Guest Chick: Catriona McPherson

We are thrilled to welcome multi-award-winning Catriona McPherson, author of the Dandy Gilver mystery series, the Last Ditch mystery series, and numerous standalones. Please join us in celebrating the much-anticipated third Lexy Campbell mystery, out this week! Congratulations, Catriona! 🎉

What a Way To Make a Living!

(Sorry not sorry for the ear worm.) 

Now, I love a good fictional fantasy job. Not the Friends-style FFJ (where a waitress in Manhattan has got her own bedroom in a flat with outside space), I mean the kind of FFJ you find in Anne Tyler novels where a man might run a restaurant that serves only one dish. Or – if I may – in my novels, where a woman might curate free clothes for a charity and fund the buying of new underwear sets by auctioning vintage finds on eBay. I’d be great at that (she claimed with enormous certainty and no evidence).

In the Last Ditch series, Lexy Campbell’s FFJ is her counselling practice. She’s a therapist who sees clients in a wee room on her houseboat. She’s not a very realistic therapist – Hey! This is escapism – since she hands out advice like “Dump him” and “Go to a matinee with a box of cashew brittle”, but her bit  – Trinity for Life – is actually the most realistic branch of the parent company, Trinity Solutions. Her bestie Todd runs Trinity For You, doing make-overs of wardrobe or grooming. And her other bestie Kathi is in charge of Trinity For Home, de-cluttering and re-organising people’s houses. (Note: I made all of this up before the re-boot of the fabulous Queer Eye. But that doesn’t stop me calling it work when I hit the couch to binge-watch a new season.)

Maybe to reassure me that I’m not the only one making up implausible FFJs, I’ve pulled together my top five from literature and film. What do you think?

No. 5: Baltimore Party Host

This is Anne Tyler again. In The Amateur Marriage, a big rabblesome family give parties in their big crumbling house, often carrying on big flamboyant arguments throughout. They don’t seem to have much of a catering repertoire either, or to give any thought to what people might want. They just cook what they’ve got, iron some napkins, and call it a service. In real life, they’d be drowning in one-star reviews, but in Anne Tyler it’s charming.

No.4: Honours Orchestra Conductor (St Brennan’s School for Boys)

I admire Alexia Gordon for many reasons, but definitely in the top three is the way she decided to make a cozy mystery series including everything she liked most, daring the publishing world to stop her. Gethsemane Brown has got a BA from Vassar, a graduate degree from Yale and has served her time in professional orchestras around the world. Now she lives in a haunted cottage in rural Ireland, drinking whisky, and teaching music to teenage boys. It wouldn’t suit everyone as a life, but I challenge anyone not to love the books.

No.3: Sand Writer

This is by way of a plea. I read a novel quite recently where someone did this job – and I can’t for my life remember the name of the book. A woman lived at a beach and had a good camera. Her brilliant business idea was to write messages in the sand, take pictures, and make them into greetings cards. She even took commissions. So if you wanted “Happy ninth anniversary of the day we found the camel that time” you could have it. Is it just me, or could that totally work?

No.2 Ghostbuster

I mean, come on!

No.1 Postmistress/Knitter with own teapot

Imagine a tiny village, with maybe twenty houses at a push. It’s split in two by a beach, but you can walk from one bit to the other at low-tide. In the eastern half there’s a Post Office. It’s not very busy. So the postmistress also sells pots of tea and pastries. In bad weather, you need to phone her in advance and she’ll pop a pastry in the oven for you arriving. In good weather, with passing trade from a footpath that goes by her front door, she’ll have them ready on the off-chance. Rain or shine, she knits. Then she sells the knitting. There’s a woodstove. And a cat.

And what’s the name of the book? Well, here’s the thing; I cheated. This place is real.

It’s called Portholland and it proves that anyone who dares to say cozies are unrealistic, has never been to Cornwall.

I’d love to hear about your FFJs. Or your dream job. And if anyone knows what book that sand writer was in, please put me out of my misery!

Catriona McPherson, multiple award-winner, multiple Mary Higgins Clark award loser, was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating in 2010. She writes the Dandy Gilver series, set in the old country in the 1930s, as well as a strand of darker (not difficult) psychological thrillers including the latest STRANGERS AT THE GATE.

