Guest Chick: Olivia Matthews

Lisa here, and do we Chicks have a treat for you today: a visit from Olivia Matthews, a/k/a Patricia Sargeant, author of the very popular Sister Lou Mystery series. Take it away, Olivia!

“Why isn’t there a cat in your cozy mystery?”

I got that question a lot when Mayhem & Mass: A Sister Lou Mystery first released in 2017. It wasn’t because the story was a cozy mystery and, well, conventional wisdom states that cozy mysteries are supposed to have a pet. It’s because the cover of Mayhem & Mass includes a cat. A rather large cat, prominently pictured in the lower right-hand corner of the cover. Have a look at the cover below. I’ll wait.

Did you see it? Right. I suppose you could say the cover set the reader expectation of a cat in the story. Go figure.

Here’s the thing: When I first proposed the Sister Lou Mystery series to my editor at Kensington Publishing, the series didn’t feature any pets. The primary reason for this deliberate omission is that my amateur sleuth, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle, is a Catholic Sister (not a nun, a Sister. Nuns are cloistered. Sisters are not.). Sister Lou lives in a Motherhouse with the rest of the Sisters in her Congregation. Pets are not allowed in Motherhouses.

((Insert helpless shrug.))

Sister Lou’s living arrangement was the primary reason I didn’t include any pets in the series. The other reason for this pet-less cozy mystery series is that Sister Lou has several confidantes who help her solve the mysteries. There’s her socially well-connected nephew, Chris; her friend and investigative reporter Shari; and her friend and colleague Sister Carmen.  Sister Lou speaks with these characters throughout the stories. She also speaks with God. Based on this, I didn’t see how I would work the pacing to include her interactions with a pet, any pet: cat, dog, bird, fish, pig. You name it. I didn’t see how it would work.

And then I got the cover for Mayhem & Mass. Imagine my surprise when I saw the cat. It seemed even bigger in the draft sketch. The cat had a really big tush. Couldn’t miss it.

Back to my point. When I saw the proposed cover, I reminded my editor that my story didn’t have a cat so to include a cat on the cover seemed … I don’t know … misleading. That’s the word I’m looking for. But I was told that, “Cats sell cozies.”

((Insert baffled blink.))

I wasn’t completely comfortable with this decision, but there you have it. The book was released. The question was asked. And I was told to include a cat in the second book of the series, Peril & Prayer, which released in 2018.

((Insert helpless shrug.))

So I invited a stray cat into the series. Sister Lou and the cat got along fine. The cat didn’t want to live in the Motherhouse anyway. But since I introduced the cat, I asked my editor if they could continue to include the cat on subsequent covers. To my surprise, my editor declined. “Since your third book, Alibis & Angels, takes place during the Easter season, we’ve replaced the cat with a rabbit.”

((Insert baffled blink.))

So tell me, dear readers, do you prefer cozy mysteries that include pets? If so, what type of pet do you prefer? Let Olivia know in the comments below!

ABOUT THE BOOK

For a plain clothes nun, sleuthing is a habit . . .

A Los Angeles transplant, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle feels right at home in Briar Coast, New York. After all, her beloved nephew, Chris, works at the college founded by her congregation. But while Sister Lou has always played by the rules, she’s about to have her faith in herself tested—by murder.

Sister Lou expects some pushback when she invites her friend, Maurice Jordan, to be the guest speaker for the St. Hermione of Ephesus Feast Day presentation. The theology professor is known far and wide for his controversial views. What she’s not prepared for is finding him dead in his hotel room, bashed over the head.

When the local deputies focus on the members of her congregation as suspects, Sister Lou takes matters into her own hands. Against Chris’s wishes, she teams up with a cynical local reporter to delve into Maurice’s life. The unlikely partners in crime-fighting uncover a litany of both devotees and detractors. And though it might take a miracle to find the killer, Sister Lou vows to carry on until justice prevails.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivia Matthews is the mystery pseudonym for national best-selling author Patricia Sargeant. Patricia’s work has been featured in national publications such as Publishers WeeklyUSA TodayKirkus ReviewsSuspense MagazineMystery Scene MagazineLibrary Journal and RT Book Reviews. Patricia has been inspired by writers such as Walter Mosley, Dick Francis and Tami Hoag, who put ordinary people in extraordinary situations to have them find the Hero Inside. Her Sister Lou character was inspired by Catholic sisters whose courage, determination and faith have helped build communities and formed rich, lasting legacies. For more information about Patricia and her work, visit PatriciaSargeant.com.

