Today we’re talking with Shaggy Dog author M.A. Moore, whose most recently released book is The Case of the Missing Monarch.
SMJ: You’re a lady of many interests and many talents. I believe you started your professional life as a violinist and later became a professor of science and astronomy, is that correct? Which explains the background for the novel I just finished reading and enjoyed immensely, The Stars to Guide Them. Can you tell us a little more about your background?
MAA: I actually spent the first ten years of my adult life as a professional violinist. At one time I played in three orchestras, started a Suzuki education program for youngsters in Oak Ridge, TN, and had forty private students. I gave up teaching violin when I was in the junior year of my physics degree in the early 80s. One more chorus of “Mississippi Hot Dog” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and I would have gone raving mad.
After I finished my Ph.D. in physics, I did a postdoc at Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and spent a few years at Davidson College and Saint Joe’s in Philadelphia before coming to the Pocono Mountains and East Stroudsburg University.
A dislocated shoulder a few years back forced me to give up playing the violin, so I got back into writing. I’m presently working on my seventh novel. Although retired, science and travel remain a big part of my life. Both manage to sneak their way into my novels.
SMJ: You have some fascinating characters in your books. I found Miriam a fascinating character in the book I just read. She’s smart, independent, willing to take chances. Is she perhaps something like her creator?
MAA: I’ve probably taken more chances than most women of my age. Many of Miriam’s experiences aren’t much different than what I faced in academia. Although I’ve never had an affair with a priest, I cultivated a few priest friends over the years. Women usually played a part in their departure from the church. Many of my personal attitudes towards authority figures make their way into my books.
SMJ: I know you’ve traveled worldwide and used your travels as a basis for most of your novels. Of all your trips which is the one to date you’ve most enjoyed? Which gave you the best material for a book?
MAA: Difficult to say. New places and people always inspire me. Bridging the cultural gaps in our world is a personal goal for me. People, no matter their religion or cultural identity, all want to feel safe, have happy families, and enjoy good food and warm friendships. I would love to go back to Egypt, and sail the Nile in a traditional sailing yacht. But an African safari or a Turkish Bath sounds good too.
SMJ: Back to The Stars to Guide Them. I think you consider it a “paranormal romance.” Since I’ve personally had an experience which convinced me time is circular and not linear, I easily accept the concept of time travel which figures into the book. I think you started this book some years ago but only recently published it?
MAA: I began the book 25 years ago, but stopped when my new job at East Stroudsburg University took over my life. I also didn’t know where the story was going. Time is an interesting phenomenon that physics really can’t define or explain, other than making it the fourth dimension in Einstein’s space/time universe. I do believe the soul moves on after the body drops away—conservation of energy is a pillar of scientific belief.
SMJ: Your most recent book, The Case of the Missing Monarch, is set right here in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where we live. Proceeds of sales of this book are given to an organization close to your heart, Friends of Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Can you tell us a little about that?
MAA: The birth of this book began in the middle of the COVID pandemic as a serial to entertain a select couple of friends. Walking the golf cart trails of Cherry Valley with a birding friend kept me sane for those months of isolation and social distancing. When I finished the story on New Year’s Day 2021, I decided I needed to give something back to CV. Seven nature photographers graciously donated their nature pictures of the area and I tweaked the story to weave around the photos. It was a tremendous group effort, and kept my mind active during those rough winter months when most outside activity was limited to shoveling snow and watching birds at my feeders.
SMJ: Are you currently at work on a book?
MAA: I’ve recently begun a book that will be set in Ecuador, a place I visited in 2018. Quito, its capital, is the oldest, and second highest, city in the western hemisphere. The story involves conquistadores, the search for Incan gold, a curse, the Amazon Jungle and a few surprises.
Author of the Augusta McKee Mystery Series