Today Jennifer S. Alderson is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death by Windmill, her latest novel in the Travel Can Be Murder mystery series.
Welcome, Jennifer. 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.
In Death by Windmill, tour guide Lana Hansen must sleuth out who killed one of her guests, in order to set her own mother free.
Death by Windmill is the third book in my Travel Can Be Murder cozy mystery series. In this book, tour guide Lana Hansen is leading a Mother’s Day-themed tour through the Netherlands when one of her guests either plummets from, or is pushed off of, a windmill. Lana’s mother is arrested for the crime, but Lana is certain she did not do it, and must figure out who did before her tour through the Netherlands is over!
In my Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series, Lana Hansen leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly. Making travel a central part of the series means each story is set in a different location, instead of the same small town. However, because I don’t want these novels to turn into travelogues, the confrontations, eavesdropping, and sleuthing take place during the group’s day tours, so readers get a mystery and trip in one.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The murder in Death by Windmill came to me while visiting the Zaanse Schans, a tiny village famous for its windmills that is quite close of Amsterdam. When I was standing up on one of the windmill’s observation platforms – a wide balcony skirting the outside – and watching the massive blades swooshing by, all I could think was what a great way that would be to kill someone. Luckily, my husband – who was accompanying me at the time – knows that I only murder on paper!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Each story is set during a different holiday, which helps give readers a point of reference and me a way to tailor the murder and storyline to another theme. These holidays also help me to choose the location of each book.
For example, Death on the Danube: A New Year’s Murder in Budapest, the first book in the series, takes place in Budapest during New Year’s Eve. Because the city is famous for its fireworks shows and winter markets, I thought this would be a wonderful setting and holiday theme to start the series off with.
In book two, Death by Baguette: A Valentine’s Day Murder in Paris, Lana is accused of murdering her boyfriend in the City of Love. In Death by Windmill: A Mother’s Day Murder in Amsterdam, Lana’s mother is the prime suspect in a tourist’s death. I figured Amsterdam, the flower capital of the world, would be a good setting for this story!
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
The older main characters in this series are inspired by my own extensive family, or at least partially so. Lana’s boss, Dotty Thompson, may be my favorite because she is based on two of my favorite aunts – Jean and Dutch, two incredibly strong, wonderful, and independent women who I greatly admired. Unfortunately both are now deceased. Writing the dialog between Lana and Dotty is like going back in time for me, as I try to think of how my aunts would have responded. It’s quite fun to do!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I bring the locations to life by including what readers would see, smell, taste, and hear while visiting those cities. It does help that I have personally visited each of the locations I am describing, often multiple times.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Though I choose settings I have already visited, in some cases it has been several years since I’ve been. And as we all know, cities are constantly evolving! To start writing the descriptions of place, I revisit my old photos, maps, and journals and draw from my own memories. Once I’ve finished that process, I do read recent travel blogs to ensure that the places I am describing still exist and have not been significantly altered since my last visit.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I know a book can never truly replace the experience of travel, yet I do hope my cozy mysteries help sate readers’ wanderlust during these turbulent times!
Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog!
Thank you for answering my questions, Jennifer, and good luck with Death by Windmill, the latest book in the Travel Can Be Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Jennifer S. Alderson: Jennifer was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning Zelda Richardson Mystery series, Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries, and standalone stories.
After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before settling in the Netherlands. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.