Today Amy Patricia Meade is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Garden Club Murder, her latest novel in the Tish Tarragon mystery series.
Welcome, Amy. 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.
APM: THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER is the second entry in my Tish Tarragon cozy culinary mystery series. Tish Tarragon is a Richmond, Virginia investment banker who quits her job and moves to the small town of Hobson Glen to pursue her dream of operating a café and catering business – the aptly named Cookin’ the Books, which is also the title of the first book in the series – that features literary inspired menus. Soon after opening her business, Tish discovers that she has a flair for solving crimes.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
APM: The idea behind THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER occurred to me while my husband and I were living in an adult community in Wiliiamsburg, Virginia. I noticed a man walking a little West Highland terrier who stopped periodically to relieve himself on neighbourhood lawns.
A few days later, the neighbors ‘visited’ by this dog complained to the homeowner’s association that their neatly manicured lawns were riddled with yellow patches.
There was quite an uproar, but as no one knew the identity of the dog walker little could be done other than to post some ineffective ‘Keep Pets off the Grass” signs.
My husband and I moved to England before ever learning the identity of the dog we’d named ‘The Powhattan Piddler’ but the incident was the inspiration behind THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER”s victim, Sloane Shackleford, and his dog, biscuit.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
APM: I’m not certain there’s a theme, but as the story takes place at an over-sixty housing development, I wanted to make sure I painted the residents of this community as vibrant, active human beings with loves and heartbreaks and interesting past stories, as well as potential for future stories. Just because they’re older and retired doesn’t mean they’ve stopped learning about and enjoying life.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
APM: I create my characters using both observation and imagination. I do a lot of people-watching in my spare time (to which my husband can attest!), so when it comes time to sit down and create a character I draw upon the mannerisms, personality traits, and even some of the dialogue I may have overheard, and blend them together to create a unique individual who is also—I hope – relatable and quite human.
I love all the characters in the Tish Tarragon series, but my favourite might be Tish’s best friend, Julian Jefferson Davis. Julian is the local tv weatherman with aspirations of becoming a serious journalist, however he’s best known for a viral clip of him being carried away by a snowplow outside the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. He’s so off-the-wall and yet down-to-earth and lovable. One never knows what Julian is going to get himself into next so it’s both liberating and fun writing for him. Nothing is off-limits.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
APM: As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I lived in Virginia for a time, so I have first hand experience of the heat, humidity, the different accents, the culture, and the food. I think it’s important to follow that old adage, ‘Don’t tell. Show.’ I try to paint a picture of Hobson Glen not just through the physical descriptions of the town, but also through the colloquialisms used by Tish’s assistant, Celestine, or the traditional Christmas dinner being served at a particular character’s home.
In this particular book, I gave myself the challenge of describing the gardens in contention for top prize. I wanted those gardens to reflect the personalities of the gardeners tending them, so we have a modern garden with pampas grass and a wall cascade, an English cottage garden, etc. What I tried to do was not just describe the plants in terms of appearance, but by texture, smell, and the ambiance created.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
APM: THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER required extensive research into plants that are native to Virginia and when they might be blooming. There’s also a bit of plant chemistry involved in the story. I try to do that research as I plot the book, but often, a question comes up when crafting a subplot or when a character takes me in another direction. That could be something as simple as “What day of the week was February 14, 1968?’ or as complex as ‘What’s the process for overwintering dahlias?” Thank goodness for Google!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
APM: I’ve been asked and have seen comments by reviewers regarding the lack of recipes in my books. Like its predecessor, COOKIN’ THE BOOKS, THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER does not feature recipes, but I’m happy to report that readers will find recipes for two of the cakes served at the luncheon on my website in the months to come. Also, I’m currently working on Tish Tarragon #3, which is set during the holiday season and will include recipes for two of the menu items featured in the novel.
Thanks for answering my questions, Amy, and good luck with The Garden Club Murder, the latest book in the Tish Tarragon Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Amy Patricia Meade: The Author of the critically acclaimed Marjorie McClelland Mysteries, she is is a native of Long Island, NY where she cut her teeth on classic films and books featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. After stints as an Operations Manager for a document imaging company and a freelance technical writer, Amy left the bright lights of New York City and headed north to pursue her creative writing career amidst the idyllic beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Now residing in Bristol, England, Amy spends her time writing mysteries with a humorous or historical bent. When not writing, Amy enjoys traveling, testing out new recipes, classic films, and exploring her new home.