The best part of writing for the Cozy Corner is finding new mysteries and meeting new authors. Some of the series I’ve followed from book one, others I’ve picked up at book nine, or fifteen—wondering at each turn of the page, how I could have possibly missed such a fabulous series! Yet I know I can’t possible read them all, and maybe that’s a good thing. Because when I round the corner, there’s still that anticipation of what I’ll see next. What mystery is left for me to figure out.
2016 has an awesome line-up of mysteries in store for us, but maybe you’ve missed a book you shouldn’t have this year. Maybe the author, who will reach out and touch you in a way no other could, has already visited the Cozy Corner. Maybe it’s time to review our list of mysteries that don’t belong on anyone’s cold case list yet;)
To end the year, I thought I’d reflect on the interviews that warmed my heart, made me laugh, and allowed me to meet my hero. I hope you’ll enjoy my best moments of 2015.
In January, 2015 I interviewed two authors who like to visit the past, but in two very different ways. T.C. LoTiempo the author of the Nick & Nora Mysteries, MEOW IF IT’S MURDER, gave her readers a nostalgic look at Hollywood mysteries old.
About T.C. LoTempio
Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.
Kym: In your novel your characters have the same names as the husband and wife duo in ‘The Thin Man,’ a book by Dashiell Hammett that was made into a movie in 1934 and then later a TV series. What about that story appealed to you and inspired you to use it as a reference for your new series?
T.C. I’ve always been a big William Powell fan, the Thin Man movies in particular. One night I was watching the movie on tv and my cat ROCCO jumped onto my lap. I thought, “What if Nick were investigating a murder, got killed and came back as a cat?” Thus was born the first draft of Nick and Nora, which Berkley subsequently changed (In the first version, the detective was reincarnated as the cat and the cat talked to Nora)
About Eva Gates
Eva Gates is also known as Canadian crime writer Vicki Delany.
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst, Vicki enjoys the rural life in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
Kym: I love the way you brought the classics by Jane Austen into the mystery. Why did you choose her books as a focus in the storyline?
Eva: The idea of the Jane Austen collection was initially just a background to the mystery: someone is stealing the books. But the more I got into it the more I got Lucy, my character into it. Lucy ended up giving lectures in the life and times of Miss Austen, and I loved dropping bits of Jane trivia. Initially, the library was going to have a mystery book club. But then we decided that a lot of mystery series these days have mystery book clubs so we wanted something different. I liked the idea of a classic novel reading group, and I’ll be expanding on that. In BOOKED FOR TROUBLE they are reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and in READING UP A STORM, it’s KIDNAPPED. The plot in the books will, very slightly, reflect the novels the book club is reading.
In February, I interviewed not only a friend and mentor, but one heck of an author, Melissa Bourbon or Misa Ramirez, about her Magical Dressmaking Mystery release, A SEAMLESS MURDER. Misa touches the heart with every page she writes, and easily transports her readers into lives of the Cassidy women of Bliss, Texas.
About Melissa Bourbon
Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, is the marketing director with Entangled Publishing. She is the founder of Books on the House, the co-founder of The Naked Hero and The Writer’s Guide to ePulblishing, and is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL, two indie published romantic suspense novels, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox.
Kym: It’s hard to believe that A SEAMLESS MURDER is your sixth book in the series. Each one is a fresh, stand-alone mystery. What helps you keep your character’s so interesting throughout the series?
Misa: Thanks! For me, it’s important that the characters grow. In the old mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s many books, the sleuths remain a constant, never changing, never growing, and never having much going on in their own lives. That’s not true of today’s cozy mystery sleuths. They have lives, hobbies, families, lovers, friends, and everything in between.
Harlow Cassidy is no exception. But I didn’t want her to just have a boyfriend who would always be a boyfriend, for example. I wanted their relationship to grow and develop with each book. Loretta Mae, Harlow’s great-grandmother, is a ghost. I didn’t want her fully formed as an otherworldly entity in book one, so I thought about what it would be like for her to try to communicate, and how Harlow would deal with Meemaw as a ‘person’ in her life. How would their relationship evolve over time and as they learn to communicate better?
These are just some of the decisions I made at the beginning, and there are many more. I think each of these types of decisions helps keep the series fresh.
In April I had the pleasure of interviewing Naomi Hirahara about her book GRAVE ON GRAND AVENUE, An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery. Obviously any mystery with a female cop will immediately catch my attention, add in culture and Ellie Rush is a character to remember!
About Naomi Hirahara
Naomi Hirahara was born in Pasadena, California. Her father, Isamu (known as “Sam”), was also born in California, but was taken to Hiroshima, Japan, as an infant. He was only miles away from the epicenter of the atomic-bombing in 1945, yet survived. Naomi’s mother, Mayumi, or “May,” was born in Hiroshima and lost her father in the blast. Shortly after the end of World War II, Sam returned to California and eventually established himself in the gardening and landscaping trade in the Los Angeles area. After Sam married May in Hiroshima in 1960, the couple made their new home in Altadena and then South Pasadena, where Naomi and her younger brother Jimmy grew up and attended secondary school.
Kym: Your last hero was a very quiet, unassuming gardener who found himself in the middle of a homicide investigation when he least expected it. What made you choose a rookie police officer from L.A.P.D. assigned to Bike Patrol as your protagonist for the Ellie Rush Mystery series?
