Kathy - As a proud resident of Western New York I love reading books set in this area. I was excited to see that Bran New Death is set in Upstate New York and Wynter Castle would probably only be an hour drive away from my house. How did you decide upon this location?
VH – First, can I come visit?? LOL. I have certain criteria for settings. 1 – It has to be reasonably close to where I live; I am not a traveler, so I haven’t really seen a lot of the world or the continent, even, so I feel more comfortable setting my books someplace I understand based on photos and other info. 2 - The place has to be beautiful; I love nature and adore the seasons, especially fall. Upstate New York attracts me: the landscape, the scenery… I could imagine living there, so I set the series there!
Kathy - People may be unaware that there actually are castles in this part of the country. Belhurst Castle is now a winery which also offers accommodations, fine dining, and spa facilities overlooking Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes. Then there's the abandoned Dundas Castle in the Catskills. Is Wynter Castle based on a real castle?
VH – I was inspired by Beardslee Castle (http://beardsleecastle.com/about/history/) and that helped me decide on the setting and the Wynter family backstory. Like the Beardslee family, the Wynters were mill barons, making their fortune building mills in the Great Lakes/Finger Lakes region. Beardslee is also an event venue, and I have a feeling Wynter Castle may be headed in that direction, at least temporarily, if Merry can’t sell.
Kathy - Merry Wynter's name reminds me of Christmas. Was this a conscious decision?
VH – Oh, yes! Every character name is a conscious decision. I love the last name Wynter, and thought something normal and yet with a different spelling was called for. Merry popped into my head, and it worked! Can you guess where Shilo came from?
Kathy - Merry was a model and then worked in the modeling world. Did you ever work in that environment, or want to?
VH – No, I’ve never been a model, nor could I. However… I do love clothes! I’m a girlie girl in that way; I like makeup, and adore jewelry, especially. I won’t leave the house without earrings on. I have to say, I completely enjoy the online ‘shopping’ I do for Merry, and would wear every last thing I give her. It’s like clothing virtual paper dolls, you know?
Kathy - I love animals and am always happy to see the many dogs and cats who play a part in mysteries. I'm even more excited when other types of animals appear. Needless to say, I was thrilled to meet Magic, the bunny. How did you decide to bring a rabbit into the story?
VH – LOL!! Shilo is such an interesting character, and when I wanted a pet for her to tote around, I knew it wouldn’t be a dog or cat. And so, Magic was born! I’ve never owned a rabbit, but I think they’re so cute. Maybe I was inspired by a strip comic I used to read in the newspaper. Check out Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse strip! http://www.fborfw.com/char_pgs/interactive/index.php?character=pets
Kathy - I enjoy muffins, but how did you decide that muffins would be the focus of this series?
VH – I’m not a great baker. I don’t do pies, nor scratch cakes, nor scratch brownies. I can do a cookie in a pinch, but muffins and quick breads? Love ‘em and love to bake them! I was confused by the popularity of cupcake related everything, including mysteries, and thought, well, why not muffins? Everybody loves muffins, right? And unlike cupcakes you can make savory muffins, too! I like cheddar muffins with soup. I knew that coming up with recipes would be fun, not daunting.
Kathy - Merry and Binny love and collect teapots. I know you collect vintage kitchenware. Do you share an attraction for teapots as well.
VH – Oh, yes! However… space limitations mean I can do little more than gawk at photos and dream. When I go antiquing, I stop at teapots and teacups all the time. I do have a largish collection of teacups, and actually use them often.
Kathy - Autumn Vale has an odd vibe to it. While not necessarily paranormal, and discounting Shilo's gypsy/Traveler heritage and experience with seances, would you consider writing a paranormal mystery?
VH – Would I consider it? Weeeelll… little known fact: I wrote a series of historical werewolf romances under my real name, Donna Lea Simpson (Awaiting the Moon). I had a blast doing it. I got to set the novels in Germany, with which I’m besotted, and I made the werewolves real wolves, not stand-up-on-their-hind-legs pretend wolfies. But I’m not sure I could do a contemporary paranormal mystery. My next series after the paranormal historicals was a kind of anti-paranormal series, the Lady Anne Mysteries, in which she, the daughter of an earl, debunks paranormal mysterious goings-on. So I don’t think I would do paranormal.
Kathy - Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for visiting again. You're always welcome at Cozy Up With Kathy.
VH – Thank you so much, Kathy! I really had a blast answering your thoughtful questions! I hope folks enjoy Bran New Death, and the next in the series, Muffin But Murder, coming out next August! And I hope you’ll have me back in November when my 3rd Vintage Kitchen Mystery, Freezer I’ll Shoot, comes out!
Bran New Death, Book 1 of the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, (Berkley Prime Crime) is out tomorrow, September 3rd!
Bran New Death: When Merry Wynter discovered that she inherited a genuine American Castle in the ‘wilds’ of upstate New York, her first reaction was to contact a real estate agent to sell it, sight unseen. Things were a little complicated, what with a lunatic employer making her life miserable. But after losing her job and with the castle not sold, Merry decides to trek to Wynter Castle to see what the problem is.
One barrier to selling is immediately evident; someone is digging giant holes on the property! Merry accuses local Tom Turner of being her late night gopher and warns him to stay off her property, or else, but it happens again. Merry storms out to confront whomever is doing the damage, but doesn’t count on finding a dead man at the bottom of the hole.
What is going on at Wynter Castle and in Autumn Vale? How can Merry convince hunky sheriff Virgil Grace that she is not the one who bashed the victim over the head?
Check out Bran New Death and Victoria Hamilton’s other series, the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries.
Website & Purchase Links: Victoria Hamilton Mysteries
Merry Muffin Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MerrysMuffinsMysterySeries
Victoria Hamilton, nationally bestselling author of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, is the pseudonym of Donna Lea Simpson, bestselling author of romance and historical mystery novels.
Victoria starting reading mystery novels at the age of 12 and devoured Agatha Christie mysteries, as well as those of Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She still adores mysteries, especially the cozy mysteries of Janet Bolin, Krista Davis, and others.
She loves to cook, and collects teapots and teacups, as well as vintage kitchen utensils and bowls. She also enjoys crafts, especially cross-stitching and crocheting, and spends summer days in the garden, drinking tea or wine. Besides the Merry Muffin Mystery series (Bran New Death – September 3rd) Victoria writes two other mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series (Book 3, Freezer I’ll Shoot debuts November 5th) and the Teapot Collector Mystery series which debuts with Tempest in a Teapot, out June 3rd, 2014.
Bran New Death
Pub. Date: September 3rd, 2013
Book 1 – Merry Muffin Mysteries
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Author: Victoria Hamilton
After dealing with the devastating loss of her husband and the backlash of a nasty fashion world incident Merry Wynter decides to flee New York City and head to Upstate New York to finally see the castle she has inherited. Her plan is to make the castle ready for sale, but there are problems. Autumn Vale is an odd town with odd residents. After a cool reception Merry discovers one of the reasons the castle hasn't sold-gaping holes have been dug around the property. Who would be doing this and why? Merry finds out the who soon enough, and after a confrontation the digger is found dead in one of the holes!
I found this book captivating, charming, and I want to read more! Filled with unique characters Bran New Death opens a world of possibilities. Things aren't what they seem, from Uncle Melvyn's death, the missing business partner, even the residents of Autumn Vale and the town itself. Along with Merry we learn we have to question everything and see the possibilities that exist.
Author Victoria Hamilton manages to create many layers to this book. It starts as a simple escape, then mystery and evolves into many mysteries with an excellent promise of more to come at the end. The characters have many layers as well, and not just our protagonist. We see glimpses of the complex man that is Sheriff Virgil Grace. Shilo is not just a model with a mysterious past, but a true friends who picks up and leaves her life to help her friend. She also brings the loveable Magic.
And don't forget the muffins!!! Sweet and savory, Merry makes them and I want to eat them. I'd love to spend an afternoon in that wonderful castle kitchen, sitting by the fireplace, and munching on muffins with these characters, my new friends.
Bran New Death * * * * *
Merry Muffin Mystery Series Too early to rate
My rating system:
To me a 5 star book is an amazing read that swept me away and left me changed. A 4 star review is a great book that I really loved. 3 stars is still a solid good read, positive and enjoyable. Reviews will cease to be that positive at the 2 star rating-an OK book with serious flaws. And a 1 star-don't bother.