Monday, April 4, 2016

Meet a Curmudgeon History Professor

      In the sleepy coastal Maine town of Penhallow, a stranger dies on a train, drawing Rachel Tinker, director of the Penhallow Historical Society, and Griffin Tate, curmudgeonly retired professor, into a spider’s web of archaeological obsession and greed. The victim’s rival confesses that they were both after a map to the Queen of Sheba’s tomb, and with his help they set out to find it.
    Their plans are stymied, however, when a tug of war erupts between the sheriff and a state police detective who want to arrest the same man—one for murder and one for bank robbery. It falls to Rachel to solve both crimes…and two more murders, if she is to unlock the soft heart that beats under Griffin’s hard crust.
    An unlikely visitor to sleepy Penhallow is George Hamdani, a portly Lebanese archaeologist. He reminds me a bit of an old friend, a larger than life personality whose bulk belies his intelligence and agility. This particular George has a secret—well, as Rachel and Griffin discover to their chagrin, more than one secret.
This week, Wild Women Authors is pleased to welcome author MS Spencer and Griffin Tate from Spencer's latest release, The Penhallow Train Incident. First up is Griffin.
Where are you from? Hard to say. Growing up we traveled a lot—lived in Europe, the Middle East, and lots of U.S. States. I didn’t really settle down until after graduate school when University of Chicago hired me as an assistant professor. Went from there to Queenstown University in New Jersey and now happily ensconced in Maine.
Tell us a bit about The Penhallow Train Incident. I sure enjoyed being part of the story, although I’d never admit it aloud. It is a funny, romantic, murder mystery set in Maine. Rachel Tinker, director of the Penhallow Historical Society, meets her match in Griffin Tate, curmudgeonly retired professor (that’s me). Together we wade through a scene awash in red herrings to solve not one, but three murders. If, in fact, they are murders (I was never convinced, but don’t tell Rachel—she’ll just scoff). Along the way we deal with ancient rumors, ancient crime, and ancient tragedy, as Rachel—poor besotted soul—gropes nearer and nearer to love.
Hmm. Interesting. Let's get to the nitty gritty. What did you think the first time you saw Rachel? One more thing I’ll never admit, although she guessed, but I fell for her the first time I saw her on campus at Queenstown, surrounded by young acne-scarred, snot-nosed whippersnappers.
Hah! And your second thought? That she’d never give me a second glance.
Did you feel it was love at first sight? Nah, she was way too chilly—you know how those female academics are. Besides, like I said, it wasn’t worth even approaching her—she was always surrounded by pimply-faced, weak-chinned undergrads.
Yup, been there, done that. What do you like most about her? Do I have to say it? Sheesh, nosy little bugger, aren’t you. I suppose I’d have to say her curiosity, and of course her willingness to agree with everything I say. Oh wait, that’s my dog.
Yup. It's the old Nancy Drew obsession. Maybe Cagney and Lacey. But, how would you describe Rachel? Well, she is rather beautiful, in a sensible way. She doesn’t seem to mind my occasional moods. She’s very bright for a girl, and willing to learn. Yes, I’d give her an A.
How would this Bright For a Girl describe you? You’d have to ask her. Whatever I say she’ll dispute.
What made you choose teaching Middle East history as a career? I lived in the Middle East in my youth and naturally veered toward it in school.
Griffin, what is your biggest fear? Losing Rachel—and having her know that’s my greatest fear.
How do you relax? Nap. Beer. Sail. Chase after stolen artifacts.
Works for us, especially the nap and beer part of things. Who is your favorite fictional character and why? The Queen of Sheba—if in fact she’s fictional. If not, Indiana Jones.
No big surprise there. What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Sit down and shut up.
A man who thinks on his feet. Great talking with you, Griffin, Now up is your creator. What movies or books have had an impact on your career as a writer and why? I read voraciously and eclectically from the time I was in elementary school. Mainly biographies, through which I absorbed a lot of history. Then about high school I started in on fiction—particularly classics (I figured they were probably classics for a reason) and English novels. All those romantic Austen, Bronte, and Harding books were perfect for the starry-eyed girl. I still tend to write a little more formally than is fashionable. Loved Fred Astaire movies as well—I like the elegance and grace.
What event in your private life were you able to bring to this story and how do you feel it impacted the novel? Both my BA thesis and my MA thesis were about the Queen of Sheba. She is a uniquely intriguing creature—connecting threads of history of Israel/Judah, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Neither her existence nor that of Sheba have ever been definitively established.
Tell us a bit about your publisher: how did you hear about them and what influenced your decision to submit to them? Actually my wonderful publisher Secret Cravings went out of business, and I was lucky enough to find homes for at least 8 of my books. The Wild Rose Press picked up Penhallow and they have been fabulous.
What project[s] are you working on now? I have 3 manuscripts in galley to finish; an intriguing outline of a mystery set on Amelia Island, FL, and a great story on the Ghost Hotel to finish. Here’s the draft blurb:
          At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a splash and a scream. Eighty-five years later workmen uncover a skeleton. Who does it belong to, and how did it get to the bottom of an old elevator shaft? To find out, Charity Snow, reporter for the Longboat Key Sun, must team up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author whose arrogance nearly exceeds his talent.
          Along with a drop-dead gorgeous editor and a publisher with a dark family secret, they discover an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.
Maine to Amelia Island to a Ghost Hotel. Your imagination is endless. What's up next for you? Finishing the Ghost Hotel & submitting it; drafting the Amelia Island mystery.

