Ballard, Mignon F. 1934–

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Ballard, Mignon F. 1934–

(Mignon Franklin Ballard)

PERSONAL:

Given name is pronounced "min-yon"; born October 29, 1934, in Calhoun, GA; daughter of Bernard (a postmaster) and Mignon (a homemaker) Franklin; married Gene B. Ballard (a newspaper representative), May 18, 1957; children: Melissa Mignon, Amy Sayre. Education: Attended Brenau College, 1952-53, and University of Chattanooga (now University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), 1953-54; University of Georgia, A.B.J., 1956. Religion: Protestant.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Fort Mill, SC. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

GAFFA (magazine for Georgia future farmers), Atlanta, GA, editor, 1956-57; third-grade teacher at public school in Decatur, GA, 1957-59; freelance writer, 1959—. Part-time creative writing teacher. Chair of Fort Mill Community Playhouse, 1983-84; publicity chair of Fort Mill Community Chorus, 1984-85; member of South Carolina Arts Commission's Artists-in-Education program, beginning 1984. Speaker at libraries.

MEMBER:

Sisters in Crime.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Excellence in Writing Award in Children's Literature from Winthrop College, 1978, for Aunt Matilda's Ghost; Raven Rock was selected by the New York City Public Library as one of the year's three hundred best books for teens, 1986; Styles Award, Agatha Christie Ltd., 1998, for short story "A Natural Conclusion."

WRITINGS:

Aunt Matilda's Ghost (juvenile), Aurora (Nashville, TN), 1978.

Raven Rock, Dodd (New York, NY), 1986.

Crybaby Bridge (adult mystery), Dodd (New York, NY), 1987.

Cry at Dusk, Dodd (New York, NY), 1987.

Deadly Promise, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1989.

The Widow's Woods, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1991.

Final Curtain, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1992.

Minerva Cries Murder, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1993.

Angel at Troublesome Creek, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.

An Angel to Die For, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.

The War in Sallie's Station, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2001.

Shadow of an Angel (also includes recipes) St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.

The Angel Whispered Danger, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.

Too Late for Angels: An Augusta Goodnight Mystery (with Recipes), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

The Angel and the Jabberwocky Murders: An Augusta Goodnight Mystery (with Heavenly Recipes), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of stories to magazines, including American Girl, Instructor, Child Life, Woman's World, Ellery Queen, Malice Anthology IV, Mary Higgins ClarkMystery Magazine, and Mature Living. Author of script and lyrics for Bandstand Tales and Bandstand Tales II, a series of musicals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mignon F. Ballard's mysteries take place in the American South. The Calhoun, Georgia, native has produced young-adult novels, including Raven Rock and Aunt Matilda's Ghost, as well as adult mystery novels.

Ballard's adult mysteries range from the suspenseful to the whimsical. Final Curtain, set in North Carolina, for example, was hailed as a "charming mystery/ghost story, smartly plotted and deftly told," by a Publishers Weekly reviewer in 1992. When the ghost of murdered actress Dahlia Brown surfaces after fifty years to help her grandniece Ginger Cameron solve the crime, danger and even romance are the outcome. "The closer Ginger gets to the truth, the more dangerous her quest becomes," remarked the reviewer, adding that "readers will enjoy" helping solve the mystery.

Ballard created a new mystery series in 1993 with Minerva Cries Murder. In this launch, Ballard introduces Eliza Figg, newly returned to Minerva, Georgia, from a Peace Corps stint. She takes under her wing a pregnant young woman, Melody Lamb; shortly after the baby's birth, both mother and infant disappear during a stroll. Soon the baby reappears unharmed, but Melody remains missing. Can Eliza put the pieces together? Hollis Kerfoot, in a review for the Post and Courier, wrote of Minerva Cries Murder: "Ballard … weaves the strings of her plot into a colorful tale." Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer commented: "[The book] is refreshingly simple and breezy, atmospheric yet credible."

With Angel at Troublesome Creek, Ballard began another series "with a most unusual protagonist," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In this tale, celestial Augusta Goodnight comes to earth as a guardian angel assigned to counsel Mary George Murphy, whose recent woes (jilted by her fiance, job lost, much-loved aunt dies) have set her on a downward spiral. The angel persuades Mary to investigate the aunt's suspicious demise, though the puzzle, as pointed out in the Publishers Weekly review, "is far less important than Mary George's progress, spurred by the brash Augusta, toward happiness and self reliance." The critic concluded: "Ballard writes with great warmth and sassy humor." A reviewer for Library Journal found that the "light, bouncy prose" made this work a "real charmer." And Ruth Moose, reviewing Angel at Troublesome Creek for the Pilot of Southern Pines, North Carolina, reflected that the novel "is a perfectly paced mystery that keeps you guessing until the last page."

Ballard has continued to produce more titles about her angelic protagonist. In the 2000 book An Angel to Die For, Augusta makes a return as the guardian of Prentice Hobson, a young female much in need of help. In addition to a host of other problems, including deaths in the family and joblessness, Prentice discovers the body of a strange woman in place of her uncle's in the family grave plot. Aided by the food-loving Augusta, Prentice investigates the odd goings on in this "satisfying, smile-provoking story," as Mary Frances Wilkens described the novel in Booklist. For Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, the same work was "delightful," and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly termed it a "winning cozy." Shadow of an Angel finds Augusta at work once again, this time helping a young widow named Minda Hobbs solve an old mystery as well as a new murder, while also finding time to bake some very tasty muffins; Ballard includes recipes from Augusta in several of her titles. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found this work "amiable enough, if you've a fondness for Victorian mores … [and] southern families with more than their share of eccentrics." A Publishers Weekly reviewer had higher praise for Shadow of an Angel, noting that, by novel's end, "fans are sure to have built up an appetite for the next book in the series."

