Young Adult Authors and In the Hot Seat with Elissa Harris

Books by young adult authors have been extremely popular with adults and teens in the last few years. On Sunday, November 20 at 2 PM, The Poisoned Pen will welcome three popular YA authors who live in Arizona.

Aprilynne Pike is the author of Glitter.


If I Fix You is by Abigail Johnson.


Jenny Moyer wrote Flashfall.


Elissa Harris, a Poisoned Pen Press author (Poisoned Pencil), was originally scheduled to join them to discuss her debut novel, M.I.N.D., but she’s not going to make it. However, she did answer questions for an In the Hot Seat interview. Meeet Ellisa Harris.

Elissa, would you introduce yourself to readers?

I am the Me Too girl. According to my parents, “Me Too” were the first words I ever spoke. I doubt they were the actual words, but the nickname stuck anyway. But let’s get to the facts. Originally from Montreal, Canada, I now live in Arizona with my husband, Robert. I have two grown daughters, the older one a writer living in New York, the younger a reality TV producer in Los Angeles. Basically, I’ve worn many hats: daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, programmer, editor, writer… But perhaps the question is, who am I really? Truth is, I’m still searching for me, which is probably why I write. As soon I find the Me Too girl, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Introduce us to Cassie Stewart, please.

When Cassie was ten, her father was killed and she nearly drowned in a boating accident. As a result, she was left with a fear of water, an overprotective mother, and an embarrassing condition: She zonks out with no more warning than you’d get with a pop quiz. It’s six years later and her life still sucks. She’s never even had a boyfriend. Seriously, what guy in his right mind would date a girl who drops out of hers? Yet in spite of everything, or maybe because of it, she’s upbeat and funny, with her own quirky way of viewing the world.

Would you tell us about M.I.N.D., without spoilers?


Before hooking up with Brendan Marsh, Amanda Lockhart was Cassie’s best friend. On a school bus trip, Amanda goes ballistic, grabs the steering wheel and yells, “We have to go back!” The bus crashes, leaving Amanda brain-dead and altering Cassie’s condition. Cassie still zonks out, but now she can project her mind into other people. She calls it her “mental invasive neurological disorder,” or simply, M.I.N.D. It’s the perfect solution to her dead-end life. Or so she thinks—until she gets caught up in a mystery surrounding a fatal hit-and-run that involves her ex-best friend. Enter Amanda’s cute but geeky older brother, and things get even more interesting…

You’ve been an editor and writer. Is it correct that M.I.N.D. is your young adult debut? Why a young adult mystery?

Yes, it’s my first YA. But not by design. It started out as an adult thriller. I started wondering what it would feel like to actually commit a murder (no, I am NOT a psychopath, just a curious writer). There have to be people out there who fantasize about it, right? Secret wannabe killers who wouldn’t normally cross that line but would if they had a 100% guarantee they wouldn’t get caught. What if there was a service that let you do just this—from inside the body of someone else? That was my original idea for the book, but as soon as I started to write, the story took off in another direction. This was not going to be a dark thriller. This was turning into a story about revelations and self-discovery. But most important, the sixteen-year-old in me took over and I just went with it. Actually, Cassie’s upbeat voice took over, and she couldn’t be quieted.

What young adult authors do you read?

Oh, gosh. The list is endless. John Green, Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher, E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver, David Levithan, just to name a few.

Neil Gaiman said “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?

I’ve always been obsessed with Death (note the capital D here). Okay, so who isn’t, right? I’m not just talking about my writer’s curiosity about murder, though. For example, what really happens to your nails and hair after The End? Was anyone ever saved by ringing a bell from his coffin? But mainly, I was interested in the rituals, like closing the eyes of the poor departed soul and sealing them with pennies. Or covering up all the mirrors in the house where the poor guy had lived. This obsession led to not one but several short stories, which I compiled under the title, Burial Instructions.

Other than your own, name a couple books you would never part with.

