My newest book is A Deadly Homecoming. It’s the sixth installment of my Toni Day Mystery series. The others are, in order, Murder under the Microscope, Too Much Blood, Grievous Bodily Harm, Death by Autopsy, and The Body on the Lido Deck. I’m currently working on the seventh installment, with the working title The Twelve Murders of Christmas.
|Jane Bennett Munro, MD|
For a review of A Deadly Homecoming, click here
How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My character, Toni Day, is loosely based on me. She’s a hospital-based pathologist in a rural hospital in Twin Falls ID. She’s not a forensic expert, but has forensic cases thrust upon her in the course of her regular job. I’m a pathologist, too, retired now, and my small rural hospital has now morphed into a tertiary care center, and the forensic cases all go to Boise, but back in the day the Twin Falls County coroner’s cases went to the county hospital, and those from all the surrounding counties came to me. I picked Twin Falls because it’s where I live. In the beginning, Toni had a husband and a mother, and then in subsequent books she acquired a stepdaughter, a stepfather, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren.
Murder She Wrote. It gave me the idea that if a retired schoolteacher in Maine could do it, so could a retired pathologist in Idaho. Then I had an encounter with a female doctor who came to our hospital to help with weekend call and ended up working during the week as well. She was abusive to my techs and contemptuous of me, and went out of her way to erode my credibility with the medical staff. She was only there for three weeks, but in that short time she really did a number on my already fragile self-esteem. I consoled myself by killing her off in Murder under the Microscope.
Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Yes. Many of my other characters are also based on people I know, or combinations of them. Others are totally made-up.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep it moving. Keep it moving. New writers have a tendency to start with a lot of backstory to explain what they’re writing about before they actually start writing about it, and readers tend to lose interest if you don’t grab them right away and keep the action moving. Bits of backstory can be inserted along the way, but you can’t let it slow the action.
If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I have no idea. I’m not as familiar with current movie actors as I am with those of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Back then I would have said Sally Field. Toni is petite and feisty, so if there’s somebody like that currently in movies, it would be someone like Sally Field.
Who is your favorite author?
Dorothy Sayers. Her mystery novels are set in England between the World Wars, and her character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is a young member of the aristocracy who fought in WWI and came out of it with such a bad case of PTSD that only his sergeant, Bunter, is able to pull him out of it. Bunter becomes Lord Peter’s butler, valet, and Archie Goodwin to Lord Peter’s Nero Wolfe, and together, they solve murders. If I could write like Dorothy Sayers, I’d be a happy writer.
If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I assume you mean other authors? If so, it would be Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Lisa Scottoline, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Sue Grafton, and Dick Francis. In real life, however, it would be my five closest friends.
If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I had a career. I was a pathologist for 42 years, and I retired at the end of May 2019. Gardening is my other passion, so perhaps I could be a landscape architect. The problem with that is that it involves a lot of hard work and heavy lifting, and now that I’m 74, that’s a little harder to do than it used to be.