Today Anna Gerard is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Peachy Scream, her latest novel in the Georgia B&B mystery series.
Welcome, Anna. 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.
Hello! Yes, Peachy Scream is the second in the Georgia B&B Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books. The stories feature my protagonist, Nina Fleet. Recently divorced and wanting to flee the big city rat race, she moves to Cymbeline, a small Georgia town west and south of Savannah. Nina uses a chunk of her substantial divorce settlement (her ex is a pro golfer) to purchase a lovely Queen Anne home. In book one, Peach Clobbered, she’s somewhat arm-twisted into turning place into a bed and breakfast inn. After hosting a displaced convent’s worth of elderly nuns, she decides she likes her new career and formally commits to being an innkeeper. And the action of Peachy Scream continues from there.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
This series actually has been kicking around in my head and on paper for a very long time. With Death in a Shakespeare Garden being its original title, Peachy Scream was supposed to be the first in the series but ended up as book two. And, the series originally was set in East Texas in a fictional town based on a real-life town where I used to go antiquing. But the editor asked for the switch to Georgia, so there you go. I’ve always been fascinated by the theatre and am a big fan of Shakespeare’s work, and for years I’ve been wanting to use both as a backdrop for a book.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Underlying all my cozy mysteries is the theme of the importance of friendship and community. Peachy Scream also focuses on the notion of finding one’s place in the world. To thine own self be true, as Polonius advises in Hamlet. Several of the characters struggle to some degree with their personal truth.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
All my protagonists tend to be a version of me (except younger and thinner!). And so by default they become my favorites, although I’m fond of all my characters, particularly the animals. I work hard to make them distinctive people/critters but also want them to be believable. They all have good qualities and not-so-admirable traits, and the occasional quirk, but I prefer not to lapse into parody. Everyone one of these folks is someone you’ve probably met at some time.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Research, of course, and on-site research when possible. If the latter is not something I can readily do, I reach out to my network of friends and fellow writers for help, particularly if they’ve lived in the place (or a similar place) where my story is set. I find that the tiny details—the colors that the buildings are painted, the regional-typical knickknacks found in a character’s house, the snacks everyone eats—are what truly adds verisimilitude to the story.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
When I switched from writing historical romance and historical mystery to contemporary mystery, I thought research would be a snap. But I find myself looking up facts and verifying information as much or more than for a story with a historical setting. The internet as a tool is invaluable, whether it’s to check the requirements to hold the job of coroner in small-town Georgia or learn what time of the year a particular species of peach tree bears fruit. (Just be sure your vet your sources – for example, Wikipedia isn’t the most accurate font of info, but the entries do tend to have valuable bibliographies for further research). Google maps can be helpful, too.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Astute readers will recognize traditional Shakespearean tropes and references in Peachy Scream, and they should be sure to judge the story accordingly – this is not meant as social commentary. Bottom line, I think the story is a fun time, and I hope you will, too.
Thanks for answering my questions, Anna, and good luck with Peachy Scream, the latest book in the Georgia B&B Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Anna Gerard: DIANE A.S. STUCKART writes as Anna Gerard. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series (writing as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries, as well as several historical romances and numerous mystery, fantasy, and romance short stories. The first book in her Tarot Cats Mystery series is FOOL’S MOON. Her Georgia B&B Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books launched July 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED, written as Anna Gerard. Book 2, PEACHY SCREAM is now available.
Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America and served as the 2018 and 2019 Chapter President of the MWA Florida chapter, receiving the “Flamingo” Chapter Service award in 2019. She’s also a member of Sister in Crime. In addition to her mystery writing affiliations, she’s a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and belongs to the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association. Diane is a native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, but has been living in the West Palm Beach FL area since 2006. She shares her “almost in the Everglades” home with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives.