I'd like to welcome T'Gracie and Joe Reese to Cozy Up With Kathy. Together they write the Nina Bannister Mystery series. Frame Change, which was released in September, is the fifth book in the series.
Joe: We realize that we may be stretching the parameters of the cozy mystery by taking Nina to different places, but the stories always have their center in good old Bay St. Lucy and they always wind up there where Nina feels at home. As for the varied locations, travel has always been a major part of our lives.
T’Gracie: We met in Graz, Austria.
Joe: I think most fiction writers draw inspiration from personal experience. Nina is a part of us, as is travel.
Kathy: Nina Bannister loves to paint. Is painting a hobby of yours? Do you have a favorite artist?
T’Gracie: The idea for this plot came from an experience I had going to Bottles and Bottegas with friends and a first ever attempt at painting a picture. We thought it would be funny if Nina tried painting for the first time and her amateurish work was used by smugglers without her knowledge. I wouldn’t call this a hobby as I haven’t painted anything else. I do like art: Durer’s self-portrait, Monet’s garden, Cassatt’s children and even more modern, non-representational art like Rothko.
Kathy: You write as a team. How does that work? Does one person work more on the plot while the other writes the actual words?
T’Gracie: It’s changed as the series as happened. In our first book, Sea Change, Joe wrote the basic story but I added tons of description. In Set Change, Joe added more description, but I thought the murder method was completely unbelievable, and changed it. Oil Change was different yet again. I had the idea for the plot, ‘told’ Joe the story and he did the research and writing.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
T’Gracie: I’ve always loved reading mysteries authors (Agatha Christie) but never realized they were like cozy mysteries.
Joe: And our publisher, Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press liked our writing but said an early submission “wasn’t cozy.” That led us to explore the genre and try again. And Nina and her Bay St. Lucy, eccentric friends were deemed “cozy.”
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
T’Gracie: I have authored and co-authored a series of therapy materials with a company, Linguisystems (now Pro-ed), under my ‘real’ name, Pam Britton Reese.
Joe: Some years ago two young adult novels published and this led me to a kind of shadow career as a school ‘visiting author’ and storyteller. I’ve also had special plays performed, especially when we were living in Atlanta, but at present the playwright/storyteller in me has been subsumed by the cat obsessed crime writer.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
T’Grace: We’ve already told you about most of the series, but we didn’t mention Game Change, or our newest book about to be released, Sex Change (it’s not what you are thinking). In all of our books, Nina Bannister, a retired high school English teacher and principal lives by the sea, with her cat Furl, in Bay St. Lucy, Mississippi. Bay St. Lucy is a little artists’ village on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
Joe: It’s an absolutely idyllic place to live if not for the fact that someone is brutally murdered every few months. (Depending on how fast we can write). But of course, no place is perfect.
T’Gracie: And Nina is able to solve the murders only because she occasionally channels Jane Austen and continually reminds herself, “A mind lively and at ease can do with seeing nothing and can see nothing that does not answer.”
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
Joe: Posing that question to a writer is like asking a parent, “Which is your favorite child?” We love ‘em all.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
T’Gracie: The original inspiration happened when we were driving from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to our home at the time in Lafayette, Louisiana. We decided to drive along the coast and discovered Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. We stopped, walked around, and discovered a bakery, visited at artists’ exhibition in a town hall and all the way home talked of what a great setting that would be for a mystery.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
Joe: A writer needs an audience. We were fortunate to find ours among fans of cozy mysteries.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
Joe: Julia Child, Emeril, Mark Bittman and Ina Garten and each would bring a pot luck dish.
T’Gracie: Other cozy writers! Julie Seedorf, Barbara Jean Coast, Nanci Rathbun, Kait Carson.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
T’Gracie: I’ve just discovered Annette Dashofy. I read her first two books out of order. I really enjoyed Lost Legacy (the second in the series) and now can’t put down Circle of Influence. Zoe Chambers is a believable character and she writes about an ambulance driver in western Pennsylvania with authority. I can’t put it down.
Joe: 151 essays written by 151 English 101 students.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
Joe: I’m a fan of the Dallas Cowboys (this precludes having any other interests or hobbies).
T’Gracie: I suppose I fit a stereotype: nothing makes me happier than curling up at home with a good book, a cup of tea and our cat.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
T’Gracie: pasta, nuts, olive oil and chocolate.
Joe: 4 cans of Budweiser. There are usually more, but you only asked for four.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
T’Gracie: With Sex Change (it’s not what you’re thinking) about to come out, Joe had just the other day told me he was spent; he had no more ideas for Nina; and he was too busy teaching to tackle another book right now.
Joe: But today, I imagined Nina being invited to the plantation house bed and breakfast owned by her old friend, Margot Gavin. Nina’s expecting a quiet, restful weekend. She’s surprised, however, by two new, huge natural disasters. First, a hurricane strikes the Gulf Coast sixty miles to the south, producing torrential rains and wiping out the bridge that is the only means of access to the plantation. Second, a group of more than 20 guests arrives. These people are all members of the Mississippi Chapter of Cozy Mystery Writers. Murder and chaos ensue. The books name? Climate Change.
T’Gracie: I reminded him that he had no time to write. And he responded, “There’s a big break between fall and spring semesters”.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
T’Gracie: We have a lot of fun writing them together, discovering we are of the same mind and taking part in interviews like this one.
Joe: I disagree with her completely. (And laughs).
For a chance to win a Kindle e-book of Frame Change, please leave a comment on this post no later than Wednesday, November 26 at 11:59 pm EST telling us your thoughts about cozy protagonists who travel. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I may contact you should you be the lucky winner!