Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fashionable Murder - An Interview with Barbara Jean Coast

I'd like to welcome two authors to the blog today, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, together known as Barbara Jean Coast. They write the Poppy Cove Mystery series.

Kathy: I've heard that publishers believe that US readers are less likely to buy a book set in Canada than in the US. I know that some Canadian authors do set their stories in the US, including you. Was it your decision to set the story in California? If so, was it more to do with the plot, or marketing? For the record, I'm a US citizen who enjoys books set in Canada too. I actually live near the border of Southern Ontario.

BJC: Honestly, we never thought in terms of borders, regarding writing, or life in general – American, Canadian, anywhere, it never crossed our minds. We spend a great deal of time in California, so it was a naturally creative inspiration to set the series there, from the appeal of the culture, lifestyle and time. It had everything to do with the plot, the setting almost becomes its own character and drives the story lines. We do have plans for a series possibly set in Canada in the future, but the muse of California spoke first and we did the most natural thing for us and answered the call.

Kathy: Barbara Jean Coast is actually Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff. How do you write as a team? Does one person work more on the plot while the other writes the actual words?

BJC: We talk a lot. We sit and write together, talking out the scenes and plots, it’s truly a joint effort.

Kathy: Strangled by Silk takes place in 1957. What made you choose this time in which to tell your story.

BJC: It was a time when the clothing was beautiful and the handcrafting of a custom made garment was a skill that was valued, but not out of place in a mid-sized community. Also, the social mores and attitudes of the time were fascinating. Underneath the polished veneer, bad things still happened, and the way they were handled in the public just lent itself to a mystery.

Kathy: Margot and Daphne own their own dress shop. Are you a fashionista?

BJC: Both of us really appreciate fashion. Heather comes from a background of dressmaking and design, more of the technical side of it, and Andrea loves beautiful clothes and accessories, the overall picture of an outfit perfected.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

BJC: We’ve both been reading them for years. We like how the characters develop and the details of their lives, work, hobbies and communities.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

BJC: Andrea writes a couple of blogs, one on creativity and the other is poetry. She’s also got a novel on the go set in the 1800’s.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

BJC: Poppy Cove Mysteries is a cozy book series set in the fictional town of Santa Lucia, loosely based on Santa Barbara in the late 50′s, early 60′s and revolves around the glamorous comings and goings of the social set of the town, with a little murder and mayhem thrown in for good measure. STRANGLED BY SILK, published by Cozy Cat Press, is the first in the series.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

BJC: Daphne and Margot, of course, we love. They are their own sense of fabulousness!
AT: I also really like Loretta Simpson, the Santa Lucia Times Society Editor. She always gets the scoop!
HS: I have a soft spot for Nancy Lewis. She seems to get the short end of the stick at times. I’m rooting for her to get it right.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

BJC: Probably the love of the beautiful setting, the glamorous time period, and the love of feeling fortunate to be given the gift to be able to tell it and share it with others.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

BJC: We were very pleased and honored when Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press chose to publish our first novel, and it felt like the right fit. We are very happy in our publishing home and feel fortunate to be in the company of some very talented writers.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

AT: Tracy Chevalier, Charles Dickens, Susan Wittig Albert, and Michael Ondaatje. An eclectic group, there’s so many others as well.
HS: Let’s see to narrow it down, Lawrence Durrell, Daphne du Maurier, Alice Hoffman and Carl Hiaasen.
Our joint apologies go out to all those who we have to miss…can the rest of the unmentioned sit at the kids’ table ;-)!?!

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

AT: Pinkerton’s Sister by Peter Rutherford, Calamity at the Carwash by Sharon Rose and The Other Woman by Hank Phillipi Ryan.
HS: The Fall of Atlantis by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk by Stephen Kaminski.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

AT: Reading, writing, cooking, collage, watching movies and television, really enjoying Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Mad Men lately. Jogging, yoga and meditation helps keep me centered and organized in my busy days.
HS: I definitely agree with the jogging, yoga, and meditation. I also read and enjoy cooking, listening to music, especially alt/indie and jazz. Sewing, even though I had done it as a past profession, is still a great passion for me.
Keeping up our Barbara Jean Coast persona through Daily Tweets, quips on Facebook and Pinterest from her fashion perspective gives us great joy and inspiration.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

AT: Wine, peanut butter, cheese and jam.
HS: Nice one, Andrea. Caviar, olive oil, crackers and chocolate.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

BJC: We’re currently writing our second in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series (we’re bumping off a Beauty Queen!), and have a solid outline for the third, with more to come. We’re talking out ideas about a couple of other series, but they’re still in the ruminating stage.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

BJC: Being able to share our stories with anyone who is willing to read them, to welcome them into our world. It’s nice that the voices in your head have a place to go!

Want to learn more? Check out these links:




Facebook: "Friend" Barbara Jean Coast & "Like" Poppy Cove Mysteries



  1. Thanks Kathy! Thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you. Toodles!