Posted in Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery, Interview

Interview with Dorothy St. James, Author of A Book Club to Die For, A Beloved Bookroom Cozy Mystery

It’s my pleasure to feature an interview with Dorothy St. James who also writes romances under her real name, Dorothy McFalls. Dorothy is the author of A Book Club to Die For that is currently on blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book tours. She hails from Charleston, South Carolina.

Hi, Dorothy. Welcome to Ruff Drafts. 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, THE MARRIAGE LIST, was published in 2005 by Signet books as Dorothy McFalls. I have since self-published this book, and it’s become one of my top sellers.

My career as cozy mystery Dorothy St. James author began in 2011 with the White House Gardener Mystery series, published by my dream publisher Berkley Prime Crime. These books follow the adventures of a Charleston gardener who takes a job working as an assistant gardener at the White House. She digs up all sorts of crime there!

My next series, the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, was published by Crooked Lane Books. This series is set on the fictional beach community of Camilla Beach. It’s based on the artsy town of Folly Beach in where I lived for twenty years. It has quirky southern characters, delicious chocolate recipes, and murder in a vacation setting. What more could you ask for?

And now I’m writing the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. I’m back with my dream publisher! This series follows the adventures of an assistant librarian in a small town as she stands up to government officials in her quest to protect her library’s books. It’s been a fun series since it combines my love of books with my past career with working for small southern governments.

I’ve written a few books that have been self-published and hope to do more in the future. In fact, I’ve continued the cancelled Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series by publishing the fourth book (and hopefully more to come) by myself. Self-publishing has been quite successful for me. I enjoy being able to take a book directly to the reader.

Wow! You’re quite an established author, and I find it interesting that you’ve found success both through a large publisher and through self publishing. My cozy mysteries and other books are currently being published by small, Indie publishers, but I’ve been trying to find an agent, so I can get them published by a larger publisher. My only experience with self publishing was for my first novel, a paranormal romance that I published through a self-publishing company. I since sold it to one of my publishers. That was years ago before authors began to self publish on their own. I’m still not sure it would be for me, but I’ll be having more time in the future to consider my writing path, as I’m retiring shortly.

Please tell us a bit more about your books.

My latest release, A BOOK CLUB TO DIE FOR (November 1, 2022) is the third book in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series. Trudell Becket, assistant librarian at the Town of Cypress Public Library, is facing what might prove to be her biggest challenge yet. The Cypress Arete Society is one of the town’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. When Tru is invited to speak to the group about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, her friend Flossie invites herself along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join.

But not long after Tru and Flossie arrive for the meeting, they’re shocked to find the club’s president, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. Rebecca was a former TV actress and local celebrity, but was not known for being patient or pleasant. She’d been particularly unkind to the book club’s host for the evening, who also happens to be the mother of Detective Jace Bailey, Tru’s boyfriend. And Rebecca had made it clear that she didn’t think Flossie was book club material.

With her boyfriend and one of her best friends wrapped up in a murder, Tru has to work fast to figure out who cut Rebecca’s story short before the killer takes another victim out of circulation….

Love that premise and that your book is about a librarian. I currently work at a public library and feature a librarian in my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. There’s also a librarian playing a minor role so far in my new Buttercup Bend mysteries.

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?

I hope to write stories that make the reader feel hope while also providing entertainment. The world can be a difficult place. For me, books have often served as a refuge in turbulent times. My fondest wish is to provide that safe harbor for others out there.

I hope to branch out into new genres in the coming years and to stretch myself as an author. I have been writing new stories and developing new ideas that take me outside my comfort zone and challenge me to ask some bigger questions and delve deeper into why my characters make the decisions they make. While I aim to bring to the table richer tales, I will always strive to keep the stories fast-paced, entertaining, and with endings filled with hope.

You have nice goals. Best of luck with them.

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

I would like to appeal to a broad range of readers. Most of my readers are women. And being a woman myself, I’m okay with that. Readers who enjoy solving puzzles and who are looking for a lighter read will enjoy my books.

