I'm pleased to welcome Beverly Allen back to the blog. Beverly writes the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series. Floral Depravity, the third book in the series, was released this past week!
Kathy: In Floral Depravity Audrey has to create the wedding bouquets for a medieval-themed, hand-fasting ceremony. Have you had the opportunity to attend a hand fasting? Or a medieval themed festival?
BA: Sadly, I have not. I was looking at a couple festivals, but I’d either just missed them or they occurred after the book was due to my editor. Fortunately, I have a friend who was quite involved in a popular re-creation group, so she was a great resource, both in planning and proofing. (Any mistakes are my own, but my little encampment is fictional.) And many re-enactors love taking You-Tube video, so I was able to attend the festivals vicariously and more than one hand-fasting via the folks on Pinterest. (https://www.pinterest.com/barbearly/medieval-wedding/) I also really enjoyed digging into Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives (http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Jones-Medieval-Lives/dp/B0010V4VJY/) to pick up a little more medieval flair.
Kathy: Audrey had to research period-accurate blooms for the wedding to appease the father of the bride. Is this information fairly easy to obtain or were more rigorous research methods required?
BA: It was easier to find than one might think. There are several books devoted to medieval flowers, and I hit the jackpot with The Medieval Flower Book, which not only talked about the flowers which were available at the time, but also their use in medicines any significance in religion and folklore. ( http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Flower-Book-Celia-Fisher/dp/0712358943) Fascinating stuff. I really had to hold back trying to squeeze all the interesting tidbits into the book. The Cloisters also has a blog on medieval gardens. http://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?
BA: Several. The setting came when I was driving back from Pittsburgh after attending a writers conference with my friend who was involved in the medieval group. We passed right by the campgrounds where the event was held. I was in the process of brainstorming and really wanted an interesting location, while keeping the small town feel I know readers love. I had considered a Civil War, or even a Revolutionary War re-enactment group, but as we were chatting about her experiences, I realized I was much more interested in the medieval period. I could have a lot of fun with the setting: knights, horses, swordplay, big heavy dresses, and obsessive, anal historians clashing with those just out for a fun weekend.
But there’s other things going on in this story. Brad, her ex, is back. And Audrey’s long-lost father returns, which throws her life into turmoil. This is the third book in the series, and poor Liv is still pregnant. I needed to do something about that. There’s much about making peace with the past and moving ahead to new and exciting things. It was a fun book to write, and I hope readers enjoy it as well.
Kathy: Since writing the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series do you find you pay more attention to flowers?
BA: Yes and no. I’ve become a little obsessive about bouquets and flower arrangements when I see them on Facebook. I get upset if I can’t identify a particular flower, and I’ll drop everything until I figure it out. When I see bridal bouquets using flowers that have negative meanings in the language of flowers, I do cringe a little. Because of allergies, I don’t do much with real flowers myself anymore, and except for a few very hardy perennials and a horde of dandelions, I have none growing this year. My yard is pretty bare. I guess it’s like plumbers having the leakiest pipes.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
BA: I’m most definitely a plotter. However, when I get going, the characters sometimes refuse to obey my plots. When that happens, their ideas are almost always better than mine, so I let them take over and I just sit back and type. It’s the closest I get to magic.
Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
BA: I love meeting readers. Recently at the Suffolk Mystery Author’s Festival I met a woman who was all excited to see my book. “You? You wrote Bloom and Doom?” It turned out she loved the book and used the language of flowers from the book in her wedding vows. I also like interacting with readers online, whether it’s Facebook or blog posts. Writing can be such a solitary process that it’s rewarding to hear from readers who liked my book. As far as dislikes, I don’t do a lot of the repeated “Buy my book!” posts and tweets. I think people tire of that anyway.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Audrey Bloom?
BA: I have all kinds of plans for Audrey Bloom, but many of those are in limbo at the moment. My publisher has yet to make a decision on whether there will be more books after this one. And yes, I’m sure there’s some number crunching going on. When readers pre-order a book or rush out to buy it as soon as it’s out, they’re really casting their votes saying, “I want this series to continue.” I know I’ve found a series late, loved it, only to realize that it ended at three books. I guess I wasn’t there to cast my vote.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
BA: My agent is shopping around one proposal set in a small town in Western New York, but I’m brainstorming other series ideas, as well. Now, ideas are pretty plentiful. There are a lot of stories I’d like to write. The challenging part of the process is finding that hook that editors know will draw readers. And it’s very competitive. It’s both an exciting and scary time to be a writer.