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I’m so thrilled you stopped by. I know how you love tea, so I prepared these seventeen flavors for you to choose from and brought out my best teapots. Which one of the teas is your favorite?
All of them! But, seriously, I love a Darjeeling in the morning to give me a zip of caffeine. Afternoons I’ll sip some Japanese green tea, and evenings are all about chamomile – no caffeine then, just flavor and soothing vibes.
I’ve read all the books in your Tea Shop Mystery series and a few from the Cackleberry Club Mystery series. I especially enjoy the Charleston setting and local flavor. How do you keep the tone and atmosphere different for each series?
In my previous life, I was Senior Partner and Creative Director for my own marketing firm, Mission Critical Marketing, with offices in Minneapolis and Austin, TX. At any given time I was working on fifteen to twenty different national accounts, developing marketing plans as well as a unique creative strategy for each one. So keeping three series straight is a piece of cake.
So tell us about Theodosia and how you brought her to the page.
My main character, Theodosia Browning, of my Tea Shop Mysteries, is the first character I ever created. She kind of sprang to life, fully formed, in the first chapter of Death by Darjeeling, book one in the series. For some bizarre reason it was like watching a stage play. I could see her sitting in the Indigo Tea Shop with a warm breeze blowing in and sort of fluffing her hair. Then Drayton walked into the scene, and I thought, “Ah, I know you too.” And then I just started writing.
What is your favorite aspect of your character – her strongest trait, etc.?
I love Theodosia’s sense of justice. When someone has been murdered – or even wronged – she’s kind of driven to bring the bad guy (or girl) to justice. She’s smart, tenacious, and won’t stop until she accomplishes her goal.
How does your main character’s goal conflict with your antagonist’s goal?
In my brand new mystery, Pekoe Most Poison, Theodosia is cajoled into helping the victim’s wife and running her own sort of “shadow investigation.” Of course the killer finds out about Theodosia’s involvement fairly quickly and tries to derail her while staying a few steps ahead of the law.
What strategy do you use to construct your plot, develop red herrings, distract readers?
I always start with a “what if” as my jumping-off point. In the case of Pekoe Most Poison, it was “What if someone gave a fancy ‘rat tea’ and the host was poisoned in plain sight of fifty people?” Then I wrote the first chapter (complete with screams, exploding centerpiece, and dead body) to make sure it all worked. Then I created an outline on a huge sheet of paper. I used colored pencils to code my victim, suspects, and plot points. When that seemed to gel, I transferred everything to my computer and wrote straight through, beginning to end.
If Theodosia were dropped off at the cinema, what movie would she choose? How about Drayton?
Theodosia would love contemporary movies like La La Land and Hidden Figures. Drayton would go to a classic film festival where they were showing movies like Citizen Cane, Casablanca, and The Maltese Falcon.
Tell us about the oddest item you’ve ever had on your writing desk?
Right now my desk is jammed with all sorts of crazy stuff. I have a bottle of Vampire wine (probably aged three days in a Transylvanian cave), a set of shot glasses with pictures of famous drinkers on them (Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, Earnest Hemmingway), and a small sign that says “Nothing good ever comes easy.”
Oh, the scones are ready. Here, have as many as you’d like. What are your favorite treats to enjoy with your tea?
I love maraschino cherry scones with Devonshire cream, crab salad sandwiches on brioche, and chocolate truffles for dessert.
Since I’m a playwright, I always ask this question: Who is your favorite playwright and why? What aspect of that writer do you try to incorporate into your craft?
I adore Tennessee Williams and am quite partial to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. However, I don’t think I could ever incorporate his skill set into what I do. I could only wish.
What is one piece of advice or words of wisdom you’d give to other authors as they settle in for a second draft?
Interesting. I don’t do second or third drafts. I just do the one version and punch it up as I go along. However, I would have to tell these second draft writers to be extremely picky. Make sure your language is crisp and that your plot hangs together (beware any loose ends). Also, don’t listen to comments about your manuscript from friends or other writers – just be absolutely true to yourself. It’s your story, so hang tough! The only people you really have to listen to – and probably take their advice – are your agent and your editor.
Kindly give us the forty-second “elevator test” on Pekoe Most Poison.
Pekoe Most Poison is the just-released (18th!) book in my New York Times bestselling Tea Shop Mysteries. In it I send tea shop maven Theodosia to a “Rat Tea” at a fancy mansion in Charleston, SC. She’s not just knocked out by the waiters wearing white gloves and rat heads, she’s stunned when the genial host chokes to death on his tea. Then, when the victim’s wife begs Theodosia for help, she struggles to narrow down the suspects from a certifiably crazy cast of characters. I’m happy to say that the plot moves at a thriller pace making Pekoe Most Poison a suspenseful guilty pleasure.
Before you leave, I just wanted to say how truly honored I am that you stopped by. I read your Little Girl Gone thriller and was so absorbed by the story. I can’t wait for your next book.
Thank you! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Little Girl Gone. The next book in the Afton Tangler Thriller series, Shadow Girl, will be out August 1, 2017. Quite a change from my usual cozy mysteries!
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?
I keep my website current with information about all my series – the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. For example, there’s a nice synopsis of my brand new hardcover, Pekoe Most Poison, as well as Devonshire Scream, which has just been released in paperback.
I love to comment back and forth with friends and readers on Facebook, so please feel free to link with me there.
Laura Childs is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Under her real name of Gerry Schmitt, she is the author of the Afton Tangler Thriller series including Little Girl Gone and Shadow Girl. In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and her two Shar-Pei dogs.
I always enjoy visits from Ms. Childs. I hope she comes back soon!