I'm pleased to welcome Staci McLaughlin to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Staci writes the Blossom Valley Mystery series. The sixth book in the series, Marriage is Pure Murder, was released May 30th.
Kathy: In Marriage is Pure Murder the entire staff is pitching in to send one of their own down the aisle. Weddings can be quite memorable, with either wonderful or horrible aspects. Do you have a favorite wedding memory, either good or bad?
SM: We held our reception at a restaurant down by a river. To get down to the entrance, we rode on a trolley car that glided along a track right next to the restaurant. It was really the first chance my husband and I had to be alone since the ceremony, and it was such a special, quiet moment. One of my favorite wedding photos is when we got to the bottom and the photographer snapped a photo of us right after the trolley doors opened.
Kathy: Is O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa based on a real farm?
SM: No, it isn’t. There are a few organic farms near the city where I live, but the O’Connell farm exists only in my mind.
Kathy: O'Connell's is an organic farm. Do you tend to eat organic foods and/or try to buy from farmer's markets and local food sources?
SM: Yes, my city has a weekly farmer’s market during the summer that is really nice, with several family and wine tasting nights. It’s almost like a festival every week. And the grocery stores in the area are great about stocking food from local farms.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
SM: I’ve always loved cozy mysteries and trying to figure out who the killer is in those books. It’s like solving a puzzle. One of my favorite authors has always been Agatha Christie. I just love how she crafted a story.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
SM: I’m such a fan of cozies that I haven’t really considered writing in another genre, at least not yet.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
SM: My series centers around Dana Lewis, who moves back home to the small town of Blossom Valley to live with her mother. She is excited when she gets a job as the marketing person at the new organic farm and spa right outside of town, but that excitement quickly disappears when a guest is murdered on opening weekend. She finds herself getting dragged into solving the murder while still trying to get settled at home and learn about her new job.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
SM: If I had to choose, I would pick Zennia, the farm’s cook, as my favorite, mostly because I aspire to be like her when it comes to healthy eating and a wholesome lifestyle. She has a wonderful overall appreciation for life and definitely doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Vegetables are usually the stars of her meals, and she’s not afraid to try new and adventurous dishes. While I would love to eat like her, I’m still more like Dana, who prefers cheeseburgers and milkshakes. But I’m gradually getting better about eating my vegetables.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
SM: I’m not entirely sure why, but I knew I wanted the series to take place in a small town and somehow be related to a farm. The setting is loosely based on the town where I grew up.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
SM: When I was working as a technical writer, I worked with a man who was trying to get his own stories published. He was so enthusiastic and encouraging about my writing that I got swept up in the excitement. Having someone else to talk to about the different aspects of publishing was very helpful.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
SM: Agatha Christie, of course. I would also invite Charlotte Bronte because Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite books, Stephen King because he is so masterful at engaging the reader, and Robert Crais because I’ve always enjoyed his Elvis Cole series.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
SM: I’m finishing up A Puzzle to be Named Later, which is from the Puzzle Lady Mysteries. I’m a big fan of crossword puzzles, so reading a book that combines crosswords and mysteries seemed right up my alley.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
SM: I really enjoy cooking and hiking, and I also like conducting science experiments with my two kids, who are in elementary school. Now that school is almost out for the summer, I’m already planning what experiments we’ll do.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
SM: With two kids, I always have milk and bread, plus peanut butter and cheese.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
SM: I don’t have any plans for a new series right now, but I have some ideas for another Blossom Valley mystery. Often when I’m working on one book, an idea for the next one will come to mind.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
SM: I really enjoy the beginning stages when I sit down to plan out a new book. The possibilities seem endless, and I like narrowing down all those choices to one main plot.
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