Enewsletter: Patricia’s News

 

 

61 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Olivia Matthews

    1. Good morning, DrKateCollier! Thank you so much for your kind compliment. LOL! Thank you also for your interest in Sister Lou. I hope you enjoy the series. I loved writing the stories. I’ve got to share another story about the Alibis & Angels cover with you. My editor had called to discuss cover ideas for Alibis & Angels. I suggested Easter eggs. She wanted the rabbit. I explained that, technically, the rabbit is a secular image. Eggs are closer to the religious symbolism. I called my friend, Sister Mattie – the inspiration for my Sister Lou character – to verify my interpretation. Sister Mattie said, “You’re right. Eggs are for the Lenten season. Rabbits are for the hunting season.”

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Good morning, everyone! My first comment didn’t save. I must have done something wrong. (This is my surprised face. LOL!) I’m posting another “good morning” message because I really want to thank the Chicks on the Case for allowing me to swing by and spend the day with you. I’m thrilled and honored! Thank you so much!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. We Chicks are equally thrilled and honored to have you visit, Patricia! My sister and my 3 kids went through Catholic school and college all the way–and I didn’t realize the difference between nuns and sisters. I know I am going to love your series. As a kid I adored the O’Malley’s Nuns books due to the humor. And adored your story about the cat and bunny covers. (As a former in-house editor, I know exactly how that convo probably went.) I have a rather unpleasant cat character, Mr. Bitey, based on a real-life cat, in my own series. My publisher had no interest in putting him on the cover, lol! In my series-in-progress, though, I’m adding several…unusual…animals. My agent says I need an animal wrangler. **Off to buy Mayhem & Mass right now**

      Liked by 5 people

      1. LOL! I love the name “Mr. Bitey.” ROFL!!! It was such a pleasure partnering with you on this blog. Thank you so much! And thanks a million for taking a chance on Mayhem & Mass. I hope you enjoy it! xoxoxo

        Liked by 4 people

  2. I love this series and honestly when I read the first one I did not even notice the cat, lol. I loved the addition of the cat in the second one though. Now does this mean you have to have a rabbit in the next one? I do like pets in my cozies, but then I sometimes worry they are not getting the attention they need when their owners are off figuring out the mystery. So it is kind of a double edged sword for me, lol. Great post!! Your voice is as wonderful here as it is on the page!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Wow, Betty! Thank you so much for your kind words. (Yes, I did photograph your comment. LOL!) And thank you for taking a chance on my Sister Lou Mystery series. I’m so relieved my “special guest appearance by” cat worked with you. I have the same concern you mentioned. Why put the poor pet in the story if he or she doesn’t have a role? Now in my upcoming Peach Coast Library Mystery series, my heroine’s cat his own scenes and a definite personality. He’s loosely based on a college friend’s cat. LOL!

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Like Dr. Kate, your post made me laugh out loud, Patricia! As someone who writes cat cozy mysteries and puts her own cats on the covers, I tend to believe they do sell books. I have been hesitating to put them on my standalone novel covers since, like your first book, not all of them have cats in the story. But after reading your post I guess I have to reconsider. I might slap a bunny on there too just for good measure. Will report back as soon as the sales (and angry emails) start rolling in!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. LOL! Marla, too hilarious! LOL! Fortunately, the questions after my presentations and the emails I received weren’t angry. (Whew!) Just very, very confused. LOL! At first, I didn’t want to share the behind-the-scenes conversation with my editor, but the questions kept coming … LOL! I guess what I’m saying is, perhaps if it’s a small bunny … LOL!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Patricia, thank you so much for visiting Chicks! What a great story. I’m published by Kensington too, for my second series, as “Maria DiRico.” I made sure there was a cat in the series, AND on the cover of the first book. The cat in my series was inspired by a friend’s late cat, who was the most gorgeous red-gold I’d ever seen on an animal. The cat on my first cover was a weird shiny black-gray and small, leading my daughter to ask, “Why is there a rat on your cover?” I’m happy to say the cat on my second cover is orange. Not the late Sphinxy’s color, but much closer. (You can see for yourself when I do a cover reveal on 7/12 at Dru’s Book Musings.)

