Monday, July 31, 2017

High Strung

When I saw the cover of High Strung A Glass Bead Mystery by Janice Peacock, I was very interested in reading it. I love glass beads and any kind of beadwork. The author certainly knows her way around crafting glass beads, but crafting a mystery plot - not so much.

Jax O'Connell inherits a home and a substantial amount of money from her aunt's estate. The catch is the house is in Seattle and Jax currently lives and works in Miami. Dissatisfied with her job and her current relationship, Jax decides to head to Seattle and live in the house. She joins a beadmaking group and is on her way to producing beads.

A weekend event of workshops and demonstrations presented by JOWL (Jewel-makers of Washington League) provides Jax with the opportunity to learn new techniques, demonstrate her own skill and maybe sell some beads.

There's lots of conflict among the characters including the abrasive owner of  Aztec Beads, Rosie
Pareda and just about everyone. I'm not sure how someone who crafts such lovely sounding beads is so grouchy and rude. And here's where the plot fails. After witnessing several arguments with Rosie and practically everyone in the place, Jax finds Rosie falling down a flight of steps with a necklace around her neck that is caught on the railing and choking her. Jax frees her and Rosie is whisked to the hospital.

The next morning Jax finds the body of a young beader in a dumpster behind the shop. When questioned by the police, she immediately implicates pretty much every person at the workshop. She accuses Rosie of killing Misty, then she accuses Rosie's daughter Tracy, then possibly the shy Dylan. Her theories bounce all over the place and is it any wonder the police don't pay her much attention. Then throw in her good friend Tessa and the plot thickens.

In the relationship area, Jax is interviewed by a local reporter who she proceeds to spill her drink on. He flees, sticky with mimosa, and seems never to return. Their next two encounters are even stranger leading the read to wonder what the heck the fuss is all about.

Anyway the murder is solved and has been committed for a petty reason. I loved all the detail about bead making and glass bead making, but the motive for the crime was seriously absurd.

I would like to read the next one in the series as I am especially interested in bead making, but I might read it as a tutorial rather than a mystery. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Messenger of Athens

Hermes Diaktoros arrives on the island Thiminos on his winged sneakers to investigate the death of an islander. In The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi we meet Hermes, the "fat man" as the author refers to him throughout the book. He says he has been sent from Athens to investigate the crime, but never says who sent him.

 Irini Asimakopoulos was the wife of a local fisherman and her body was found at the bottom of a cliff. Her husband Andreas is devastated, and the Chief of Police Panayiotis Zafiridis believes Irini's death was a suicide. This does not sit will with Hermes and he continues to investigate.

Through flashback we learn the hard life the islanders face. Very little industry, some tourism, foul weather (despite being in the Greek islands chain) and a sense of hopelessness. For the wives of fishermen, there are days of loneliness and for those without much family, not much to do but clean the house again and again.

Irini's life is repetitious and boring, but she is happy to have the fresh fish on her table and the money Andreas earns when he returns from his trips. She yearns for more and before long, she meets Theo Hatzistratis, a handsome, but married local carpenter. There's something in his eyes that tells her he is unhappy with his life and she begins to daydream about them together.

Originally I listened to the audio version of the book, but because the story evolves through flashback, it is sometimes difficult to follow while listening. I had to switch to the book version.

Zouroudi captures the male-centric culture that still thrives in Greece and the hopelessness of women even those who are lucky enough to be married. Family loyalty and honor are hugely important and can sometimes lead to serious consequences.

Hermes pursues his murder theory and makes some in the village very uncomfortable. He slowly gathers information for some of the more reclusive islanders and pieces together who is responsible for the crime in a startling conclusion.

There is something almost unreal about Hermes and his pursuit of the truth, but the reader must accepts this or the story doesn't work.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Missing states

Idaho and Delaware - Where are you?

If you know anyone who has written a cozy mystery or any type of mystery set in Idaho and Delaware, please let me know. Those are the two states I am missing to complete the MapYourMystery map. As I have begun reviewing mysteries set in other parts of the world, I feel I should at least finish the U.S.

Idaho and Delaware, I know you are out there. Let me know where you are!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Book of the Beloved (Pluto's Snitch #1)

Unless you have time to finish The Book of the Beloved by Carolyn Haines in one day, do not even try to read it. I finally had to put it down at 2:00 am unfinished, but rose early to finish it. This is the first book in a new series by Haines.

Raissa James, a World War I widow, visits her uncle's home, Caoin House in Mobile, Alabama, hoping to bring an end to her mourning. Raissa wants to be a writer of ghost stories and she knows her uncle's home is reportedly haunted. Just the thing an aspiring writer needs for atmosphere.

Her Uncle Brett has planned a huge gala to welcome her to his home. But tragedy strikes during the party when a young man who had shown an interest in Raissa falls to his death from the roof. Later that evening the ghost of a Confederate soldier reveals himself to her and Raissa is eager to learn the story of the house's unhappy past.

Eli Whitehouse was a Confederate general and he left his wife and young daughter to fight for the
South in the Civil War. Times were hard for those left behind and Eva was brutally murdered before he returned home, leaving their young daughter abandoned with her dead mother. It is said they both haunt Caoin House. Raissa feels other presences and asks her uncle to arrange a seance in the house. He's only too happy to oblige and Reginald Proctor, assistant to the world-famous Madame Petalungro, arrives for the seance.

While researching the history of the home, Raissa discovers Eli's daughter fell to her death on her wedding day. Many other strange incidents occurred in the house including break ins and other deaths. Raissa feels a menacing presence as she tries to uncover secrets long hidden that could damage the reputation and standing of someone in the socially-conscious city of Mobile.

This book takes place in the early 1920s when women still did not have the right to vote and Negroes (as they were called then) were treated like non-persons. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you enjoy a thrilled, chilling hunt, The Book of the Beloved is for you.

For a review of another Carolyn Haines book,  click here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blood on the Bulb Fields

No matter how you cut it, the job of a tour guide with a busload of tourists would never be a job for me. I don't have the disposition for it, but in Blood on the Bulb Fields by Judith Cranswick, Fiona Mason is the right person for the job.

After the death of her husband, Fiona decides it's time she found a job. (A note: Authors of books featuring women in her 50s, please don't make them out to be simpletons who have never held a job. This is the 21st century, not 1960 and I would venture it is rare these days to find a women who has never had a job.) Off my soapbox.

Fiona's job at Super Sun Executive Travel as a tour guide on a bus trip to the Netherlands starts off with a missing passenger who turns up dead near their departure point. The authorities believe he died of a heart attack and send Fiona and the bus inhabitants on their way.

There's the usual cast of complaining tourists on board and Fiona has her work cut out for her
keeping the rowdy crowd entertained. After a brief tour of Rotterdam, the bus makes its first stop in the famous Keukenhof Park, the world's largest flower garden. When another guest fails to return to the bus after the garden visit, his wife and another couple wait at the garden while Fiona takes the rest of the group back to their hotel. More trouble ensues and a mysterious man from the government appears on the scene.

On one hand I enjoyed the tour of the Netherlands as seen through the eyes of Fiona and her tourists, but the switching back and forth to three narrators somehow was disconcerting. In addition, one line very early in the book tipped me to the killer. I think without that one line, the mystery would have been more difficult to solve.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Full Slab Death

Josie Tucker is the nosiest person I know. This time she is in Austin, Texas, to write a series on barbecue for her blog. But Josie is Josie and she finds herself not only digging into BBQ, but digging into the strange disappearance of a local woman more than twenty years ago. In Full Slab Dead, by Em Kaplan, Josie is visiting Austin with her doctor boyfriend Drew as he attends a conference. Left on her own, Josie can always get into trouble.

Rumor has it Mary Clare's husband, Billy Blake, owner of Smiley's BBQ, murdered her and hid the body. Over the years there have been no signs of Mary Clare and it is said she haunts the restaurant. Josie can barely resist this type of mystery, so she dives in.

There's a short list of suspects including Mary Clare's husband Billy, her own mother - the cold as ice Bunny Rogers, who has a serious hate on for her son-in-law, and friends from her beauty queen past.

When Josie hears the family home is still owned by Billy, but not inhabited by anyone except ghosts,
she teams up with a ghosthunter. Lizzie comes with all kinds of ghosthunting devices and a double major in Chemistry and Geology. Josie is sold and they make plans to investigate the Blake home the next evening.

She also tracks down a reporter who covered the case and pumps him for information. She hits the mother lode of information from Skip Robinson including a cassette tape marked "voicemail outgoing message."

What Josie finds at the Blake house is a eye opening and leads her to believe there is more to this disappearance than meets the eye.

Another terrific book by Em Kaplan. Josie is such a funny, smart alecky character, but I feel for her stomach issues. One thing, if Drew continues to eat french fries with mayonnaise, Josie should dump him. Just my opinion!