After eight years in the US, she kicked off the humorous Last Ditch series, which takes a wry look at her new home. The ebook of number three, SCOT ON THE ROCKS, is coming out early what with one thing and another. It will be available on 3 Aug.

Catriona lives on 20 scruffy acres in NorCal, with a black cat and a scientist.


50 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Catriona McPherson

  1. The sand writer book might be I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. And you’re right about Anne Tyler having a knack for making quirky seem charming. My FFJ would probably be rescuing cats. Not really a viable profession, but it should be!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. What a great post. I had never really thought about fictional fantasy jobs. But you are so right. And speaking of Cornwall I’m just reading Jenny Colgan and the little beach street bakery. I recently found her and I have binge read six books so far. Many of her books are also set in Scotland. Can’t wait to try your series. Love the play on words on your new title, Scot on the rocks.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yep. Jenny Colgan is getting me through this summer when I can’t go home to visit. I’ve read both Beach Street books and both Bookshop on the … books so far. (Everyone else – if you haven’t read them – they are comforting but not as sweetie sweet as the titles might suggest. The Beach St books are an honest look at modern Scotland, with a romance thrown in.)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, when I was 13, my FDJ (fantasy dream job) was owning a horse ranch while being married to Paul McCartney. (He, of course, kind of did this in his real life, but with someone named Linda as opposed to Leslie. Sigh…)

    Once older and wiser, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to marry Paul, I wanted to BE him–or at least a pop star like him. Turns out most musicians don’t end up as pop stars. Who knew.

    And now that I’m truly old (though perhaps not so very wise), I’ve realized that I actually DO have my FDJ–writing mystery novels. And horses are way to big to sleep on the bed with you, so I now far prefer dogs.

    Yay for the early release of the e-book of SCOT ON THE ROCKS!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I love what you said about Alexia and how she created something wonderful out of things that were unique to her. Those books that come from a place of truth always resonate more than the ones that are simply chasing a trend.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. My FFJ? A detective with telekinesis powers. That way I could capture the criminals but have no one in danger, cause I could toss the weapons away without getting in range. Have the criminals get trapped by “falling tree branches”. That kind of thing. And of course I’d have to have an endless supply of truth serum for them to confess.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Having worked in a few careers, I think I found my ideal FFJ in retirement from all of them. Wait for it…being a writer of published mystery novels. I always wanted to be a writer and finally became one. Lately I have hit bumps in the career road – lots of that going around – so I’m still figuring that out, but yes, that is the FFJ for me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ahhhhh see I knew this would happen. Erica has a pretty decent FFJ and she didn’t pop into my mind. I mean, it’s shaded with funding and money worries but it’s still a great job.


  7. PS. We are semi-planning a vacation to Cornwall when vacations become a possiblity again. I will be looking for Portholland! Honestly, reading about it, I thought, “That sounds like real places I have been. In UK.”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh! Okay, you’ll have to hold me back from being bossy. The Roseland is such a wonderful bit of Cornwall – unspoiled and still quiet. St Mawes is smart, St Just and St Anthony idyllic, Portscatho has a secret beach! The castle where they filmed REBECCA is there. And the lost gardens of Heligan. You can reach Padstowe, St Ives or Mousehole in a day . . .

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Ooh, now I want to visit Portholland! I used to have this fantasy of owning an all things Christmas store that was only open four months a year. The rest of the year I would travel the world, sourcing fabulous goods for the store — and writing, natch!
    Catriona, I love this series (and Dandy)! Congrats on the new release, and for spending time with the Chicks today!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I want a job where I get paid to sit around and read. Completely unrealistic, but as long as I’m dreaming.

    And I don’t get why everyone talks about how unrealistic Rachel’s job and apartment were on Friends. Joey was unemployed for years yet he still had his own room in the apartment he shared with Chandler.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That is a very good point! It *was* always Rachel who got the flack, wasn’t it? Book reviewer with writer’s block sounds like an ideal job. All the reading and none of the columns.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Publishing houses used to hire readers to read mss. Not from the slush pile, but ones that were deemed especially promising. They wrote a 1-page synopsis with a short opinion paragraph at the end. Then they received a check and the editor decided from the reader report whether it was worth personally reading (or s/he handed it over to an assistant for a second read)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Catriona, this is so lovely. I want to go to Portholland immediately! With a stop in Gethsemane’s cottage too…

    There are ghostbusters in the third Lila book because it was a haunted opera house, and they were so much fun to write that they started to take over the book…I had to cut them back, ha.

