Max Folsom – Author of the Baker Somerset series of mysteries

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did you get the premise for your book?

The opening scene just popped into my head like a full-blown movie scene. I had no idea where it would go from there. Sometimes I’m as surprised as the reader.

Do you have a regular writing schedule, or do you just write when the mood strikes you?

I try to write every day. I start after my third cup of coffee and write until I get tired or I hit a blank wall. Other times, I may not be writing, but I’m walking around with the characters in my head talking about the next step they are going to make.

I noticed Somerset is a bit of a luddite. Is that from personal experience or did you make her out to be a maverick?

My personal experience with computers can only be described as a love/hate relationship. Somerset is old-school. She’d rather interview a person than search for information on the computer. However, she knows that computers can provide information that would take her days or weeks to find. She’s not an expert on searching; that’s why she has Keys as a best friend.

Who are some female series detectives that you enjoy?

My all-time favorites are Carlotta Carlyle (written by Linda Barnes) and V. I. Warshawski (written by Sara Paretsky). Right now, I’m enjoying the FBI K9 series featuring Meg Jennings, written by Sara Driscoll. Meg and her dog Hawk are FBI search and rescue agents.

Who are your favorite private investigators, male or female, past or present?

Wow. Too many to name! Hard-boiled Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer are clearly at the top of a long list.

You obviously like hard-boiled detectives. What other types of mysteries do you enjoy?

If it has a dead body, I’m all in! I enjoy it all…cozies less than others, but there are even some of them I love.

What upsets you in books or television mystery shows?

There are several things, but what drives me nuts the most is when the police, or private eye, looks into the car and says, ‘The seat’s pushed all the way back. Our suspect couldn’t be so-and-so because he (or she) is too short.” All my height is on the top part of me. I have friends who are exactly the same height as me who can drive my car without adjusting the seat. When I drive, I have to pull the seat all the way forward, and then to get out of the car I have to push it back. Same thing with “two wine glasses in the sink means she had company.” Not true, as someone who often has three dirty coffee cups in the sink at a time knows. Faulty assumptions. And doing stupid stuff is number two. Like sneaking into somewhere to look for clues without gloves on. Things that you’d know not to do even if the only experience you had was watching television.

When you are developing a mystery, does the plot lead, or the characters?

In a way, they take turns. The plot always should lead in a good mystery because you need to make sure the clues are all there so your reader has a chance to beat your detective to the answer. And no prosecutor would take a case to court that has holes in it. But sometimes a character does something you had not intended.

How much of a role does the setting play when you are developing a book?

For Somerset the setting of Ottawa is crucial because most of her cases have secondary plots that involve a news event or a piece of history.  

When you were plotting this mystery, did you work backwards? In other words, come up with the solution and then figure out how to get there?

It didn’t start out that way, but once I knew the solution, I needed to plot out all the steps to make sure I could get there.

How much of the plot is based on actual history?

The kidnapping of Madame Chaffee is fiction. The things Somerset and her friends learn about the military arms and equipment industry are factual and the deaths of the Marconi scientists are factual, but no murders took place in Canada that matched them. That is fiction.  

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