My entire Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mystery series. Though I have to admit I liked Judy better, mainly because there’s a hint of romance with her friend, Peter Dobbs, whom she later marries. Peter was actually the name of the romantic interest in M.I.N.D. before I decided to kill him off (in name only, not in the story) and rename him Ethan.

What’s on your TBR pile?

Lauren Oliver’s Replica, Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, Jay Asher’s What Light (again, just to name a few).

What author would you like to recommend who you think has been underappreciated?

Sticking with YA here, I’ll have to say Christopher Pike, the Star-Trekky pseudonym for Kevin McFadden. Murder, horror, ghosts, vampires, witches, sex, alcohol, drugs… He had it all, but was, I believe, overshadowed by the phenomenon who is R.L. Stine. I remember really being blown away by Pike’s vampire series, which has a mystical theme and was way ahead of its time. Supernatural horror woven into the mysteries of the universe, not to mention the power of eternal love—how can you resist?

Check the Web Store if you’re interested in purchasing books by any of the authors.

Yashim Cooks Istanbul on NPR

Did you hear the recent story on NPR about the new cookbook, Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin?


The article, “Assassin’s Steak Tartare: Popular Detective Series Gets Its Own Cookbook” by Mary Louise Kelly, talks about Goodwin’s cookbook. You can read the article, or listen to the story from “Morning Edition”.

You might recognize Goodwin’s name from his first mystery featuring Yashim, the Turkish detective, The Janissary Tree. Readers have been asking for this cookbook since they first met Yashim. You can order Yashim Cooks Istanbul through our Web Store.



David P. Wagner, Return to Umbria

David P. Wagner is the Poisoned Pen Press author who writes the Rick Montoya Italian mysteries. Return to Umbria is his latest one.


Here’s the summary of the book, as it appears in the Web Store.

Orvieto—its very name brings to mind priceless art, colorful ceramics, and straw-colored wine. And the most famous cathedral façade in Italy, a structure of gothic spires, arches, statues, and mosaics. But as Rick Montoya discovers, this jewel of Umbria can have an ugly side as well.

When Rick Montoya moved to his mother’s Italy from his father’s Santa Fe, New Mexico, to work as a freelance translator using his dual heritage, he didn’t expect to be helping the Italian police. His maternal uncle, a high-level commissioner in Rome, however, sees no reason not to use the resources at hand.

Rick’s fourth investigation should not have involved crime. It begins when Rick is asked by his uncle to go to Orvieto to talk some sense into his cousin Fabrizio, whose fling with an older married woman is embarrassing the family. Rick agrees to give it a try, and plans a short but romantic weekend in Orvieto with Betta Innocenti, the woman he met in Bassano. What could go wrong?

Less than a day after their arrival, his language skills draw him into the brutal murder of an American visitor. He finds that he knows the policeman in charge, but Inspector LoGuercio has changed since the time they met in Volterra. The murdered woman had studied art in Italy decades earlier—why has she returned now? And why was she dumped at night on a dusty road? Through her traveling companions, her devastated daughter and best friend, as well as a growing list of those who knew her from her student days, they realize she had come to Orvieto to face the past. And then a second murder occurs in a public park, with Montoya so close that he wonders if he could have been the intended target. Is all this connected to Fabrizio and his affair, or to the American’s death? More violence erupts, some of it definitely directed at Rick himself.

Strong suspects, tantalizing secrets, concealed motives, and risky behaviors tie to a fascinating landscape and layers of Orvieto’s past.

Recently, Publishers Weekly interviewed Wagner about his books, and his love of Italy. Here’s the link to that story.

We have signed copies of Return to Umbria in the Web Store, if you’d like to purchase a copy.

Hot Book of the Week – David Morrell’s Ruler of the Night

David Morrell will be at The Poisoned Pen at 7 PM on Wednesday, Nov. 16 to discuss Ruler of the Night. The Victorian mystery is our Hot Book of the Week.


Here’s the description from the Web Store.

The notorious Opium-Eater returns in the sensational climax to David Morrell’s acclaimed Victorian mystery trilogy.

1855. The railway has irrevocably altered English society, effectively changing geography and fueling the industrial revolution by shortening distances between cities: a whole day’s journey can now be covered in a matter of hours. People marvel at their new freedom.

But train travel brings new dangers as well, with England’s first death by train recorded on the very first day of railway operations in 1830. Twenty-five years later, England’s first train murder occurs, paralyzing London with the unthinkable when a gentleman is stabbed to death in a safely locked first-class passenger compartment.

In the next compartment, the brilliant opium-eater Thomas De Quincey and his quick-witted daughter, Emily, discover the homicide in a most gruesome manner. Key witnesses and also resourceful sleuths, they join forces with their allies in Scotland Yard, Detective Ryan and his partner-in-training, Becker, to pursue the killer back into the fogbound streets of London, where other baffling murders occur. Ultimately, De Quincey must confront two ruthless adversaries: this terrifying enemy, and his own opium addiction which endangers his life and his tormented soul.

Ruler of the Night is a riveting blend of fact and fiction which, like master storyteller David Morrell’s previous De Quincey novels, “evokes Victorian London with such finesse that you’ll hear the hooves clattering on cobblestones, the racket of dustmen, and the shrill calls of vendors” (Entertainment Weekly).

Join us Wednesday, November 16, or order a signed copy of Ruler of the Night through the Web Store.

Anne Perry & A Christmas Message

Anne Perry was recently at The Poisoned Pen to discuss her latest book, A Christmas Message.


Here’s the summary from the Web Page.

In the spirit of the season, New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry presents readers with the gift of another holiday mystery, taking them to the Holy Land for an intriguing and miraculous journey of discovery.

The year is 1900, and Victor Narraway is giving his wife, Vespasia, an unforgettable Christmas present—a trip to Jerusalem. Vespasia is enchanted by the exotic landscape of Palestine, and charmed by a fellow traveler the Narraways meet at their hotel in Jaffa. But when the man is murdered over a torn piece of ancient parchment he was taking to Jerusalem, Victor and Vespasia risk their lives to finish his mission and deliver the puzzling document to its home. Pursued by a shadowy figure with evil intent, they embark on a dangerous yet ultimately enlightening pilgrimage to the holy city, where the mysterious message on the parchment may finally be revealed.

Rich in suspense and wonder, A Christmas Message is at once a breathtaking adventure story and a poignant meditation on faith and spirituality.

If you’d like to know more, join John Charles as he interviews Anne Perry for our Livestream event.

You can order a signed copy of A Christmas Message through the Web Store.


John Grisham, on Writing

As of today, John Grisham’s The Whistler is number one on The New York Times bestseller list.


It’s the perfect time to share a couple Author Shorts from Penguin Random House. In the first one, Grisham discusses his writing regime.

In the second clip, he discusses the writing that has influenced him.

The Whistler is out of stock at the moment, but copies are on order. You can order them through our Web Store.

Peter James, In the Hot Seat


Peter James is the New York Times bestselling author of the DS Roy Grace series of crime thrillers which have sold over 18 million copies. Peter is the UK’s biggest selling police procedural author, with 11 consecutive books appearing at number one on the Sunday Times, as well as being a No 1 bestseller in many countries around the globe, where he is published in 37 languages in 52 countries. His latest book is Love You Dead. James was kind enough to answer questions for In the Hot Seat.

Peter, please tell us about Roy Grace.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is a senior homicide detective working in Brighton, Sussex, a famous city on the south coast of England that has had a long criminal past.  Back in the 1930s Brighton was known as the Crime Capital of the UK and Murder Capital of Europe.   A title it has never quite lost, luckily for me!  When we first meet him in Dead Simple, he is coming up to his 39th birthday, and we learn that 9 years earlier, on his 30th birthday, his wife, Sandy, whom he loved and adored, vanished without trace.  While he has continued to function as a very effective homicide detective, for almost a decade he has been looking everywhere for her, wondering what happened.  Did she run off with a lover?  Get abducted and killed by a maniac?  Have an accident?  Lose her memory?  Commit suicide somewhere?  He has even tried mediums and clairvoyants, without success.  During the course of the next eleven novels, as Roy moves on into a new relationship, falling in love again, we gradually learn more and more about Sandy, and the truth of what happened to her…

Roy Grace is actually based on a real-life homicide detective:  Fifteen years ago I was introduced to a young Detective Inspector called David Gaylor, a rising star in Sussex CID.  I went into his office and found it full of plastic crates bulging with manila folders.  I asked him he was moving offices and he replied with a sardonic smile:  “No, these are my dead friends.”

I thought for some moment that I had met a total weirdo!  Then he explained that in addition to his current homicide investigation work, he had been tasked with reopening cold cases and applying new forensic developments to them.  He said something that really touched me:  “Each of theses crates contains the principal case files of an unsolved murder:  I am the last chance each of the victims has for justice, and I am the last chance each of their families have for closure.”

I loved the deeply human aspects of this man.  During his work he saw the most terrible sights imaginable (and unimaginable), yet he retained a calm, gentle humanity ““ and this aspect is one of the key characteristics of almost every homicide detective I have met:  They are calm, kind and very caring people.  In very many cases they develop a close relationship with the victim’s loved ones, and solving the crime becomes personal to them.  It is the reason why so often, even years after they have from the force, that many detectives still continue to work away on any case they could not solve during their career.

FBI founder, J Edgar Hoover, said:  “No greater honour will ever be bestowed on an officer, nor a more profound duty imposed on him, than when he or she is entrusted with the investigation of the death of a human being.”

At this first encounter with DI David Gaylor, he asked me about the novel I was then working on, and immediately started coming up with creative suggestions involving the policing aspects ““ and other aspects too.  I realized that to be a good homicide investigator you had to have not only a very analytical mind, but also a very creative one.  This is because the solving of every major crime is a massive puzzle, usually with a key bit missing.  From that day onwards, I would discuss the plots of my next novels in advance with him.

At the time my publishers, Macmillan, approached me to create a fictional detective, David had risen to become Detective Chief Superintendent in Sussex Police, in charge of Major Crime Reviews.  I asked him how he would feel about becoming a fictional character ““ and he loved the idea!  He now reads every hundred pages as I am writing, and gives me his view on how a real detective in Roy Grace’s position would think.  It helps to give my novels the authenticity I strive so hard for.

Without spoilers, tell us about Love You Dead.




The plot of Love You Dead is this:  An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life ““ to be beautiful and rich.  She’s achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she’s working hard on the second.  Her philosophy on money is simple:  You can either earn it or marry it.  Marrying is easy, it’s getting rid of the husband afterwards that’s harder, that takes real skill.  But hey, practice makes perfect…

The novel opens in the smart French ski resort of Courchevel.  Jodie is with her latest catch, financier Walt Klein, who she met while he was drowning his sorrows on Vodka Martinis.  Walt, new to the resort, is looking forward to a day’s skiing with Jodie, who knows the resort well, guiding him.  But Jodie has other plans ““ rather dark ones, plans which if all goes well, don’t include Walt living for many more hours.

The Roy Grace police procedurals are set in Brighton, your hometown. Why is Brighton a good setting for your books?

For me there was only ever one location for Roy Grace to be based….my hometown of Brighton. To the outsider, Brighton is a hip, beautiful seaside city, but it has a long history of darkness – right back to its roots as a smugglers village!  In Regency days it gained a reputation both as a fashionable bathing resort, but in 1841 when the London-Brighton railway line opened, criminals flooded down from London, finding rich pickings and a much nicer environment than their city!  They brought cock-fighting, prostitution, pick-pockets, muggers, smugglers, burglars, and gangs.  Simultaneously, with the railway enabling quick access from London, many wealthy Londoners brought their mistresses down here and it became known as a place for “dirty weekends”.

Three consecutive past Chief Constables of Sussex Police have all told me that Brighton is the favoured place in the UK for first division criminals to live in.  The reasons are:  Firstly it has a lot of escape routes, very important to all criminals:  It has the Channel ports, Eurotunnel, and Gatwick Airport just 25 minutes away.  London is only 50 minutes by train.  It has a major seaport on either side ““ Shoreham and Newhaven, perfect for importing drugs and exporting stolen cars, antiques and cash.  It has the largest number of antique shops in the UK ““ perfect for laundering stolen goods and cash.  For many recent years it held the title the Tourist Board do not like me mentioning: “Injecting Drug Death Capital of England”!  It has a wealthy young population combined with the largest gay community in the UK, providing a big market for recreational drugs.  It has two universities, so a big drug-taking student community.  A huge number of nightclubs and a large transient population.  Very importantly it has not been over-written by other writers.  

You have a background in film and television. Tell us about Peter James TV.

Peter James TV is my new and exciting YouTube channel.  As you mention, I have a long TV and film background and I see just how important it is as a writer, to be visible and accessible. I do numerous talks and events through the year and try to meet as many of my fans as possible.  Peter James TV helps to get in touch and connect with those, and also the many that I don’t have the chance to actually meet. I love to be able to share the research and background to my books,  and some of what I’m doing in my life:  Our menagerie of animals ““ including five alpacas and soon three emus, my motor racing, behind the scenes footage of my stage plays, along with fun book reviews in bizarre locations (like on a paddle board in the Mediterranean!).

I’m incredibly excited about the most recent addition to the channel, the AUTHORS STUDIO where I have asked over 100 authors the same ten questions (ones that I often get asked) and my viewers get a chance to “˜meet the masters’.  There are some hugely entertaining and varied answers. I am posting each week new authors, some very big names and some lesser known authors. I hope that this new “˜hub’ gives readers, published authors and aspiring authors a chance to connect and share ideas and thoughts. It is totally free to subscribe and we are regularly running competitions for subscribers to win signed books, goodie bags and even your name in a future book!

So, here are a few of the type of questions you ask other authors on Peter James TV. What’s your favorite book you’ve written, and why?

My favourite book I have written is probably “˜Dead Simple’ as that was the book that launched Roy Grace but also I am hugely proud of my stand alone “˜Perfect People’.

What authors or books have inspired you?

When I was 14 I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and this book totally changed my life. It is quite simply the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer the first time I read it, when I was a teenager.  It is also the inspiration behind my setting the Roy Grace series in Brighton.  

This timeless novel is both a thriller and a crime novel, although police play a small part and the story is almost entirely told through the eyes of the villains and two women who believe they can redeem them.   Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, that makes you feel you know them inside out and have probably met them, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable.

It is for me an almost perfect novel.   It has one of the most grabbing opening lines ever written (Hale knew, within thirty minutes of arriving in Brighton, that they meant to kill him.”)  , and one of the finest last lines – very clever, very tantalizing and very, very “noir” – yet apt.  Greene captures so vividly the dark, criminal underbelly of Brighton and Hove, as relevant now as when the book was first written, and the characters are wonderful, deeply human, deeply flawed and tragic.  And yet, far more than being just an incredibly tense thriller, Greene uses the novel to explore big themes of religious faith, love and honour.”  And additionally, a bonus, It is also unique for being one of the few novels where the film adaptation is so good it complements rather than reduces the book.

Aside from Graham Greene, I’ve learned a lot from some of the great classical writers ““ in particular Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Scott Fitzgerald.  I read very broadly and very eclectically, There are some fine UK crime writers, whose work I really like, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Brian McGillivray, Anne Cleeves, Stuart McBride and many others, but I tend to read more US writers.  I used to love John D Macdonald’s funky Travis McGee series, I was a great fan of Stephen King’s early novels, in particular Carrie and The Shining, and I think Ira Levin wrote two of the greatest, darkest books ever written, Rosemary’s Baby and The Boys From Brazil.  I like James Ellroy, and I love Elmore Leonard ““ he just writes the most fabulous characters.  Two of my favourite crime novels of the past decade or so are Silence Of The Lambs and Michael Connelly’s “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

Other than your own, name several books you would never part with.

All those I speak about above!

What author would you like to recommend who you think has been underappreciated?

Pierre Lemaitre I read his very haunting crime novel, “˜Alex’ a year ago.  Commandant Camille VerhÅ“ven is a wonderfully engaging detective, but what elevates this novel into one of my favourites of all time is the sheer genius of the author in twist after twist, like layers of onion skin peeling away to reveal the ultimate, and hugely satisfying, truth.

Tell us about The Reading Agency.

I hugely support the Reading Agency, which tries to raise the standard of literacy in our nation.  It’s a terribly sad statistic that the average reading age in a UK prison is currently equivalent to that of a nine-year-old child.

I give talks to help people with reading difficulties and I also give talks in prisons every year to try to encourage literacy among prisoners.


My brand new Peter James TV YouTube channel:

My website:




Instagram Pets:

Amazon Author Page:

You can order a signed copy of Love You Dead through the Web Store, or you can order Peter James’ other books.

An Alphabet Soup of Authors

I have the feeling we’re all a little tired today. So, the blog features a couple  photos of various authors who have appeared at The Poisoned Pen recently. Enjoy!

Above – Michael Connelly signing The Highway Kind.

Below – Hank Phillippi Ryan and Rhys Bowen at a local chapter meeting of Mystery Writers of America. Hank was here to sign her book, Say No More. Rhys was in the audience.



Don’t forget. You can order signed copies of books by your favorite authors through the Web Store.

The Highway Kind

The Poisoned Pen’s own Patrick Millikin recently edited a collection called The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark Roads.


Michael Connelly has already signed copies of it. Just look at the authors who contributed, and showed up recently to sign The Highway Kind.

Left to right – C.J. Box, Diana Gabaldon, Gary Phillips, Patrick Millikin

You can order a signed copy of The Highway Kind through the Web Store. Here’s the description from the web page.

Thrilling crime stories about cars, driving, and the road from the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed writers.

Like fiction, cars take us into a different world: from the tony enclaves of upper crust society to the lowliest barrio; from muscle car-driving con men to hardscrabble kids on the road during the Great Depression; from a psychotic traveling salesman to a Mexican drug lord who drives a tricked-out VW Bus. We all share the roads, and our cars link us together.

Including entirely new stories from Michael Connelly, C.J. Box, George Pelecanos, Diana Gabaldon, James Sallis, Ace Atkins, Luis Alberto Urrea, Sara Gran, Ben H. Winters, and Joe Lansdale, THE HIGHWAY KIND is a street-level look at modern America, as seen through one of its national obsessions.

You want a copy, don’t you?

Marcia Clark, Moral Defense & Livestream

Did you miss Marcia Clark when she was at The Poisoned Pen to talk about her new novel, Moral Defense?


Here’s the summary that’s on the page for the Web Store.

“For defense attorney Samantha Brinkman, it’s not about guilt or innocence—it’s about making sure her clients walk.

In the follow-up to bestselling Blood Defense, Samantha is hired as the legal advocate for Cassie Sonnenberg after a brutal stabbing left the teenager’s father and brother dead, and her mother barely clinging to life. It’s a tabloid-ready case that has the nation in an uproar—and Sam facing her biggest challenge yet. Why did Cassie survive? Is she hiding something?

As Sam digs in to find the answers, she’s surprised to find herself identifying with Cassie, becoming more and more personally entangled in the case. But when Sam finally discovers the reason for that kinship, she faces a choice she never imagined she’d have to make.”

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviewed her, though, for Livestream, so you can watch and listen to the program if you’d like.

And, here’s Marcia Clark with Barbara.


If you’d like to order a signed copy of Moral Defense, it’s available through the Web Store.