Meow, my guest today is author Dorothy St. James!
Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. Asking for Truffle hits bookstore shelves September 2017.
- Welcome Dorothy! Tell us a little about your Southern Chocolate Shop series!
Thanks ROCCO! Well, I love chocolate. I also love the beach. So when I set out to develop a new mystery series, I plopped my main character in a chocolate shop at the beach—my two happy places. The Chocolate Box is not an ordinary chocolate shop. The chocolate there is made from the rarest cacao bean in the world and tastes absolutely amazing. My heroine, Charity Penn lives far away from the beach in Madison, Wisconsin. But when her best friend is found dead in a vat of chocolate in this very special chocolate shop on the beach, she travels to Camellia Beach to discover what happened.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I’ve been writing stories ever since I’ve learned to write. My biggest challenge lately has been finding the time to write while keeping up with my daughter. She’s 4-years-old now. (I have no idea how she got so old in such a short period of time.) My greatest inspiration is the challenge of finding new ways to entertain the reader. I love to read. When I’m not writing or chasing after my little sprout or eating chocolate, I’m reading. The stories that make my heart beat faster and make me stay up all night to find out what happens inspire me. That’s what I want to do. That’s why I write.
- You also wrote a series called the “White House Gardener” series. How did that idea come about?
I’d love to say that the White House Gardener Mystery series sprang from my fertile imagination. Unfortunately, that’d be a lie. I was invited to write the series, which was quite an honor. The series is what the industry calls a work-for-hire. I write the book and someone else holds the copyright. To start out, I was given broad guidelines for what they wanted the series to look like. I, in turn, was given the freedom to make it my own. To do that, I populated the book with a gardener from my hometown, Charleston, South Carolina. And made sure it had lots of suspense and heart-pounding moments. The best part of writing that series was the research. I pretended to be a spy and lurked around D.C., teasing out secrets of the White House gardens. I’m lucky I’m not in jail. The task of researching chocolate shops is far safer.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m currently working on the next two books in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. The publisher and I have just finished working on copy edits for book 2, Playing with Bonbon Fire (March 2018). Chocolate shop owner, Charity Penn is at it again—cooking up chocolate treats while trying to keep everyone in the quirky seaside town of Camellia Beach safe. A threatening note, a dead musician, and decades of secrets put the town’s first beach music festival and its band members in grave danger. With help from her meddling half-sister and boxes of new flavors of chocolate sweets to ignite the senses, Penn follows the shifting tide of evidence to discover secrets can be deadly.
I’m also writing book 3 in the series that will perhaps be titled The Last of the Chocolate Sea Turtles (Fall 2018). Chocolate shop owner, Charity Penn has surely lost her mind. She’s trying save a woman who could destroy her beloved chocolate shop from a murder conviction. And this is despite the heaping mountains of evidence to the contrary. A smoking gun, a dead lover, and eyewitnesses galore stand in Penn’s way of proving that appearances not only can be deceiving: they can also be deadly.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
There’s a motto up on my white board that reads: Nulla dies sine linea. That is Latin for “never a day without lines.” My workday begins around 9PM after my daughter is asleep and the house is put back into some semblance of order. I write for several hours every day.
- Plotter or Pantser?
Definitely a plotter. If I don’t have a map, I get lost. Really and truly lost. I have to know where I’m heading before I start writing. I’ll make notes for the entire plot and then when I start a new chapter, I’ll write down what I want the chapter to accomplish before I start writing it.
- Do you have any pets of your own?
I have a rescue collie mix named Rosie and a fluffy Siamese point kitty named Suki. They are both wonderful writing companions.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Quit my job so I could write a book. Crazy, stupid. I don’t recommend it. It took me five years to get a book published.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I have a degree in wildlife biology and I used to work for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources tagging saltwater fish in the Charleston area. The job was kind of like fishing all day. My secret? I’m terrified of fish.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Why do you write books, I mean, what’s wrong with you? There are so many real jobs out there that pay money and offer benefits. Why don’t you make your family happy and get one of those? Maybe a job you paid tons of money to a college getting qualified for?
You’re right. I don’t know what happened in my past that drives me to write. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, so perhaps it’s a past-life trauma that drives me. My skin is too thin for the mix bag of reviews. I never think I’m good enough. I often want to sit on the sofa and watch TV at night instead of at the computer. I really should get a job and make some real money, but I don’t want to. So there.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Visit me at my website: www.dorothystjames.com or stop by my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/dorothystjames
- What’s your favorite thing to have for lunch?
Spicy Thai shrimp wrap from the Lost Dog Café. YUM! I don’t eat there nearly often enough.
Do you collect anything?
Dust. Not the answer you were expecting? Well, how about this one: Whenever I’m writing under deadline, I seem to go on shoe buying frenzies. I love fun shoes with heels and funky patterns.
- What was your favorite book as a child?
The Secret Garden. I’m looking forward to reading it to my daughter.
- What store could you browse in for hours?
My local bookstore. There’s always something new and exciting to find. It’s always an expensive trip.
You can find out more about Dorothy at:
Dorothy will give away one copy of Asking for Truffle to one lucky commenter!
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please. Contest ends midnight, September 15! Good luck!