Today Laura Childs is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Haunted Hibiscus, the latest novel in the Tea Shop mystery series.
Welcome, Laura. 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 as well.
Haunted Hibiscus is #22 in my Tea Shop Mystery series with the storyline generally swirling around the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, SC. But this is no cutesy cozy series because I make suremy books always open with a shocking surprise. I’ve kicked off first chapters with smash-and-grab robberies, poisoning at a high tea, shootings, art heists, chases on horseback, stabbings, murdered bridegrooms, serial killers, and lots more. I don’t believe in slow build-ups or back story, I just want to drop my reader right into the action, then keep it going with exciting plots, fast pacing, and twists reminiscent of a thriller.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I started thinking about haunted houses and how all sorts of schools and civic groups create them as fundraisers. Then I took it one step further and had the rather staid Heritage Society in Charleston sponsor a haunted house that was populated with historical and literary-themed characters. Besides the regular ghouls and goblins, we’re talking Edgar Allan Poe, Sherlock Holmes, the Headless Horseman, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Lady MacBeth, and more. With that cast of characters there had to be a murder, right?
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
The theme underlying all my mysteries is solving a murder and bringing the bad guy (or girl) to justice. Detective Burt Tidwell is one of my ongoing characters, but he’s often shown up by Theodosia (my main character) who is brash, savvy, and has a unique talent for solving mysteries.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favorite ones? Is so, why are you partial to them?
When I started writing Death by Darjeeling, my first Tea Shop Mystery, I wasn’t sure what kind of characters I wanted. Then I hit upon the idea of a woman who’d left the 24/7 grind of a marketing firm to run a quaint little tea shop. That gave me the idea for Theodosia, my main character. And because she couldn’t do it alone, I developed Drayton, a slightly haughty tea sommelier, and Haley, the young, sassy chef and baker. This is my triad of characters that appears in every book and I pretty much love them like family. They not only entertain my readers, but often surprise and amuse me. When I write, it’s almost like watching a stage play unfold. I see my characters interacting with each other, hear what they’re saying, and then write it all down. I know it sounds strange, but it works!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Since all the Tea Shop Mysteries are set in Charleston, SC, I pretty much make Charleston a character as well. This is a 350-year-old city with historic old mansions, narrow brick lanes dating back to the Revolutionary War, haunted cemeteries, and is set on a Peninsula where the Atlantic Ocean comes surging in. Basically, it’s a joy to romanticize this city or make it seem preternaturally spooky. And when I can make my readers feel the damp fog closing in, hear the lonely toot of a tugboat, or worry about footsteps crunching behind them on gravel, I know I’ve done my job.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Most of the research I do is primary research. In Haunted Hibiscus I researched Mikhal Tereschenko, an aristocrat who fled the Russian Revolution with diamonds sewn into the lining of his seal coat. This was a real guy, but I stretched the facts and had my murder victim wearing diamond earrings that had been cut by a Parisian jeweler from those original diamonds. Thus, a serious motive for murder.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Sure, here’s a quick synopsis: It’s the week before Halloween and teashop owner Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier Drayton attend a “literary themed” haunted house in a dilapidated mansion known as the Gray Ghost. But halfway through their visit, the guest author is found twisting from a third floor window as purple lights cast flickering images. The police and Theodosia’s boyfriend Detective Riley come screaming in, but when Riley goes to the dead girl’s house, he’s shot! A murder and a shooting seem too coincidental for Theodosia who throws herself into her own shadow investigation.
Thank you for answering my questions, Laura, and good luck with Haunted Hibiscus, the latest book in the Tea Shop mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Laura Childs: Laura is the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All have been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In herprevious life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has a Chinese Shar-Pei named Lotus. Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!)