I'm pleased to welcome Lori Stacy to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Lori writes the Rose Cottage Cafe Mystery series.
Kathy: Mandy Hemphill runs the successful Rose Cottage Cafe. When you visit cafes, what's your favorite thing to order?
LS: I am a huge fan of chicken salad, as I always love to taste how cafes put their signature on a basic chicken salad, be it with fruit or nuts or—a favorite a mine—curry powder. You can tell a lot about a cafe by how good their chicken salad is!
Kathy: Is the Rose Cottage Cafe based on a real cafe or is strictly a product of your imagination.
LS: It’s a little of both. I once leased an office upstairs in an old, Victorian home that had been converted to offices and a restaurant. There was a restaurant downstairs that was run by a mother and her daughter, and it really did have a tiny kitchen and a purported ghost. When I knew that my protagonist was going to run a cafe in a quaint, Texas town, I immediately thought of the cafe, which has long since been closed, and created the Rose Cottage Cafe based upon that real cafe.
Kathy: The cafe has been converted from a possibly haunted house. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter?
LS: The story of the cafe upon which the Rose Cottage Cage is based was that a ghost of a not-so-nice man lived there. And the women who ran the cafe swore that they saw his presence one night when they were there late to work on a catering order. Not one but two of the women who worked there said they walked past the small kitchen door and saw a presence sitting in chair looking at them angrily. I never did experience the ghost in that building (thank goodness!), though I did experience something inexplicable once: A children’s Blue’s Clues musical book (one of those where you press a button and it plays a song) I had started mysteriously playing “What a Friend You Have in Jesus” when I was home on Mother’s Day with just my colicky infant (at the time) son. It was strange—when I heard the noise I picked the book out of a toy basket and could hear this faint, odd music coming from it of a song that was NOT on the menu. I’d like to think it was my grandmother trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, as being a first-time mom with a constantly crying baby can be very trying.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
LS: I would say having read Mary Higgins Clark over the past 28 years—I always enjoyed her mystery novels as they were “clean” and didn’t have any gruesome scenes to give me nightmares. And then as the genre grew and authors like Diane Mott Davidson started writing cozy culinary mysteries, I realized I was hooked on cozy mysteries with food involved!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LS: Sweet love stories, which are probably the cozy-mystery-novel equivalent to love stories, in that they are clean and sweet. You won’t be reading any erotica by me any time soon!
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LS: The Rose Cottage Cafe Mystery Series is about cafe-owner-turned-amateur-sleuth Mandy Hemphill. She runs the Rose Cottage Cafe in the fictional small Texas town of Orchardville, and finds herself pulled in to solve murder mysteries along with the help of the handsome Ben Hathaway, who publishes the town’s newspaper.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LS: While I love Mandy, I was particularly drawn to the character of Stu, who owns the building where the Rose Cottage Cafe is located. He is the quintessential Texas character, a wealthy developer who has no use for showy or fake people or for putting on airs. He is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. While he is a minor character, he was a lot of fun to write about because there are so many Texas types like him.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LS: If I weren’t a writer, I would want to own and operate a cafe, so writing a mystery set in a cafe, about the owner of a cafe, was a way to indulge this fantasy of mine. It started with a “What if…” and blossomed from there.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LS: I have read about so many great authors who have gone the self-publishing route that I decided that was what I wanted to do. I have published work before with a publisher, and have actually been a publisher for a small press, but I really wanted to try self publishing. I feel like with all the tools available for writers to publish their own work, it is a viable and smart option today.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LS: I think it would be a lot of fun to have the original “chick lit” writer, Jane Austen, at a dinner party with contemporary women’s fiction writers like Emily Giffin, Jane Green and Elin Hilderbrand. It’s my feeling that when it comes to love, theoretically not much has changed from Ms. Austen’s time till today.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LS: Speaking of Jane Austen, I am currently reading Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a “modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice” and it’s a lot of fun. For a while, it seemed as though every book I was reading had a dead child involved and I wanted to read something light and fun instead.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LS: Oh yes, that one is easy—I love to cook, bake and entertain. I just hosted six houseguests for the weekend who were in town for my brother’s wedding. It was chaos, and it was wonderful! I also love to travel with my family, and enjoy going on runs with our 3-year-old golden retriever.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LS: Sugar, flour, butter and eggs—with those ingredients I can bake on a whim!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LS: I actually am working on the second book in the series, which is entitled “Sweet Tea & Sass Talk” and involves the murder of a popular cooking show host who meets her demise inside the Rose Cottage Cafe. I have an idea for a second series, about a woman who runs a haunted B&B on an island in Washington state, but as we are entering summer, when my three kids are out of school, I know I won’t be able to get to it till fall!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
LS: When I look on my calendar and see an empty day—no appointments, no errands, no assignments—and I know that it’s a day during which I will have the privilege to write, it makes me incredibly happy. I think being able to sit down at home and do something I love for a living is the best thing about being an author.
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