Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ellen Byron Interview by E. B. Davis

Louisiana B&B owner Maggie Crozat kicks up her heels at a country music festival--but she'll have one foot in the grave if she can't bring the killer of a diva's hanger-on to heel.

Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, the pickers' and crooners' answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.

The festival's headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition. She has the voice of an angel...and the personality of a devilish diva. But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell. She's already sabotaged the Gator Girls' JazzFest audition. When a member of Tammy's entourage is murdered at the festival, Tammy makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.

Gaynell has plenty of company on that list--including every one of Tammy's musicians. Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy's band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend's name.

Fatal Cajun Festival is the fifth book in Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country mystery series. If you’ve read the series, this book advances the backstory in a surprising way. Not telling! But if you haven’t read this series yet, please start at the beginning with Plantation Shudders, the first book in the series.

In Fatal Cajun Festival, main character, Maggie Crozat is having Grandmère problems. First, her grandmother proposed their hometown of Pelican, LA host a musical festival. It should be good for the town and coffers of the business community, but the event’s headliner books the entire Crozat Plantation B & B, a good thing, except that the singer and her entourage have extreme dietary necessities. Maggie’s mother, Ninette, who cooks for the B & B, is flummoxed. While Maggie is working on the festival, Grandmère seems to be having a lot of fun drinking champagne for brunch. There’s no stopping the old gal. Even Gopher, Maggie’s Basset Hound, is stupefied.

Please welcome Ellen Byron back to WWK.                                                    E. B. Davis  

When Grandmère proposes Pelican hosting the music festival, I was surprised they were holding it from Sunday through Thursday. Wouldn’t they want to pick up the weekend tourists? The point of the music festival is to attract visitors before they head down to NOLA for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which takes place over the last weekend of April and first of May.

Is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival real? Yes, and it’s wonderful.

Maggie and Bo are engaged. Why haven’t they set a wedding date? Murders keep eating up their time!

Even though the Crozat Plantation B & B is upscale and accommodating, why do the guests think they can have custom meals? Not all guests do. But these are Hollywood guests, a diva and her entourage, all of whom are used to getting whatever they want. They are not used to hearing the word “No.”

The B & B sponsors a booth at the music festival where they will sell pralines, Maggie’s art, and souvenirs. I thought pralines were pralines. Are there other flavors? Oh, there are so many flavors. I recently bought coconut, banana, rum raisin, and a few other flavors at a great store in NOLA called Bernard’s Pralines. The sweet potato praline I enjoyed from Southern Candymakers in the French Quarter inspired the runner story in this book.

Tammy Barker, a Pelican native, won a reality TV show for her singing and became a star. What issues did she have with Maggie’s friend Gaynell? Why does she still have those issues? Jealousy and another issue I can’t go into without it being a spoiler! As to why she still has those issues, well, we graduate high school, but some people never graduate from the events they experienced.

What are some of the trials and tribulations Tammy has being famous? She hates being told what to do by her manager and record company. She thinks she’s way smarter than them. Is she? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

What is a garçonnière? It’s a separate building from the main house where boys were moved to once they hit puberty to keep their over-active hormones away from fragile and very susceptible young ladies!

Tammy makes all the right moves to apologize to Gaynell for her high school behavior. Yet, Maggie, with her artist’s eye, doesn’t believe Tammy. Why? I think Maggie tends to be a bit of a skeptic in general. Also, as her hostess at Crozat B&B, she’s also seen what a diva Tammy can be, so she’s predisposed not to trust her. Or even like her.

Do you think no matter how old you get, you never really leave high school? I think that’s very true for some people. In my case, it was sixth grade that took me years to get over. I was teased and bullied. Those scars stayed with me for decades.

What is Döstädning? And why is Maggie’s grandmother doing it? It’s a Swedish ritual that loosely translates to “death cleaning” where they downsize and organize their belongings so when they die, their survivors aren’t as burdened with managing the detritus of their lives. Grandmère read about Döstädning and decided that since she’s in her early 80s, it would beneficial to everyone if she applied it to what she’d accumulated over her life time to save her survivors the grief and trouble of that.

Why doesn’t Gaynell get mad when Tammy invites the Gator Girls, Gaynell’s band, to rehearse with her? She’s trying to be nice, but she’s also in denial. She wants to believe that Tammy is sincere about letting bygones be bygones.

Why are the Gator Girls so fickle and disloyal? Hollywood, baby! They’ve got stars in their eyes. They’re thinking, let’s see, hitch our wagon to someone who might be a murderer (Gaynell), or to someone who’s already a big star? It’s selfish, but it’s also survival.

I share an aversion with Maggie. I hate man buns. What’s Maggie’s reason for disliking them? Probably the same as yours. And mine! I just find them… I don’t know… ridiculous and silly-looking. So I gave that reaction to Maggie.

When one of the Gator Girls lies to Gaynell and Maggie knows it was a lie, why doesn’t she tell Gaynell? She doesn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings.

Maggie tries to go undercover to discover more about Tammy’s band members, but she doesn’t make for a good groupie. Why isn’t this the best role for Maggie? She’s a preternaturally honest person, so pretending to be someone she’s not is hard for her. Plus, faking interest in other men makes her feel disloyal to her fiancé.

What is a “parterre” garden? I don’t think I can say it any better than Wikipedia: “A parterre is a formal garden constructed on a level substrate, consisting of plant beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, which are separated and connected by paths. The borders of the plant beds may be formed with stone or tightly pruned hedging, and their interiors may be planted with flowers or other plants or filled with mulch or gravel.”

What is decomposed granite? How do they make it decompose? It’s like gravel but much finer – almost dust-like – and often has a lovely pale brown color, depending on the type of granite it’s decomposed from. I have no idea how it becomes decomposed, so I looked it up. It’s formed by the natural erosion and weathering of solid granite.

Who is Zenephra? She’s a lovely, motherly woman who has a special connection to one of Tammy’s musicians, a damaged young man named Toulouse.

What’s next for Maggie, Bo, and perhaps, Grandmère? I’m super excited because my next Cajun Country Mystery revolves around Halloween. Be prepared for some interesting Louisiana superstitions, a poisoning, and a play being performed in a derelict cemetery filled with deteriorating above-ground tombs!



  1. Hi, Ellen! It's great to have you here! I can't wait to read this one and the next one sounds wonderful too.

  2. Congrats on your new release! Missing NOLA...

  3. Can't wait to read the book... hoping to convince a friend to bring me some of those pralines...

  4. Congratulations, Ellen, on the launch of another terrific=sounding book. I look forward to reading it.

  5. It's a treat to learn about different parts of the US in mysteries. Thank you!

  6. I love seeing your character "Tammy" - I think I may know her! So much fun - you have me dying to go back to New Orleans!

  7. Congratulations on the new release! I can't wait to lose myself in the pages. Gaynell is one of my favorite characters, and grandmere. This will be a fun read.

  8. I love the way you set the stage with local color. It makes me feel like I'm present while your story unfolds.

  9. Thank you all so much! I'm sorry I'm not replying to each of you. I'm in NY visiting my 92 year-old mother and I can't figure out how to work stuff on my daughter's old laptop, which is what I'm traveling with.

    Thanks for a fantastic post. The questions were GREAT and it looks gorgeous! Fingers crossed I can figure out how to share on this thing. (No mouse, just a touchpad, which is making me CRAZY!)