Agatha Nominees for Best First 2017

Julie here, hoping this blizzard was the last for New England.

Last year I had the thrill of having Just Killing Time nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. My fellow nominees and I became good friends during the run up to Malice Domestic, and did a small blog tour. Sherry did the same thing the year she was nominated. We’re thrilled to give a wicked welcome to this year’s nominees.


Today they are going to answer the question who would play the main characters in the movie or TV show made from your novel?

Alexia Gordon, author of Murder in G Major (Henery Press)

Gosh, that’s a difficult question. Truthfully, I don’t know. I could see Thandie Newton or Zoe Saldana as Gethsemane. Maybe Richard Harrington (from the Welsh TV series Hinterland) as Eamon. A member of a book club that discussed Murder in G Major suggested Kerry Washington as Gethsemane.

When I watch movies and TV shows I forget (on purpose) who’s “starring” in the role and focus on the character being portrayed. For instance, Hugh Jackman isn’t Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, he is Wolverine. Hugh Jackman ceases to exist for 120 minutes. Consequently, I’m pretty good with characters’ names but I’m pretty bad with actors’ names. Not what any actor wants to hear but I mean it as a compliment. It takes talent to convince a rational adult that you’re someone who doesn’t really exist.

I have this fantasy of WGBH Boston or BBC America turning my books into a series and holding an open casting call. Hundreds (oh, why not, thousands) of unknowns would line up to audition and the casting directors–the people who cast Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (David Suchet was brilliant as Poirot)–would discover the new “it” actors.

Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan), author of Design for Dying (Forge)

This is a tricky one. Can we name the 1930s actors who could play our characters instead, because that’s when Design for Dying is set? No? Very well.

Let’s start with Lillian Frost, the toughest casting call for one reason: the role has to be played by an actress good enough to make us believe she’s terrible. It’s Lillian’s lack of skill in front of the camera, after all, that chases her out of pictures. She’s also got to be resourceful, kind, and look stellar in period wardrobe. On second thought, it’s not so tough, especially if you’ve seen Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated star of that wonderful film Saoirse Ronan would be perfect as a young woman making a new home for herself in a strange and distant place. We know from Captain America that Chris Evans can sport vintage attire, and he’s got the low-key charm of Detective Gene Morrow down pat.

We considered plenty of names to play Lillian’s partner in sleuthing, legendary costume designer Edith Head, and settled on the wild card: pop provocateur Lady Gaga. No, really. It’s not only the resemblance. Gaga has blazed her own trail in show business, developing a distinctive persona and ensuring that everyone knows her name. Just like Edith did decades earlier.

Oh, and the 1930’s version? Priscilla Lane, Dennis O’Keefe, and Mary Astor.

Nadine Nettmann, author of Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)

Although a fun question, it’s always a tough one. One of the main characters in Decanting a Murder is Detective Dean, who I describe as tall with slicked back blond hair. While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for this role when I wrote it, I watched some recent work of Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I think he would be great as Dean. I’m also a fan of Jason Lewis, from Sex and The City, as he has the stoic look that Dean carries, as well as Ryan Kwanten from True Blood. Though, I wouldn’t mind a brand new actor to play the part. It’s always great to see new talent.

As for the main protagonist, Katie Stillwell, I purposefully don’t describe her in the book as I want the reader to identify with her and perhaps put themselves in her shoes. So I’ll hold back on any potential actresses and let readers decide who they would like cast in that role.

Cynthia Kuhn, author of The Semester of Our Discontent (Henery Press)

All of the following not only “look” the part but have something else that makes them seem like strong contenders. (The age of the actor may not align perfectly with the age of the character in these choices, but that’s where the magic of the movies comes in, right?) And now, without further ado: for Lila, someone like Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Connelly, who have played strong characters who sometimes fumble (with amusing results) in certain situations; Reese Witherspoon or Kristen Bell for Calista, either of whom could capture the poet’s quirkiness; Paul Rudd has the right blend of earnestness and laid-back vibe for Nate; Michael Ealy seems like a perfect match for the confident and determined Francisco; and Armie Hammer has the charming, smooth qualities of Tad.

Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur)

I’ve gone back and forth about who I would cast as Kelsey McKenna, but right now Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother and Fargo is my top pick. (I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know that she’s even being considered for the part—ha!) Her deadpan delivery and comic timing won my heart as the Mother in How I Met Your Mother, and I really, really want her to have a role where she doesn’t have a terminal disease.

As for the supporting roles, there’s only one that I can picture perfectly, and that’s Mrs. Abernathy. Now, I’d probably get outvoted because she’s slightly more “mature” than the role calls for, but Susan Sullivan (AKA Castle’s spitfire of a mom) would be the perfect choice to play the Mother of the Bride in Terror in Taffeta. I had so much fun writing the demanding Mrs. Abernathy, and I can perfectly picture Susan Sullivan delivering lines like, “Put your shoes on, girls. This is a wedding, not a hoedown!”


