Today Cate Conte is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Witch Hunt, her first novel in the Full Moon mystery series.
Welcome, Cate. 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.
Thanks for having me! My new book, Witch Hunt, is the first in the Full Moon Mystery Series, featuring crystal shop owner Violet Mooney, who discovers that she’s a witch.
Here’s a blurb about it:
Murder isn’t always crystal-clear . . . especially when the prime suspect discovers she’s a witch.
Violet Mooney owns The Full Moon crystal shop in quaint North Harbor, Connecticut. Still grieving her beloved grandmother’s recent unexpected death, she takes comfort in her fat orange cat Monty and her work. Not everyone in town is thrilled with her business, however. When disagreeable town councilwoman Carla Fernandez picks a fight over Violet’s “voodoo shop,” the two have a very public confrontation. Of course, when Carla turns up dead, Violet gets little sympathy from the police as suspect #1.
But the shock of two policemen showing up at her door pales in comparison to the sudden appearance of her estranged mother Fiona and a surprise sister, Zoe. What Fiona reveals will rock her world and her sense of self—and reawaken her long-dormant mysterious power. Good thing. She’s gonna need it . . .
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I used to be a reporter in a past life, and I saw firsthand the nastiness that occurred at the local level relating to business and politics. It always fascinated me, and I saw an opportunity to couple that here with a common but wildly inaccurate belief that things like crystals and other metaphysical practices are “bad” or “evil” or “voodoo.” The set-up of the mortal murder happens when local councilwoman Carla Fernandez accuses Violet very publicly of operating a voodoo shop – and she later winds up strangled in the local fountain, with Violet as the prime suspect. Of course Violet didn’t do it, but it was a nice way to tie the two ideas together.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
There are a lot of themes in this book! In most of my books, I tend to explore family relationships – especially mother/daughter relationships, and that is true in this case as well. Violet and her mother have been separated for 27 years, so there’s a lot to unpack in that relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the series.
I also wanted to touch on the idea of power, and how the quest for it can lead people astray and potentially cause a ripple effect of ugliness throughout the world, which is an element in the magickal world Violet winds up inhabiting.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
I like to take traits, habits, physical appearance and other quirks from people I know and blend together into my characters. They all also have a (small) bit of me in them – for instance, the protagonist of my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries (by my alter ego Liz Mugavero) featured an animal loving, coffee drinking protagonist. While those two traits clearly mirror mine, Stan Connor was also tall (not me), long (also not me) and a gourmet pet food chef (definitely not me).
Violet is also a coffee drinker, as is Maddie James in my Cat Cafe Mysteries, and they both also love animals. And I definitely share Violet’s love of crystals.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I like to take real towns and fictionalize them – meaning, I keep elements of the real place but change it up to suit the needs of the story. And I change the names, too. I find it’s not so great to murder someone in a coffee shop and use the same name as your favorite coffee shop – they tend to not let you back in when you do things like that! So by building off of what already exists, it helps me capture the feeling of the place when I’m making other things up.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
It really depends on the story. For this book, I’ve done research on witches and crystals my whole life – but I still spend a ton of time researching lesser-known stones and their healing properties so when readers are in the store with Violet they feel like they are learning something. For past books I’ve done things like work in a funeral home, tour a dairy farm, and spend time in Newport, RI (definitely the most fun!).
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I had a ton of fun writing it and I hope you do reading it! I love magic and witchy things and being able to incorporate all that into a book is really a dream come true.
Thanks for answering my questions, Cate, and good luck with Witch Hunt, the first book in the Full Moon Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Cate Conte: Cate is the alter ego of Liz Mugavero. Liz is the author of the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series from Kensington Books, the first of which was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. Cate is the author of the new Full Moon Mysteries for Kensington and writes the Cat Cafe Mystery series for Minotaur Books. As you can imagine, her canine and feline rescues demand the best organic food and treats around. She is a member of Sisters in Crime National, Sisters in Crime New England, Mystery Writers of America, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She currently lives in Connecticut.