Tara Lush is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Live and Let Grind, her latest novel in the Coffee Lover’s Mystery series.
Welcome, Tara. 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.
My book is called LIVE AND LET GRIND, and while it’s the third in the Coffee Lover’s Mystery series, it can be read as a standalone. The series is about a former journalist-turned-barista on a fictional Florida island. She lives with her Shih Tzu named Stanley, and her boyfriend is the island’s police chief. She also has many friends and family members that are quite quirky, as people are in beach communities.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The victim in LIVE AND LET GRIND is someone who is an incessant leaf blower. This is based on my real-life experience of trying to focus and write in my office, while literally all my neighbors have their leaf blowers revving and roaring. As you can imagine, this gets quite annoying and breaks my concentration. Everybody in Florida complains about leaf blowers, because they’re so loud and ubiquitous. It’s as if you can’t ever have an hour of peace! So I decided to make the victim, and the crime, centered around someone who died from an exploding leaf blower.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
The theme is the importance of family, both blood relatives and found family. Before moving back to Devil’s Beach, Lana lived and worked in Miami. And while she found great success there, she also didn’t form many deep relationships. On Devil’s Beach, she learns to let people into her life and to lower her emotional walls. She discovers that it’s actually a wonderful thing to be open to new experiences and say yes to life.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
My character Lana Lewis is one that I will always love. She’s my first mystery heroine and like me, she’s a former journalist, so I think I’ve imbued her with my deep sense of curiosity. I also adore Stanley the Shih Tzu, probably because he is based off my own Shih Tzu, Gigi!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I make it easy: I write about what I know. All my mysteries are set in Florida, and are loosely based on Sanibel Island, which is just off the coast of Southwest Florida. The vibe of the fictional Devil’s Beach is similar to my city — St. Petersburg — and it’s a very laid-back, touristy, Jimmy Buffett kind of place. As I type this I have tears in my eyes because I’m thinking of the real life Sanibel Island, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. The west coast of Florida is a special, beautiful place. I’ve lived here for many years and it’s the inspiration for my fiction.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
For this book and all the Coffee Lover’s series, I did a lot of coffee research — and not just drinking coffee, either! I befriended someone who works for a coffee wholesaler who does a café tour in my city. He takes people around to various coffee shops and explains the ins and outs of various brewing techniques. He became my go-to expert and helped me brainstorm the signature coffee drink in this book, the Orange Blossom Special.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
If you want to be transported to a beach location with coffee, quirky friends, eccentric island characters and cute puppies, then this is the book for you. Oh, and there’s also murder, of course.
Thanks for answering my questions, Tara, and good luck with Live and Let Grind, the latest book in the Coffee Lover’s Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Tara and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram pages.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
Amazon BARNES AND NOBLE APPLE KOBO INDIEBOUND GOOGLE PLAY
About Tara Lush: Tara is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award winning journalist. For the past decade, she’s been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast.
Thank you for sharing your Q&A, bio and book details, I have enjoyed reading about you and your work and I am looking forward to reading Live and Let Grind