Today Marlee Jacob is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Hollyberry Homicide, the latest novel in the Berry Basket mystery series.
Welcome, Marlee. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Thank you asking. I’m Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket shop in Oriole Point, Michigan. I should explain that Oriole Point is a fictional town, and that the shop lives inside the Berry Basket mystery series. I chose a berry themed store because Michigan’s western coastline is known as the Fruit Belt, with orchards and vineyards in every direction. Although I do sell fresh berries when they’re in season, my shop is primarily devoted to berry flavored food products, wines, teas, coffees, vinegars, scented candles, even clothes and ceramics decorated with berries. Thanks to my talented baker Theo, I also offer a mouthwatering selection of berry pastries. I even sell berry flavored jerky! My family isn’t surprised I opened a berry store. My Jacob ancestors were fruit growers both here and in their native Holland, so I guess berries are in my blood.
Because Oriole Point is a beach resort town, we have events scheduled throughout the year to attract even more visitors. Given how common orchards are in the region, many of the festivals highlight berries. My series kicked off during the Strawberry Moon Bash in “Dying for Strawberries”, where a murderer had the audacity to bash me over the head. I suspect the name of the festival may have served as inspiration for the deed. And I had no idea I would be racing for my life during the Blackberry Road Rally in “Blackberry Burial”. Murders also took center-stage during the Blueberry Blowout celebration at our state fairground in “Killed on Blueberry Hill”. Then a frightened resident hoped the magical qualities of mulberries would protect her from a killer during our Halloween Harvest Festival in “Mulberry Mischief”. Let me just say that our annual Halloween Parade contained more thrills than usual.
I now find myself overwhelmed with Christmas preparations in “Hollyberry Homicide”. In addition to decking the halls at my home and shop, I also have to take part in the Hollyberry Market, learn the lines for my role in the local production of “A Christmas Carol”, and try to figure out if the deceased actor I replaced in the play was actually murdered. And I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet!
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?
My writer, Sharon Farrow, has learned that even though she puts together a detailed outline for each book, things often end up surprising her. Since I’m a bit of a control freak, I shoulder much of the blame when stories take an unexpected turn. However, let’s not forget my fellow Oriole Point residents. No one is more bossy than Piper Lyall-Pierce, the head of the Tourist and Visitor Center. I am certain that Piper has convinced Sharon to include her in more scenes than originally planned – and wearing designer duds in each one. Then there is my good friend Natasha, a former Russian beauty queen with an eccentric grasp of the English language. I frequently remind the author that as amusing as Natasha is, she should not be allowed to lead us astray from the main plot. I have had to do the same thing regarding Old Man Bowman, whose obsession with finding Bigfoot seems to amuse the writer a bit too much. To be frank, readers should thank me for keeping the author on point whenever one of her colorful characters demand too much of her attention. So you’re welcome.
How did you evolve as the main character?
Before I became a shop owner, I spent much of my twenties as a TV producer in NYC where I worked for the Gourmet Living Network. I might be there still if one of my cooking show stars hadn’t murdered a fellow chef. Although it was a stressful experience, I’m now grateful for that scandal since it sent me back to my beautiful hometown and the people I love the most.
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?
Because Tess Nakamura is my best friend, I always enjoy spending time with her in the books, even when we stumble upon a dead body, or find ourselves pursued by a crazed killer. And she did me a solid this time around by volunteering to act with me in the local production of “A Christmas Carol”. I was quite happy that the writer included more scenes with my boyfriend Atticus ‘Kit’ Holt In this latest book, too. It helps that he is a sheriff’s deputy who often takes part in the murder investigations. Also he and I were both named after fictional characters. My Dickens’ loving mother, who is a professor of English literature, named me after Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol”. Blame it on the fact that I was born on Christmas Eve. And Kit’s mother named him after Atticus Finch, a beloved character from her favorite book “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Clearly, our romance was made in literary heaven.
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?
As you can guess from the title, “Hollyberry Homicide” unfolds during the winter holiday season. And Piper, as head of the Tourist & Visitor Center, has a dizzying number of events planned in the run-up to Christmas and Hanukkah. She has worked her domineering magic once more and convinced my staff and me to volunteer. All of us will be part of her team of strolling carolers, as well as manning a booth at the open-air Hollyberry Market. She would have found a way to draft me into being part of the Santa Parade had the elderly Everett Hostetter not died. His unexpected death left our local theatrical troupe without a Jacob Marley in the annual production of “A Christmas Carol”. Even though I don’t resemble an elderly male ghost, the theater company decided I should take over the role of Jacob Marley, given my name. I blame Mom for this.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?
Not only will you have a mystery to intrigue you, but I include lots of information about berries in each mystery. And don’t forget the recipes at the end of the book. Finally, I hope “Hollyberry Homicide” will put you in an early holiday mood. Right about now, that first snowfall, Christmas carols, and candy canes start to look pretty good. So make some hot chocolate, find a comfy chair, and snuggle up with “Hollyberry Homicide”. Visits by Dickensian ghosts are optional.
Thank you for answering my questions, Marlee, and good luck to you and your author, Sharon Farrow, with Hollyberry Homicide, the latest book in the Berry Basket mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Sharon Farrow: Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award-winning author Sharon Pisacreta. A freelance writer since her twenties, she has been published in mystery, fantasy, and romance. Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series for Kensington. The series debuted in 2016 and is set along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline where she now lives. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.