In the 2003 addition to the series, The Angel Whispered Danger, Augusta aids Kate McBride in unraveling family secrets, including two mysterious deaths. Kate delves into the tortured past of her family, attempting to connect the two murders. A Kirkus Reviews critic felt the mystery from past in part overpowered the present death of the housekeeper of Kate's uncle: "Clean up that back-story and you've got a pretty decent mystery," the critic noted. GraceAnne A. DeCandido also had mixed feelings about The Angel Whispered Danger, noting that it was "not quite so seamless or beguiling" as Shadow of an Angel, "but with the same southern artlessness and warmth." No such reservations, however, were evinced by a Publishers Weekly contributor, who concluded: "Ballard's warmth and compassion for her characters make this series a must for readers who like their mysteries on the cozy side."

Too Late for Angels: An Augusta Goodnight Mystery (with Recipes) is set in rustic Stone's Throw, South Carolina, and features another widow, Lucy Nan Pilgrim, whom Augusta aids in uncovering the perpetrator of two murders. Once again Ballard stirs up her mix of cozy mystery, humor, and cooking in a "lighthearted" tale, sure to "generate smiles and send many readers to the kitchen," as a Publishers Weekly contributor observed. Further praise came from Booklist contributor DeCandido, who commented: "The graceful language and endearing characters in this series are both delicate and sturdy, like old cotton lace." More angelic sleuthing and cooking is presented in the 2006 title, The Angel and the Jabberwocky Murders: An Augusta Goodnight Mystery (with Heavenly Recipes).

Ballard told CA: "I first became interested in writing when my parents read to me and I heard the written word. I began writing poems and stories when I was eight. My interest grew even stronger when I discovered I really couldn't do anything else!

"I think that growing up in a small Southern town in a family of storytellers during a time when people took life at a slower pace influences my work more than anything else. We listened and laughed and sometimes cried. We entertained ourselves instead of expecting someone else to do it. This is where I found my voice.

"The writing process is something I have learned, as most writers have, over the years. As for the physical process, when I'm writing, I usually walk about three or more miles in the mornings, then eat breakfast and begin work. I'm at my computer for most of the day (except for a coffee break or two, lunch and other pauses for purposes of procrastination). The emotional and mental part of the process is something that develops in your heart and mind and becomes so much a part of you it's almost impossible to be without it.

"The most surprising things I've learned as a writer is (1) that I actually enjoy speaking in public, and (2) that I had the tenacity and willpower to stick with it through years of disappointments. And this is not surprising, but I've also learned that I have never developed patience and probably never will.

"As for my favorite book, I know I'm probably supposed to say it's the one I'm writing now, but my favorite by far is The War in Sallie's Station, a novel about growing up during WWII. I worked on the book off and on for about twenty years and it's the only one dedicated to my parents. It's my heart, and I think it's my best.

"I hope my books will not only entertain readers but that they will remember my characters and care about them long after they read the last page. I invite my readers to become a part of my story and hope they will feel at home there. I would like to be remembered as a good writer and one who doesn't disappoint the people who take time to read my words."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2000, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of An Angel to Die For, p. 420; June 1, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Angel Whispered Danger, p. 1747; March 1, 2005, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Too Late for Angels: An Augusta Goodnight Mystery (with Recipes), p. 1143.

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), September 19, 1993, Lawrence Toppman, review of Minerva Cries Murder.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of Shadow of an Angel, p. 527; May 15, 2003, review of The Angel Whispered Danger, p. 716.

Library Journal, November 1, 1989, Rex E. Klett, review of Deadly Promise, p. 114; December, 1999, review of Angel at Troublesome Creek; November 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of An Angel to Die For, p. 142; July, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of The Angel Whispered Danger, p. 129.

Pilot (Southern Pines, NC), January 31, 2000, Ruth Moose, review of Angel at Troublesome Creek.

Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), October 24, 1993, Hollis Kerfoot, review of Minerva Cries Murder.

Publishers Weekly, April 25, 1986, review of Raven Rock, p. 229; October 6, 1989, review of Deadly Promise, p. 83; April 12, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Widow's Woods, p. 46; May 11, 1992, review of Final Curtain, p. 56; March 1, 1993, review of Minerva Cries Murder, p. 42; November 1, 1999, review of Angel at Troublesome Creek, p. 78; October 2, 2000, review of An Angel to Die For, p. 62; May 6, 2002, review of Shadowof an Angel, p. 39; June 23, 2003, review of The Angel Whispered Danger, p. 50; February 21, 2005, review of Too Late for Angels, p. 161.

ONLINE

Mignon Ballard Home Page,http://www.mignonballard.com (April 16, 2007).

Reviewingtheevidence.com,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (April 16, 2007), Rita Ratacheck, review of The Angel Whispered Danger; Sarah Dudley, review of Shadow of an Angel; Linnea Dodson, review of Too Late for Angels.

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Ballard, Mignon F. 1934–

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