Monday, September 6, 2010

You’ll Be “Dying for a Date” with Cindy Sample

With “spirited living” as its goal, the subject matter on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights runs a broad spectrum from spirituality to anything that lifts our spirits and makes us lighter.

Nothing lifts spirits like laughter—and nothing is more healing! We may as well call humor “weight lifting.” Today instead of focusing on the mysteries of life, we’re having a play date and a mystery of another kind—the cloak and dagger variety.

Cindy Sample is a Northern California author I’ve had the joy of getting to know through our Capitol Crimes writing group, our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Cindy’s first novel, Dying for a Date, has just come out. I wanted to share her new book with you.

Joyce: Cindy, tell us how you became a writer. Did you know early on? Who inspired you?

Cindy: I began reading at age four and when I started reading Nancy Drew books at the age of six, I was hooked. In third grade, I took a list of spelling words and in three hours turned them into a sixteen page Nancy Drew opus. I knew I always wanted to be a mystery writer but life in the form of marriage, career, two children and then divorce intervened, so my next literary masterpiece, Dying for a Date, didn't get produced until 50 years later.

Joyce: Your protagonist, Laurel McKay, is a complex character—a divorced, kid-chauffering professional, who has returned to the dating scene. How did she evolve, and what are the built-in comedic conflicts in her character?

Cindy: My protaganoist, Laurel McKay is a newly divorced mother of two children, 16-year-old Jenna and seven- year-old Ben. She works as a mortgage underwriter at “Hangtown Bank” in Placerville. She married her high school sweetheart who was the only man she ever dated. When her best friend talks her into joining a dating agency, she wonders what she’s getting into and what is she looking for? Does she want an escort or a husband? Is she really looking for Mr. Right or just Mr. Every Other Saturday Night?

As far as comic elements, just trying to decide what to wear on date night provides plenty of material. When you incorporate raising two children along with a new kitten, I had enough of my own maternal experiences to entertain readers for all 272 pages.

Mothers always feel guilty that they aren’t perfect, but I think single moms in particular have to juggle their career with their children’s needs. When you add in the dating aspect, it complicates things even more. I wanted to write a story that not only had elements of a murder mystery, but a series that introduced a sympathetic protagonist who is dealing with everyday realities, complicated by a few dead bodies, of course.

I learned early in my career that a sense of humor can get you through most situations. And even today, when something goes wrong, my first thought is usually how I’ll turn it into an entertaining story. Laurel’s sense of humor and realistic approach to her life is prevalent throughout the book.

Joyce: Obviously, we want to avoid spoilers, but can you give us a blurb about the basic plot?

Cindy: Laurel reluctantly gets talked into joining a dating agency called “The Love Club,” which is advertised as the safe alternative to online dating. The first guy she goes out to dinner with attempts to have her for dessert, and she hits him with a cell phone. I created a new verb for that episode when she “nokias” him. When another date disappears during dinner, and her only alibi is a friendly bottle of Dom Perignon, the investigating detective has to decide if the sassy soccer mom is the killer or the next target.

Joyce: You have some of the most enticing promo lines I’ve ever read, such as:

Homicide, humor, and a few heart palpitations combine to make “Dying for a Date” your summer hammock reading.

I also love the description, “She dips her toe into the dating pool and ends up in a tsunami-sized murder investigation.” Anyone who has returned to the dating scene as an adult probably has some cringe-worthy material that could fill a volume. How did dating in real life influence your book?

Cindy: I will admit my dating experiences have provided me with enough material to write at least eight volumes of Dying for a Date, although I personally haven’t maimed anyone. Fortunately for me, most of my experiences have been delightful. There was one guy who tried to impress me with the fact that his best friend was an assassin. That was one of my shorter dates. But the stories that some of my dates have shared with me are truly stranger than the things I make up.

Joyce: Knowing Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie were two of your earliest influences, what made you decide to camp it up and spend more time on the light and cozy side of mystery?

