Beverly Allen is here to answer popular questions from readers about her Bridal Bouquet Shop mystery series. The most recent series installment, FOR WHOM THE BLUEBELL TOLLS, is available now from Berkley. Welcome, Beverly!
How did you come up with the characters? Are they based loosely on some folks you know?
Perhaps I had a little inspiration. Audrey Bloom’s Grandma Mae is patterned loosely after my own wonderful grandmother. But that’s probably the closest parallel. Much of the character development starts with Audrey. She’s really the girl next door, or at least that’s what I was aiming for. She doesn’t have it all figured out, but she’s getting there. She has a bit of a romantic streak, especially shown in her love of flowers and for the language of flowers, but it’s balanced with an inherent practicality, normal insecurities, and just a tinge of residual angst, so she’s not so idealistic and sentimental that her feet ever leave the ground.
Where the other people come from is a little more complicated. It’s hard to create a person out of thin air. Some characters, like her cousin Liv, have helped Audrey become the person she is. Others might be antagonistic. Just like real life. A few might have been inspired by real people I knew or people I wish I knew, mixing and matching traits and details, kind of like playing Mr. Potato Head with your friends and family.
The cats, however, are definitely patterned after my cats.
Did you always know a lot about flowers? Or did you learn it for the series?
True confession: Because of some pretty severe allergies, flowers were never really my thing. I had a crash course when I first started writing the series. Since part of Audrey’s charm is that she likes to create bouquets based on the language of flowers, I started a Pinterest page to keep track of the meanings. That helped me learn to recognize a number of unfamiliar flower varieties.
A couple of very nice florists allowed me to hang around their shops for a while and answered a lot of my newbie questions, and there’s a lovely lady at my church who used to run her own flower shop. She reads over the novels before I turn them in. She says I made the flower shop pretty realistic, except maybe a little more pleasant than the norm. She’d love to work with Audrey and Liv!
Besides all the online references and books, I also was able to sign up for a floral design course offered by a local florist to get some hands-on practice. Considering the allergies, that was fun. I was wearing gloves, since sap of some flowers will give me welts, and by the time the class was over, my eyes were burning and I could barely see to drive home. It did, however, give me the inspiration for a character, a police chief with intense allergies to flowers. And for some reason (wink), all the murders in Ramble, Virginia, now take place in the presence of lots of flowers.
What is a day in your writing life like? What is your process?
Well, this is a little embarrassing. Let me first say that a couple of years ago, after my daughter vacated her bedroom, I took the opportunity to repurpose the room into a proper office: floor to ceiling bookshelves (jam-packed with mysteries and my writing and reference books), a daybed (perfect for reading), a sleek glass desk, laser printer, and a display board where I can pin up maps or plots or things I want to keep handy. I imagined long hours in my comfy desk chair, typing away.
Well, that room sits unused, for the most part. Because here’s what really happens:
I wake up half comatose and use the wall to guide myself down the stairs and to the Keurig. I watch a few minutes of the morning news and check email and Facebook. Generally, there’s something waiting on my DVR, so I catch up on that while the caffeine is kicking in. After breakfast and a little more procrastination, I’ll sink into an overstuffed leather chair in my family room, put my feet up, and get to pounding the keys of my laptop.
I tend to plot ahead of time, but my characters don’t always obey my outlines. I write in segments, and I aim for about 500 words in a segment. On busy days, or when I’m struggling with a section, I might only get 500 words in. Most days, however, I try for at least 1,000. But when the words are coming easily and quickly, or if a deadline is looming, I try to capitalize on this by adding segments. I think my record high was about 7,000.
In between segments are usually breaks for coffee, food, maybe a little housework, sometimes a mental break with a game or a program on television. (I’m watching through the Gilmore Girls at the moment.)
For those interested in the details, I generally do not have music on while I write, but when I do, it tends to be instrumental because lyrics distract me. My beverages of choice are decaf coffee, sweetened and with chocolate soymilk, and water with a splash of cranberry juice. And I’m definitely a pajama writer. Only after I’ve finished my writing for the day will I shower and dress. Personally, I think that is one of the biggest perks of the writing life.
Florist Audrey Bloom, co-owner of the Rose in Bloom, creates fragrant bouquets for brides. But when a wedding goes fatally wrong, it’s up to Audrey to sniff out a killer . . .
Everything is coming up roses for Audrey when her dazzling creations are picked to be featured on a wedding reality show. The hot series is filming an episode about a bride who’s bonkers for bells, and Audrey’s bouquets of campanulas, calla lilies, and Bells-of-Ireland are perfect for the bridal theme.
But Audrey’s debut quickly becomes a hothouse of trouble. Her ex, Brad, shows up as a crew member on the show, threatening her blossoming relationship with Nick the baker. To make matters worse, when one of the show’s hosts is found dead in the bell tower of a historic church, all the evidence points toward Brad.
Now Audrey needs to weed out the real killer before someone else’s chance at stardom is permanently nipped in the bud . . .
About Beverly Allen
Barbara Early (A.K.A. Beverly Allen) grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Facebook Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set.
She taught secondary English and science for several years before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance.
When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.