Today, The Poisoned Martini is privileged to be speaking with author Duffy Brown, author of the consignment shop mysteries, Iced Chiffon (2012) and Killer in Crinolines (2013). Her third book in the series, Pearls and Poison, is due out in March 2014.
The Poisoned Martini: Hello, Duffy, tell us a little about your forthcoming book?
Duffy Brown: Pearls and Poison is about an election and a murder. Who hasn’t wanted to knock off a politician at one time or another?
Judge Gloria Summerside…or Guillotine Gloria depending on which side of the law you happen to be on… is running for alderman in Savannah, Georgia. Her opponent is a mud-slinging slimeball. Gloria tries to make peace over a bottle of honey bourbon but when Scummy winds up dead and the poison is in the honey bourbon, Gloria is the logical suspect.
Her daughter, Reagan, runs a consignment shop and has gotten roped into finding a killer more than once. Reagan and Auntie KiKi are determined to find the real murder this time to save Gloria…whether she wants them to or not.
The PM: Is there anything readers should know if they haven’t read the first two books?
Duffy: Reagan is the rebound girl we all hope we are when things get tough, Auntie KiKi is the auntie we all wish we had, Reagan’s ex is the guy we love to hate and Walker Boone is the man of mystery we all dream about.
These are all stand alone stories. It’s a lot like a TV show…you can always jump in at any time but the characters change. The character you see at the beginning of the series is not the same as the character in book four but you can follow that story, no problem.
The PM: How did you first develop the idea of the consignment shop mysteries and create the duo of Reagan and her Aunt Kiki?
Duffy: I just love the South. I love the speach where why use one word when you can use four or five. I love the food, landscape and I love the steel magnolia attitude of getting the job done with a smile and a glass of sweet tea…that’s Reagan and KiKi. KiKi’s the auntie we all want to help us when we need it and kick us in the pants when we need that too. I wanted someome who loved family and fun above all else and willing to try anything once…that’s KiKi.
I wanted a heroine who was struggling to reinvent herself but someone smart and hard-working. I love Reagan because she never gives up. Things don’t always go her way…heck they rarely go her way…but she keeps at it and best of all…she has a great sense of humor through it all.
When I decided to follow my dream and write mysteries I went with the old adage of write what you know and love. I adore Savannah, Georgia, and I’ve worked in an upscale consignment shop for fifteen years. That’s how the series Consignment: Murder was born.
The PM: Does working in a consignment shop generate lots of ideas for your mysteries?
Duffy: So far we have never found a dead body in the dressing rooms but on how to run a consignment shop working in one for fifteen years is a huge help.
Reagan is a newbie entrepreneur forced into setting up shop to make ends meet or at least come a little closer together in the middle. What clothes to take…it’s not called the Prissy Fox for nothing. How to handle snooty customers, how to keep books, pay out customers, set up sales, break up fights over that new Louis Vuitton bag that just came in.
Working in a consignment shop helps keep it real in the book.
The PM: This year, you’re also branching out with a new series. The first book, Geared for the Grave, is scheduled for Fall 2014. Tell us a little about the Cyclepath Mysteries, and what readers can anticipate.
Duffy: Cyclepath Mysteries are set on Mackinac Island. Evie comes to the island to help her boss’ dad who owns a bicycle and has broken his leg. Actually she’s trying to butter up the boss for a promotion except while she’s there the dad gets accused of murder. This is a great way to get fired, not get a promotion. Evie sets out to find the killer without upsetting the summer tourists called fudgies. Murder is never good for business.
But things get complicated when the geriatric branch of the Detroit mob comes to town, a strange fudge recipe makes tourists have the best time ever and a bad case of the munchies, and a hitman takes up residence.
The PM: What drew you to Mackinac Island as a setting?
Duffy: I love that it has no cars, wifi is sketchy, there is limited iPhone reception, there are only 500 permanent residents, you can only get there by ferry and plane and both are at the mercy of the weather.
In the winter it’s snowmobiles and in the summer the whole place runs on horsepower, big horse power. In the winter the ferries stop running meaning residents are truly cut off from the rest of the world especially if the little single-engine planes are grounded.
When Lake Huron freezes over in February the residents take their snowmobiles across the ice…holy cow…to the mainland. They mark the safe path with Christmas trees they’ve saved from Christmas. Almost every year they lose someone to falling though the ice or planes getting lost in the fog.
Mackinac Island is so unique and the absolute perfect place to hide a body or two.
The PM: You live in Ohio, so how do you capture an authentic sense of setting for both series?
Duffy: Visit! I cannot imagine writing about a place I didn’t visit. My settings are like another character in my books.
My daughter went to school in Savannah and I fell in love with the city. I’ve visited a lot even after she graduated and probably know Savannah better than I now Cincinnati. I know the streets, restaurants, bed and breakfast establishments, the squares, what houses face the squares, the real estate and where to go for the best barbecue, velvet cake, fried chicken and martinis.
My daughter and I took our bikes there for a week and peddled all over the place. We met the maître d’ up at the Woods who bought us free drinks and told us great stories, we met the guys at the Mustang Lounge…the Stang…the watering hole for the locals and ate fried green beans. We stayed at the Market Street Inn and the proprietor and chamber maid told us about horrid winter stories and dished the town dirt.
The Grand Hotel is a huge part of Mackinac Island. We went to high tea, attended lectures and concerts, played bocci ball and talked up the waiters and bartenders. My daughter is five eleven size two and lives in NYC; every guy on the island wanted to talk to us.
The PM: Are you finding it a challenge to juggle two mystery series?
Duffy: I love the diversity but it means a book every six months and with all the promo associated with book releases it’s more than a full time job. Many days I do not leave the computer or get out of my jammies. The dust bunnies have taken over my office and dinner is popcorn. Oh the glamorous life of an author. I’m not complaining, I’m living the dream but it sure isn’t the life of Jessica Fletcher either.
The PM: Previously, you wrote romance novels as Dianne Castell. Why did you decide to write mysteries?
Duffy: I probably should have been writing mysteries all along, as readers seem to like my mystery stores better than they ever did my romances. Since Shades of Gray came along, the romance world has heated up to boiling. That’s not what I want to write. It was time for a change and I have never been happier.
The PM: Which authors, mystery or otherwise, have inspired you?
Duffy: I love the Stephanie Plum series. All the books are terrific but the first three are magic. I’ve read One for the Money so many times it’s falling apart. Janet Evanovich is my hero. Best characters ever.
The PM: Again, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
For more about Duffy and her books, visit her site: http://www.duffybrown.com/