Kathy: It's been a good many years since I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, however, I remember enjoying it and it being one of my favorite "classics". Did you love the novel yourself?
JCS: Absolutely. I found the book at the back of a bookshelf in my home. It must have been assigned reading for my parents, although neither of them directed me to the story. Since I grew up in a chaotic environment, with two alcoholics as parents, I turned to reading as an escape. I quickly identified with Jane, who was small and insignificant. Her story gave me hope.
Kathy: When deciding to write the series, which came first, the desire to see what happened to Jane after her novel ended, or the desire to write a historical mystery?
JCS: Since I read the book at an early age, I would have to say that I always wondered what happened next. Jane is a character for the ages, a woman you can’t forget.
Kathy: Historical mysteries in particular require a lot of research, not only research about the mystery itself, but the time period. Had you done a lot of research of this period before you thought to write the Jane Eyre Chronicles?
JCS: Yes, I sure did. Unfortunately, I researched the wrong period. The book was published Oct. 16, 1847, but it contains two obscure references that date the timeframe of the story to 1818-1820. So I was up to my eyeballs in stories about Victoria and Albert, when I should have been reading up on George IV. Sigh. Fortunately, some of what I learned didn’t change, especially regarding the plight of women who signed on as governesses and teachers.
Kathy: In Death of a Schoolgirl Selina Biltmore has ties to King George IV. While I'm a bit more familiar with him as Prinny and his time as Regent (yes, I enjoy Regency romances) and know of his proclivities, I wondered if Selina was based on a real person, or simply a "may have been".
JCS: She’s fictional, although Prinny did have many out-of-wedlock children, so a character like Selina could definitely have existed.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JCS: I love that the reader can solve the mystery herself. In a police procedural, it’s up to the cops/techs to come up with the information, but in a cozy, the reader has all the pieces. It’s fun to match your wits with the author! I also appreciate that there’s no excessive violence or porn. There are some images I’d rather not implant into my head.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JCS: I’ve written non-fiction, “how to” books, inspiration, and contemporary cozy mysteries. So far I’ve written twenty-two books.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JCS: Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series—Agatha Award finalist—Contemporary craft cozy—Set in present day St. Louis—Kiki is a young single mother who takes a job in a scrapbook store to keep food on the table. The series follows Kiki as she grows from a doormat to a woman who knows her own worth. Includes papercrafting ideas, Zentangle® tips, and recipes. RT Book Reviews has called Kiki, “Our best friend with a touch of outrageous.”
The Jane Eyre Chronicles—Winner 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence—Historical romantic suspense—Set in 1820 England—The series begins where Charlotte Brontë’s classic left off. Jane is married to her beloved Edward. Even though she’s now a woman of privilege, Jane will never turn her back on someone in need, especially someone who lacks resources. So she becomes what Kirkus has called, “A surprisingly canny sleuth.”
The Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series—Release Fall/2013—Contemporary cozy—Set in present day Florida on the Treasure Coast—After her parents die and her son goes to college, Cara Mia Delgatto is suddenly free to live life on her own terms…as soon as she figures out what to do with her second chance at happiness. With two other women, she opens a store in Florida. The shop specializes in upcycled, recycled, and repurposed items. Includes DIY, trash-to-treasure, recipes, and historic lore.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JCS: I’m probably the most comfortable with Kiki Lowenstein because she’s so much like me, and because I’ve written that series the longest. To date, there are 27 short stories. Group, Photo, Grave (the seventh full length book) will be released this October.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JCS: It’s usually a combination of things. I see someone and think, “Wow, she would make an interesting character.” Or I hear about a local legend. Or I come across a fascinating factoid. All of it goes in, swirls around, and eventually appears on the page.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JCS: I have always wanted to be a writer. As a kid, I stapled sheets of paper together and told people, “This is my book.”
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JCS: Pat Conroy, whom I’ve met and who is such a Southern gentleman!
Charlotte Brontë, for obvious reasons.
Daphne du Maurier, because I’d want to know what the name of the protagonist is in the book Rebecca.
Agatha Christie, because I lived six blocks from her house in Sunningdale, Berkshire, UK.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JCS: Kathy Reichs’ book Deadly Decisions.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JCS: I live on the beach, so I love walking the sand and picking up shells. Like my characters, I’m an animal lover. We have two geriatric dogs, Rafferty and Victoria. I’m a Certified Teacher of Zentangle®, although I really don’t have the time to teach it. I do enjoy it.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JCS: Hummus, almond milk, instant oatmeal, tuna fish salad.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JCS: I’ve worn the letters off of four keyboards. In fact, this one needs to be replaced! I intend to keep writing as long as I can. I love what I do, and I am blessed to have a loyal group of readers.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JCS: I love setting my own pace. I can work as hard as I want, and I don’t have to wait for someone to approve my next project.
Death of a Schoolgirl By Joanna Campbell Slan
The First of the Jane Eyre Chronicles
Way back when I first read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte I rooted for Jane to get her Mr. Rochester. Well, she got him and in Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan we see what happens after the original novel ends.
Jane and Edward Rochester have married and are living quietly in Yorkshire away from society. Edward is recovering from the injuries received in the fire and Jane has recently given birth to a son. A worrisome letter arrives from Adele, Rochester’s young ward, who is at boarding school. Has she really been threatened, or are these just the histrionics of a young girl looking for attention? Determined to find out Jane must leave her husband, whose injuries prevent travel at the moment, her 6 month old son, and set off for London alone.
After a trying journey, Jane reaches the school only to find authorities removing the body of a dead school girl. With help from friends new and old Jane goes undercover as the German teacher to protect the children and root out the killer.
Death of a Schoolgirl is a well thought out mystery with a despicable victim. The plot seamlessly adds social commentary to the mystery and deepens the characterization. The book also adds a touch of humor. In this respect I’m especially fond of Adele. I loved what she wrote about the victim in an assignment. I laughed out loud when I first read it and giggle still when I think about it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip back to 1820’s England. Author Joanna Campbell Slan manages to keep the integrity of these classic characters while bringing them new life and new adventures.
Joanna Campbell Slan has graciously offered to send one of my readers a copy of Death of a Schoolgirl. To enter just leave a comment on this blog post telling what classic literary character you'd like to see with his or her own cozy mystery series, Be sure to include your e-mail address so I know how to get in touch with you. You have until the end of the month to enter: midnight EST September 30th.
You also have the opportunity to enter to win a fantastic grand prize: a Lowood Institution Lacrosse sweatshirt, a “Being yourself is the key” pencil case, a Jane Eyre mug, and a small Jane Eyre quotations journal.” Just use the rafflecoptor below!
Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway