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Writer’s Window: Bente Gallagher & Jennie Bentley

Monday, January 10, 2011

Today, we have with us a wonderfully talented mystery and suspense author, Bente Gallagher, who also writes as Jennie Bentley. Bente and I met almost exactly one year ago when we both hitched a ride with another dear friend and Nashville author, J.T. Ellison, to the author-day event at the Manchester/Coffee County Public Library. (Shameless plug—Bente, J.T., and I, along with many other local authors, will be at the library again this Saturday. Click here for more details.)


One lucky commenter* will win a signed copy of Mortar and Murder, A Do-It-Yourself Mystery from Berkley Prime Crime. Deadline for leaving a comment to enter the drawing is Friday. To enter the drawing, you must answer the question posed by Bente at the end of the interview. Only one comment per person will count toward the drawing. You do not need to include your e-mail address in the body of your comment—just make sure it’s correct when you sign in to leave your comment. Congratulations to Maureen Timerman who won last week’s drawing for Ronie Kendig’s book Digitalis.

      *U.S. residents only, void where prohibited. If you win the drawing, you will be ineligible for the next three drawings, though hopefully you will still come back and join in the discussion.


Mortar and Murder
When Avery and Derek take on the renovation of a decrepit 1783 center-chimney Colonial house on a remote island off the coast of Maine, they soon get more than they bargained for.

A grumpy thriller-writing neighbor, a mysterious animal that lives under the porch, and the dead body of a young woman floating in the ocean between Rowanberry Island and Waterfield Harbor conspire to make this the most thrilling and dangerous renovation Avery has ever undertaken.

Book 4 of the Do-It-Yourself Mystery series

Welcome, Bente!

What do you like best about being a writer?

    Going to work in my pajamas…?

    I guess it’s a combination of a lot of things, really. The voices in my head get too loud if I don’t write down what they say occasionally, so I do it partly in self defense, so as not to go crazy. It’s nice to be able to play with my imaginary friends all day, too. Getting to make up stories for a living is great. Plus, I’ve never been a good employee. Being my own boss rocks.

What do you like least about being a writer?

    The proximity to the refrigerator makes it tough, especially combined with the sedentary lifestyle. I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t be in better physical shape if I had another job. Then again, I’d be in worse mental shape, between the voices in my head and the fact that I’d have a boss I’d have to answer to…

Pop, Soda, or Coke? What do you call it, and what’s your favorite variety?

    Coke is my favorite, and I call it soda. That said, I drink a lot of Diet Dr. Pepper to avoid the carbs in Coke. Tastes more like the real thing.

What’s your favorite dessert?

    That’s a tough question. Not sure I can name just one. A lot of it depends on mood. Growing up, my favorite was caramel pudding, or flan. I’m also extremely partial to tiramisu. Fresh strawberries sprinkled with sugar and served in heavy cream. Apple crisp with ice cream. Ice cream on its own, for that matter. Yeah.

What’s the most fun/interesting/crazy/scary/unique hands-on research you’ve done for a book?

    See, I became a writer so I wouldn’t have to actually do anything. Most of my research happens online. I have done a bit of ghost hunting from time to time, though, although very little of it has made its way into books yet. Maybe one day. And no, I haven’t seen a damned thing in my travels. Not sensitive enough, I guess.

What’s your favorite movie from childhood?

    Don’t know about childhood, but I do love The Goonies. Classic kid adventure story from 1985. It’s all about friendship and sticking together and saving the town from evil real estate developers. Plus it has Josh Brolin. What’s not to like?

If you were to write a novel about what your life would have been like if you’d become what you wanted to be at eight years old, what kind of character would the story be about?

    Probably a spy. Maybe a writer. Although I don’t think I considered writing as a serious career until later. Might have been an archaeologist. Or an actress. Or an artist. I wanted to be all of those at some point; I just can’t remember exactly which one it was at eight. I do know I never wanted to be a nurse or a teacher or any of those normal careers.

What makes you happy?

    Chocolate. My kids. The ocean. Going home.

What makes you nervous?

    Heights. And water. Bugs freak me out too, but that’s a lot more than mere nervousness; that’s debilitating fear.

What’s your biggest dream for the future?

    World peace? It would be nice to do my job well enough to be able to keep doing it, and to make a living at it. For my kids to grow up and be happy and healthy. For my husband to stay that way. For the world to regain its collective mind. I’m not holding my breath on that last one.

Tell us about your newest release and what you’re working on now.

    Mortar and Murder was released on January 4th. It’s the fourth book in the Do It Yourself home renovation series from Berkley Prime Crime, about a designer and a handyman who renovate houses together in a little town in Maine. In this installment, they’re working on a 1783 center-chimney Colonial on an island off the coast, when they run up against a reclusive thriller writer, a group of human traffickers, and a couple of dead bodies. The plot involves a character from DIY-2, Spackled and Spooked, and a new kitten in addition to the two Maine Coons that have been a big part of the series so far.

    DIY-5 is already written and scheduled for release in October 2011, and I haven’t started writing DIY-6 yet. We’re between contracts at the moment, so we’ll just have to see how it goes and whether the publisher will want more books in the series. I’m also ahead of the game in the Savannah Martin series; the second of those, Hot Property, comes in June, and #3 is written and will be coming in 2012, God willing. I’m playing with a couple of other projects at the moment, trying to decide where to go from here. There are plenty of voices in my head with stories they want me to tell; it’s just a question of picking the right one.

Where can people find out more about you/connect with you online?

Now it’s your turn to ask the question. What question do you want to ask the commenters to answer?

    If you could turn yourself into a character in an existing book, who would you choose to be and why?

Bente Gallagher writes the nationally bestselling Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime as Jennie Bentley, and the Savannah Martin real estate mysteries for PublishingWorks as herself. A former Realtor® and renovator, she lives in Nashville with her husband and two boys, a hyperactive dog, a killer parakeet, two frogs, and a couple of goldfish. A native of Norway, she’s spent 20+ years in the US, and still hasn’t been able to kick her native accent.

  1. Monday, January 10, 2011 6:16 am

    I wanna be Hermoine Granger, the insufferable know-it-all! 🙂 Great interview, Kaye! Thanks!


  2. Emily permalink
    Monday, January 10, 2011 7:17 am

    I’ve always loved mysteries! I’m a huge fan of Martha Grimes, so I think it’d be pretty cool to be Melrose Plant for a day, or really any of those minor characters hanging out at the Jack and Hammer having a pint of Old Thumper.

    Thanks for the opportunity to enter! As a long-time resident of Maine, I love reading any story set in the coastal New England area… And a nice mystery sounds good right about now — give me something fun to cuddle with by my stove. It’s freezing here! 😀


  3. Monday, January 10, 2011 7:58 am

    Great interview.

    Eve from the In Death series so that I could be married to that gorgeous hunk of Roarke.


  4. DeNise Koetting permalink
    Monday, January 10, 2011 8:04 am

    Kinsey Millhone, from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, because she exists in the 80’s, has a very cool, very compact apartment, isn’t a slave to fashion, and just has cool outlook. How vague is that?


  5. Monday, January 10, 2011 8:10 am

    LOL! Dru, that’s the kind of answer I can get behind. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being married to Rourke, either. Not just money, but looks…

    DeNise – Kinsey rocks! I think a lot of us wouldn’t mind being her.

    Emily, I never managed to get into Martha Grimes. Tried a few times, but it just isn’t my cup of tea, I guess. Not shallow enough for me, or something. Still, getting to hang out in a pub over pints of Old Thumper sounds nice…

    Meg, I love Hermione! She gets to save everyone’s posteriors all the time, and besides, she did manage to land both Victor Krum and Ron…


  6. Carol permalink
    Monday, January 10, 2011 8:49 am

    I’d like to be Mercedes Thompson, the coyote shape shifter/garage mechanic, in Patricia Briggs’ paranormal romance series. Mercy gets dirty, but is still feminine. And she totally kicks butt! She hangs out with werewolves, vampires, and the fae.
    Great interview Kaye and Bente.


  7. Monday, January 10, 2011 9:53 am

    Haven’t tried Patricia Briggs. Must look for it. I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance, although I adore Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld. Now, Anya – minor goddess of anarchy – is someone who it might be fun be to be!


  8. Monday, January 10, 2011 1:24 pm

    Great interview – and I’ve got to find the DIY books!

    What character would I be? Hmmm . . . I read a LOT, and between that and writing, characters tend to meld together. Two that I could think of right off hand was Meredith Guidry in “Menu for Romance.” I mean, really, she has this killer house, AND is in love with a chef! Who could ask for more? Another was Lael Click from Laura Frantz’ “The Frontiersman’s Daughter.” She’s such a strong individual, and I’d love to have even a speck of her bravery. And her love interest is pretty interesting, too! 🙂

    By the way, it’s always been my mom’s greatest desire to visit Norway – the closest she’s ever gotten is Epcot!


  9. Monday, January 10, 2011 2:22 pm

    Epcot isn’t the same! Fun, but not the same. Norway is gorgeous. You should take your mom there sometime.

    Ah, yes. Killer house AND a chef? Can’t beat that!


  10. Monday, January 10, 2011 3:31 pm

    Great interview, Kaye!
    I think I’d like to be … well … of course, there’s Elizabeth Bennett (who doesn’t want to end up with Mr. Darcy?) and, of course, Anne Shirley. But right this very minute, I’d most like to be is Juliet Ashton, the heroine of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Her adventures are amazing, and her ability to cultivate life-long friendships is inspiring.


  11. Pam Kellogg permalink
    Monday, January 10, 2011 3:55 pm

    I would want to be Faith from Julie Lessman’s “A Passion Most Pure.” She had a very strong faith in God that ordered her life and enabled her to wait for the man who was right for her.


  12. Maureen Timerman permalink
    Monday, January 10, 2011 5:33 pm

    I would like to be spunky Marguerite in Making Waves! She sometimes runs head first into trouble! What a fun time she lived in!
    I love also love a good mystery. Please include me!


  13. Monday, January 10, 2011 7:45 pm

    Liz, the ability to cultivate life-long friendships sounds like a great reason for wanting to be a certain character, and Pam, strong faith certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Maureen, yeah: running headfirst into trouble would be a great thing to be able to do when you knew you were in a book and everything would turn out OK in the end! Thanks for stopping by, ladies!


  14. Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:40 am

    Enjoyed the interview, especially all those hard questions about dessert! And if I could choose to transform into a character from a book, it would have to be Claire Randall from Outlander. She’s smart and cool under fire–both of which I’m not–and best of all, she has Jamie Fraser!


  15. Tuesday, January 11, 2011 9:37 pm

    Oooh, Jamie Fraser. Yeah, I’d like to be Claire, too. Definitely!


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