An Interview with Carol Novis

Carol Novis has worked for publications including Winnipeg Free Press, Cape Times and The Jerusalem Post. She has more recently started working in fiction, including a children’s book, entitled The Adventures of Mary Fairy. Today she joins me to talk about her cozy mystery series, Tension on a Pension.

Q: Can you sum up the Tension on a Pension book series in 20 words or less?

Humor, romance and suspense with a unique angle – a quirky team of seniors trying to adjust to life in a Jewish retirement home, while people are dropping dead all around them.

Q: What was your inspiration for this series?

After retiring from many years as a newspaper writer and editor, I had what seemed to me a brilliant idea. I decided to write a book.

The idea came to me when I visited my mother, who at the age of 90 and in excellent mental and physical health, had moved to a luxurious Jewish retirement home in Winnipeg, Canada. Never one to complain, she nevertheless had a wicked sense of humor and a sharp eye, and she filled me in on the local gossip. There were popular kids and social rejects, dining room drama, intrigue, rich ladies from the fancy part of town lording it over those from less posh areas, and even the odd romance. It sounded like the goings on in a junior high school.

Age 80, it seems, is the new 13. Who knew?

What a great story this would inspire, I thought. And the books followed.

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Q: Of the two books currently published, do you have a favorite?

Really, I can’t say that I do. The second, “Knock Off the Old Block”, follows along from the first, “Long in the Sleuth”, with many of the same characters (except for those who have been killed off!)

Q: Which character was your favorite to develop?

I have a weakness for the minor, quirky characters, such as the lady who murdered her husband because he would leave the toilet seat up and then laugh when she fell in at night. (I let her get away with it – justifiable homicide.)

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Q: Prior to working in fiction, you did a lot of non-fiction writing. What did you find challenging about transitioning to fiction?

I was a feature writer on a newspaper, and it never occurred to me that I could write fiction. When I did start writing fiction, at quite a mature age, I found I loved it. I was just sorry I hadn’t started decades earlier. I enjoy the challenges of thinking up a plot that works and developing characters. It’s like a puzzle. 

Q: What made you decide to write a cozy mystery series?

I wanted the book to be light and funny and I enjoy mysteries, so the obvious choice was a cozy mystery. It’s got a Jewish background because that’s what I know about.

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Q: Is there a book three planned for the Tension on a Pension series?

I would like there to be, but so far inspiration hasn’t struck.

Q: What is on your current reading list?

If we’re speaking of cozy mysteries, my favorites are the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton and the Baby Ganesh series by Vaseem Khan. (Baby Ganesh is an elephant.) I reread my all-time favorite writers, Barbara Pym and Jane Austen, frequently.

Q: What’s your next writing project?

I write on a volunteer basis for a local magazine and I recently interviewed one of the writers you also wrote about, Julie Gray, who wrote the very moving “Gidon Lev” about her partner who is a Holocaust survivor.

Next? Something personal, I think.

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Q: Where can readers connect with you and follow your work (Goodreads, social media, website, etc)?

I am afraid I am not as connected as I probably should be on social media. I am listed on Goodreads (Carol Novis) and Facebook and the books are on Amazon.com.

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Q: Any closing remarks?

What I try to have my characters show, and what I have learned myself, is that age doesn’t define you and shouldn’t limit you. Go for it!

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