Local author Margarite St. John is actually local authors and sisters Johnine Brown and Margaret Yoder. The pen name is a combination of the two first names with the added panache of the strong mass market sounding moniker. For over three years, they have collaborated to write a steady stream of murder mystery novels, a how-to book for aspiring authors of popular genre novels and, in the last quarter of 2012, a holiday-themed book, Postcards from a Tuscan Christmas. Although the latest release doesn’t include a murder plot, it has its own charm and intrigue and includes a cast of characters from previous titles as they work on a mystery abroad in Italy.Born in Iowa, the sisters eventually landed in Fort Wayne, which is good fortune for their reading public. Even if you are not from Fort Wayne, you will notice the hometown feeling you get from the varied references to Fort Wayne and businesses that give you a feel for a medium-sized Midwestern city. If you are reading a Margarite St. John title and you also happen to be from Fort Wayne, it’s a bonus, as you will recognize locations and enterprises that either are called by name or mirror places you know by another name.
There is slightly more than a 15-year age difference between the two, but they write as one in their fast-paced, edgy thrillers. The older sibling, Brown, is a retired attorney with advanced law degrees. She also has another career path which is handy if you plan on writing novels, as she was an assistant professor in Chicago State University’s English Department with a masters in English lit and a doctorate in English language and lit. Combine that with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and you have your bases covered for all aspects of human nature plus the added benefit of being proficient in grammar, spelling, punctuation and style. Yoder is also well-educated and has degrees in education and a medical background. Between her work experience and her surgeon husband, she rounds out the team with medical expertise.
Although the recurring characters interspersed in the novels create a series feel, all of the books stand alone as individual titles, so you won’t feel let down if you happen to read any of their seven books out of sequence.
From information gathered during conversations with the authors, Yoder is the chief dreamer, concept molder and shaper. The pair take the plot Yoder has conceived and have brainstorming sessions to build the story around the mutually agreed upon premise. Once all aspects are hammered out, Brown goes to work with her literary background and brings the story to life. As the story progresses, they have status meetings on a regular basis to ensure that both contributors have equal parts in the finished product.
Margarite St. John books are a kind of a combination of Agatha Christie meets Danielle Steel. They generally stick to the ever-popular murder mystery plotlines and make them endearing by including humor, innuendos and unexpected twists. There have been times when I have been reading and actually experienced belly laughs from some of the racy humor.
Most new authors write their first book and then set about perfecting it and seeking a publisher or a market for that hard-earned accomplishment. Not Margarite St. John. Once they got started, they realized they enjoyed it and also realized they were good at it. Their first book, Face Off, soon had an addition to the brand, Monuments to Murder. Four books later they are still going strong with additional titles planned for 2013 and beyond. Of course, seeing your books in print and marketed to the general public is exciting, but most people write books with ambitions of achieving bestseller status. Margarite St. John started out at a humble pace, self-publishing through Amazon and having New Release parties and book signings which generated substantial sales in the local market. Their success caught the attention of the press, and as a result of print and television coverage, they subsequently caught the attention of local publisher Bauer Communications. In November the sisters signed a contract with their new publisher and are anticipating sales on a national level which will hopefully make Margarite St. John an up and coming mass market brand with fans who can’t wait to curl up with a nice cup of coffee and the latest MSJ release.
Their work ethic, something these ladies do very well, has gotten them to the point they are today with their literary ambitions. They work very hard at the craft and don’t let any grass grow under their feet while pining for success from a single book. Any successful author will agree that more is definitely better, and you can be sure not everyone is going to love every book you write. If you have several to choose from, the odds are much greater that one of your books will spark interest from readers who will have a favorite but will still be interested in other offerings. This also helps grow exposure and sales.
All Margarite St. John titles are currently available on Amazon, and the publisher has indicated that there is a concentrated effort coming to bring their books to the masses as printed books, e-books and audio books and will include many additional markets and an extensive social networking platform.
The full Margarite St. John catalog to date includes Face Off, Monuments to Murder, Murder for Old Time’s Sake, Finding Mrs. Hyde (How-To Guide for Writing that Mystery Novel You’ve Been Meaning to Write), The Girl With a Curl, Hot as a Firecracker and Postcards From a Tuscan Christmas. You might find a favorite or love them all. If you enjoy a good murder mystery or suspense thriller, you will appreciate the time and talent these two Fort Wayne authors have devoted to the Margarite St. John brand.