Marla Cooper is the author of Terror in Taffeta, an Agatha and Lefty nominee for Best First Mystery and book one in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. Her second book, Dying on the Vine, is set in the California wine country and comes out April 4. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. Learn more at

Alexia Gordon has been a writer since childhood. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiers July 2017. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas, she listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches English at MSU Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world, from France to Chile to South Africa, but chose Napa Valley as the setting for her debut novel, Decanting a Murder. The next book in the Sommelier Mystery Series, Uncorking a Lie, releases in May 2017. Chapters are paired with wine recommendations.

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Guest: Marla Cooper

Edith here (on vacation but still doing a little work). Let’s extend a Wicked Welcome terror in taffeta book cover
to debut author Marla Cooper!
Her debut mystery, Terror in Taffeta, comes out next week, and she’s giving away a hardcover copy to one commenter. Let’s hear about the book first:

Kelsey McKenna has planned out every detail of her client’s destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende. But what she hadn’t planned on was a bridesmaid dropping dead in the middle of the ceremony. When the bride’s sister is arrested for murder, the mother of the bride demands that Kelsey fix the matter at once. Although Kelsey is pretty sure investigating a murder isn’t in her contract, crossing the well connected Mrs. Abernathy could be a career-killer. Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey will have to deal with stubborn detectives, late-night death threats—and guests who didn’t even RSVP.

Isn’t a wedding planner just a perfect protagonist for a murder? Take it away, Marla!

Thanks for having me, Edith. What a fun month this has been—including appearing here on Wickeds! My debut novel comes out on Tuesday, and as you can imagine, the last few weeks have been crazy. (According to a quick internet diagnosis, I am apparently “feeling all the feels.”)

Last week, my friend Cori Arnold posted the following quote on Facebook:Image 1 - quote

I immediately replied that yes, that was exactly what it was like. After waiting two years, my novel will finally be released into the world, and in a way I feel like I’ve been holding my breath the entire time, waiting to see if my joke is funny. Especially during that year or so when almost nothing seemed to be happening at all, and my non-writer friends were like, “So, is your book out yet? Is it ever coming out? Is this some kind of practical joke only writers understand?”

So here’s where I was two years ago. I had just completed my manuscript, and I headed off to Left Coast Crime in the hopes of learning everything I possibly could about getting a book published. While I was there, I bought an orchid that we now refer to as the Magical Image 2 - orchidBlossoming Oracle.

That sucker lasted for months. It had several stems full of tightly packed buds that blossomed oh-so-gradually, and it reminded me of my experiences at Left Coast Crime and everything that was ahead of me. It was still going strong when I found my agent a couple months later, and even a few weeks later when we started sending the manuscript out to different publishers.
As I started getting rejections back, a few of the blossoms started to drop, but I didn’t freak out. After all, I was in it for the long haul. The orchid wasn’t in any hurry to give up, and neither was I. Then a few more flowers fell. And a few more rejections came in.

At some point, I jokingly told my husband, “Maybe I’ll sell my book right when the last flower drops.” There were still enough blossoms left that it seemed reasonable, and he agreed that that’s pretty much exactly how it would go down, because we have a tendency to validate literally any banana-pants thing the other person says. (I believe this is the secret to a good marriage.)

Not long after, the orchid had dropped all but one blossom, which was wilted and looked like it would fall if you exhaled anywhere within a three-foot radius. (Yes, it was full-on pathetic to look at, but dang it, I was committed to finding out if I, in fact, had a magic orchid.)

One night, we went to dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and I got the following fortune:

You will soon be the center of attention. Look for good news.Image 3 - Fortune

And yes, I took a picture of it because I basically considered it a promise from the universe that I was going to get a book deal, probably the next day. Okay, maybe not, but just in case….

So after we got home from our meal of Szechuan chicken and shrimp with walnuts, we were sitting on the couch, and I heard the softest little plop from the corner of the living room.

Image 4 - orchid twoThe last blossom had fallen. Tim’s eyebrows shot up and he said, “It fell!” And then we both just giggled nervously as if to say, “Gosh, believing in the predictive ability of houseplants sure is silly!” and then I think we changed the subject. After all, I was almost guaranteed to be disappointed if I got too excited about my double-omen action.

The next morning, my agent called.

She’d sold my book.

Even as I’m writing this, I kind of can’t believe it, but why else would I have taken this picture of a near-dead orchid?

So, do I believe in signs? I’m willing to call the fortune cookie a coincidence, but the Magical Blossoming Oracle? Definitely a sign.

Which brings us back to today.

Even though I’ve known for over a year that my book was coming out on March 22, it still didn’t feel quite real to me. I mean, sure, I could see it listed right there on Amazon, and I was starting to get Goodreads reviews and everything, but still.

I guess after all this time, I still needed some convincing. But just the other day, I got the last and final sign that I needed: a copy of my book arrived in the mail.

Yep, this is happening.

Readers: If you had a Magical Blossoming Oracle, what would you want it to predict? Have you ever gotten an unmistakable sign? And how do you deal with anticipation? Remember, Marla is giving away a hardcover edition of the book to one commenter!

MCooper headshotMARLA COOPER is the author of Terror in Taffeta, a humorous cozy mystery about a destination wedding planner that is the first in a series. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her first novel. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. You can find Marla at, on Goodreads, or on Facebook.