Today Christina Freeburn is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Dash Away All, her latest novel in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted mystery series.
Welcome, Christina. 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.
Yes, Dash Away All is the third book in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery series. The series all have a Christmassy title: Not A Creature Was Stirring (1), Better Watch Out (2), and Dash Away All (3). The series features Merry Winters, an empty nester who specializes in handcrafting Christmas décor and gift items. After Merry’s children grow up and move out, she decided it was time to stretch her dreams and herself as her children were no longer dependent on her. Her first throw-all-caution-to-the-wind moment though led her investigating a murder to keep herself out of jail.
In this book, Merry is excited that she’s having a big dream-come-true moment after being hired as the on-site crafter for a Christmas mystery movie titled Dash Away All. She loves all things Christmas, especially Christmas movies and is now, in a way, going to be in one. Her joy is short-lived when the night she arrives things start going very wrong, and the Queen of Christmas movies Luna Carmichael is a little more grinchy than one expects from a Christmas icon.
When Luna’s assistant Marie dies in an accident, Merry discovers things that points to the accident being not quite so accidental, and she can’t help wondering if Luna was the real target. And worse, Merry doesn’t know who to trust as everyone on the set seems to either be keeping secrets or creating an alternative truth.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I wanted to write a Christmas-in-July book and figured that a Christmas movie set was the perfect way to bring the holiday into the summertime. And with Merry being a crafter having her hired to create the crafts was a great reason she was hired for the movie but…can’t say anymore as I don’t want to give anything away.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
I wanted to explore the issue of “editing” personal stories and how much are we entitled to know about another person. I scrapbook and in some of the groups I’m in there have been discussions about whether it’s dishonest not to document everything in a family scrapbook (the bad memories along with the good), or if individuals have the right to keep some of their personal story private. With Merry having been abandoned as a baby, I felt this was a good theme to explore with her, especially with the backdrop of a movie where people are pretending to be someone else.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
I tend to create characters differently for each book. For this one, there were roles I needed filled for the story to be balanced and some of the characters came from that. My main characters usually are a result from me wanting to deal with something in my life and I find that easier to do it through the heroines. Usually that’s where my themes and the “heart” struggle for the character comes from…I’ve never had to do any amateur sleuthing.
I have a hard time saying any of the characters are my favorite as it feels like I’m picking one child over another. I will admit that some characters are more fun to write than others. I love writing Merry because of all the Christmas I get to add in when she’s in the story. In the Merry & Bright series, I have a great time writing Cornelius who is a bah humbug to Merry’s Christmas cheer. And Ebenezer, Merry’s guinea pig, is so a blast to write. I love creating mischief he can get into.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I always set the main part of my stories in a fictional town, so I “steal” from a couple of different places I have visited or lived and use those pieces to create the location. It’s hard for me to find an actual place that fits what I need for the book I’m working on and it works better for me to just make up my own town.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
For this book, I did some research on Christmas movie making. I wanted to make sure I had enough details to add authenticity to the scenes and in a way that seemed natural for Merry to know since the book is written in first person. When there was something that she wouldn’t know, I worked on her learning about in a way that was natural considering her role in the movie.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
This book had even me confused on who the murderer was. It switched three different times. I always start the book knowing who and why of the crime but this time the who and why switched after a character “told” me what the secondary secret (the true big secret) they were keeping. And even then, I was wrong and didn’t see who the killer was into working on the first edit. Fortunately, my wonderful editor was on board with me reworking the story, so the real culprit was revealed. What was interesting about all of this is there were already clues in the book pointing to this person that I hadn’t realized were there.
Thanks for answering my questions, Christina, and good luck with Dash Away All, the latest book in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Christina Freeburn: Christinas has always loved books. There was nothing better than picking up a story and being transported to another place. The love of reading evolved into the love of writing and she’s been writing since her teenage years. Her first novel was a 2003 Library of Virginia Literary Award nominee. Her mysteries series, Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery and Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mysteries, are a mix of crafty and crime and feature heroines whose crafting time is interrupted by crime solving.
Christina served in the US Army and has also worked as a paralegal, librarian, church secretary, and golf shop pro. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid and allergic to felines.