First Things First:
A little about myself will help with the context of my answers. I’m a British author but my husband is in the British Army, so we have moved around a lot. I spent 8 years in Kenya, with our two small boys, and my husband worked there, Somalia and on an international exercise.
I fell in love with Kenya and felt compelled to write about the beauty of the country and the amazing people who, despite owning very little, have an amazingly positive outlook on their world, and life in general.
We moved back to the UK at the end of 2018, and then out to Sarajevo, in Bosnia & Herzegovina, in September 2020. That’s where I’m currently based but I still travel between the UK, where my boys are at school, and Sarajevo. It has been a stressful year with the complexities of travel, worry about being in a different country from my children, or having them at home and homeschooling. But I am lucky to visit and live in different countries and experience so much that life has to offer. Wherever I go I look for sights, events and experiences which will enrich my future books.
What inspired the idea for your book?
I initially wrote this as a novella to give away to my newsletter subscribers. But I wanted to explore the book’s themes in a deeper way. It is set in Kenya and includes the plight of the endangered Grevy’s zebra, colonial land allocation, and the desire for material possessions. My elderly protagonist has to summon up the strength to continue with life after a personal tragedy in the previous book, Jackal & Hide.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?
The introduction of a new larger-than-life character who I had not expected to have such an impact. She is full of her own self-importance, and I had fun allowing other characters to bring her down a peg or two.
How do you define success as an author?
It is constantly changing. To write and publish my first book, Fowl Murder, was definitely a success. Now I’d like to create a business and a sustainable income from my writing.
Do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I try to write first thing in the morning, otherwise, the requirements of the day, and my family, take over. During lockdowns, when my boys were homeschooling, I got up at 5.30 am so I could have at least 1,000 words written by breakfast. I try to write another 1,000 to 1,500 words during the morning and early afternoon and also take a break for a walk or a run.
I still plot and plan using a pencil and paper. Each of the novels I’ve written has its own A4 size booklet where I write notes, develop characters and jot down research. It also gives me a quick reference guide when I need to look back at a particular point or character in the story.
What are you reading now?
I’ve started Ellery Adams’ Antiques and Collectibles Mysteries series, and I’m currently reading A Fatal Appraisal. The new series I’m planning, based in the UK, is themed around antiques and auctions.
When we moved back from Kenya to the UK, at the end of 2018, we sold most of our possessions. I had great fun visiting local auction houses and met so many eccentric people who I’m looking forward to basing my new series characters on.
Since I’ve started writing my own books, I’ve struggled to read much fiction but enjoy writing, business and marketing books. I’m currently listening to How to Write a Mystery, which is a collection of essays collated by Lee Child for The Mystery Writers of America. It is informative and entertaining. There is so much I still have to learn about the craft and business of writing.
As an aside, I stayed with a friend recently who’d found a TV channel dedicated to Murder She Wrote. I indulged myself and watched several back-to-back episodes.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?
Setting actually comes first. I think this has differentiated my Kenya Kanga Mystery series from other cozy mysteries. I’m currently planning a new series set in the UK. I’ve been back there recently, and I’ve taken much more notice of towns and villages which would make fantastic locations for my books.
Next, I develop the main characters for the series, although additional ones always arrive announced and minor characters demand more prominent roles. For my new series, I’ve been listening to K.M. Weiland’s podcast, Helping Writers Become Authors, and her series about archetypal characters, their arcs and the different roles they have in stories. It’s important to me to continue improving my writing craft, and hopefully my books.
In the Kenya Kanga Mystery series, each book begins with a wild animal subject, after which the book is named, and a theme based upon human nature. For Grevy Danger, the animal is the endangered Grevy’s zebra. The characteristic is people’s greed and desire for material possessions, which I’ve contrasted with those who own little but relish the experiences of life and value their friends and family.
I use the theme to develop the plot and from that add characters who are usually only in that story, but sometimes appear in subsequent books.
I’m a very organised person and expected to be a plotter, and fully plan out my books, but I’ve realised that I enjoy discovery writing, which is using a framework and a general plot direction but allowing the characters and story to develop. If aspects of the book take me by surprise, then hopefully the reader will have the same experience.
What has been your favorite reader feedback?
I knew when I first released my novella, which was a shorter and very different version of Grevy Danger, that not everyone would like it. I just hoped there would be some readers who did enjoy it. I was blown over by the initial emails I received and the help, support, and guidance that those first readers gave me, and I’ve dedicated Grevy Danger to them. One of them read the dedication and emailed me:
“I had to immediately write and tell you how honored I am that you mentioned me on the dedication page – I immediately posted a picture of the page on my Facebook page with the caption “I am almost famous!” Thank you, Jean.”
I think that sums it up. Writing is not about me and my books, but about the readers who enjoy them.
How do you interact with your readers?
My main interaction is via my email newsletters, which I send out every two to three weeks. I always receive responses, often from different people, which gives me the opportunity to connect with them. I’ve also set up a Facebook readers’ group where I post my thoughts, and photos of things I’ve seen or done, all in an informal atmosphere.
To reach new readers I’m happy to write guest posts or complete an author interview like this. It’s difficult to do anything in person living in Sarajevo, as I’m not located near the majority of my readers, or in a similar time zone.
What is your author spirit animal?
It would have to be a cat. I know this is boring but when we moved to Bosnia & Herzegovina, from the UK, we couldn’t take our two Kenyan cats with us. They are currently enjoying the warm summer weather on a Scottish island and catching lots of mice, but they hate the cold, wet winters.
I miss Izzy, the black and white cat who features in my books, as she was always close by when I wrote my first book, Fowl Murder, in the UK. Her spirit remains with me for my 5.30 am starts.
What would your dream library look like?
Wonderful question. My husband is with the British Army, so we move house at least once every 2 years. We’ve had to reduce the number of books we take with us or keep in storage so my perfect library would be a Harry Potter-esque virtual one. And as it’s magical, I’d like to colour coordinate it by books I’ve read, books to read, fiction genres and non-fiction, etc. And every book would be simultaneously available in print, eBook, and audio format, wherever I am.
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
Lose weight. I can’t believe how much I’ve put on again with all the stresses and complexities this year has brought. I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep calmer (although not always so easy), eat healthier, and do more exercise over the next six months.
For a return to Africa, Victoria Tate brings it with the latest installment of her Kenya Kanga Mystery Series. Mama Rose is mourning the loss of her husband Craig while trying to finds ways to pay off debts and figure out how to do the myriad of things that Craig took care of that she was mostly unaware of. Her friends are drawing her back into their companionship and social interactions.
When two women mysteriously die and no one seems to think it is foul play, she sets out to investigate.
Tate beautifully describes the surrounding areas, animals, and everyday life of Rose and her growing rural community. With occasional tidbits of ‘natural’ medicines for the animals she cares for and the detailed goings-on in the local populace, the mysteries almost take a back seat to a super interesting story. The rich developed characters are enough to keep the reader engaged from cover to cover, while Rose investigates.
This book does read best in conjunction with the rest of the series but will work as a standalone if this is your starting point with it.
I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily
If you are interested in learning boat of the Kenya Kanga Mystery series, please take a look at these guest posts by Victoria Tate about other books in the series:
Guest Post: The Maasai Mara by Victoria Tait
Guest Post: Meet Gabriel Baker, Master’s Student
Two deaths. No crime. For this determined sleuth the answers are not black and white.
Community vet ‘Mama Rose’ Hardie is hoping for peace and tranquility to mourn the death of her faithful husband. But when a woman collapses and dies in her arms, she’s shaken to the core.
She joins an endangered zebra expedition, but alarms bells start ringing when a second woman mysteriously dies in her care.
Despite the lack of evidence, and the authorities’ insistence that the tragedies are coincidental, Rose acts on her own instincts to prove they’re deliberate killings. But with clues luring her deep into the corrupt lion’s den, unmasking this deadly plot could claim her last breath
Will Rose’s pursuit of justice lead to her own extinction?
Grevy Danger is the fifth book in the compelling Kenya Kanga Mystery series. If you like intuitive heroines, mysteries full of twists and turns, and sweeping African landscapes, then you’ll love Victoria Tait’s intelligent tale.
Amazon – Kobo – Barnes & Noble – Apple – Apple – UK – Google Play – Books2Read
Victoria Tait is the author of the enchanting Kenya Kanga Mystery series. She’s drawn on 8 years’ experience of living in rural Kenya, with her family, to write vivid and evocative books. Her readers feel the heat, taste the dryness and smell the dust of Africa. Her silver-haired sleuth, “Mama Rose” Hardie, is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple reincarnated and living in Kenya.
Like all good military wives, Victoria follows the beat of the drum and currently lives in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has two fast growing teenage boys and enjoys horse riding and mountain biking.
You can find Victoria at VictoriaTait.com, on Bookbub and in her readers’ Facebook group, Victoria’s Voracious Readers (with her cat Izzy)
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