Michelle Bennington is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Dumpster Dying, her latest novel in the Hazardous Hoarding Mystery series.
Welcome, Michelle. 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.
Dumpster Dying is part of the Hazardous Hoarder series. It’s about a hoarder named Birdie Harper who lives with her husband’s ghost and she gets pulled into solving mysteries in small-town Miltonville, Kentucky.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I love the show Hoarders and I knew I wanted to write a character with a hoarding issue. Hoarding is a fascinating psychological issue often triggered by deep emotional trauma. And Birdie just Harper, my central character, just took over. She demanded attention and a story of her own. I also knew that I wanted to blend a cozy with Southern Gothic elements. This first book has only a touch of that, though I’m expecting to gradually intensify those gothic elements as I proceed with subsquent books. But in keeping with the Southern Gothic, I tried to think of a crime that might be more unsettling for cozy readers than murder alone. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling the story for readers, but the mystery idea came from both a friend and the news and involves events that actually happened. Not just in Kentucky but in other places in the United States.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it? I think the underlying theme would be loyalty and family. Sometimes family isn’t just the people we’re related to, but people we come to know and love. But also there’s an element of never really knowing people, even the ones we think we’re close to.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them? Typically I begin with creating my characters by basing them loosely on people I know. So far, Birdie Harper, has been my favorite character creation. She’s based loosely on someone I know who is vibrant, cheerful, chatty, and a bit of a busy body, but with good intentions and a heart of gold. So took that core and wrapped it in darkness, trauma, and sadness to flesh out Birdie’s character and to hint toward the Southern Gothic.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I live in Kentucky, so I turn my mind’s eye to places I’ve lived or visited and put them on the page. Honestly, I think I’m better writing character than setting. I get bored with writing setting (just as I get bored reading elaborate descriptions of setting). I think it would help me to think of setting as another character–especially as I proceed with the Hazardous Hoarder series.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel? For contemporary novels like this one, I didn’t do much research and what I did do was performed with Google searches. I find I’m usually looking up makes and models of cars because I know zero about vehicles. Or I look up house styles, types of flowers or trees. I also look up types of poisons or trauma that certain crimes do to bodies, laws, police procedure—the typical crime-related research. The research is much more extensive when I write historical pieces.
However, I also sometimes use forensics shows, true crime books, other mystery novels, biographies, documentaries, and news stories to inform my writing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I’m especially excited about this book because it’s my first independent project. Boy, was that an education! But I had a lot of fun with it and I just LOVE the Birdie Harper character and her relationship with her sister, Oda Dean. They are so much fun to spend time with. I’m not sure when I’ll have the second book out because I have two more from two different series from Level Best Books due to release in 2023! But if you want to keep up with Birdie and any new releases, I’ll make announcements on my social media which you can link to through my website www.michellebennington.com.
Thanks for answering my questions, Michelle, and good luck with Dumpster Dying, the latest book in Hazardous Hoarding Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Michelle and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Michelle Bennington: Born and raised in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky, Michelle Bennington developed a passion for books early on that has progressed into a mild hoarding situation and an ever-growing to-read pile. She delights in spinning mysteries and histories.