Cindy: Within the mystery genre, there are so many different types of storytellers. I read and hear enough about the dark side of life through the news and my daily paper. One of my goals was to provide an entertaining mystery, a book which provided clues and red herrings to engage those readers who love to play armchair detective, but also to have them enjoy the humor we all encounter in our daily lives. My fans are comparing me to Janet Evanovich and her laugh-out-loud humor. One woman read the book in one sitting and said her granddaughter kept checking on her to make sure she was okay because she was laughing so hard the tears were streaming down her face.

Joyce: I’m a huge Poirot fan, and he certainly has his comedic moments, especially in the British TV series adaptations of Christie’s novels. The other regular characters—Inspector Japp, Miss Lemon, and Poirot’s sidekick, Captain Hastings—put Poirot’s quirks in a hilarious light by the way they bounce off the personalities of the ensemble cast. Tell us a little bit about the cast of characters in your book and the way they “ping” off each other for comic effect.

Cindy: There are so many entertaining characters in Dying for a Date. Laurel’s mother is particularly engaging since she is the opposite of her daughter. Barbara Bingham is a perfectionist, a real estate broker, who is very critical of her daughter. She is worried that all of these dead bodies will impact her real estate sales, so she and Laurel team up to solve the murders. Their conversations are hilarious and readers can relate to the mother/daughter dynamic.

Laurel’s best friend, Liz, is a bawdy Brit who owns a spa and who had her own entertaining dating adventures before she met her fiancé through the Love Club. Liz and Stan, a gay co-worker, at Hangtown Bank, are two zany companions who can’t wait to assist Laurel in her detecting.

And of course, there is the handsome homicide detective. What exactly are his intentions?

Joyce: It’s every author’s dream to sell the rights to her book and have it made into a movie. Who would play Laurel & Company?

Cindy: Tina Fey (with a little extra padding). As for the mother – why fool around. I say Meryl Streep.

Joyce: Great casting! I’m dying for a date with this book, myself! Tell us where we can buy it.

Cindy: In Sacramento, you can purchase it at Book Lovers Bookstore or the Avid Reader. In El Dorado County, Dying for a Date is sold at Placerville News Company, the El Dorado Arts Council, and Cornerstone Café in Cameron Park. The trade paperback and the ebook are available on Amazon and Barnes& and as an ebook on Fictionwise and Mobipocket.

Joyce: Any parting comments or thoughts? Advice to the writers in the Hot Flashbacks readership?

Cindy: Whether you’re interested in pursuing a career in writing or pursuing a romantic relationship, just go out there and do it. Too many people I meet are afraid of rejection, and they are waiting for the world to come to them. I’ve been rejected by publishers and by men, and it has not stopped me from enjoying life. Take a chance and you’ll be thrilled with the new friends you’ll meet and the adventures that may be in store for you. I’ve been on a wonderful journey, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.

Thank you, Joyce, for letting me share my thoughts today.

Joyce: Cindy, I want to thank you for accepting a date to appear on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. You’ve given us an oasis of “light” and the potential for hours more of the same with your new book. Best of luck with it! I’m already seeing it catch fire and look forward to reading your books to follow.


Although Cindy Sample’s initial dream was to be a mystery author, she quickly realized the necessity of a weekly paycheck. Putting aside her literary longings, she applied for a job as a receptionist with a real estate office. Her career eventually led to President of a national mortgage banking company.

After one too many corporate mergers, Cindy decided it was more fun to plot murder than plod through paperwork. Her books are set in Placerville, California, the gold country town formerly known as “Hangtown”.

Cindy writes a monthly column entitled Hot Flash for the Gold River Community Newspaper. She is a past president of the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime and has served on the boards of the YWCA, Sacramento Opera, and CMBA, the California Mortgage Bankers Association. She is co-chair of the Left Coast Crime Convention, which will be held in Sacramento in 2012. Visit her website at

1 comment:

Madelyn Schwartz said...

I was thinking that the characters are perfect for a TV series, great interview!