Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Deaf actress Marlee Matlin has optioned mystery books with hearing-impaired protagonist

From The Sacramento Bee:

Penny Warner of Danville maintains a balancing act: She teaches child development and psychology at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, and is the author of about 50 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and children.

That bibliography includes two "cozy" series, a mystery subgenre that traditionally features intuitive female amateur sleuths with unique skill sets.

Warner's two-title "Killer Party" series (with two more on the way) stars San Francisco party planner Presley Parker, who works out of her office on Treasure Island.

The seven-title Connor Westphal series is set in the Mother Lode town of Flat Skunk and is led by a deaf reporter who inherited the local newspaper. (For more information: www.pennywarner.com)

Warner holds a master's degree in special education/deafness from San Francisco State University. "I want to bring my (academic) background into every book I write," she said.

She talked with The Bee recently about her books.

Tell us about Connor.

I thought it would be interesting to write a mystery with a protagonist who has hearing loss. Initially the book was rejected because publishers didn't think deaf people read books. But Bantam thought it was wonderful and gave me a book deal. "Dead Body Language" won a Macavity Award for best first mystery.

What was the response from deaf readers?

Wonderful. The first review appeared in a magazine for the deaf, and it said they couldn't tell if the writer was hearing or deaf – the biggest compliment they could pay me. The books have been optioned by deaf (Academy Award-winning) actress Marlee Matlin, who's trying to get a movie deal.

What about party-planner Presley?

I was looking for a new protagonist and thought different party settings would make good venues for mysteries. What fun it would be to find a dead body at the de Young Museum one time, Alcatraz the next, and have Presley help the police solve the crimes.

How are the two women alike?

They both have a sense of humor and are very independent. Connor has the hearing loss and Presley has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has trouble focusing, but she sees it as being able to multi-task really well.

You've written 15 books on the art of party planning, and you organize murder-mystery parties for companies. Did you host a New Year's Eve party at your home?

Not this year. We baby-sat so the kids could go out and have their parties.