A Conversation with Author Darci Hannah

What inspired the idea for your book?

There are certain Christmas movies that I watch every year, and I really wanted this book to capture those same beloved qualities, including the wonder and the magic of the season. As for the Christmas cookie bake-off, of which the book revolves around, that was actually inspired by a true event that took place in Saugatuck, Michigan. Apparently, a few years back the town held an event called the Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns, where each inn of the town was offering a special Christmas cookie. Visitors were encouraged to vote on their favorite cookie as they visited the inns. The competition was heating up, and three women, in broad daylight, mind you, stole all the Christmas cookies from the inn that was winning the competition. It was such a petty crime and kind of hilarious too, that I thought it would make a great jumping-off point for a Christmas cozy mystery set in Beacon Harbor, Michigan.  

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

Aside from the fact that there were three women willing to steal twenty dollars’ worth of Christmas cookies in a competitive smalltown Christmas cookie bake-off, I learned that I really enjoyed writing a Christmas mystery. 

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

Although there are some great characters in Beacon Harbor that I’d love to hang out with, the friend I would choose would be Wellington, Lindsey Bakewell’s loveable Newfoundland dog. We’d go for long walks through the snowy forest, window shop up and down main street, then head out to a tree farm and cut down our own Christmas tree. We’d go back home and have a yummy snack while I decorated the Christmas tree. Once the tree has been decorated, I’d make a fire in the fireplace, and we’d snuggle together on the couch while watching a great mystery on television. Maybe we’d even invite Rory Campbell over to join us. 

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

Whenever someone calls me an author, I secretly smile with delight. To me that title is an honor. It’s one in my own mind that’s reserved for those great authors of stories that I’ve admired since I was a child. Carrying the same title of author honestly floors me. Often when someone asks me what I do for a living, I say, “I write mysteries.” And leave it at that. However, when I’m being professional or am on social media, I do use the title of author as in, “I’m the author of the Beacon Bakeshop Mystery Series!” And, yes, I’m secretly smiling with delight when I type it. 

How do you define success as an author?

There are so many ways to measure success, but for me in regard to writing, it’s very simple. If somebody reads one of my books and enjoyed it enough to take time out of their busy day to write me a note or leaving a review stating that they’ve enjoyed my book, then I’ve been successful. When I started writing my main goal was to tell a story that readers would enjoy. For an author (and I’m going to use that word here!), it’s such a great feeling to know that readers like what you do.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

I definitely have a writing ritual. I always start my writing day by taking my dogs on a long walk first. That way the dogs are tired enough to sleep by my desk, while I’ve been energized by the fresh air and all the ideas that popped into my head during the walk. 

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

Writing cozy mysteries for me is a little bit of both. For instance, when I set out to write the first book in my new series, I really had to come up with the hook first–that somewhat original cozy world and the character who readers of the genre are going to be drawn to. For instance, since I’m personally drawn to lighthouses and baking, I thought I’d just combine the two for my new cozy mystery series. I also made the setting my home state of Michigan. In this case I had the setting first, as well as a nosy character of the town that popped into my head and just kept pestering me to “get on with it!” But I knew that this woman wasn’t my main character. I wanted my main character to be enough of an optimist to follow her dream of being a baker, while having the talent and financial means to make the leap. That’s when Lindsey Bakewell appeared, a woman with a successful Wall Street career and a cheating fiancé. Oh, and she also had a Newfoundland dog, which was a very impractical breed to have in a penthouse apartment in the city. However, Welly was the perfect breed of dog for a lighthouse! And then the plotting began. Now for my second book in the series, I was asked by my editor at Kensington to write a Christmas cozy. Since I already had my main characters, it was the plotting of the story that I really focused on.

What do you look for in a story as a reader?

I love interesting characters, a compelling setting, and a thought-provoking plot. I also love humor in a book!

Who is your audience?

Really, it’s anybody who enjoys a fun mystery without vulgar language and explicit sex or gore. If they are drawn to interesting characters, a strong sense of place and community, humor, and a thought-provoking plot, then they would enjoy what I do. 

What has been your favorite reader feedback?

I’ve been getting great reader feedback for this series, and I’m just so honored by it. Truly. However, I secretly love it when readers write reviews and state that they were craving donuts or Christmas cookies the whole time they were reading. I also love it when they single out Wellington, the Newfoundland dog. A lot of readers really love that giant, drooling fluffball.   

How do you interact with your readers?

Whenever a reader takes the time to contact me via Facebook or my website, I really try to get back with them and answer their question. I really enjoy meeting readers in person at book signings, but since this pandemic that’s been hard to do. It’s primarily social media these days.

What is your all time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

I think the best way to defeat writer’s block is to not even acknowledge that it exists. If you’re not ready to write when you sit down, get up and do something else until you’re just bursting with an idea that you just have to get on paper. 

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

There are so many things that I love to do that sometimes I have to remind myself to get back to my keyboard and write. I love spending time with my family, my friends, and my dogs. I also really love hiking, traveling, kayaking, skiing, baking, sewing, gardening, home remodeling, and especially sampling baked goods (and coffee!) from the charming small town bakeries I happen across on my travels.  

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

First of all, if writing a novel is your dream, then embrace it. Always hold onto it and keep thinking about it. Read books that inspire you. Learn about the publishing industry and understand that it’s a very slow-moving, tricky industry to navigate—but it’s not impossible. Educate yourself. Be passionate about the book you’re writing. Don’t be in a rush to finish it. When it’s ready, you’ll know. Then, when it is ready, motivate yourself to take that next step and work toward getting it published if that’s what you want. Then be patient, be fearless, and be willing to listen what professionals are telling you. If writing a book is your dream, it’s up to you to make it happen. 

What are you reading now?

Death of an Honest Man, by M. C. Beaton. She was the first cozy mystery author I had ever read, and I still love her! Although she passed away, I just learned that there will be more books in her Hamish Macbeth series in 2022. Yay!

What is your author spirit animal?
I have two. A black-and-white springer spaniel and a red-tailed hawk. 

Describe yourself in as few words as possible.

Joyful and caffeinated

If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past or present) who would they be and what do you think you would all talk about during lunch?

The late M.C. Beaton, the late Dorothy Dunnett, and the late Robert Louis Stevenson. We’d have scones and tea and talk about what it was like to write about Scotland in three different centuries. We might also talk about mysteries and lighthouses, and all sorts of other fascinating topics. because I suspect that they all know a thing or two about lighthouses.

What are three fun facts about you or your books?

In my Very Cherry Mystery Series, I have a character that lives in a turfed roof log home with two pet goats that graze on the roof. They’re also screaming goats if that helps.

My younger brother was a paranormal investigator, and we had many fascinating conversations about the paranormal. Therefore, every book I write has a touch of the paranormal in it. In other words, I love to challenge the imagination. 

I love to laugh, I love humor, and every book I write has humor in it too.

If you had a secret room that opened by pulling a book on a shelf, what book would you choose?

The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

I’d do exactly what I’m doing now… and play the stock market.

Lindsey Bakewell wants the perfect Christmas. Well, best-laid plans and all that. Just when she thinks she has a handle on the Christmas plans, Felicity Stewert convinces the town to hold a shop’s cookie bake-off complete with a  celebrity chef. It turns out that a cookie baking contest in a small town can be cutthroat and vicious. More than one person has a reason to want critic Chevy Chambers dead and with Lindsey’s cookie pointing the finger at her, she and her friends need to get to the bottom of the murder quickly. Every clue she finds leads her to a new suspect with a questionable motive and nothing about it is as simple as it would seem.

There is so much to love in this quick-read whodunnit. The smells and tastes of the Christmas baking and drinks waft off the page to assault the senses. The cast of characters is at times zany, elicit the occasional snicker to an outright chuckle, make one shake their head,  or just pull at the heartstrings. Even the main antagonists aren’t easy to hate and if that isn’t enough there is the resident lighthouse ghost, and Mrs. Claus to liven things up.

The moral of the story is that even the death of a morally questionable egoist celebrity food critic cannot ruin the spirit and fun of the holidays when there is good food, yummy cookies, and the joy of family and friends around. I am looking forward to visiting Beacon Harbor again in future books.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Tucked away inside an old lighthouse in Beacon Harbor, Michigan, bakeshop café owner Lindsey Bakewell is ready to make her first Christmas in town shine bright. But her merry plans crumble fast when murder appears under the mistletoe . . .

With the spirit of the holidays wafting through the Beacon Bakeshop, Lindsey thinks she has the recipe for the sweetest Christmas ever—winning the town-wide cookie bake-off. Unfortunately, striving for a picture-perfect December in Beacon Harbor is a lot like biting into stale shortbread. Low on staff and bombarded by visits from family, Lindsey can barely meet demands at work, let alone summon the confidence to face fierce competition . . .

Self-appointed Christmas know-it-all Felicity Stewart is determined to take the top spot in the bake‑off, and she’s not afraid to dump a little coal in everyone’s stocking to do it. Just as the competition heats up, everything falls apart when the judge is found dead—and covered in crumbs from Lindsey’s signature cookie!

Solving a murder was never on Lindsey’s wish list. But with her reputation on the line during the happiest time of the year, she’ll need to bring her best talents to the table in order to sift out the true Christmas Cookie culprit.

Includes Delicious Recipes!

Purchase Links: Amazon    B & N     BAM    2 Dandelions Bookstore

Cozy mystery author, Darci Hannah, is a native of the Midwest and currently lives in a small town in Michigan. Darci is a lifelong lover of the Great Lakes, a natural wonder that inspires many of her stories. When Darci isn’t baking for family and friends, hiking with her furry pals, Ripley and Finn, or concocting her next cozy mystery, she can be found wandering around picturesque lakeside villages with her hubby, sampling baked goods and breaking for coffee more often than she should. 

Author Links

Website: https://www.darcihannah.com

Blog: https://www.darcihannah.com/blog

Recipes: https://www.darcihannah.com/recipes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDarciHannah

Instagram: @authordarcihannah

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3155399.Darci_Hannah

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

October 1 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

October 1 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 1 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

October 2 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

October 2 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST

October 2 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

October 3 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 3 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

October 4 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, RECIPE

October 4 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW

October 5 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 5 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 6 –Read Your Writes Book Reviews – CHARACTER GUEST POST

October 6 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, GUEST POST

October 6 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

October 7 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT

October 7 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

October 7 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW – Coming Soon 

October 8 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

October 8 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 9 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

October 9 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

October 10 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 10 – Nellie’s Book Nook – REVIEW

October 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

October 11 – Angel’s Guilty Pleasures – SPOTLIGHT

October 12 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – GUEST POST

October 12 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

October 12 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for being a part of my Great Escapes Book Tour! I’m so thrilled to be a guest on your lovely blog today! Wow, what a great interview and review of Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off! I’m over-the-moon! A million thanks to you and your great blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the kind words. The first review I read about the book, mentioned craving Christmas cookies as a result of reading it, and when I finished reading the book myself, I was definitely in the mood for butter cookies. Then I read the interview answer, I had to giggle a bit.

    I always enjoy hearing about the authors we feature, but this was a fun interview.

    Liked by 1 person

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