Sarah E. Burr is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about #Tag Me for Murder, her latest novel in the Trending Topic Mystery series.
Welcome, Sarah. 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.
#TagMe for Murder is the second book in my Trending Topic Mysteries. The series features Coco Cline, a famous lifestyle blogger and social media influencer. In this latest outing, Coco’s life is finally returning to normal after solving her first case—or as normal as life can be when you’ve got over three million followers. She’s ready to focus on her growing marketing business and have some summer fun when her new, ornery next-door neighbour is found dead. When the suspect spotlight lands on Coco’s bestie, Jasper, Coco decides to use her tech-savvy sleuthing skills to clear her BFF’s name before his rep is ruined.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Since this is only Coco’s second foray into sleuthing, I needed a mystery she would be invested in solving. I didn’t want to kill someone close to Coco, so I opted to have one of Coco’s companions be on the hook for murder. I also knew who my killer was even before I met my victim. So, with the killer in mind, finding someone they’d want dead was the central puzzle I had to solve. Larry Dunmer—the victim—was not a good guy, which was very intentional on my part; I prefer killing off “baddies” rather than good people in my cosy mysteries.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Several sub-plots take the reader through #TagMe for Murder, but one I felt really strongly about was the attention to Coco’s mental health. So often in the cosy mystery genre, our MCs are expected to be cheery and upbeat while solving a crime. Coco definitely knows how to have fun during her investigations, but she also deals with their emotional toll. Coming face-to-face with death should not be dealt with flippantly or lightly, and I wanted to show Coco’s vulnerability to my readers. She may have a fabulous job, wealth, and great friends, but she has inner demons, too. Sharing Coco’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks is my way to help banish the stigma that lingers over mental health.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
When I first begin writing a new character, there are definitely dominant traits that come out on the page, making them—at first pass—a bit one-dimensional. During revisions and edits, I really flesh out the depth of their personalities, showing them from all angles rather than just one. A favourite character of mine is Jasper Hastings, Coco’s best friend. He’s this larger-than-life personality, but my readers are so astute because they know he uses his bravado to bury his insecurities. Jasper is often very snarky and sassy, which is super fun for me to write. However, in vulnerable moments, you glimpse who Jasper is beneath his media-mogul façade and begin to understand why he is the way he is and why Coco is so protective of him.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Cosy mysteries are known for having such charming, engaging settings, which is one of the reasons why I love to write them so much. Creating a cosy town, no matter where it may be located, is always a thrill. I love world-building through shops, restaurants, and points of interest that my characters visit. I want to create establishments my readers want to explore. Every place Coco and her friends check out is a snapshot from my imagination. I visualize these locations vividly and try to capture them on the page. I also draw maps of the area, so I understand how Coco’s world looks from a bird’s eye view.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Coco Cline is a social media expert, so naturally, I have to do a lot of research and testing to ensure Coco is using social media to the best of her ability. Knowing the ins and outs of how different apps and platforms work is critical to making the mystery as authentic as possible. For example, in #TagMe for Murder, there is a clue Coco tracks down through Reddit, which is an anonymous social platform. Using that anonymity to my advantage made the clue really fun to weave into the mystery.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
#TagMe for Murder is not only about Coco Cline but her friends, as well. Coco has such a fantastic support system around her to help with her investigation. From her boyfriend to her mom to her childhood nemesis-turned-friend, Coco rarely does her sleuthing solo, which makes her adventures all the more entertaining.
Thanks for answering my questions, Sarah, and good luck with #Tag Me for Murder, the latest book in Trending Topics Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Sarah and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, Instagram and Social Media pages.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Sarah E. Burr: Sarah is the award-winning author of the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, Trending Topic Mysteries, and Court of Mystery series. She currently serves as the social media manager for the New York/Tri-State chapter of Sisters in Crime and is the creative mind behind BookstaBundles, a content creation service for authors. Sarah is the co-host of The Bookish Hour, a live-streamed YouTube series featuring author interviews and book discussions. When she’s not spinning up stories, Sarah is singing show tunes, reading everything from mystery to manga, and enjoying walks with her dog, Eevee.
Your questions are always so thought-provoking and reflective, Dianne. What a great interview experience. Thank you for celebrating #TagMeforMurder with me!