Hailing from Michigan, Madison was working as a care giver when the idea for the Agnes Barton series struck her. Senior sleuth, Agnes Barton, and her best friend, Eleanor Mason, headline this series in dramatic fashion. Agnes is 72, she drives a hot red Mustang, and shops in Victoria Secret. Critics have said she's like a cross between Stephanie Plum's Grandma Mazur and Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. I can see the connection! The books took off and have been insanely popular with her readers. And now, as her luck has it, Madison was recently able to leave her full time job in order to work as a full time writer. Every writer's dream! And now that she's home, she gets to spend more time with her two kids and her super cute dog.
Today, Madison is seeing the release of a book in a new genre for her -- Redneck Romance, which is contemporary romance. Don't let that fool you. This story is chock full of a similar humor has her sleuth stories, with vivid characters and snappy dialogue.
Kelly Gray is a city girl all the way from the Big Apple. She's a freelance photographer with dreams of getting her work into National Geographic (don't we all?!). It's the fall and the leaves are turning in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness area of North Carolina, and Kelly decides to leave the big city for quieter surrounding so she can take the best photos of her career. Or so she hoped. Almost no sooner does she cross the state line and her car conks out. Stranded, she's forced to accept help from a local, and he can't more more of a stereotypical redneck if he tried. Enter Jimmy Bob Willows, rescuer at your service. To both of their surprise, Kelly quickly adapts to the country lifestyle and finds herself falling in love with a redneck!
What a hoot! This story will pull you in from page one. Written in the first person, the reader will follow Kelly along at breakneck speed as Jimmy Bob becomes her personal guide into The Joyce. Quick repartee will elicit more than a few chuckles and outright laughs. The writing is clear, crisp, and well-written. Madison's unique voice and the humorous storyline will drives the story to the last page long before you'll be ready for the story to end.
Madison took a much needed break from her very busy writing schedule to have a chat with us.
Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Madison. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. I know from talking with you that you are one busy woman. How do you have time for it all? Surely you must have a routine. What's it like?
It’s constantly changing depending on the day. For the most part I get up at 10am and go through my email, work on marketing, and write from noon to 2:30pm. When the kids get home, I focus on them unless I have a promo going on. In that case, I focus more on marketing. I think it’s important to be there for my kids so everything else can be worked around. After the kids go to bed, I have time to hang out on Facebook for awhile and maybe get more words in. For me, it works best to really push myself on writing. At this point, I can’t work on one book for a whole year; I need to keep it going. I don’t want my readers waiting too long for my next book.
Sounds like a very busy day, but you must be in heaven now that you're working full time at your dream job. What can you tell us about the space in which you write?
I can remember seeing all the beautiful offices with amazing views — mine is not so glamorous. I have a small desk where I write, but that’s also where my PC is and my kids bump me out of there when they get home from school. That’s when I move my MacBook Pro to the dining room table. You’ll probably see me surrounded by open notebooks, Diet Coke, or wine glasses depending on the time of day. Nothing is organized, everything is cluttered. It’s something I constantly have to work on.
You mean work at building the clutter or work at keeping things tidy? I'm only asking because I've not met a writer yet who could function in a tidy environment ;-)
What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I like to go to the movies, or watch television with my kids. If I ever got the chance to go out, I love to sing Karoke. I do a not-half-bad impression of Joan Jett. I love to go to concerts, monster truck shows, and rodeos! You could say I have a little redneck in me too. LOL
Hey! You said it, I didn't. ;-) But you know, those monster truck shows and rodeos are kind of fun. And one day, I want to hear that Joan Jett impression!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Madison.
Now, onto that excerpt I *know* you're jonesing to read.
Keep in mind that one lucky commenter today will win a free copy of Redneck Romance so get your questions ready for Madison and put them in the comment box below. Don't forget your contact email address so we know how to reach you.
• • •
Twenty-year-old Kelly Gray arrives in the mountainous area of North Carolina, deep in Redneck land, intent on journeying into the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness to take fall pictures, which she hopes to sell to National Geographic. That is until she runs out of gas and needs to enlist the help of Jimmy Bob Willows, a redneck with sexy blue eyes. While he filled her tank with gas, she threw caution to the wind and hired him as a guide, ignoring the fact of how dangerous it may be. Hiring a man whom she doesn't even know, a man who insists on calling her, City.
Experienced mountain man Jimmy Bob Willows leads the inexperienced Kelly into the mountains, teaching her how to survive in the wilderness. This is a new experience for Kelly as she has never been out from under her mother’s thumb before, but she embraces what Jimmy Bob is teaching her, and for once in her life, she’s on a real adventure, one that results in Jimmy Bob saving Kelly from a copperhead snake and moonshiners!
Kelly fights the growing attraction between them, but will it be a losing battle?
She handed me a menu, and I glanced at it and wrinkled my brow. “No fried chicken?” I regretted opening my mouth the second I said it, from the looks they gave me. “I just thought it was a Southern thing.”
Ma clucked her tongue. “You're in the mountains now, gurl. We do things a bit different around here.”
“I'll have the Rocky Mountain Oysters. Do they come in the shell?”
Jimmy Bob looked ready to swallow his tongue, and his face turned a shade of red I hadn't seen before.
I added, “I had no idea you people had such culture.” I laughed. "I’m also pretty sure I’m in the Appalachian Mountains, not the Rocky Mountains.”
Jimmy Bob shot me a look like I had better shush, but I've never been very good at taking a hint.
“It's used for stew,” Ma said. “My brother moved to Montana and brings me a hefty supply whenever he visits. They are a delicacy, you know.”
“It sounds great. I never had oyster stew.”
“Jimmy Bob, would you like some oysters, too?” Ma asked, grinning widely.
“No thanks. I'll stick with the rabbit and collard greens.”
“It's right tasty, but not as good as the oyster stew.” He smiled encouragingly.
I'm pretty sure I had missed out on the joke or was the butt of it. I grabbed a biscuit and slathered it in butter. Ma brought me a glass of milk and I drank it, even though it could have been a bit colder. Maybe these folks lacked refrigeration. I didn’t want to offend anyone, so I kept my mouth closed.
Jimmy Bob seemed intent on avoiding my eyes. I wonder what I could have said to make him avoid looking at me.
Ma brought our food and it smelled delicious. It was also steaming hot. I dipped my biscuit in to try it out. I had never had oysters that tasted anything like this. I wondered what Ma's secret was.
Two more people showed up at the table—an older man that introduced himself as Mel, and his daughter, whom he called Sissy. She grinned at Jimmy Bob.
“Hey, Jimmy Bob,” she said. “Where have you been?”
“Running coon, but we never could find the dang hounds.”
“They ran off?” Mel asked.
Jimmy Bob nodded.
“I'll keep a look out for you and bring 'em back, if I catch the rascals.” He grinned in my direction. “Is this business or pleasure?”
“Business, of course.” Jimmy Bob nudged me under the table. “She's not my type; too skinny.”
“I'm too skinny?”
“Yup, you don't have the hips for proper childbearing.”
I didn't know what to say, but I felt offended. “That doesn't matter. I have seen smaller women than me...” I shut up after I realized what I was saying. “You're right, besides, I don't plan to have children.”
“Really?” Sissy asked. “Who wouldn't want to have babies with the man they luv,” she gushed in Jimmy Bob's direction. “You know, Jimmy Bob, Paw says I'll be about marrying age next Spring.”
I looked hard at the plain woman; she looked more child than woman. Her freckled face glowed and she would probably be a looker when she was grown, but that wouldn't be for some years.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Mind your business, woman,” Jimmy Bob whispered between gritted teeth. He tried to say more, but Mel looked toward Jimmy Bob.
“No daughter of mine is gonna marry a Willow.”
“But, Paw, he's a good man and—”
Sissy dropped her eyes to her lap. “But heck, Paw. How am I gonna find a good man if you keep eliminating all of my potential suitors?”
“You need to finish schoolin' before you be talkin' like dat.” He smiled at his daughter. “Don't you worry none, honey, you'll find a man when the time is right.”
I admired how Mel took up for his daughter. I wondered how that felt. My mother had gotten pregnant at a young age and my dad was never in the picture. I don’t even have a name to put with the faceless sperm donor, as my mom referred to him the one time I asked. I sighed to myself. I had been too put off to ask twice. Maybe if Mom would share with me the details, I might not have felt so bad. I’m twenty now. I can handle the truth. It might also explain why she had a problem cutting the apron strings.
Sure, this trip was a stretch for me, but so far I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to take some Fall pictures. I could take them in northern New York, but how could I pass up an opportunity to have the mountains as a backdrop? It's interesting to learn about a new culture. I had often wondered how people lived in the mountains, and I was getting the chance to learn first hand. Not too many movies portrayed mountain folks in a positive manner, but I didn’t believe these people were all bad. So far, with the exception of back at the country store, everyone had been quite pleasant to me.
I spooned in the stew, which cooled nicely, and listened to the chatter between Jimmy Bob, Mel, and Ma. I did notice how Jimmy Bob's face paled when Sissy said she was near marrying age. So, he was still single at least. That thought made me smile at least, but I had no idea why. Lord, Kelly, you just met the man!
Breaking though my thoughts, Ma asked, “Anyone for dessert? I made fresh lemon meringue pie.”
“I'm stuffed from the Rocky Mountain oyster stew,” I said.
“Oysters?” Mel asked.
“Yes. They weren't in the shells, but quite tasty.”
“I'm sure they weren't no oysters either, more of a nickname.” He snickered. “Jimmy Bob, you rascal. How'd you get her to eat pig testicles?”
I felt nauseous and tried to will myself to hurl, but couldn't. I felt sweaty for a moment, and that's when I hit the floor.
• • •
Madison Johns burst onto the writing scene in 2012 with quirky books featuring a zany cast of characters, writing in both the mystery and romance genres.
She’s best known for her Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery series featuring Agnes’ larger than life sidekick, Eleanor Mason. The series depicts two elderly ladies digging up clues with enough laugh aloud antics to make James Bond blush.
Madison Johns is a member of Sisters in Crime.
She was a voracious reader of historical romance in her teens and hopes to journey one day to England, Ireland, and Scotland.
Find Madison online --