Thanks for this, MS. We've enjoyed our time together very much and hope you'll come back when Ghost Hotel and Amelia Island are ready to deliver.
Kat and Veronica

To learn more about MS Spencer and the stories she creates, go to:
To purchase The Penhallow Train Incident, go to:



  1. Thanks for having me here today and for putting up with Griffin (he can be a handful!). I hope your readers enjoy listening to the old fart. :)

  2. What a fun interview! Your book sounds great. I love murder mysteries, so I'll definitely check it out.

    1. Thanks Anna! Griffin does have a soft heart under all that gruffness. Enjoy the book.

  3. Those chilly academics! Passion burns below the surface. :-)

    1. Yes, indeedy, you're so right Kate! Thanks for reading.

  4. Interesting interview and it sounds like a super book--I love contemporary fiction w/history background. Also, I, too, tend to write "more formally than is fashionable." My reviews show lots of readers like the style. Best wishes.

    1. Well, that's encouraging Susan. I think you'll like the book--I try to add as much history etc. as possible without making it boring. In my next one, The Mason's Mark, I talk about George Washington, freemasonry (including rogue Masons) and black ops. Fun time had by all :)

  5. hmmmm.... interesting character!
    Good luck and God's blessings.

  6. Wow, sounds like my kind of read. Congrats on finding a home with The Wild Rose Press. I LOVE being with them. Great interview!

  7. I love that this is set in academia, and the conflict that is already set up with their personalities! Sounds like a terrific read! Thanks for sharing and best wishes for THE PENHALLOW TRAIN INCIDENT and all your work!

  8. Loved the interview with Griffin, and learning a bit about you. The Penhallow Train Incident is already on my ipad waiting to be read. Best wishes for loads of sales!

  9. The Penhallow Train Incident sounds like a great read. Actually so does Ghost Hotel. Congratulations on your latest release. :)

  10. I admire mystery writers for how many secrets they create, and your book sounds like a wonderful twisty story.

  11. What a great interview! I wish you all the best!

  12. Congrats on the release. I love a good mystery and this book sounds like it's full of all kinds of fun stuff--including great characters.

  13. We are delighted with the response to MS' visit with us. So much so, she's promised to return next month when her next book is released. We may have struck gold here!
    Kat and Veronica