For my review of The Bride Wore Dead, click here. For other books by Em Kaplan, click here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Death is a Cabaret

Former FBI agent Jeff Talbot turned antique picker is headed from Seattle to the huge Annual Antiques Festival auction on Mackinac Island. His mission is to find the Napoleonic cabaret set his friend Blanche Appleby's family once owned. In Death is a Cabaret by Deborah Morgan a cabaret set figures prominently

What is a cabaret set, you ask. Well I will tell you. It is an eighteenth century a coffee or tea service usually made of porcelain and including a teapot, coffeepot, sugar bowl, creamer a cup and saucer and tray. Usually it is a tea service for one - this particular one served the Empress Josephine (Napoleon's wife) from France. Some how through the years, the tea service, which was supposed to be a wedding gift for Blanche, was sold and it disappeared.

Jeff loves a challenge and he heads to Michigan where he hopes to find the cabaret set in the auction.

The Festival is being held at the magnificent Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and the hotel is filled
with beautifully-dressed antique hunters. When Jeff arrives he meets a glamorous couple, three senior citizen antique hunters from New Orleans and a body. The body coincidentally turns out to be Frank Hamilton, an irritating, sly picker from Seattle, who had had a run in with  Jeff before the trip to Michigan.

Jeff offers his former FBI experience to the local police and together they try to find the solution to the murder. Before that happens the famous auctioneer Edward Davenport is found hanged. It is believed to be a suicide, but there was no note and that bothers Jeff. Davenport was at the top of his game as one of the most respected auctioneers and authorities on antiques. Why would he kill himself?

This was an intriguing book for many reasons. First, the concept of antiques is so foreign to me, I learned a great deal. Second, the killer is deeply buried in the characters and I went to bed one night trying to figure it out. Third, Jeff's wife Sheila is an agoraphobic and has not been out of the house in five years. And fourth, they employ a real live butler. Put all this together and you have a unique mystery series.

I did find myself humming Life is a Cabaret for much of the time I was reading the book. You know how those earworms are!

For other books in this series by Deborah Morgan, click here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lowcountry Bonfire

Married private investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have been hired by Tammy Sue Lyerly to find evidence that her husband Zeke has been having an affair with Crystal Chapman. After they give photographs of the elicit couple to Tammy, things go from bad to crazy.

Tammy decides to take Zeke's clothes and put them in his prized possession, a 1969 Raven Black Mustang, and set them on fire. When the fire is out, what they find is shocking. Lowcountry Boil is the latest in the series by Susan Boyer

Once the trunk is popped open, there is Zeke dead, but frozen in a strange position with his back and neck stiffly arched and his legs tucked behind him. Although the fire hadn't reach him, he was dead with a ghastly grin on his face.

Who killed Zeke in such a grisly manner? Zeke was a charmer, telling stories about being an Army Ranger, a prize-winning bull rider and an almost famous NASCAR driver. No one really believed him, but as Liz and Nate look into his death, some of the stories seems more real then the others. 

As Liz and Nate investigate Zeke, they find no information on his life from when he joined the army in 1987 and returned to Stella Maris, South Carolina, in 2007. Could someone from this missing period have killed Zeke? While they pursue this angle, they discover some suspects, more locally involved.

What they find leads to an event in the past that changed many lives and ended Zeke's.

Lowcountry Boil is a carefully constructed mystery with a surprising conclusion. The characters are well written and believable (including Connie, the ghost). As I enjoyed this book, I plan to go back and read some of the others in the series.

For other books by Susan Boyer, click here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interview with R.J. Koreto

How many books have you published and under what names do you publish?
All books are published with the R.J. Koreto byline. I have three books published: Two in my Lady Frances series: "Death on the Sapphire" and "Death Among Rubies," and one in my Alice Roosevelt series: "Alice and the Assassin." A third Lady Frances book, "Death at the Emerald," is coming out in November. A second Alice Roosevelt book is in manuscript form.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc? 
Like many authors, I have a "day job," as a business and financial journalist. Fortunately, I work at home, so at the end of the workday I can shift gears quickly and write fiction. I'm a night owl, and can happily write into the small hours, with a glass of diet Coke by my side and the TV softly droning in the background. On most weekdays I try to write 500-1000 words a day. If I devote a whole day to fiction, I can write up to 5,000 words in one day. The late mystery writer John Creasy wrote some 600 novels before he died at age 65. He is my hero!

