Kathy: Jesse Camden owns a tea room in Myrtle Grove, Oklahoma. Do you spend time in tea rooms?
LH: Yes. There are several of my favorites that I’m using as inspiration for The Gilded Lily Tea Room in my series.
Kathy: Murder, Mayhem and Bliss is the first book in the Myrtle Grove Garden Club Mystery series. Do you enjoy gardening? Do you belong to a garden club?
LH: I’m what I call a full-contact gardener. I like to grab a shovel and just dive in, but then I come out looking like a kid who’s been making mud pies. It’s worth the effort though, because we’ve got a yard full of bees, butterflies and birds. And I use the herbs, fruit and vegetables in the kitchen, so everything is grown organically.
I’d love to join a garden club, but at the moment I just don’t have the time. I do share plants and ideas with other gardeners, though, and attend a lot of gardening events.
Kathy: What made you switch from writing romance novels to writing cozy mysteries?
LH: I’m a huge romantic and as much as I enjoyed writing romances, I was never a big reader of contemporary romances. I’ve always preferred historical romance, mysteries and suspense. And the longer I wrote romances, the more I found humor trying to creep in. Then, after nine romances all of my ideas seemed to be for mysteries. So, I thought it was time to move on and began deciding what kind of mystery I was going to write instead.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
LH: When I read my first Nancy Drew as a kid, it was like a new world opened up for me. Later I discovered Miss Marple, and it just kept going from there. I love the personal quality of cozies. The people seem like friends, and the settings are quaint, comfortable and sort of an idealized version of life.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LH: I tried a little of everything when I was starting out, but soon realized I needed to find what I enjoyed most and to focus on that. The romances were something I lucked into when the industry was seeking writers, and I had friends who were established already. With the cozy series I’m doing now, what I’m writing comes from the heart, and I’m really enjoying every minute of it.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LH: The first of the Myrtle Grove Garden Club mysteries revolves around Jesse Camden, gardening enthusiast and co-owner of a tea room and antique shop, who steps in to help when a friend’s niece is suspected of murder. When Jesse’s friends and co-workers decide to join in, the garden club is created to camouflage their real activities from the sheriff—who’s already having issues with Jesse.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LH: Jesse, Vivian and Sophia are the three primary characters, and I love each of them for different reasons. But Sophia, who is Jesse’s mother, is my personal favorite, probably because there is a lot of my own mother in Sophia. It seems that no matter how long someone we love is with us, it’s never long enough. Now with Sophia, I get to spend time with another mother who is spunky and sweet, protective and adventurous, co-conspirator and conscience. And when Jesse and Sophia sit talking into the wee hours of the night, it’s like I’m sitting with my own mother again, sharing secrets over coffee when the rest of the world is dark and silent.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LH: I collect vintage china, primarily English, and at one point I had daydreamed of opening a tea room where customers could select which china pattern they wanted to use for that visit. So when I was planning my cozy series, I decided to let Jesse do what I couldn’t. The Gilded Lily Tea Room features vintage china that Jesse has collected, plus old family recipes and fresh food from a kitchen garden, and the customers get to choose their china for each visit. I think in the course of this series, Jesse’s going to do a lot of things I would like to do, but just don’t have enough lifetimes for.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LH: I began writing my first book when I was twelve with the intention of someday being a published author. I love to write, and I think that making a living doing the thing you love most is everybody’s dream.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LH: Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, John D. McDonald and Walter Mosley
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LH: Murder and Beyond by Donna Welch Jones
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LH: Wow, you may be sorry you asked. A lot of what’s in my cozy series is what I like to do in my spare time—like cook, especially baking, and garden, or wander through antique stores or flea markets. I love walking, especially through botanical gardens or public parks. I travel whenever I can and really enjoy camping or sailing on the weekends. I’m lucky to live in an area with a lot of forests, hills and lakes, which some people don’t realize Oklahoma has.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LH: Tea, milk, eggs, tomatoes
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LH: I am working on the third book in the Myrtle Grove Garden Club series at the moment. The second, currently titled Murder Most Thorny, is finished and should be out soon. I have story ideas fleshed out for numbers four through seven, and I’m really looking forward to writing them.
Kathy: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
LH: For me, writing comes from deep inside, and at the end of the day, I feel like I just spent hours in the middle of the most amazing thing I’ve ever known. And then I get to do it again the next day. It is immeasurably rewarding, and I can only hope that some of what I feel writing a book comes through to the people who read it.
Kathy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
LH: Thank you for having me. I have really enjoyed it. And if any readers would like more information about anything we’ve mentioned, they can check out my website at www.loulouharrington.com, my blog at https://myrtlegrovemornings.wordpress.com where I have gardening tips and recipes, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, again, it’s been an honor to be here.