Today Heather Day Gilbert is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, her first novel in the Exotic Pet-Sitter mysteries series.
Welcome, Heather. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
HDG: Yes, Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is the first in a three-book cozy mystery series called the Exotic Pet-Sitter Series. It features amateur sleuth Belinda Blake, who lives in a carriage house in wealthy Greenwich, CT. Her parents live in Upstate New York, and she visits them throughout the series.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
HDG: I wanted to come up with an occupation for my sleuth that hadn’t been overdone in the cozy mystery genre, and somehow I stumbled onto the idea for an exotic pet-sitter. Her first “mission” is sitting a ball python. It was challenging to bring that to life in a way that wouldn’t repulse readers, but I think it worked—one endorser (cozy author Emily James) said that although she didn’t like snakes going into the book, the snake wound up being one of their favorite characters!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
HDG: I wanted to portray a twenty-something year old sleuth who has a strong family support unit, and Belinda does. She has a psychologist sister, Katrina, who’s always telling her to be more careful, as well as loving parents. Family is a kind of a theme running through the series, although Belinda does trip into some romance along the way…
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
HDG: My characters come to life as I write them. In the Exotic Pet-Sitter series, I’d say I’m kind of like a blend between Belinda and her sister, Katrina. But her all-natural, off-grid mom was a delight to write.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
HDG: Well, we lived in Greenwich, CT, when we had our first child, and you could rent carriage houses just like Belinda’s, so I felt very familiar with that area, as well as NYC, which plays into some of the books (we lived there, as well). And with the rural Upstate NY scenes where Belinda’s parents live—we ALSO lived there too, for six years, and rural settings are easiest for me to write because I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia. So I felt highly familiar with all the locales in this series.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
HDG: I did research how Greenwich has changed since we lived there. I do a lot of research for names of places, and later in the series, for the Native American element that played into the final book. Not to mention hours of research on whatever exotic pet I happen to be writing about!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Nothing I can think of! 😉 Thank you!
Thank you for answering my questions, Heather, and good luck with Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, the first book in the Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Heather and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram and sign up for her newsletter.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Heather Day Gilbert: Heather is an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn’t done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers.