CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Pam K., winner of Julianna Deering's new release, Murder on the Moor!

Congratulations to Alison (agboss) who won Susanne Dietze's The Reluctant Guardian!

Congratulations to Deanna Stevens, Annie of Just Commonly and Trixi O...new owners of The American Heiress Brides Collection!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interview with Beverly Allen


Wahoo! Today's the official release of Bloom and Doom by our own Beverly Allen (aka Barbara Early). Bloom and Doom is Book One of the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries from Berkeley Prime Crime.  Today we're celebrating by asking Beverly a few Q's. Don't forget to add a comment to be in the drawing for a copy!



(Susanne here.) Congratulations! What happened when you got The Call?
 
(Beverly.) Panicked, mostly. Those who know me best know that the telephone is my least favorite form of communication. I tend to be almost phobic about the telephone, especially talking with someone I don't know well. It was a short conversation, since my brain went blank. But after the phone call, we addressed all my questions via email.
 
How did your family respond?
 
My family is very supportive. But I think my husband was relieved that my very expensive writing hobby was finally going to earn a little back. I love conferences, so I suspect that it's going to take a while for income to finally exceed expenses.
We are so happy for you, Beverly!
  
Ah yes, conference fees. But conferences are worth their weight in proverbial precious metals. So tell us a bit about the story.  Bloom and Doom is a Cozy Mystery. What does that mean?
 
Cozy mysteries are traditional whodunits, generally featuring an amateur sleuth and very little gore. Many cozy readers appreciate the absence of sex, graphic violence, or strong language on the page. There's usually a cozy small-town setting to enjoy and quirky characters to meet.
 
I love a good cozy mystery! But Bloom and Doom is published in the secular market. What's it like to write in that market?
 
I found it to be an exciting opportunity. Perhaps because cozies tend to be clean reads and readily available in the secular market, they're not popular in the CBA right now. So I'd final in contests--like the double final in the Genesis--and then meet with agents and editors who smiled when I came up to them at conference with the finalist tags hanging from my lanyard, but had absolutely no use for me the minute I said I wrote cozy. Terribly frustrating for an aspiring writer. One said, "Have you thought about writing romance?" I didn't think it was for me, but I tried, and even had a "romance" novella e-published by a small Inspy press. But if you read it? Guess what. It's a cozy mystery.
 
While I've been careful not to turn Bloom and Doom into an inspirational, I haven't run into any opposition to introducing characters of faith. (Especially with the wedding theme. Someone has to officiate, and several scenes do take place in church.) I'm rather excited about this, since it bucks a trend I've seen in mysteries of late, that if a religious character is introduced, he's either the killer or otherwise some fanatical lunatic. I find that sad for a number of reasons: mainly because it denigrates a whole group of people, most of whom, while imperfect, are sincere and kind and wonderful people to know. But also, as a reader, it makes those mysteries too predictable.
 
You've addressed one of my pet peeves: when the clergy is the killer. Or a wimp. Thanks for bucking the trend!

Moving on...I love the cover of the book. Can you tell us about the process of creating it?
 
It's a great cover, isn't it? I wish I could take credit for it. I did submit a few pictures that I'd found of working flower shops, pictures of tools, and a list of what they'd need on hand. But they have a great art department, and I couldn't be happier with what they came up with. People have told me they can almost smell the flowers on the cover.
 
It is an effective cover, that's for sure. It gives us so much information, and the details are amazing. It also clues us into the fact that your sleuth, Audrey, is a florist. How were you inspired to create her? Why is she a florist?
 
I'll have to admit a little collaboration there. One thing I learned in the process is that sometimes the author comes up with an idea and the publisher loves it. Sometimes the publisher has an idea that they think readers will enjoy and they try to find a writer who's a good fit. I feel blessed to say that my agent thought my voice would fit the wedding florist they were looking for--and I was even more excited when an editor read my proposal and agreed.
 
That's not to say I didn't draw on my own experiences and imagination. The brief outline they sent me included the idea that Audrey spend the summers visiting her Grandma Mae with her cousin Liv. Well, I have fond memories growing up at Grandma Bea's, often with my cousin Lisa. And we really did race around the backyard, shoving buttercups under each other's chins and making bouquets of wildflowers. Only Audrey's love of flowers continued to grow until it became her passion.
 
Oh, I just love that. But speaking of flowers, what's the language of flowers, and how do you use it in the novel?
 
The language of flowers goes back a long time, but reached its heyday during Victorian times. Most flowers had at least one meaning attached, and could be used to communicate. "Say it with flowers" was more than a catchy slogan!
 
Today, florists still often compile lists of what the flowers mean, but the meanings have "evolved" to be almost universally positive. (Probably so they could sell more flowers!) But I was fortunate enough to find a reprint of an old guide, and love that flowers could be used to express almost any sentiment, from "elope with me" to "a deadly foe is near." Now that's fodder for a good mystery!
 
Audrey Bloom is passionate about flowers, and that works for her. When she sees people, they often remind her of flowers, and their personalities seem to mesh with the meanings. When she works with flowers, the meanings come into her thoughts and might even shed light on the case she's working on.
 
File:Rose flower01.JPG
Irshadpp

As seen on your Facebook page, you are gifted at flower arranging. Did you take a class so you could get to know Audrey better, or is this a skill you've had for a while?
 
I will say it's easier to write about flowers than it is to work with them in real life.
 
I can't say I'd done much before writing the book. I did hang around in a working flower shop, to get the flavor of the place, and visited a few more to see how they differed. That gave me enough to know how I'd design a flower shop--which is what the Rose in BIoom looks like. But when Audrey started designing flowers, I felt lacking in describing the actual work, especially the industry terms used, so I did take a short floral design course--difficult because of allergies.  
 
I really do enjoy it, except for the burning eyes and the skin rashes from lily sap. (Which helped in creating the town's police chief, who also has severe allergies.) I should practice more, but when I do, I work mainly in silk.
 
Well, you're very good IMHO.

I'm a big fan of a bit of romance in a story. Can't help it. Is there romance in the story?
 
Perhaps a smidge. Rather light in the first book. Audrey is just getting over a rather nasty breakup and she's not sure she's ready for a new romance. Even so, the new baker in town seems to have caught her eye. From there...we shall see. (wink, wink)
 
Squee! Where is the story set? Why?
 
The story is set in the fictional town of Ramble, Virginia. Why? Short answer: that's where the publisher wanted it set. I guess a Southern setting often resonates with cozy readers. Long answer: I put the town in northern Virginia, a long (torturous) commute from DC, probably not far from Berryville, VA. There's a wealth of diversity to draw from: rural residences, expensive houses, political connections, historic landmarks, Southern charm, the twang of West Virginia not far away.
 
I found Berryville to be the almost perfect model for an idyllic small Virginia town. That's not to say Ramble is Berryville. Ramble is a fictional place, with a quirky set of town characters and a growing murder rate.
 
Growing murder rate? Oh dear--for the residents, that is. Not for us, the enthusiastic readers!Tell us about the next book in the series.
 
The next book in the series is For Whom the Bluebell Tolls. Audrey is chosen to design the flowers for a popular wedding-themed reality show called Fix My Wedding. The bride is batty about bells and thinks the bell in the town's historic church is ideal. To complicate matters, Audrey's ex, Brad (aka Brad the Cad) is part of the crew. When one of the hosts of the show is discovered dead, Brad becomes a suspect, and Audrey is on the case once again.

Congratulations, Beverly!

***

Do you have any Questions you'd like to ask Beverly? Sound off below, and be entered into the drawing for a copy of Bloom and Doom.

 

42 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Beverly!

    I can't wait to read about Ramble, Virginia. I lived in Northern Virginia for 17 years, so I'm familiar with Berryville. (I'll always remember it for the sinkhole that swallowed a house.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, CJ. I didn't know about the sinkhole. But they did tell me about the Wendy's commercial.

      Delete
  2. Congratulations on your new book! I can not wait to read Bloom and Doom! Any advice for a budding novelist?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots! Keep writing. Always work on the craft of writing. Network by going to conferences and joining groups that represent your genre.

      Delete
    2. Great advice, Barb.

      Barbara Lynne, you're entered into the drawing! Best wishes with your journey to publication!

      Delete
    3. I forgot to leave my e-mail address just in case I win! Thanks for the opportunity!

      BarbaraMorganEsq (AT) gmail (DOT) com

      Delete
  3. I share your phone phobia, Barb. Right now I'm procrastinating making a necessary call to reserve a space for a meeting. It's funny, too, because my characters are ALWAYS on the phone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My characters spend a lot of time on the phone, too. In all, they're a lot bolder than I.

      Delete
  4. I would love a chance to read this book. And I'm so glad you decided to write cozies. They have easily become my favorite genre to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angie, I love cozies, too. Thanks for coming by to say hi to Beverly--you're entered into the drawing to win a copy!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Angie. I really didn't have a choice. Everything else I tried eventually turned into a cozy. :)

      Delete
  5. Love flowers and love your name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, to another Barbara. The books, however, are written under the pen name Beverly Allen. But if you say Barb Early aloud quickly or in a noisy room, people hear Beverly, so I've been answering to Beverly for years!

      Delete
    2. I don't think I ever knew that tidbit about you, Barb Early.

      Barbara T, so glad you could come by and enter the drawing!

      Delete
  6. I really enjoy cozy mysteries! This sounds like a great story and I'd love to read it. Thank you for this opportunity to enter the draw.
    AND congratulations on this new book!
    elaineking1 at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elaine K, you're entered into the drawing! So glad you could come by today!

      Delete
  7. You really have a nice video and capture some great ideas in your story; with so much knowledge of flowers. I love what you said about Lilacs...and they are my very favorite scent in the world. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Diane! Lilacs are so pretty. I can't wait until they bloom around here.

      Delete
    2. Lilacs and mysteries. Now I'm thinking of Nancy Drew and the Lilac Inn :) !

      Diane, you're entered into the drawing! Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  8. Congratulations, Barbara. I can't wait to read Bloom and Doom:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're in for a treat Jody! Thanks for coming by. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  9. phone phobia. ha. This came to light when Barb, Niki and I had to coordinate a lunch last summer. I recall when I used to talk on the phone with my friends for hours when i was a teen! those days are gone!

    Excellent interview, ladies. I've loved Beverly's writing since I read her first cozy Peril at the Potluck. Same charming voice you'll find here so I hope she finds a way to publish that series as well...

    The nice thing about this series is that I think I can smell the flowers. That book cover simply radiates the fragrance around it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing like trying to have a phone conversation with a bunch of introverts who hate telephones. LOL.

      Thanks, Deb. In a way, the flowers star in this book. I need to sometimes get out of the way and let them just be beautiful.

      Delete
  10. So glad the launch day is finally here! I have been admiring the cover and waiting to read the book for months now! LOLL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and me both. (Pssst...I haven't seen the new cover yet, but my editor just told me she saw a sketch and she thinks it's going to be gorgeous. I trust her.)

      Delete
    2. Ooh, I can't wait to see the next cover. Squee!

      You're entered into the drawing, Sharon!

      Delete
  11. Congrats on your new book. Looking forward to read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're entered into the drawing, scaro! Thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  12. Oh, that "person of faith is either the killer or some sort of psychopath" is SUCH an old tired convention. It was old in Agatha Christie's day . . . and that was more than a few days ago.

    Great interview. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? If anything, it's gotten worse.

      Delete
    2. I agree, Barb. Especially regarding clergy of particular denominations. Makes me sad.

      Delete
  13. Susie, this is a wonderful interview. You are so good at the questions you ask. Beverly, it's so much fun to learn more about the process of cozies. Love it! I really think they did a great job with the cover. I can't wait for everyone to read this book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm at the edge of my seat. Reviews are starting to trickle in. I just read two new ones. Both positive. I'm sure not everyone will love this book, but it's nice to see such an initial positive response!

      Delete
  14. I LOVE this cover!!!!
    so cannot wait to read the book!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great cover, isn't it? Thanks so much for coming by, cyn209! You're entered into the drawing.

      Delete
    2. I wish I could take credit for it. It's a fantastic cover, and I just heard from my editor that she's seen sketches of the next one and she said it's gorgeous!

      Delete
  15. Congratulations on your book Bloom and Doom, I love the cover and I love a good mystery.
    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy. :)

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cindy! Thanks for coming by! Consider yourself entered!

      Delete
  16. Barb/Beverly, congratulations! I love your writing style and quirky characters and am absolutely thrilled for you. :)

    ReplyDelete