and the
landscape, the rich heritage, and the emotions that simmer within us. Many
families have lived here for generations. For the most part they are
gracious and outgoing, but deep inside old resentments stew and steam.
Secrets begat secrets, and eventually something erupts. Also Southerners
feel strongly about just about everything...and we're rarely wrong. Just
has the angel series been received and how many do you plan to write?
series has received enthusiastic reviews, has been selected by Detective
Book Club, published in large print, and Berkley will bring out the first
angel in paperback next Feb. I've received a lot of positive feedback from
readers of ANGEL AT TROUBLESOME CREEK, and have just signed a contract for
SHADOW OF AN ANGEL, the third in the series. I hope to write about Augusta
as long as people want to read about her. The series appeals to readers
who enjoy a good mystery without a lot of graphic sex, violence, or foul
language. (Augusta gets on her "high horse" about that.) Of
course my victims are just as dead!
was born two days before Halloween, lived across the street from a funeral
home, and loved to tell ghost stories with my sister and her friends on
the steps of a marble mausoleum in the town cemetery. (We brought our own
peanut butter sandwiches.) I loved being scared as long as I knew home and
Mama were only a few minutes away.
My mother and grandmother wrote verse and my great grandmother wrote a novel (never published). My parents read to me and were great storytellers. My mother illustrated her warnings about sticking your arm out the car window, playing on the railroad tracks, standing by an open window during electrical storms, etc. by repeating stories of people she knew who had done these things. Mama knew a lot of unfortunate people. I also had the good fortune to have good teachers and small classes. I went all the way through 12 grades of school with the same people. (But don't ask any of them about me because it isn't true!)
I read something in a newspaper or hear a story I think I might
incorporate into a mystery, I make note of it. Writing is like piecing a
quilt. A snatch of song might inspire me, an old letter, an epitaph on a
gravestone, an abandoned house, even a name. I weave then together into
what I hope is a suspenseful, sometimes-funny, and believable story. What
is my character doing here and what influences have these things had on
her life? I especially like to write about things that happened in the
past. I like to right old wrongs.
a degree in Journalism from UGA, what skills did you learn that you find
helpful in writing mysteries?
learned to put the important things up front, to hook my readers as soon
as possible and lead them into the story by the most direct route. I
learned not to be redundant, to avoid cliches and adverbs, use adjectives
sparingly, and be choosy about my verbs. From my high school English
teacher I learned to shudder and screech when somebody says, "most
unique." (Thank you. Miss Legg!)
won the Styles Award from the Agatha Christie Society, what advice would
you give to writers on finding their own style and voice?
Styles Award got its name, I believe, from Christie's first published
mystery, "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," but Agatha Christie
and her style had a great influence on me. After I got too old for Nancy
Drew, I moved up to Christie and fell in love with the village life and
the English countryside. From Christie I learned that even the most
peaceful and picturesque place can harbor dark secrets and be a catalyst
why not set one in the small town South? Eventually I did. My first
editor, Margaret Norton, was Agatha Christie's American editor, and I
always wished some of that magic would rub off on me.
think every writer should use the voice they feel most comfortable with.
You just have to experiment. It's not a bad idea to write a few pages or
even a chapter or so from different viewpoints to see which suits you
best. I write some books in first person and some in third, but I usually
stick with the subjective one-person viewpoint because I like to
"be" that character. I am trying to work up the courage to use
multiple points of view, and have even started a novel using this
technique. One day I'm going to finish it!
An Angel to Die For, Minotaur Books, 2000.
Angel at Troublesome Creek, Minotaur Books, 1999.
Minerva Cries Murder, Carroll & Graf, 1993.
Final Curtain, Carroll & Graf, 1992.
The Widow's Woods, Carroll & Graf, 1991.
Deadly Promise, Dodd Mead, 1986.
Cry at Dusk, Dodd Mead, 1987.
Raven Rock, Dodd Mead, 1986.
Aunt Matilda's Ghost, A Silver Dagger Mystery Reprint Edition, 2000.
© 2000 Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved