By J.B. Thompson

Gift-basket entrepreneur Claire Hanover is a lonely housewife who just wants her workaholic husband to pay more attention to her. Then a divorced friend encourages her to have a fling with their handsome aerobics instructor. While giving her a massage, he’s shot and killed, and Claire’s husband Roger is caught holding the smoking gun. Claire is convinced Roger is being framed and vows to find the real killer before Roger goes to trial. During her amateur sleuthing, Claire finds herself in a veritable hornet’s nest of shady characters, but perseveres, knowing the truth is the only thing that will save her marriage and the man she still loves.

Beth Groundwater has published seven short stories. Five Star Publishing will release her first mystery novel, A Real Basket Case, in March 2007. Beth is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Between writing spurts, she chauffeurs her two teenagers to their busy social engagements while bemoaning the lack of her own, defends her meager garden from marauding mule deer and wild rabbits, and tries to avoid getting black-and-blue on the black and blue ski slopes of Colorado. Visit her website at and her blog at

J.B.: You obtained degrees in Psychology and Computer Science and worked as a software engineer and project manager, putting aside your writing for a time. Did you know during your work years that you would return to it someday, or was your desire to write again something that resurfaced after you retired? Did you go back to it like gangbusters or was it more of a gradual transition?

BETH: When my children were young, between raising them and work, I had no creative energy left to write. But, as they got older and more self-sufficient, and I made the decision to give up my management position and convert to part-time status, the stress level lowered enough that my muse returned. While still working, I started playing around with short stories and attended my first Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I retired in 1998 and spent six months writing my first novel, which will probably never see the light of day. Then the office called and said the three people I’d trained before I retired had all left. They asked me to return and train some more, which I did for six months, but I was SO anxious to get back to writing when I re-retired in 1999, they knew it was permanent that time. So, the transition was gradual, but couldn’t be stopped once it started!

J.B.: You have an impressive list of writing awards, including honors for short fiction and poetry. How has keeping your feet wet in various fiction styles made you a better writer?

BETH: I learned what I can and can’t do, what I like writing and what I don’t like writing. For instance, after writing my hard science fiction novella, I swore, “never again,” because of all the research involved, from the theory of relativity to the process of human aging. I often use short stories as a way to try out a writing style and see if I like it. For instance, “New Zealand” was the first piece I wrote in first person, and “Flamingo Fatality” was the first time I tried all-out comedy. Both were successful, so I’ll be writing more first person and comedic stories, and may even try a first-person novel. A writer should never be afraid to explore something new, because otherwise your writing can get stale.

J.B.: Claire Hanover is a very likeable – if slightly under-qualified – amateur sleuth. She has a knack for getting herself into some sticky situations and then getting out again on pure luck rather than instinct. Taking into account her age, marital and social status, what was the appeal of giving her those attributes?

BETH: Slightly under-qualified! She’s WAAAY under-qualified, as amateur sleuths should be. I wanted the reader to be able to identify with her as someone who was far from superhuman, had many faults, and made lots of mistakes, but with heart and determination – not JUST luck – she pushed on and solved her problems. A reader should be able to think, “I could do that.” One of my critique partners liked to call Claire “Lucy”, from the I Love Lucy Show. Even though she screws up all the time, you can’t help loving her.

J.B.: Tell us a little about your critique group – how have they helped your writing?

BETH: I would still be unpublished without my critique group, without a doubt. That’s the first piece of advice I give aspiring authors who ask me for guidance – join a good critique group! Without my group’s advice, my writing would not have improved to the point where it’s publishable. Without their support, I would have given up in quiet despair as the rejection letters rolled in year after year. I still meet with my critique group twice a month, and I hope to for many years to come.

J.B.: Share with us some of the things you like to do when you’re not writing – the book clubs, the water sports ... do the distractions help you regroup, recharge and refocus when you come back to work on a book?

BETH: I’ve learned to listen to my muse. When she says she can’t think of another word, it’s time to take a break, sometimes for an hour, sometimes overnight (and the scene comes to me the next morning), and sometimes for a week or two. One thing I do religiously for my health is exercise at least five days a week. I love interesting food, especially chocolate, so trying a new recipe, going out to eat ethnic food, or attending a chef’s competition are my idea of great fun. Also, I read widely, in many genres, and enjoy the variety of quality literature my Book Club chooses to read monthly. Some of the passages in literary novels almost make me weep in frustration at never being able to write that well.

J.B.: You love to travel. What are some of your favorite places you’ve visited? Is there someplace you haven’t been yet that you’d really like to go?

BETH: My husband and I have a long, long list of places we want to see. His top choice is Angkor Wat in Cambodia and mine is Machu Picchu in Peru. All our travels have been interesting, but our two week family trip to New Zealand was special – rafting in a glow worm cave and hiking on a glacier were the highlights. Alaska was a close second.

J.B.: If you could meet a fictional detective in real life, who would it be?

BETH: Probably Sherlock Holmes. I find his deductive skills fascinating. I’m a puzzle freak, jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, you name it, which is probably why I enjoy writing the mystery form, because you’re basically laying out a puzzle for your sleuth, and the reader, to solve. And Sherlock Holmes could figure out any puzzle laid before him.

J.B.: Are you a chocolate kind of person, or do you have some other indulgence that keeps you going?

BETH: Oh, I’m a chocoholic and proud of it. The darker the better. I’ve even sampled raw chocolate nibs. Nothing beats dark chocolate in my mind.


J.B. Thompson is the author of two novels of romantic suspense currently in publication ( In addition to conducting author interviews, she writes book and movie reviews. J.B. blogs at “Let’s Do Lunch – The World According to J.B.”. She lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and three teenagers

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