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Ellen, seriously, it’s SUCH an honor to be here. Thank you so very much for your generosity. The cat on your first cover looks like a rat? Oh … That would have really hurt my feelings. I’m so glad the second cover is closer to the mark. Very best wishes for great success with your series. I’ve marked my calendar for July 12. I’m anxious to see your latest cover. On the original draft for Mayhem & Mass, the first Sister Lou story, the figure on the cover was a bleached-blond college student in a tight red sweater. (I kid you not.) I asked my editor who was the figure supposed to be? Editor, “That’s your heroine.” Me, “I don’t think so. Sister Lou is 63 — and Black.” ((Insert baffled blink.))

      Liked by 5 people

  5. I laughed out loud (a real laugh, not one of those fake LOLs) at that last sentence, Patricia. Ha! When I first started reading your post, I thought for sure that God was going to end up speaking through the non-existent cat. Perhaps for one of your later books? 🙂

    My series has dogs, as opposed to cats (though there is a calico cat that prowls through a neighbor’s garden). It’s not that I particularly need dogs in my mysteries; it’s that I need them in my life!

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Patricia–your series sounds terrific (and based on your post today, I can tell it’s going to be a total hoot to read!).

    Liked by 6 people

    1. ROFL! “… God was giong to end up speaking through the nonexistent cat.” Ha! Lisa, don’t give me any ideas. LOL! I love dogs. They’re so happy and they just want you to be happy, too. Thank you so much for allowing me to visit with you. It’s an honor. My very best wishes to you for your continued success!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Olivia, Well, my sleuth and I are both a little scared of ferrets. His name is Shredder and my sleuth’s sister is fostering him (i.e. he will become a permanent member of their household). I wanted a bit of animal mayhem (he and the (ghost) cat are not friends).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Welcome, Patricia! What a fabulous and funny story!! (And like Lisa I didn’t know the difference between nuns and sisters–and my mom was a nun! Or was it a sister?)

    Anyway, I love pets in cozies, but it’s more of a nice-to-have than a must-have for me. I’ll never forget the reaction when I told a mystery-loving friend that my (non-cozy) book would feature a hamster named Miss Vanilla. She stared at me then said, “That’s a bold choice.” Ha ha!

    Congratulations, and I can’t wait to read your series!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi, Kathleen! Thank you so much for your warm welcome. It’s a pleasure and an honor to visit with you and your community. I love your hamster anecdote. LOL! Part of the challenge with differentiating between “nuns” and “sisters” is that the sisters know laypeople are more familiar with the nun concept. And that “nun” is a catchier term for the media. For example, “Nuns on the Bus.” Those weren’t nuns, they were sisters. But “Sisters on the Bus” doesn’t have the same ring to it. LOL! Jo Piazza wrote a great nonfiction book, If Nuns Ruled the World. Even in her Author’s Note, she acknowledges the title should be, If Sisters Ruled the World.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Thank you for indulging me. I know I can be a bit … much. LOL! And thank you so very much for your interest in Sister Lou. I hope you enjoy the stories. (I have a ton of Chicks on the Case websites to check out. Yay!!!)

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Great post, Patricia– thanks so much for hanging out with the Chicks! Just downloaded your first in series — how did I miss this?! I’m Catholic and know some fab (and feisty) sisters. Can’t wait to read! Now, about the rabbit… LOL!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hi, Vickie! Oh, my word! In that case, you would love Sister Mattie, who is the inspiration for my Sister Lou character. She’s much more assertive than Sister Lou. (My character needed an arc.) But she has the same driving issues that Sister Lou has. LOL! She’s been pulled over more than once. Ha!

      Liked by 5 people

  9. Welcome, Patricia! So good to have you here!

    I knew about the nun/sister definition–but only because of listening to an interview with you. (Congrats on this series and the next one!)

    I’m okay with books without pets, although Mimi Lee Gets A Clue has both cats, dogs, and a hedgehog involved!

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Okay, that’s too funny. I can see your frustration, but it also makes me laugh.

    I’m allergic to most pets, but I enjoy reading about them. However, I don’t think a book has to have one.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Bummer about your allergies. You know, Mark, at first I was very frustrated. And disappointed. And I’ll admit to being embarrassed when the questions kept coming … and coming … and coming … and wouldn’t stop. But when I finally explained what happened, readers were SO NICE about it. They made me see the humor in the situation. Now I’m not embarrassed anymore. (Notice I’m not addressing the frustration or disappointment. LOL!)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. HA! A rabbit? After all that? So. Funny.