What made you select a female protagonist in this era to use as your main character?
I had been writing novels with male protagonists, which were not picked up by a publisher, but one reader said she so liked my female characters, I should try a mystery with a female sleuth. Meanwhile, I was long fascinated by the early 20th century, before World War I. In many ways it was as old-fashioned as the 19th century in terms of social attitudes, but women were agitating for change, class differences were slowly eroding, and new technologies were changing the world. So Lady Frances was born, followed by my fictionalized Alice Roosevelt. What I love doing is showing that although women didn't even have the vote then in Britain or the U.S., many women still found ways of grabbing power and building lives for themselves separate from husbands and fathers.

How do you research your books?
I spend a lot of time online! I'll pore over images of outfits to make sure my characters are accurately dressed. What kinds of handguns were available in 1906? What motorcars were in production? (Lady Frances rides in the first Rolls Royce model!) I'm also checking protocol sites: How do you address an Anglican archdeacon? The second son of a duke?

That's the concrete info. Looking at historical attitudes is more complex. How did the wealthy think about the servants in their homes? How did everyone talk to each other? There's a lot to be gleaned from reading period fiction. Arthur Conan Doyle populated the Sherlock Holmes books with everyone from beggars to dukes, so he's a great primary source. H.G. Wells is also helpful. Sometimes it can be hard to research subtle or controversial attitudes, like Edwardian attitudes on homosexuality, and I need to do a lot of poking around: what were the laws, for example, and how strictly were they enforced?

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
Plotting is hard! With my first novel, I just wandered, and found myself down a lot of blind alleys. I would lose track of where I was going. It was fun, but I wasted a lot of time. So now I rigorously lay out my plots before I write the first paragraph. It may change—a scene may not work as I want, or I see another twist adds more tension. But then I stop and go back to the outline for the long view. I may spend a week or more on outlining before starting a new book.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
My daughters got me a T-shirt for Father's Day that said "Be careful or I'll put you in my novel." Certainly real people are inspirations. Lady Frances is—like me—a Vassar graduate, and I knew dozens of young women like her when I was there.

Sometimes I invent a place: The Caledonia, the apartment building where Alice Roosevelt lives with her aunt, is based on the real-life Dakota in New York's upper west side. Inventing a place gives me more creative freedom, and works as long as I don't stray too far from reality.

One character—I won’t say who or in which story!—is based on a girl I knew when we were 16. I wonder if she'd be upset or amused.

Who is your favorite author?
That's a tough one. Although I write mysteries, two of my favorite authors are in other genres: Isaac Asimov and J.R.R. Tolkien. Among mystery writers, there are three I rely on for inspiration: Agatha Christie for plotting, Rex Stout for dialog and character, and Georges Simenon for setting a scene.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I think I've forgotten how to use a pen. I learned to type on a manual typewriter when I was 12 and now work on a laptop.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Accessories to Die For

On a beautiful sunny day in Santa Fe, the grounds of the Palace of the Governors are covered with Native Americans selling jewelry and handcrafted items. Irene Seligman meanders to her friend Juanita Calabrasa's display and coaxes a tourist into buying an exquisite necklace, handcrafted by the Kewa woman.

Later in the day, Juanita stops into Irene's Closet, the elite resale shop Irene owns to thank her. Juanita's son Danny, a talented musician, is still missing and she has a bad feeling about him. She doesn't believe the police are really looking for him because of his previous drug connection. Juanita does believe his spirit has not gone to the ancestors because the local tribal medicine man Tony did a ceremony saying he was with the Frenchman. This puzzles Irene too.

In spite of Juanita's efforts to coax Danny out of the drug culture, he seems to have fallen in with some very undesirable people. Irene fears for Danny as well as her shop
assistant Angel. She is also puzzled by the implication that the "Frenchman" is stealing Native American artifacts. When Juanita confesses that Danny is the one who stole the sacred necklace and gave it to the Frenchman, Irene is stunned by the news. When Juanita says "Now I think the Frenchman must die," Irene is chilled.

Later that evening she sees Danny, stoned, and being lead away by a friend. She wants to let Juanita know he is alive, but has no way to reach her. The next morning the body of the director of a Paris arts auction house is found on land belonging to the Kewa tribe. Irene wonders what Juanita could have done. When she is arrested the next day, Irene hates to think the worst.