    Thank you for visiting us today and congratulations on all of your books, most especially this week the new Lexy, which I CANNOT wait to get my hands on.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for having me, Cynthia – and for sorting out my commenting woes. Portholland is so lovely. The first time I was there, I got stung by something in the tide while I was swimming. I came out onto the sand and wondered if I should go to the ER. Then noticed a woman coming out of a cottage carrying a plastic bowl. It was full of hot water. She’d seen me get stung and come to tell me “not to worry. it’s a ???? (can’t remember now). You’ll be fine. Stick your foot in here to take the pain away and bring my bowl back when you pack up for the day.”

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you for having me, Chicks. I loved this flight into fantasy. (Even if I’m homesick for Cornwall now.) By the way, that pic is my husband inside the post office, wondering how we could move there to stay. Does anyone else do that? After the first night in a holiday destination, he starts googling the nearest university with a good biology school. I sit there smugly, knowing I can do my thing anywhere.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Having been to Mousehole, Cornwall, I completely believe Portholland is real. I am dying to get back to England. All those Christie villages. And my long-dreamed-of pilgrimage to Bronte country. Oh, to walk those moors they walked.

    As to my favorite FFJ, it’s pretty much anything in a charming and historical village where the protagonist has a hot boyfriend and somehow her business does remarkably well considering she’s barely there to run it because she’s always out solving crimes that leave the local trained law enforcement officials scratching their heads.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ha! “remarkably well, considering” – yes exactly. Lexy is a therapist who never does billing and never has to phone insurers.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I claim with enormous certainty and no evidence that I’d be good at a lot of nifty jobs. Broadway tap dancer with a numb leg. Alpaca wrangler. Mayor of a tiny yurt village. Cactus whisperer. Wedding planner who yells at brides. (Actually, I know I’d be good at that one.)

    Looking forward to the new Lexi! Thanks for visiting us today to remind me of all my unfulfilled dreams …..

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Thanks for visiting today, Catriona! Congrats on your latest & all your books! (By the way, I always love the interviews/panels where you speak.)

    Dream job? I’d love to be a lyricist and write the words to songs. Or be a food critic (but without writing the columns & only eating at the good establishments).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A lyricist would be great. (The composing of music is sooooooo far beyond me.) I’d love to be a picture book illustrator too. If I could draw. Writing the text for picture books is HARD.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Welcome, Catriona, and congrats on the latest (and, well, EVERYTHING!! I’m a fan!)

    My FFJ would be ice cream flavor developer. I once read about someone who worked in R&D for Ben & Jerry’s and it sounded fascinating (there was a hilarious story about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich concept that did NOT pan out) and delicious. Or at least usually delicious.

    Thanks for being here and sharing your wit and these FFJs!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hey, did you watch Nadiya’s Time To Eat? If you’ve got Netflix. She visited a factory where two women had the job of “consistency tester”. Mind you, I think it was baked beans . . .

      Liked by 3 people

    2. My cousin’s job included or overlapped with an ice-cream-development team though not Ben & Jerry’s (#goals)! Whenever she would tell us about the ice cream tastings and the fun coming up with names, we were pretty jelly, not going to lie.

      Baked-bean testing? Wow.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. So now, under pressure, I can’t decide what my fantasy job would be, other than writer. But I would like a Victorian house in a coastal town with easy parking and a cool pied a terre in the city. Maybe I will join Vickie in her Christmas biz. Catriona, huge congrats on the new book—it sounds delightful, as always. And we love having you visit Chicks! Such fun.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Catriona, sorry I’m a day late commenting–it was my anniversary yesterday and I was otherwise occupied. Congrats on your latest Lexy book birthday! I too already have my perfect FFJ as a full-time writer, but now of cozy mysteries. Woo-hoo! Loving it to bits. However, what would make the fantasy complete would be to be living in a stone cottage in England as I write my cozy mysteries–say a cottage overlooking the sea like the one in Mousehole, Cornwall you posted on my FB page earlier. Ah….

    Liked by 1 person

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