    That’s an incredible story–and oh my goodness, I feel that we may have some kindred-spirit-ness on the cat question!

    (from a Chicks post > > > https://chicksonthecase.com/2017/06/07/take-two/)

    I once participated in a group interview in front of a crowd who had just held a lively and joyful conversation with another author about how much they loved cats in their cozy mysteries. Then the end of my interview went like this…

    Interviewer: Is there a cat in your book?
    Me: No.
    Interviewer:
    Crowd:
    Me: I’m sorry.

    It was palpable, the sense that I had failed them. Then the kicker was that there actually WAS a cat–her cousin had one–but I completely forgot, in that stressful moment in front of everyone. 😉

    Your story is way better, of course, and the cat on your covers is adorable! So looking forward to reading your books. Thank you so much for visiting us today!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Cynthia!!! I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. I can barely type. LOL! You poor woman. OMG. We are kindred spirits. One reader who was sitting toward the back of the room during my presentation, raised her hand afterward. She stood and said, “I bought the book because there’s a cat on the cover, but there isn’t a cat in your book.”

      Well, those interviews are behind us. Onward. LOL! And thank you so very much for your interest in the series. I hope you enjoy the stories.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. What did you say to “I bought the book because there’s a cat on the cover, but there isn’t a cat in your book”?? 🙂

        Onward, yes! (It’s nice to have a kindred spirit out of the whole thing. Yay!)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, yes! It’s definitely wonderful to have a kindred spirit. It’s so nice to know we’re not going through this alone. LOL!

        I just said something like, “I’m so sorry. Like most authors, I’m afraid I don’t have much input on my covers.” At that time, I didn’t think I should throw my publisher under the bus. (I’d argued against the cat, but my editor said the designer wouldn’t budge.) By the third presentation, it was time to come clean.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. You two should just switch covers. No more awkward questions for Patricia, and if Cynthia ever needs a refresher on whether her series has a cat she would only have to glance at the cover. Problem solved!

      Liked by 5 people

  13. Patricia, I’m so glad you stopped by to visit us here today! Your blog made me giggle all the way through, as have most of these comments. I too am one of the heathens who didn’t know the difference between nuns and sisters … and I have an Aunt Sister!

    In my upcoming crossword puzzle mysteries, my Kensington editor wouldn’t let my character’s goldfish go off to fishy heaven. I did some research to prove to her that it made perfect sense, but imagine my surprise that goldfish can live for 15 years! Needless to say, Fang the goldfish will probably outlive all of us.

    Yours is a new series for me … can’t wait to dive in!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Becky, you’re not a heathen! ROFL!!! Too funny. And thank you so much for your kind words and interest in the Sister Lou stories. I truly hope you enjoy them.

      Now about your goldfish, Fang. Hilarious! I look forward to reading it. May I ask the title and release date?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The first one is Puzzling Ink, out in November, and the second is Punning with Scissors out in May 2021. I’m working on the third now, tentatively titled Fatal Solutions.

        Now, about the heathen thing …. many would disagree. Vehemently. But only because I went to Catholic school.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Vehemently.” LOL! Too funny! Thank you so much for your upcoming release dates. I look forward to reading Puzzling Ink. I used to love doing crosswords. I may have to get back into them. 🙂

        Like

    2. Do goldfish growing bigger and bigger? I get goldfish and carp and koi all mixed up. Fang sounds a little ominous. Will he be on a future cover, Becky? You could always put him in a nice garden fountain, or something.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. From the knowledgenuts, Lisa: Goldfish are actually descended from crucian carp, while the koi have barbels, grow longer, and are in fact a fancy domesticated version of the common carp. Although more widely known in the wild, the koi fancy is more “elite” than the goldfish scene, with millions of dollars being invested in the finest fish.

        I hope Fang doesn’t get his own cover, because he had a very inauspicious beginning that still makes me green with guilt. My main char has OCD and I kinda expected him to be an overfed goner before the midpoint. “Not on my watch!” both my agent and editor vowed.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the scoop, Becky! I’m ready now in case I’m asked on a game show—I won’t get slimed or dropped through the floor, yay!

    Like

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