Along with her irascible mother Adelle and P.J. Bailey, Santa Fe's most high profile criminal lawyer, they try find the killer, locate Danny and retrieve the sacred necklace.

Another fun book in this series by Paula Paul. For my review of A Closet Can Be A Killer click here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Deadly Eclair

Weddings are supposed to be fun. They are not supposed to have a dead body with an eclair stuffed in his mouth at the event. In A Deadly Eclair: A French Bistro Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber, that's only the beginning of the trouble.

After her disastrous marriage ended tragically, Chef Mimi Rousseau returned home to Nouvelle Vie, California, to open a bistro with an attached bed and breakfast inn. Thanks to her benefactor and friend Bryan Baker, she is able to work her way out of the tremendous debt she "inherited" when her husband died. Also with his help, she is back in business.

The opening splash for the Bistro and Inn was to be Bryan's niece and talk show host Angelica Barrington's wedding. At the special out-of-towners dinner the night before the wedding, everything seems to be going smoothly.

But there is tension among Angelica's fiance, his father and sister. There's also an undercurrent of
anger between Bryan and Angelica's father, especially after he arrives late and slightly drunk. When he produces a beautiful gold necklace with a stunning aquamarine pendant on it, there isn't a dry eye in the room. It had been Angelica's mother's and she had always said to wear it on her wedding day.

Mimi breathes a sign of relief when the dinner is over and looks forward to the lovely wedding the next day. At quarter to six the next morning, Angelica is pounding on Mimi's door and drags her to the Bistro's kitchen. There she finds Bryan dead with an eclair stuffed in his mouth. This was not the way a wedding day should begin.

There are many twists and turns to the plot and they form an interesting mystery. The characters are very believable and Mimi's Bistro makes me want to dine there, sans the corpse near the kitchen.

For other books by Daryl Wood Gerber, click here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Murder Under the Bridge

Murder Under the Bridge by Kate Rachael is billed as the first in A Palestine Mystery series. I really wanted to like this book because of the exotic location and the lead character, but after a while, I just wanted something to happen.

Rania is a Palestinian policewoman and she is asked by Captain Mustafa to discover why a Palestinian car has been abandoned on the top of a bridge. The Israelis have closed the road beneath the bridge inconveniencing Palestinians who live in the occupied territory.

As she is investigating below the bridge, she stumbles upon the body of a dead foreign woman. Figuring there must be a relationship between the abandoned car and the woman, she does not want to tell the Israeli police about it, fearing their response.

The book plods through explaining the complex political situation
between the Israelis and the Palestinians and shows how the Palestinians are usually treated unfairly by the army. Page after page, I kept waiting for something to develop. The side story of the American freelance documentary maker filming activities pretty much led nowhere for long periods.

The smattering of Arabic and Hebrew along with the English translations was disconcerting for me and made reading choppy and distracting. I realize this was done for authenticity, but I could have done with less of it.

Click here for other books by Kate Jessica Raphael.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Revisiting Mary Stewart

An interview with Julia Buckley sent me on a mission to reread three books by Mary Stewart. They are This Rough Magic, The Moonspinners and My Brother Michael.  Although they were written in the 1960s, they still are relevant today. Stewart's descriptive writing and character development is timeless. The plots are tightly woven and even though some of her references are dated, the stories still ring true.

In This Rough Magic, actress Lucy Waring is between roles so she heads to her sister's home on the island of Corfu in western Greece. She expects only to sun bathe and take leisurely swims, but suddenly finds herself in the middle of intrigue and murder.

She meets acclaimed, but reclusive British actor Sir. Julian Gale and his not-so-friendly son Max at their home on the island. Sir Julian is rumored to have had a nervous breakdown after the deaths of his wife and daughter and has retired from the stage. Lucy is captivated by his story of The Tempest and its connection to Corfu. First there are the twins Prospero (Spiro) and Miranda, Sir Julian's godchildren. Next are the island's legendary caves and then the dolphins.

When one of the twins is reported drowned in a boat accident and then another fisherman dies in mysterious circumstances, Lucy is drawn in. What she finds is an ingenious operation that threatens the lives of everyone in her tight circle.

In The Moonspinners Nicola Ferris arrives a day early on the island of Crete and impulsively decides
to hike into the mountains. She stumbles on an injured Englishman and his Greek companion hiding in a shepherd's hut and attempting to search for their third companion, a missing teenager. Although they want her to disappear and forget about them, she cannot. Once in the village she quietly tries to discover what has become of the teenager and what nefarious plot is afoot.

