A Conversation with Josalyn McAllister author of Guilt is Midnight Blue

Hazel drives, hikes and snoops all over her small Appalachian town to prevent her community from being torn apart by old grudges — Guilt is Midnight Blue by Josalyn McAllister

Hazel Dean is a firecracker.  Her superpower is being able to read people’s emotions and more importantly to fit the right book to the perfect reader.  Color me jealous (the pun is unintended, but I will enjoy it anyway) When she meets a troubled young man in her store, she worries that the perfect book she gave him may have inadvertently led to his death.  She knows the person they caught for the crime didn’t do it. She thinks she knows who did, but it going to take some doing to prove it.

The law enforcement significant other is a popular trope in cozies, but I have to say that Jason Dean stands alone. Sure he is appropriately against his wife’s amatuer sleuthing, but when the chips are down he has got her back, and they make such a sweet team. Their relationship is the strong backbone of this story. It is also just nice to see a happy normal family in the center of it all. 

Red Gap seems like a nice town, and I would have enjoyed getting to know more of the townsfolk a bit, but I feel like this is a wonderful introduction to the series, with plenty of room for growth and potential for great stories. 

I enjoyed the intertwining of the story’s two mysteries. While I picked out the bad guy early on, I did not anticipate how it would play out and I very much enjoyed the twist. I am looking forward to visiting with these characters again.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

What inspired the idea for your book?   

We moved from Minnesota to Georgia a few years ago and I was completely charmed by some aspects of Southern culture and by the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. I got the idea of seeing emotion in color from my great aunt who claimed to have that gift.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book? 

I learned some very interesting psychology things but I can’t tell because it would give spoilers! I did pick up a new hobby of collecting old church cookbooks from garage sales and estate sales. It’s been interesting to look through those old recipes. 

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?  

Oh, Hazel and I would definitely bake together. And I would absolutely love to be a part of the book club she runs out of her bookshop. I would love to just sit in her bookshop café and drink her amazing hot chocolates and let her pick books out for me. 

What does it mean to you to be called an author? 

I’ve always loved to write but when I was in sixth grade I had a teacher who really encouraged me. She told me “I know you’ll be published one day.” Like it was some kind of certainty or fate. Since then I’ve wanted nothing more than to fulfill her prophecy. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to do that.

How do you define success as an author? 

 I think the main job of an author is to communicate with readers. I feel successful whenever someone talks to me about my book and it’s clear that they really got what I was trying to communicate. It makes me so happy.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

 I’d say premise first, then characters, then plot. My plot is dependent on how characters react to different situations and what seems plausible. In Guilt is Midnight Blue I changed the ending halfway through writing the book. My characters presented a better ending to me. Not because they’re alive or have free will. I’ve heard authors imply that and I don’t believe it at all. Half the reason I write is to control what people do in some format. Lol. It’s just that they spark my creativity as they gain more depth.

What has been your favorite reader feedback? 

 I had one reader say that my book got her out of a years long reading slump after she had been suffering from severe depression and anxiety. I felt so honored and humbled. 

What is your all time favorite book or author? 

Do you think this has influenced your writing?  I love The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Any film version I’ve ever seen pales in comparison to the book. It’s full of twists and unexpected choices. I love all the connections the different characters have with each other and how everything ties up so neatly and perfectly. I also am fascinated by the revenge plotline and how it changes the character that pursues it. It’s the perfect blend of plot and character. 

How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block? 

I generally have no shortage of overarching plot ideas, but somewhere in the middle I usually get stuck. At that point I like to write a scene that I know needs to happen in the future and then go back and ask myself ‘what needs to happen to get from here to there?’ 

When all else fails, I’ll go for a run.

What is the first book that you remember reading?

 I had the weirdest experience just the other day when my kids got this book from the library and I already knew the book. When we began to read it together, I remembered it. I knew everything that was going to happen. It was a strange feeling that is probably familiar to a lot of people. It’s an early reader book so I couldn’t have been older than six when I read it. It’s called Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel.    I clearly remember devouring The Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew and LM Montgomery when I was little.

Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests? 

I have a little problem and it’s that I’m interested in everything. I like to cook and bake, which come out in my writing. I also like to run and am interested in fitness and nutrition. I also sew and garden and teach Sunday School at church. I have a penchant for impulsively starting overly complicated home improvement projects. 

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? 

Revision is a thing! Don’t edit yourself on the first draft! Just write the whole thing down. It will guarantee to be better than you thought it was while you were writing it. 

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters? 

The main character, Hazel would be hard because she has to be in her forties and she has to be really warm. Reese Witherspoon would probably be great because she’s southern. Marisa Tomei maybe has the right vibe. I think Mark Ruffalo would be a wonderful Jason, Hazel’s husband. I’d want Woody Harrelson as Hazel’s fatherly uncle, the police captain. I think he’s so talented and it would be a great role for him. 

What would your dream library look like? 

Exactly like the bookshop I describe in Guilt is Midnight Blue, café included.

Books were stacked on the floor and piled up on end tables. There were ten sets of main bookshelves creating four aisles to walk down, inviting you to come peruse the books. On top of each shelf, books were stacked even higher. Cash shook his head. It was surely a fire hazard. An inspector would have a fit if he ever stopped by. At the end of one of the rows was an overstuffed chair with a tower of books right next to it.

Cash looked down at his mud- caked jeans and resisted the urge to sit down in the chair. His house had never had furniture so inviting in it. Cash walked down one of the rows of shelves. He wondered how you were to find anything that you wanted because there were no labels or signs anywhere to tell you what kind of books were shelved where. In fact, he saw a copy of The Cat in the Hat right next to A Tale of Two Cities and The Prince. It didn’t seem organized at all.

After taking a few steps down what felt like a tunnel of books, he caught a glimpse of a bright open space. He walked tentatively towards the light. When he emerged from the stacks of books, the effect was nothing short of magical. The entire back of the building was encased in glass with the arched ceiling of a conservatory. The view of the North Georgia mountains made his breath catch in his throat. The gigantic wheel that used to grind grain into flour spun in the river’s current with hypnotic regularity.

Nestled within the space was a bakery counter displaying various confections and rows and rows of chocolates. There was a little coffee menu as well. Overstuffed chairs like the one in the front were everywhere, and the brick wall to his right housed a large wood- burning fireplace. A chess table sat nearby, set up with a game in progress. His jaw actually dropped. It felt like the book tunnels were a portal to another world. A secret clubhouse.

Hazel Dean can see other’s emotions in color.

She mostly uses it to help people find the perfect book in her shop, Books and Chocolate. But, when one of her customers is murdered, the police point to an old feud. Only Hazel can tell that the accused is innocent. She must navigate around her district attorney husband, and her surrogate uncle, the police captain, to find out what really happened.

Hazel drives, hikes and snoops all over her small Appalachian town in an attempt to bring peace to the victim’s family and prevent her community from being torn apart by old grudges.

Purchase Links: Amazon – B&N 

Josalyn McAllister is a cozy fiction author whose most recent works include Love Over Easy and Guilt is Midnight Blue. Josalyn started writing character descriptions at the tender age of seven, inspired by the works of LM Montgomery. In her teenage years she moved on to Newsies fan fiction. Inspired by National Novel Writing Month, she wrote her first novel about a child she mentored in college. She has never stopped writing. Josalyn taught middle school history before deciding she would rather spend time with her own children than other peoples. A restless soul, she has moved all over the country and collected an eclectic array of hobbies. Her writing has a relatable quality that will charm and entertain you.

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