Laura Childs is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about A Dark and Stormy Tea, her latest novel in the Tea Shop Mysteries series.
Welcome, Laura. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your newest novel. If it’s part of a series, tell us about that series.
A DARK AND STORMY TEA is #24 in my Tea Shop Mystery series with the storyline generally centered around the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, SC. But this is no cutesy cozy series because I make sure all my books open with a whopping big surprise. I’ve kicked off first chapters with art heists, explosions, smash-and-grab robberies, shootings, chases on horseback, stabbings, murdered bridegrooms, and lots more. I don’t believe in slow build-ups or back story, I prefer 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’ve always been fascinated by Charleston’s hidden alleys and walkways, but the one that really gets me going is Gateway Walk. It’s three-blocks of twisty-turny paths, gardens, hidden grottos, and mazes – all ending in an ancient graveyard complete with moss-covered tombs and Spanish moss dripping from trees. Then I pushed my idea a few steps further and sent my main character, tea shop maven Theodosia Browning, caroming down this walkway in the dark with a terrible storm battering down. When she comes upon a murder – by a possible serial killer – the mystery jumps into overdrive.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
The theme in all my mysteries is solving a murder and bringing the bad guy (or girl) to justice. Luckily, Theodosia (my main character) is smart, savvy, and has a unique talent for solving mysteries. While the police are questioning suspects and coming up with theories, she’s usually running a shadow investigation aided by Drayton, her tea sommelier.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favorites? If so, why are you partial to them?
When I started writing theTea Shop Mysteries, I decided to make Theodosia a businesswoman who’d left the 24/7 grind of a marketing firm to run a quaint little tea shop. 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 triad of characters appear in every book and I pretty much love them like family. (Some of my readers do, too!) When I write, it’s almost as if I’m watching a stage play unfold. I see my characters interact with each other, hear their conversations, and then write it all down. I know it’s weird, but it works!
How do you bring to life the place you’re writing about?
Ah, that’s the fun part. Creating a sense of place is almost like tossing another character into the mix. In the case of my Tea Shop Mysteries, which take place in Charleston, SC, I try to impart a real feel for this 350-year-old city with its historic mansions, narrow brick lanes dating back to Revolutionary War times, and haunted cemeteries. Basically, it’s a real thrill to romanticize this city as well as make it seem preternaturally spooky. When I can make my readers feel the damp fog swirling in from Charleston Harbor, hear the 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?
For A Dark and Stormy Tea, I researched various serial killers and came up with a strange British character named Springhill Jack. In this story I morphed him into Fogheel Jack and made him a shadowy figure who may have been responsible for murders in the past and has quite possibly returned to stalk his old haunts. Yes, I know it sounds spooky but I promise it’s not gory. This is a cozy after all!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about your book?
Sure, here’s a quick synopsis: Tea maven Theodosia Browning dashes down Charleston’s famed Gateway Walk as wind and driving rain overtake her. This normally picturesque ramble of hedges and statuary has become a twisted, foggy labyrinth that leads to a moss-shrouded cemetery. There, Theodosia encounters two struggling figures and realizes she’s witness to a brutal murder. In the throes of alerting police, Theodosia recognizes the victim – the daughter of a dear friend. And even though this appears to be the work of a serial killer, she launches her own shadow investigation, discovers multiple suspects, and stumbles upon a second dead body. I wrote this spooky cozy with plot, pacing, and action reminiscent of a thriller – then sprinkled in tea lore and recipes to make this Tea Shop Mystery highly entertaining.
Thanks for answering my questions, Laura, and good luck with A Dark and Stormy Tea, the latest book in the Tea Shop Mysteries 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, and enjoys fundraising for various non-profits. Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) and has a Chinese Shar-Pei dog named Lotus.