Posted in Blog Tour, Interview

Interview of Dorothy St. James, Author of the Broken Spine, the first Beloved Bookroom Mystery

It’s my pleasure to welcome, author Dorothy St. James, a cozy mystery writer who also writes romantic fiction as Dorothy McFalls. Dorothy hails from Charleston South Carolina where she’s lived since she was six months old.

Hello, Dorothy. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first book, a Regency romance came out in 2005. My first cozy mystery was published in 2011.

Writing as Dorothy St. James

Birds in Paradise (An Aloha Pete Short Mystery), Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), February 2011

Flowerbed of State (White House Gardener Mysteries), Berkley Prime Crime, May 2011

The Scarlet Pepper (White House Gardener Mysteries) Berkley Prime Crime, April 2012

Oak and Dagger (White House Gardener Mysteries) Berkley Prime Crime, April 2013

Asking for Truffle (Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries) Crooked Lane Books, September 2017

Playing with Bonbon Fire (Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries) Crooked Lane Books, March 2018

In Cold Chocolate (Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries) Crooked Lane Books, September 2018

Bonbon with the Wind (Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries) Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), December 2019

Ms. Starr’s Most Inconvenient Change of Heart (A Raven’s Run Romantic Mystery) Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), March 2020

The Broken Spine (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery) Berkley Prime Crime, January 2021

Writing as Dorothy McFalls

Over 200,000 Books Sold Worldwide

Amazon Top 50 Bestseller List for Paid Kindle Books

Amazon #1 Regency Romance Author

Amazon Top 100 Romantic Suspense Author

Amazon Top 100 Paranormal Romance Author

Author of 15 Amazon Bestsellers

The Marriage List, Signet Regency, May 2005/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), November 2009

Lady Sophie’s Midnight Seduction, Venus Press Short Erotic Regency, February 2006/Whispers Publishing, March 2007/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), August 2010

Neptune’s Lair (The Protectors), Venus Press Paranormal Suspense, March 2006/Whispers Publishing, February 2008/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), October 2010

The Huntress, Titan Press Romantic Adventure, May 2006/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), October 2009

Mystical Seduction (The Protectors), Venus Press Paranormal Suspense, August 2006/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), July 2012

Lady Iona’s Rebellion, Cerridwen Press Regency Romance, June 2007/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), March 2010

The Nude, Five Star/Gale/Cengage Regency Romance, May 2009/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), May 2009

Taken By Moonlight, Cobblestone Press Regency Paranormal Romance, October 2010/Barking Dog Press (Indie Published), October 2012

A Wizard for Christmas (The Protectors), Barking Dog Press (Indie Published) Paranormal Romance, December 2011

“Come the Water” in When You Pass Through Waters (Nicole Seitz, Editor), Water Books Short Adventure Story, November 2015

Wow! That’s quite a list. Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

In addition to my ongoing Southern Chocolate Shop mystery series, I’m launching a new series with Berkley Prime Crime that I’m super excited about. The first book in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series, THE BROKEN SPINE, came out January 19, 2021.

I’ve always loved libraries, so setting a mystery series in a library was something I’d been wanting to do for a long, long time. Finally, the right story came along that I felt ready to right. In the Beloved Bookroom mystery series, the public library in the fictional small Southern town of Cypress is being modernized into a high-tech bookless library of the future. My mild-mannered assistant librarian, Trudell Becket, embarks on a secret mission to save her library. While Tru rescues the printed books slated for the landfill, the mastermind behind the library’s modernization is murdered in the library. Tru becomes the main suspect since she cannot tell the police what she was doing at the library without revealing to town officials that she’s opened a secret bookroom in the library’s basement. Determined to keep herself from being sent to jail for the murder, Tru and her friends set out to catch a killer on their own.

That sounds wonderful. As a librarian and author of a cozy mystery series, The Cobble Cove series, featuring Alicia the librarian, I can’t wait to read this and have it waiting for me on my Kindle now.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

My goals have evolved over the years. Currently, my main goals as a writer are to (1) entertain readers/provide hope and (2) build readership.

I plan to continue to write and publish at least two cozy mysteries a year and continue to publish both with major publishers and my own indie-published books.

The pandemic has interfered with these plans. I’m currently homeschooling my daughter, which has taken away from my writing time. While I miss writing as much as I’m used to, I don’t regret the freedom to be able to teach my daughter on our own schedule. I believe in the long-run, we’ll look back as this time as something our family dearly needed.

Sometimes being flexible is the most important ingredient to happiness and fulfillment.

I’m sure other writers are in your shoes during the Pandemic, too, so your comments will be helpful to them. I find it interesting that you continue to Indie publish while you work with major publishers. I have two Indie Publishers who are wonderful. Solstice Publishing publishes my Cobble Cove series and has also published two of my romances, some short eBooks, and one standalone mystery, while Next Chapter has published two of my standalone mysteries. I’m also hoping to find an agent and publish with a major publisher one day.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

The characters in my books sometimes have more personal problems to overcome than what the average reader might encounter in other cozy mysteries. Let’s just be honest, my characters are often hot messes. Readers who enjoy watching personal growth over a series of books seem to enjoy my books. My characters aren’t perfect. They tend to make mistakes. But they always try to do what’s right and are honestly are interested in helping others and finding justice.

Sounds great. What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Keep writing. No matter how hard it seems, you can do this. Your stories are important to tell because they are your stories. No one has the same experiences as you.

At the same time as your furiously writing, also take time to read. Read. Read. Read. Libraries are your friends. Use them.

Learn what publishers are looking for and try to provide the editors with a manuscript that fits their guidelines. Publishing a book can feel impossible at times, but there are so many more opportunities available to writers today than ever before. Now is a great time to be writing.

I agree completely. I’ve always loved libraries and that’s why I work in one. I also believe there are many opportunities for authors today, although getting traditionally published with a large publisher is still difficult, but not impossible, to achieve.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Gracious me, I had to learn the craft of writing. I had all these story ideas in my head, but my writing was unrefined. (That’s a nice way of saying, what I was writing stunk worse than a skunk.) I hadn’t developed a writing voice. I started my writing journey at the bottom of a steep, steep mountain. But I didn’t give up. I took online classes. I studied the books I enjoyed reading. I crafted writing exercises for myself to help develop POV, endings, beginnings, and my voice. Slowly, I learned how to get those stories in my head down onto the page.

I’m still learning.

Writers always continue to learn. You’re a great example of the persistance and work required to publish worthwhile material.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I belong to Sisters in Crime and the Mystery Writers of America. I used to be involved in some local writing groups, but after my daughter was born, I didn’t have as much free time to attend the meetings and slowly drifted away from the groups. But the experience of being able to work and brainstorm with other writers was invaluable for me. I hope to get back to attending local writer group meetings in a couple of years.

I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and several other writing associations. I’ll also be leading an online writer’s group at my library starting this Monday, January 25. There will be two separate sessions of the First Draft writer’s group that will meet via Zoom on Monday afternoons or Thursday nights and is open to everyone. I posted information and registration details previously on this blog: https://wp.me/p6m4z7-2YK

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I enjoy knitting and crocheting. I love to travel and discover new places. And while I’m not too keen on cooking or baking, I do enjoy eating.

I used to crochet, and my daughter has picked it up now, but I don’t have the time right now to relearn it. I also love to travel and hope to do so again when things are safe.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I’ve always let my editing demons get the better of me. I hate that about writing. I hate that writing sometimes makes me feel like I’m “less than” or “not good enough.” I know that’s rubbish, but part of the act of writing is exposing yourself, taking yourself to places where your soul is raw. And it can be painful. But at the same time, visiting those raw places can be beautiful. I’ve learned tons about myself and others around me through my writing. That’s one of the perks of writing—the journey of self-discovery.

I also enjoy that feeling of victory when a plot starts to come together. I often find that I’d been laying breadcrumbs throughout the story that have started to weave together. That’s magic!

I know exactly what you’re talking about. I think most writers are sensitive about their work but learn a lot about themselves through doing it. I know I do. I also love when everything comes together, and my characters lead me in a direction I don’t expect but works out in the end.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

Ever since I was a teen, I have loved reading cozy mysteries. Writing one only seemed natural. I enjoy setting up a puzzle to be solved and then trying to figure out ways to surprise the reader with different twists and turns. I also enjoy an ending where justice has been served and right wins over wrong. What a satisfying feeling.

Cozy mysteries are lighthearted. I can play with puns and funny events in the plot. You cannot imagine how much joy that brings me.

I’ve also enjoyed writing since I was very young. I like cozy mysteries because I enjoy developing characters who can be quirky and writing plots that don’t include a lot of violence or sex scenes (although there are murders and romance).

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

No one in the moderately sized rural southern town of Cypress would ever suspect their stalwart assistant librarian of breaking into the library where she worked. Why would they? A bronze plaque hangs on my kitchen wall. It was personally presented to me by Mayor Goodvale. He declared me an asset to the town. I’d received the award because I always performed my job with the highest level of pride and professionalism. For the past thirteen years I put the town and library first, often to the detriment of my personal life.

An even bigger honor occurred a few years ago when Mrs. Lida Farnsworth, the town’s head librarian, whispered (she always whispered) while we busily returned books to their shelves: “Trudell Becket, I couldn’t be more pleased to be wrong about my first impression of you. I would have hired any other candidate for the position. But, alas, the only other person who’d applied was that drunkard Cooper Berry. I honestly didn’t think you had it in you, honey. But, bless your heart, you’ve become the model of a perfect librarian.”

And she was right. I was perfect. Until . . .

Well, let’s just say someone needed to do this.

As a general rule, librarians don’t speak in loud voices. Librarians don’t exceed the speed limit when driving to work. And librarians certainly don’t dress head-to-toe in black ninja-wear while attempting to pick the library’s backdoor lock.

Yet, librarians can always be counted on to get things done.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I muttered to a lanky brown cat with black tiger stripes. It had emerged from the darkened back alleyway to stand next to library’s cool pearly-pink granite wall and watch me. “Someone needs to protect those books before they all end up destroyed. They’re sending them to the landfill.” The small metal flashlight clenched between my teeth caused the words to come out garbled. Both of my hands were busy working the lock.

A textbook for locksmiths that I’d borrowed from the library’s reference section sat open to the page featuring a diagram of a lock. Since I didn’t own a lockpick kit—why would I?—I’d improvised with a few sturdy paperclips bent to resemble the tools depicted on the book’s previous page. Every little sound, every scrape and rumble in Cypress’s quaint downtown, boomed in my ears. I jumped at the soft cough of a car engine. And with that cat watching me, I felt an itchy need to scurry into the nearest mousehole to hide.

But I couldn’t run. I had to finish what I’d set my mind to finishing.

After what felt like a million thundering heartbeats while I fumbled with the paperclips, the lock clicked. The door opened. I rose on shaky legs, gathering up the reference book and the stack of flattened moving boxes I’d brought with me. My gaze darted to the darkest corners of the alleyway before I slipped inside.

Just as the door started to close, the cat that had been watching with such a judgmental glare shimmied between my legs and into the library before the heavy metal back door clanked closed.

“Hey!” I called in a harsh whisper because shouting in a library simply wasn’t done. Whispering seemed even more important in the middle of the night as I sneaked inside on my clandestine mission.

The brown cat ignored me. With a yeow loud enough to have me instinctively hissing, “Shhhh!” the little beast darted upstairs and disappeared into the shadows of the stacks.

“Tru, you’re in for it now,” I muttered before dropping the stack of boxes. I sprinted after that darn cat.

Mrs. Farnsworth would have a heart attack if she discovered a flea-bitten kitty wandering among her books in the morning. I needed to get him out. The head librarian was already on edge with having to deal with the changes coming to the library.

If I didn’t know the tough older woman better, I would have suspected she was busy plotting a murder. Every time she had to deal with the man behind the changes that were ripping apart both of our worlds, she’d grit her teeth and smile so tightly it looked as if her lips might crack open. But later, when she talked about him and his grand plan, her smile changed into something horrible that made ice tiptoe up my spine.

Love it and can’t wait to read it as soon as I get a chance.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

All the cool kids are reading my books. I think you should too!

I second that.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.

Follow Dorothy Online:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothy.stjames

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothywrites

Instagram: www.instagram.com/dorothymcfalls

Website: www.dorothystjames.com

The Broken Spine Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086SCQ639

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-broken-spine-dorothy-st-james/1136806393?ean=9780593098578

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-broken-spine/9780593098578

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781087855806

Thanks so much for the interesting interview, Dorothy. I’m sharing your blog tour and giveaway below. Best wishes on this new series and your upcoming books.


The Broken Spine (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery)
by Dorothy St. James

About The Broken Spine


The Broken Spine (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (January 19, 2021)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0593098579
ISBN-13: 978-0593098578
Kindle ASIN: B086SCQ639

The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!

Trudell Becket, book-loving librarian, finds herself in a bind when the library where she works is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless library. In a rare move of rebellion, Trudell rescues hundreds of her library’s beloved books slated for the recycle center. She sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to anyone who shares her love of the printed book.

When the town councilman, who was the vocal proponent of the library’s transformation into a “futuristic technological center,” is crushed under an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the police’s prime suspect for his murder. She was the only person in the library at the time of his death, or so the police believe. But that’s not true. For the past month, Trudell had been letting a few dozen residents into the building through the basement entrance so they could read and check out the printed books.

But if she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. In order to protect herself from being arrested for a murder she didn’t commit, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly discovers you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

About Dorothy St. James

Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, a crazy dog, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn’t as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.

* Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including: Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

Author Links

Website: http://www.dorothystjames.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothywrites

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothy.stjames

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/profile/dorothy-st-james

Purchase Links – AmazonIndieBoundBookshopB&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

January 19 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

January 19 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 19 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 19 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 19 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

January 20 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 20 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

January 20 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, GUEST POST

January 20 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

January 20 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW

January 21 – Here’s How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT

January 21 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 21 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

January 21 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Books to the Ceiling – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 22 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW, GUEST POST

January 22 – Cozy Up WIth Kathy – REVIEW

January 22 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

January 23 – Baroness’ Book Trove – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

January 23 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

January 23 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 23 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 23 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 24 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – GUEST POST

January 24 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 24 – Brianne’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 24 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – SPOTLIGHT

January 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW

January 25 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

January 25 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 25 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 25 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

January 25 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

January 25 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT

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Author:

I'm a librarian at a public library and author of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series and other novels, short stories, articles, and a novella. My books include CLOUDY RAINBOW, REASON TO DIE, and the 5 books of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series: A STONE'S THROW, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, WRITTEN IN STONE, LOVE ON THE ROCKS, and NO GRAVESTONE UNTURNED. I've also written a romantic comedy novella, WHEN JACK TRUMPS ACE, and short stories of various genres published as eBooks by Solstice Publishing and in anthologies published by the Red Penguin Collection. My standalone psychological thriller, SEA SCOPE, and my medical mystery, MEMORY MAKERS, are published by NEXT CHAPTER PUBLISHING who has also published my latest book, the time-travel thriller, TIMES RELATIVE. My non-fiction cat book, PET POSTS: THE CAT CHATS was published in December 2020, and my short story, KITTYKAI's EASTER MYSTERY, was published in March 2021. I have also completed the first book of a new cozy series, THE CASE OF THE CAT CRAZY LADY, Buttercup Bend Mystery #1, for which I am currently seeking representation. I am a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Long Island Authors Group, International Thriller Writers, and the Cat Writers' Association. I live on Long Island with my husband, daughter, and 3 cats.

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