Wednesday 20 June 2012


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
We are Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter but we write the Pampered Pets Mystery Series under the pen name of “Sparkle Abbey.”  Mary Lee was born in Iowa and Anita was born in San Jose, California. We both live in Des Moines, Iowa, US now. In fact, just a block from each other. Our pen name is taken from the names of our two rescue pets, Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abby (Anita’s dog.) You can see a picture of the real Sparkle and the real Abbey on our website.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Forever.  No, not forever, but seriously, it did take a long time. We had both been writing individually for quite a while before we sold this series to Bell Bridge Books If you add together the number of years we’d each been writing, it took us over 30 years. Come on, that should give just about every writer hope!

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Yes, we do. Mary Lee works for the City of Des Moines in their Information Technology department and Anita works for a staffing company in operations and marketing.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Our latest book is “Get Fluffy” and it picks up from where “Desperate Housedogs” left off but is told from the viewpoint of Melinda Langston. Mel becomes guardian of rich snob dog, Fluffy, and quickly becomes entangled in a web of secrets, blackmail and murder.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Our third book in the Pampered Pets series will be out in the Fall of 2012. It’s called: Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and then book four will be out in the Spring of 2012 and it’s titled: Yip Tuck

What genre would you place your books into?
Our books are generally considered cozy mysteries or we’ve heard the term gentle mysteries. We’d also add the term humorous and we hope that readers agree. 

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
We were both reading the genre and share some favorite authors such as: Laura Levine, Miranda Bliss, Laura Childs, Maddy Hunter, and Jill Churchill.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
We have belonged to a critique group for several years, and so this talented group of writers sees our pages before they’re ever sent off to our publisher. (And boy, are they a tough crowd.)

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Our publisher sends galleys out to reviewers just prior to a book’s release.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Usually. The ones we know of, anyway.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Never. In our opinion, a review is a person’s opinion and they have every right to their opinion. Does that mean a negative review doesn’t hurt? No, of course, not. But as a writer you have to realize that the story you’ve chosen to tell may delight some and yet not resonate at all with others.

The flipside of the negative feedback is we get great emails from readers and reviewers who’ve loved the book and enjoyed Caro and Mel’s adventures. You just can’t imagine what that does for a writer!

In fact, one big ah-ha moment for us now that we’re on the “published” side of things was how much it means to hear from readers. As readers ourselves, we’d only occasionally taken the time to write to an author to let them know how much we enjoyed a particular title. We’ve made a pact with each other to take the time to write or email when we love a book. We know from experience, a reader’s email can make your day!

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
Our publisher, Belle Bridge Books, designs the book covers but we have been lucky in that we’ve been able to keep the titles (so far) that we’ve suggested for the books. BBB does an amazing job on covers. Check them out at their website:

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
In this case, we had the titles first, but we always have some sort of a working title. The titles for the Pampered Pets Mysteries have been a riot to come up with.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Laguna Beach, California is a real place (one that we both love) and so we’ve sprinkled in some real places in Laguna Beach with some fictional ones. We’re pleased to say we’ve had emails from several readers who’ve visited Laguna or lived in the area and who report that we’ve captured the seaside town.

The characters’ names, we really work on to make sure they fit the characters’ personalities. We’ve been known to change a character’s name if it doesn’t seem to be working.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
We’re both very character-driven writers and so we feel you have to get to know your characters before you can tell their story. That’s not so say that they don’t sometimes surprise us as we go along!

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
Actually a mix of the two. We sit down together and devise a storyline and basic plot before beginning the book. However, the characters are definitely in the driver’s seat so if a change in course will make the story better, we go with it.

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
A really great story. A skilled writer, an expert editor, a relevant topic - these are all important, but the essence of a really great book is a really great story.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
We both have such busy family and work lives that very little time remains for hobbies. When there is a spare moment, we read. We think it’s the best hobby in the world.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
We read in all three formats and while we love the portability of having ereaders especially for travel, there’s just nothing like having a book in your hand. Paperbacks are great summer at the beach reads; and there’s nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace with a hardback you’ve saved for just that special treat. Our books are trade paperbacks and we love that format because the size makes them so easy to read.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No doubt about it, ebooks are here to stay and will become increasingly popular. But will they completely replace printed books? We don’t think so.

Did you have a favourite author as a child?
We were both readers of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery books. Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney came along later. Along with eventually, Agatha Christie.

What do you think about book trailers?
Our publisher created a book trailer for our series and we think it’s really cute! As readers, we think that book trailers are often a way to get a feel for the flavor of a book. Readers can check out ours on our website. 

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Read a lot and write a lot. Don’t give up.

And any other information you wish to supply?

If you’re interested in other mysteries series that feature pets, check out our other website:


  1. Fantastic interview, and well thought out questions. So great to see this series doing so well!

  2. Great interview! It's interesting to see two women writing a series together; not very common, though they mention that they were both Nancy Drew fans and that series was written in a similar fashion. I'm not sure I could do it, but kudos to them for making it work AND being successful at it!