Naomi: Two reasons – one was I tired trying to figure out how an amateur sleuth would get involved in all these murders! It takes a deft hand to create a world in which this is possible. At least with a police officer, the encounters with crime are part of the job. I don’t pretend to be any expert on law enforcement, however, so I made her a rookie and being a bike cop made her even more accessible to her constituents. I also wanted Ellie to have friends and family members who don’t understand her career choice. She still feels pressure from these outside forces; she’s not yet fully integrated in the police force.
My love of mystery, like so many other young girls, started with Nancy Drew. In June I interviewed Penny Pike the author of three incredible cozy mysteries series who released her second Food Festival Mystery, DEATH OF A CHOCOLATE CHEATER. What I learned about Penny’s past, however, caught up with her in our interview.
About Penny Pike
I’ve been writing since I read my first Nancy Drew in 6th grade. Since then I’ve had over 50 books published, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children. I’ve been lucky — my books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries, including Russia, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Israel, Poland, Japan, and China. My best-sellers include Healthy Snacks for Kids, Kids’ Party Games and Activities, Best Party Book, Games People Play, Kids’ Holiday Fun, Learn to Sign the Fun Way, Baby Play and Learn, Kids Pick-A-Party, and Kids’ Party Cookbook.
Kym: Before we get into your Food Festival Mystery release, I’ve got to ask, how did you get the opportunity to write The Official Handbook of Nancy Drew? (For our readers, you’ve got to check out the Nancy Drew Scrapbooks available for sale on Penny’s website.)
Penny: I was having lunch with my agent at Full Circle Literary and happened to be taking notes in my Nancy Drew notebook. She asked if I might be interested in doing the handbook and I jumped on it. I reread all the first books in the series and realized how much I’d learned from reading Nancy Drew as a kid.
You and me both, Penny;)
June also brought author, Annie Knox, or Wendy Lynn Watson to the Cozy Corner. I’ve known Annie/Wendy for years, so it was a pleasure to interview one of my favorite authors who has a knack for mystery. We also may have had lunch;)
About Annie Knox
Annie Knox doesn’t commit–or solve–murders in her real life, but her passion for animals is 100% true. She’s also a devotee of 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. While Annie is a native Buckeye and has called a half dozen states “home,” she and her husband now live a stone’s throw from the courthouse square in a north Texas town, in their very own crumbling historic house.
Kym: COLLARED FOR MURDER is set around a cat show, and to be honest, I’d never heard of a cat show. The image of a cat doing an obstacle course doesn’t quite compute for me like it does with a dog. (OMG, what a K-9 snob!) Yet your scene made it totally believable, which made me Google it. Wow, a whole new world! Did you attend a cat show for research or did your knowledge develop naturally with your love of felines?
Wendy: I did go to a cat show in Oklahoma City. It wasn’t as grand as the cat show in COLLARED FOR MURDER, and there was no agility component, but it was great fun. Such a friendly crowd, too. I mentioned to one of the judges that I was an author doing research, and she gave me running commentary while she judged a round. Another woman, who was showing her Maine coon, gave me all sorts of background information . . . as well as some of the juicier scandals that cat shows can breed.
I rounded out my summer by interviewing one of my heroes—and not a fictional one! I’ve been a fan of Kinsey Millhone since college and Sue Grafton was as gracious an author as I’ve ever met. She didn’t hesitate when I contacted her directly and begged for an interview. When I met her at a book signing for her latest release “X” she not only remembered me, but hugged me tight. How awesome is that?
About Sue Grafton
Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages—
including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She’s an
international bestseller with a readership in the millions.
She’s a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen
to mine: “The mystery novel offers a world in which justice
is served. Maybe not in a court of law,” she has said, “but
people do get their just desserts.” And like Raymond
Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D.
MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect
for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style,
her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute
social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents.
Kym: It’s not often that a fictional character becomes an icon who sets the mold for a genre like Kinsey has for female sleuths. Did you ever imagine she would become such a major player in the mystery world?
Sue: My job is to operate like a recording secretary, reporting Ms. Millhone’s adventures as well as her observations, snarky comments, and her unsolicited opinions. I never think of her as a ‘major player.’ I see her as a tough, demanding boss and all-around pain in the ass. She’s also amusing, but that’s between the two of us. You have no idea the things she suggests that I hav to veto in the interest of good taste.
Like having too many great mysteries to choose from, I had too many wonderful interviews in 2015 to cover them all. I also interviewed Elisabeth Crabtree about her release CUPID’S DEADLY AIM, A Grace Holliday Cozy Mystery, Fran Stewart about her Scotshop Mystery, A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, Paige Shelton who was celebrating the release of her seventh Farmer’s Market Mystery novel, BUSHEL FULL OF MURDER, Livia J. Washburn for her ninth Fresh-Baked Mystery, TRICK OR DEADLY TREAT, Lynn Cahoon about her South Cove, California Tourist Trap Mystery, KILLER RUN, and Rebecca Adler for her debut cozy mystery release HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE A Taste of Texas Mystery.
I also featured countless cozy mysteries for you to choose from, but my library isn’t full yet! 2016 is going to be a year for us to sit back, relax, and read on! So until next year, be safe and get cozy!
mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on
the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on
Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her newest release, FLIRTING
WITH THE DESIRE, the Noble Pass Affaire series available for a limited time only.