Today Laura Childs, New York Times Bestselling Author of Twisted Tea Christmas, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about writing a Christmas mystery.
Welcome, Laura. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
Every year, for more than a dozen years, my editor has asked me if I’d ever consider writing a Christmas book. After a few lame excuses (I’m being deported, the dog ate my first draft), and insisting how maniacally busy I was, my answer always ended up being “I’ll think about it.” Because a Christmas mystery always seemed like such a daunting task. After all, everyone has their own concept of the holidays. For some people it’s cheery and exciting with family gatherings, mulled wine, and twinkling lights. For others it means navigating tricky family dynamics, the memory of a botched tofu-turkey, or gifts (long underwear comes to mind) that went over with a resounding thud. Writing about Christmas always felt like a mine field.
Until one morning when I sat down and started fooling around with an idea for a Christmas mystery. What could it hurt? I told myself. I won’t whisper a word of this to my craggy, nagging editor (picture a cross between T-Rex and Scrooge). I’ll simply jot down a few words and see if they start to gel – kind of like the shrimp in aspic my Aunt Lucille used to serve at Christmas dinner. Well, those ideas turned into a full-fledged paragraph. And then (on Donner and Blitzen!) that morphed into four or five pages. And as I banged away at it, a crazy thing happened – the plot started to feel exciting, compelling, and, yes, very Christmasy.
But it was still a murder mystery. Edgy, a little dark, tons of action. In other words – entertaining. There were no scenes of snowflakes landing on eyelashes or people riding horse-drawn sleighs down moonlit lanes. So Twisted Tea Christmas was indeed Christmasy but without the Hallmark Channel spin.
But still. This book was to be #23 in my bestselling Tea Shop Mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. So it had to include tea, my gentle protagonist Theodosia (born with a full-throttle curiosity gene), and her charming tea sommelier Drayton. So I typed and tapped and, lo and behold, a few months later, came up with a Christmas-themed Tea Shop Mystery.
And it turned out pretty well. So what I’d like to do it take your hand and gently pull you into Twisted Tea Christmas. Invite you to enjoy hallowed Southern traditions, dine on she-crab soup and spicy shrimp with tasso gravy, step inside drop-dead gorgeous mansions, and drink thirty-year-old Bourbon in Baccarat crystal. Let’s both crash this fine eccentric city known as Charleston!
Sound interesting? Then here’s a sneak peek:
It’s the week before Christmas as tea maven Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier, Drayton, cater a fancy Victorian Christmas party for Miss Drucilla Heyward, one of Charleston’s wealthy doyennes. But smack dab in the middle of the Fa-la-la’s, Miss Drucilla is murdered, her gold rings stolen off her fingers, and a genuine Renoir snatched off the wall.
The police come screaming in while Theodosia peers speculatively at the guests and wonders – whodunit? Urged on by Miss Drucilla’s personal assistant, Theodosia runs a shadow investigation on suspects that include wealthy neighbors, a handyman named Smokey, an unscrupulous art dealer, and the executive directors of two local charities who were in line for donations.
As Theodosia continually finds herself in hot water, she also hosts numerous holiday tea parties, stumbles upon a second dead body, and shelters a cadre of homeless dogs who come to her rescue in the end. This Tea Shop Mystery is written with pacing, plot twists, and action reminiscent of a thriller and is liberally sprinkled with the magic of Christmas.
And I really do think you’d like it!
Thank you for giving readers an insight into writing this Christmas mystery, Laura, and good luck with Twisted Tea Christmas, 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, and has a Chinese Shar-Pei named Lotus.