Although I consider myself a romantic suspense author and fan, I also used to be an avid reader of cozy mysteries especially those featuring cats. For those of you who also share that interest, I will be featuring Cozy Chats with cozy mystery authors on this blog. If you are an author who writes a cozy series and would like to participate in a future Cozy Chat, please contact me.
Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Diane A.S. Stuckart (pen name Ali Brandon) about her Black Cat Bookshop mystery series.
Hi, Diane. Thanks for joining us on Cozy Chat. Have a seat and help yourself to some tea while we talk.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Black Cat Bookshop mystery series? What gave you the idea for it and what is your latest book in it?
PLOT BOILER, my November 2015 release, is Number 5 in the series which features Hamlet the Cat and his human, Darla Pettistone. Here’s the series in a nutshell: Texas transplant Darla Pettistone inherited a Brooklyn brownstone from her late great-aunt, complete with a quirky independent bookstore known as Pettistone’s Fine Books. What Darla didn’t expect was that she’d also be the new caretaker of Hamlet, a big black cat with a cat-itude to match. But Darla soon finds that she and the ornery feline make a purr-fectly paw-some sleuthing team. As for the original idea, the premise of Hamlet came from my first editor, but the bookstore and all the other characters are mine. We wanted to give readers a return to the neighborhood bookstore, which unfortunately is an endangered species these days.
I know excactly what you mean. Your series sounds great. I’m a sucker for anything mysterious with cats and books in it, so I definitely have to add some of these books to my TBR pile. In my own novels, that some consider cozy mysteries but I think of as romantic suspense, I always try to feature at least one cat. In A STONE’S THROW, my November release and the first of my Cobble Cove novels, I have Sneaky the library cat as one of the characters. He’s Siamese like my own Oliver. I also have a dog in the book, Fido. Both pets play important yet minor roles.
Do you have any advice to other authors about writing cozies or writing in general?
In my opinion, a successful cozy series must have good “bones”—a likable protagonist, a series “hook”, and a cast of characters that readers come to know and see as friends. While the mystery portion of the book (including its solving) is obviously a vital element, in my opinion what matters most is the interaction among the characters and how the murder affects them.
That’s a good point. I agree that cozy mysteries are character-driven. I feel my books are very much like that, as well. My main character, Alicia, is a librarian who moves to the small town of Cobble Cove and meets newspaper publisher, John, and the town’s other quirky residents. I feel the murders and other crimes that take place as the book progresses and those I hope will follow are interesting, but, as you said, it’s the characters’ interactions that feed the plot and that I believe will appeal to readers.
What are you currently working on?
After the release of Plot Boiler, I’m taking a break for the time being, but I am playing with an idea for another historical mystery series set during the Renaissance. And I still have a couple of my vintage historical romances that I intend to republish on Kindle. Hopefully we will be seeing more Hamlet mysteries to come.
Sounds good. Do you write any other genres than cozies? You mentioned historical mysteries.
Yes. I started out writing historical romance under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. After that, I contributed short fiction to several anthologies with themes ranging from mystery to fantasy. My first foray into the mystery genre was writing the (unfortunately short-lived) Leonardo da Vinci mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. And from there I started writing the Black Cat Bookshop mysteries.
Very interesting. My first published work besides the cat articles I still write was a short mystery for Cat Crimes Through Time back when the Cat Crimes anthologies by Martin Greenberg and Ed Gorman were popular. I wrote “Stitches in Time” about Betsy Ross’ cat which I guess you would consider a historical mystery. I was so excited to have my story featured with some already famous cat mystery authors such as Carole Nelson Douglas, who I’m still in contact with today and hope to feature on a future cozy chat.
Can you tell me how you got started in writing?
I was a journalism major in college, but before that I was on the high school newspaper and was always at the top of the class when it came to writing papers for English class. I figured I had a knack for putting words to paper and decided to give book writing a try once I left school.
Wow, Diane, we have a lot in common. I was an English major in college and Features Editor on the college newspaper, The Pioneer, at C.W. Post. I think journalism training is a great way to gain experience in writing.
What are your hobbies besides writing?
I’m a founding member of the Gold Coast Paranormal Society, a volunteer organization of “ghost hunters” here in South Florida. I also collect Tarot and Lenormand card decks, and I enjoy doing “crafty” things. And, of course, I love to read.
We have even more similarities. I used to enjoy astrology and occult arts including Tarot when I was younger. I don’t dabble much in it anymore, but I always found it fun. I also used to crochet, but I don’t have much time for hobbies besides reading and writing today since I work full-time as a librarian and have a daughter now.
Is there anything else you’d like readers of this blog to know about you and/or your books?
Rescue cats (and dogs!) make the greatest pets, a subject I try to mention in all the Hamlet books. Keep on reading, and consider adopting!
Great advice. Do you have any links you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you so much for joining us on Cozy Chat today, and good luck with your future books.