I'm pleased to welcome Kirsten Weiss to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Kirsten writes the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery series. The first book in the series, aptly named THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM, was just released March 8th.
Kathy: I'm quite interested in the paranormal, especially historic memorabilia, and would love to visit a paranormal museum. Have you ever been to one? Is the one in THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM based on an existing one, or is it purely a product of your imagination?
KW: I'd love to visit one too! This museum was inspired by the description of a paranormal museum in a Wall Street Journal article. I did some further research on paranormal museums online. Most exhibit creepy and/or cursed objects, but I wanted to add historic memorabilia to my imaginary museum. The American spiritualist movement from the 19th century fascinates me. Add in old Tarot cards and ouija boards, and you've got a fairly rich history of paranormal "stuff" to exhibit.
Kathy: In THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM Maddie begins to research a painting. Was the story of the couple in the portrait based on a true event?
KW: No, but I got some inspiration from an old journal belonging to my great grandmother, who lived on a farm. She used the journal only as an outlet for her fears and frustrations, so I don't believe it provides a clear picture of her life or personality. But in the journal she deals with some rough stuff. And though she only had a grammar school education, she was a beautiful writer. So she inspired the long-ago character of the accused farmer's wife.
Kathy: There's more going on at the Paranormal Museum than meets the eye, and I'm not just talking murder. Do you believe in ghosts?
KW: I guess I do believe in ghosts, though I think that we need to stay skeptical. Not every bump in the night is a haunt.
Kathy: Maddie and her friends enjoy spending time at the local microbrewery. Are you a fan of microbrews? Do you have a favorite?
KW: I'm more of a wine person, but San Benedetto is very roughly based off of Lodi, California. I modeled the microbrewery after one in Lodi.
Kathy: San Benedetto is part of California wine country. I live in the midst of three viticultural areas in New York. Do you visit wineries and follow wine trails too?
KW: Oh, yes. I prefer wine tasting in the smaller, more out-of-the-way regions. They tend to be more relaxed, and I've discovered some excellent wines. I'm headed out to pick up some bottles next weekend!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
KW: Agatha Christie. I started reading her novels at a fairly young age, and she was huge influence. Her characters are charming, and there's a lot of fun in those mysteries.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
KW: Yes! I like to mash-up my genres. I've got an urban fantasy/mystery series (Riga Hayworth), and a steampunk/suspense series (Sensibility Grey) set in Gold Rush-era San Francisco. THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM is my first "straight" cozy, but even here, I added a touch of paranormal. That said, paranormal is perfectly proper in a cozy mystery these days.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
KW: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum series is about a young woman who is strong-armed into taking over a paranormal museum, even though she doesn't believe in the paranormal and doesn't know anything about managing museums. This being a cozy mystery, the first thing she finds is a corpse. The second thing she finds is an angry cat.
The Riga Hayworth series is a bit darker. Riga Hayworth, is a metaphysical detective, a straight-talker, and a cynic. These books are magic-filled, urban fantasies first, but they each have a mystery inside them as well.
And the Sensibility Grey series is sci-fi/fantasy set in the early Victorian era. It's less whodunnit than suspense, but someone always dies. Mystery is a continuing theme in my writing, no matter what the genre.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
KW: It's hard to pick. I love Maddie Kosloski from the Paranormal Museum series, because she has a huge imagination, even if she is a skeptic. This makes for fun writing, because the reader sees the world through her eyes.
But Riga Hayworth is a bad-ass, and she's closer to my age. So I've got a warm spot in my heart for her as well.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
KW: That Wall Street Journal article I mentioned kicked it off. It was such a quirky idea -- a paranormal museum attached to a hot dog restaurant. A paranormal museum seemed an ideal setting for a cozy mystery with some ghostly flare.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
KW: Writing without publishing never made sense to me. That said, knowing that I wanted to publish forced me to improve my writing. And that's a constant process.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
KW: Confession: My computer background screen is a collage of six authors who inspire me: Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, WB Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, and Nora Roberts (because that woman rocks at romance and suspense). I couldn't leave any of them off my mythical dinner invitation!
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
I'm reading a biography of the mystic poet, William Blake. And if this makes me sound pretentious, here's another confession. I have to give a presentation on him in less than three weeks, and I'm cramming like a panicked student before an exam.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
KW: I've been in a hapkido class for the last five years, and I love it, even though it's humbling. No matter how good you get, there's always someone better.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
KW: This morning I discovered some green, mold-covered refried beans in the back of the refrigerator. At least, I think they once were refried beans. It was totally disgusting. Other, less-gross items include: lemon curd, sourdough bread, and a bottle of champagne. I've decided there should always be a bottle of champagne in the fridge, just in case.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
KW: Yes! Book two in the Paranormal Museum series, PRESSED TO DEATH, is currently at the publishers. I'm working on book three right now, which focuses on the San Benedetto Christmas Cow. And a murder or two. It's wacky and tremendously fun to write.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
KW: I love it all. I love putting my stories on paper and playing with words. I love editing and shaping them into something better. I love chatting with readers and with other writers. And even though I keep a pretty strict schedule (or nothing would get done), I love the freedom and flexibility of the writing life.
THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM by Kirsten Weiss
The First Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery
Maddie Kosloski has returned home to the small Californian town of San
Benedetto after losing her international job. The town is known for
vineyards, its flaming Christmas cow, a Paranormal Museum,
and not much else. After job hunting with no success, Maddie is roped
into managing the museum for her friend Adele. Maddie gets much more
than she bargained for when Adele and she find a dead body in the
museum, and not just any dead body. The murdered woman happens to be the
woman who slept with Adele's fiance (currently, ex-fiance)! As loath as
she is to remain manager of the museum, Mad has to help out Adele,
especially after Adele is arrested, and soon finds herself captivated by
one of the photos there, and a long ago murder. In addition, as
disparaging comments about the museum begin, Mad becomes both possessive
and protective. Will she find her new job right here in San Benedetto?
There's more to this museum than meets the eye and Maddie is only just
beginning to uncover its secrets.
THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM is a tale of expectations; how reality interferes and new expectations are found. I admit to difficulty at the beginning of this book. I so wanted to love it, but I felt the three friends, Maddie, Adele, and Harper, were spoiled and relatively unlikeable.However, as the book progressed Maddie grew and as her expectations changed along with her values I began to appreciate who she was becoming. Harper also revealed an intimate part of herself which made her infinitely more interesting and made me like her even more. I hope this part of her will be explored more in depth in future books. My expectations changed as well and I enjoyed the book more and more as I went on.
There's plenty to explore in San Benedetto. The wineries, future tea house, the paranormal museum, and the Christmas cow combine to create a cozy setting and make the town a character unto itself. We've only just scratched the surface of the museum, which is really another character, and indeed discovered a whole other story in the mystery of the picture. Maddie begins to be enchanted, not by the two diametrically opposed romantic interests, but by the museum itself. THE PERFECTLY PROPER PARANORMAL MUSEUM is a solid opener in what looks to become an intriguing new series.
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