That’s not to say my books are shallow. Comedies can be sneaky teachers. There’s no reason why comedic prose cannot tackle the same difficult questions that more “serious” books take on. And many comedic books do! How the author tackles the issue is what changes. I hope readers will walk away from my books feeling as if they have learned something valuable either about themselves or about the world.

I agree that most women enjoy cozies, although there are men who find them interesting.. I also like to add a bit of humor to my mysteries, along with more serious topics.

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

I have been writing seriously since 2001. And I’ve been hearing all this time that it’s becoming harder and harder to get published. The story never changes. So, if you are told this, don’t lose hope. I started out needing to learn many lessons about the craft of writing and the business of publication. As I honed my skills, it became easier and easier to find publishers and readers. That’s not to say it’s always easy. It’s not. But you can learn the market. You can learn to write the books the market wants. And if those aren’t the books you want to write, you can find readers by self-publishing your books and selling directly to your market.

And one more thing. I firmly believe that every person has an important story that they can tell. All it takes is the will and the time to learn the best way to tell it.

I totally agree with you. I published my first book in 2008 and have been publishing regularly since 2015. I currently have 14 books published by two publishers and have done that working full-time. I feel that I’ve improved with each book and am close to achieving wider recognition in the publishing industry.

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

Oh, I had so many challenges! I came from a government job writing regulations and grants, both of which I excelled at. I didn’t know how to write compelling prose. I didn’t know how to find my voice. But luckily, both of these things are skills that can be learned. I took online courses. I went to workshops offered by local writing groups. I took notes from the novels I read and enjoyed. And I read many how-to books. Eventually, gradually, I improved.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Thanks for sharing that. It’s an inspiring story.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers groups. I’ve been members of other groups along the way, including Novelist Inc. and Romance Writers of America. It’s important to find groups that fit where you are in your career and have programs that will help you grow and a place to network to find a support network of writers who are at the same level in their career as you.

I agree. I also belong to Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, as well as a few other groups including the Cat Writers’ Association of which I’ve been a member of for many years and have received awards and opportunities.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love to read. And naps. Naps play a big role in my life. I also enjoy traveling, hiking, getting out into nature, and fiber arts (knitting, crocheting, macramé.)

Lol. Naps are good. They’re healthy for you. Traveling can give writers more ideas from which to draw. I also love the outdoors and enjoy visiting gardens, parks, etc. My daughter is into knitting and crocheting, like you. She’s self taught and enjoys that hobby immensely.

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

I love it when a story comes together. My heart starts pounding and my fingers move faster over the keyboard the moment when the plot and the subplots all make sense to me. I feel so accomplished.

I dislike the daily grind of coming to the page and fighting a plot that doesn’t feel like it’s working. Sometimes that means there is something wrong with the plot. Sometimes it means I’m tired. And sometimes it means I have to work through the rough bits to find the good bits. It can be a challenge figuring out where I am in the process and how to make my story move forward and to get better.

My biggest challenge is fighting my self-doubt. I suspect I’m—like many authors out there—my biggest obstacle. Self-doubt can be difficult to overcome. But if you have a story singing in your heart, it’s important to push through and get that story out on the page, even if you’re doing it only for yourself…especially if you’re doing it only for yourself.

You’ve made some very important points that other writers will identify with. I certainly do.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love both the puzzles of the cozy mysteries and the rich variety of characters. I think as a reader I come for mystery and come back to a series for the characters. Over time, the characters in a series can become as dear to me as an old friend.

That is exactly how I feel about writing my cozies.

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

Sure! I’d love to.

A loud crash from the kitchen made us both jump.

As we moved toward the swinging door to investigate, the front doorbell rang.

“What should we do?” I asked as I automatically moved toward the front door. “Answer the door or offer our help in the kitchen?

“Kitchen,” Flossie announced as she rolled her wheelchair in that direction. “As hostess, Hazel should be the one to greet her guests. She wouldn’t thank us for doing that for her.” The kitchen door swung back and forth in Flossie’s wake.

I hesitated.

The head librarian, Mrs. Farnsworth might be on the other side of the front door, ringing the bell. She wouldn’t appreciate being made to wait outside.

But then there was a second crash in the kitchen.

“Flossie? Is everything alright in there?” I abandoned my quest to open the front door and jogged to the kitchen to find Flossie sitting in her wheelchair next to an enormous kitchen counter that was lined with sumptuous dishes.

“Hazel did this all by herself?” I wondered aloud, barely able to restrain myself from taking a nibble out of one of the rainbow-colored mini hamburgers topped with feta cheese. My empty stomach rumbled.

Strangely, Flossie wasn’t looking at the food, but was busy slipping something into her bag.

“What were those crashes?” I asked her.

“Hazel must have dropped her pasta casserole onto the floor. It’s everywhere,” Flossie said. Her wheelchair made a squishy sound as she rolled through elbow pasta floating in an eggy mayonnaise sauce strewn with cucumbers, pink seared tuna, and chives. “You’d better get a mop.”

“We’re going to need more than a mop,” I said as I stepped further into the kitchen.

I pointed to the hardwood floor near the kitchen counter where a pair of legs were sticking out from behind the kitchen counter.

“Is it—?” Flossie asked.

I peered around the counter and followed the legs up to the rest of the woman. Rebecca White was lying flat on back. Her unmoving eyes seemed to be staring judgmentally at a tiny cobweb hanging from the ceiling.

Flossie looked at the shattered casserole dish lying in pieces next to Rebecca’s body. “Tell me she isn’t dead.”

“Can’t do that.” I sighed.

Flossie breathed out a long, loud breath. “It looks like there will be an opening for a new member in the society after all.”

“An opening? What do you mean an opening?” Hazel demanded. “Did Rebecca say something about my membership?” Our hostess came into the kitchen through the back door. She was carrying an empty garbage can while wearing bright yellow dish gloves. I was embarrassed that she’d heard Flossie’s uncharitable remark about a dead woman. “What’s going on in here?” Her voice was filled with suspicion as soon as she noticed the awful mess.

“What did you do to Rebecca?” Flossie demanded right back at our hostess.

Hazel looked at the pasta salad splattered all over the floor first and then at Rebecca who was lying in the middle of the mess. “Good gracious, Mary, and Joseph. She’s dead, isn’t she?”

The front doorbell rang for a second time.

“And the rest of the ladies are here. Of course, they are,” Hazel said before bursting out in a loud peel of laughter. The poor woman laughed so hard she had to bend over and grab hold of her knees to keep from falling over. And she kept laughing.

I called the police while Hazel continued to laugh so hard tears poured down her face. It took Flossie threatening to slap her silly before the poor woman managed to get control of herself.

“Sorry, sorry, I’ve had to put up with this sharp-tongued woman all week. She kept telling me that tonight was going to be a disaster…and then the dessert burned…and I had to take it out to the garbage…and…now…this,” Hazel explained between gasping breaths. “She was right, wasn’t she? Tonight is a disaster. I bet she died just to make sure she would be right. She would always go to any length to ensure her rightness. I can’t tell you how much I hated that.”

The doorbell rang again. Hazel glanced over at where Rebecca was still on the floor dead. The soles of the former actress’s high heels were really the only thing visible from where the three of us were. A short laugh seemed to explode out Hazel’s mouth. “Sorry. I can’t seem to help myself. Seeing her there reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the East at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz movie. Smashed by a house. Ding-dong.” She fought back more giggles and more tears. “Gracious, it isn’t funny. I know it isn’t. It’s just that I worked myself half to death this past week trying to make Rebecca happy and then, the moment before the guests arrive and before Rebecca’s friend from that television show comes to set up, that terrible woman drops dead. And my casserole dish is smashed too. It was a wedding gift from my sister.”

“You didn’t do this?” Flossie asked, pointing to the shattered remains of what I supposed to be the murder weapon.

“What? Buy that dish?” Hazel shook her head. “No. I just told you it had been a wedding gift from my sister. I’ve had it forever. It’s hard to find quality ones that are that large enough nowadays. I don’t know how I’ll replace it.

Love it! Thanks for sharing.

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

I live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with my family and neurotic pets. I often can be found at the local library, searching for my next favorite read. I hope you’ll give one of my books a chance.

I certainly hope my readers will, and I plan to do so, too. Thanks so much for the wonderful interview. I’m sharing the blog tour for you new release below. Best wishes.

 


A Book Club to Die For (A Beloved Bookroom)
by Dorothy St. James

About A Book Club to Die For


A Book Club to Die For (A Beloved Bookroom)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Setting – Cypress, South Carolina
‎Berkley (November 1, 2022)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593098633
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593098639
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09PZSBCVW

When a member of an exclusive book club is checked out, spunky librarian Trudell Becket must sort fact from fiction to solve the murder.

The Cypress Arete Society is one of the town’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. When assistant librarian Trudell Becket is invited to speak to the group about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, her friend Flossie invites herself along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join.

But not long after Tru and Flossie arrive for the meeting, they’re shocked to find the club’s president, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. Rebecca was a former TV actress and local celebrity, but was not known for being patient or pleasant. She’d been particularly unkind to the book club’s host for the evening, who also happens to be the mother of Detective Jace Bailey, Tru’s boyfriend. And Rebecca had made it clear that she didn’t think Flossie was book club material.

With her boyfriend and one of her best friends wrapped up in a murder, Tru has to work fast to figure out who cut Rebecca’s story short before the killer takes another victim out of circulation….

About Dorothy St. James

Dorothy St. James is a former Folly Beach beach bum. She now lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, with her family, slightly (OK, terribly) needy dogs, and the friendliest cat you’ll ever meet. Author of a dozen novels, Dorothy enjoys writing both cozy mysteries and romance.

Follow Dorothy Online:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothy.stjames

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothywrites

Instagram: www.instagram.com/dorothymcfalls

Website: www.dorothystjames.com

Purchase Links – AmazonPenguin Random HouseB&NKoboIndieBound

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

November 1 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 1 – I’m Into Books – SPOTLIGHT

November 1 – The Mystery Section – SPOTLIGHT

November 2 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

November 2 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – CHARACTER GUEST POST

November 2 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

November 3 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

November 3 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

November 3 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

November 4 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

November 4 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW

November 4 – View from the Birdhouse – REVIEW

November 5 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 5 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

November 5 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

November 6 – The Book Diva’s Reads – AUTHOR GUEST POST

November 6 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

November 7 – Angel’s Guilty Pleasures – CHARACTER GUEST POST

November 7 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

November 8 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT

November 8 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

November 9 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

November 9 – Nadaness In Motion – SPOTLIGHT

November 10 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 10 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

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Author:

I'm a librarian at a public library and author of the Cobble Cove and Buttercup Bend cozy mystery series and other novels, short stories, poems, articles, and a novella. My books include CLOUDY RAINBOW, REASON TO DIE, SEA SCOPE, MEMORY MAKERS, TIME'S RELATIVE, MEOW AND PURRS, and the 6 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, NO GRAVESTONE UNTURNED, and SNEAKY'S SUPERNATURAL MYSTERY AND OTHER COBBLE COVE STORIES. 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, my medical mystery, MEMORY MAKERS, and my time-travel novel, TIME'S RELATIVE are published by NEXT CHAPTER PUBLISHING who has also published my cat poetry book, MEOWS AND PURRS, and the first book of my new Buttercup Bend cozy mystery series, THE CASE OF THE CAT CRAZY LADY. I've also signed with Next Chapter for a reprint of PET POSTS: THE CAT CHATS, my non-fiction cat book that will be retitled MEMORIES AND MEOWS. 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 2 cats.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Dorothy St. James, Author of A Book Club to Die For, A Beloved Bookroom Cozy Mystery

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