Plenty of local color and terrific descriptions of the Cretan hills add to the charm. Nicola is a clever, intrepid sleuth. I enjoyed reading this book as much as I did the first time I read it long ago, and I always liked the book better than the movie version!

The third book is My Brother Michael. Lamenting
"Nothing ever happens to me," Camilla Haven suddenly becomes Monsieur Simon's girl and delivering a car to Delphi is a matter of life and death. Stuck with the car, Camilla decides she was heading to Delphi anyway and heads off awkwardly driving the car into the Greek countryside.

Once there she meets a man named Simon, but he doesn't have any idea about the car. They try to find another Simon, but none is to be found. In the meantime, Camilla has the opportunity to explore the glorious site of Delphi and Simon makes the perfect guide. Camilla learns he is there to find the site where his brother Michael died after World War II.

What they find is murder, smuggling and a secret so great, it would shock the country.

Ah, I loved these books for their characters and for the beautiful descriptions of the wonders of
Greece.  Reread them, you will be glad you did. My copies of the books from long ago.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Interview with Juliet Blackwell

How many books have you published? That’s a surprisingly difficult question! I think it’s up to twenty or so at this point, but I always have to stop and think: 4 Art Lovers mysteries; 7 Haunted Home Renovation mysteries; 8 Witchcraft mysteries; and 2 standalone Paris-based novels. But there are two others already written and in the publishing pipeline…so that’s 21 published, with more in process.

Under what names do you publish?
I wrote my first series, the Art Lovers mysteries, with my sister, under the name Hailey Lind. All my other books have been written as Juliet Blackwell.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?

Every author follows a unique schedule, a timeline that works for her (and her lifestyle!) When I first started writing I was a single mother with my own business, so I would get up at four and work until six in the morning – it was the only time I could find for myself. But now that I write full time and have no kids in the house, I’m a lot lazier.

Still, I write best first thing in the morning – before any social media, or human interactions of any kind. Later in the day I’ll work on editing or research or other writing-related items (blog posts, interview questions, etc) but the truly creative work is done upon first waking, before the worries of the day get into my head. When I’m under deadline I’ll often get another burst of creative energy in the evening, after dinner, and sometimes write into the wee hours – but only when under deadline.

Since I work as a full-time writer, I usually adhere to two thousand words a day, up to five thousand when under imminent deadline. After five thousand I get a little brain dead. But I find that without a goal it’s too easy to fall behind, and since this is my full-time work I don’t have many excuses for not meeting the two thousand word goal.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I’m more of a “pantser” than a plotter—in other words, I write primarily by the seat of my pants. My editor asks me for a synopsis before I start writing a book, but often the synopsis is a simple paragraph describing the setting, main characters, and basic plot overview. If I’m working on an entirely new series or a standalone novel, I usually work up a more involved plot outline – but truth to tell, once I start writing I veer off my outline within the first few chapters. To me, part of the magic of writing is allowing the characters to “speak” to me as we go along, to dictate the story and influence the direction of the plot. Things happen on the page that I had never planned for – and that’s the fun of writing!

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
In the broader sense, always. I was trained as an anthropologist, and I can’t help myself: whether I’m at a party or on public transportation, walking around the lake or having dinner at a restaurant, I observe the people around me. How they interact, what they look like, special mannerisms. I take notes, and go back to them when I’m creating characters. I find my imagination doesn’t hold a candle to the variety of humans (and their idiosyncratic behavior) in the world!

Who is your favorite author?
You ask deceptively simple questions, without easy answers! I have several favorites, depending on my mood. I love a few of the classics –Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, J.R.R.Tolkien. I discovered Elizabeth Peters as a teenager and fell in love with her mysteries, including the paranormal ones written under the pen name of Barbara Michaels. As an adult, I enjoy Barbara Kingsolver and Sherman Alexie and Richard Russo, as well as Janet Evanovich and Stephen King. I also adore the essays of Anne Lamott and David Sedaris. So I’m really all over the map when it comes to reading materials.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Ah, finally, an easy one! I write the bulk of my work on the computer, though I’m a compulsive note taker so I never leave the house without pen and paper. I also work out any plot issues or character problems with pen to paper – the physicality of it seems to help the process. But I’m no longer used to writing entire scenes longhand; the word processor is a great help.

Check out reviews of Juliet Blackwell's books Letters from Paris and A Ghostly Light 
For other books by Juliet Blackwell, click here.