Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

V. M. Burns Interview by E. B. Davis

I should have felt bad for tempting her, but all was fair in love, war,
 and coercing people to talk and give up information
when you had no legal authority.
V. M. Burns, Bookmarked for Murder, Kindle Loc. 919

The week between Christmas and New Years finds mystery bookshop owner and aspiring mystery writer, Samantha Washington on a bus trip to Chicago with her grandmother, Nana Jo and their friends from the Shady Acres retirement village. After a weekend of theatre, shopping and fine dining, one of the group’s members is murdered on the return trip. Can Samantha follow the trail to uncover a murderer before her ticket is up?

Samantha continues to write British historic cozy mysteries set in 1938. In her latest book, Lady Elizabeth Marsh and her niece, Lady Penelope Carlston, are in London to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales when they encounter an acquaintance. Unfortunately, neither lady remembers the woman. The old dear has wandered away from her companion and seems befuddled, especially when she tells them someone is trying to kill her. Later, she falls onto the tracks of the underground, but before she dies she whispers something to Lady Elizabeth that has complete strangers wandering to the Marsh estate and asking a lot of questions. Is it possible the death wasn’t an accident? Can Lady Elizabeth discover the truth or will she meet an untimely end?

Although I’m a fan of V. (Valerie) M. Burns, I haven’t read the Mystery Bookshop mystery series because I fell in love with her Dog Club Mysteries. I was missing a treat! I didn’t know main character Samantha Washington not only owns a mystery bookstore, but she is also an aspiring Regency mystery writer. The reader gets the “real” mystery as well as the mystery Sam is currently writing. What fun—but I have to admit when I hit the first Regency segment—I went to the cover to make sure I was, in fact, reading the right book. 

Sam works out her current mysteries through her writing, which is interesting to see how she manifests current aspects of the contemporary mystery into her fiction. In other mysteries by other authors, a main character might draw or paint images that reflect aspects of the mystery, but we can’t see them. We may know the main character pays attention to detail, but we don’t know which details. But Valerie’s readers are able to read Sam’s Regency mystery, scattered throughout the book, and see how Sam translates the contemporary mystery into the Regency mystery—it’s fascinating and fun!

In September, Valerie started blogging with us every other month. Please welcome Valerie home to WWK.    E. B. Davis

Although parts of the book are set in Chicago, Samantha Washington and her family call North Harbor, MI, home. Is North and South Harbor, MI, real? Are they based on real places?
North Harbor, MI and South Harbor, MI are fictional towns based on the real cities of Benton Harbor,
MI and St. Joseph, MI which are located in Southwestern Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Where are Sam’s parents?
Sam’s father is dead, but her mother, Grace, is alive and well. Readers meet Grace in the first book, The Plot is Murder, but will become better acquainted with her in later books, especially Wed, Read & Dead where Grace remarries.

How did Sam’s grandmother, Nana Jo, come to be a pistol packing momma?
In the books, Sam’s grandmother, Josephine Thomas, aka Nana Jo, states that she grew up on a farm where she learned to shoot. In fact, she claims to have won several awards for her sharp shooting and was the Annie Oakley Champion of Lauderdale County. Her husband gave her the gun that she carries in her purse, her “peacemaker.”

Nana Jo says, “Remember on Star Trek the red shirts always die first.” Who are they—Klingons?
Like Nana Jo, I’m a big fan of the Star Trek series from the 70s. In that series, the officers aboard the star ship wore shirts in red, yellow, and blue. I’m sure the color designated the role and or rank of the crew members. However, astute fans (Trekkies) have noticed that the crew members who wore the red shirts died sooner and more frequently than those in yellow and blue. Of course, the red shirts were probably the security officers, so they would be the first to enter dangerous situations.

Are Snickers and Oreo toy poodles or standard?
Snickers and Oreo are Sam’s toy poodles. Snickers is the female and the older of the two. Oreo is a male and is 2 years younger than Snickers.

How to put this delicately—Snickers and Oreo are siblings. Did they have to be neutered or do they have a natural aversion?
Snickers and Oreo are siblings because they’re both owned by Samantha, but they aren’t siblings by blood. However, they are both “fixed.”

Do dogs’ paws freeze?
Dog’s paws can freeze, which is why it’s very important not to leave them outside in subzero temperatures. Some dogs have thick coats and were bred for cold weather, but the pads on the bottom of their feet can still freeze.

Sam and her sister, Jenna, don’t seem to share much in common. Is my understanding correct, incomplete, or wrong?
On the surface, it seems that Sam and her older sister, Jenna, don’t have much in common. However, over the course of the series, some of their similarities come out.

What did Leon, Sam’s late husband do for a living? How long were they married? What did he die from? Does the first book in this series start after his death?
Sam’s first husband, Leon, died from cancer. They had been married 17 years. Leon was a cook, but he and Sam shared a love of mysteries. Sam preferred cozies, while Leon enjoyed Noir mysteries. Leon and Sam dreamed of one day quitting their jobs and opening a mystery bookshop. When he was dying, Leon encouraged Sam to take the insurance money and to follow their dream. When the series starts, Leon is dead and Sam is about to open the mystery bookshop.

How long has Sam’s boyfriend and North Harbor Café owner, Frank Patterson, been part of her life?
When the second book in the series starts, Frank Patterson has opened a restaurant down the street from Sam’s bookshop. Leon has been dead about a year at this point and Samantha is starting to reconsider the possibility of allowing another man in her life. It isn’t until the 3rd book in the series that Sam and Frank begin to date.

Sam eats bacon and lettuce sandwiches. Is she allergic to tomatoes? She can’t eat pizza?
Sam loves bacon, but she doesn’t like tomatoes. It’s possibly the acid that she doesn’t like. She eats pizza, ketchup and salsa, but she can’t stand the taste of tomatoes.

Why is Detective Pitt called Stinky Pitt? Did he really stink?
Stinky Pitt is a nickname that Detective Bradley Pitt acquired as a child. Unfortunately for Detective Pitt, Nana Jo was his math teacher and she remembers the nickname and enjoys using it whenever she can to torment the detective.

Sam’s Regency mystery she’s writing is contained within the contemporary mystery in periodic sequences. How does she use her mystery writing to solve the murder occurring in her own life?
Sam has discovered that writing helps her sort through the events she’s struggling to deal with in her real life. Writing provides an escape. Over time, she realizes that when she writes, her subconscious takes over. The stories she’s writing about often have a striking resemblance to her real life mystery and she is able to sift through the clues and suspects and solve the crimes in real life by solving the crimes in her books.

Do all the books feature mysteries with Lady Elizabeth? Do readers come to know her or do you feature new Regency main characters in each book?
Every book that Sam is writing includes Lady Elizabeth Marsh. Some of the other characters may not be featured in every book, but Lady Elizabeth is in each story.

What’s next for Sam, Nana Jo, and her cohorts?
I'm currently writing book #6 in the series, A Tourist’s Guide To Murder. Sam, Nana Jo and the girls travel to England on a Mystery Lovers Tour. When there is a suspicious death on the tour, Sam has to see if the skills that worked to solve a murder in the United States are the same skills needed across the pond. 


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Valerie, happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for another fascinating interview. Elaine, great job, as always.

Warren Bull said...

Sounds like a fun series

Kait said...

Hi Valerie, Happy Thanksgiving to you. Like Elaine, I have not read the Mystery Bookshop series, and I'm off to Amazon to fix that after I finish this post. I am fascinated both by the book within a book concept and by the fact that you know what is going to happen in future books. How far out do you plan your series? Are you planning a Regency series?