I'm pleased to welcome Monica Knightly to the blog today. Monica pens the Stratford Upon Avondale Mystery series. The second book in the series, COME, BITTER POISON, was released earlier this year.
Kathy: Miles Elliot comes to Stratford Upon Avondale to play the title role in the Scottish Play. Is that one of your favorite Shakespearean plays?
MK: I hate to admit this, but no it isn’t. There are scenes in Macbeth that I love, but I tend to gravitate more to Shakespeare’s comedies. I did see a great production of Macbeth once though, that starred one my son’s teachers—a Jesuit priest! He was a fabulous Macbeth, but it was hard to watch him kissing his ‘wife’!
Kathy: I love gardens and it just so happens, several of my favorite plants happen to be poisonous. Do you have any favorite poisonous plants?
MK: My yard is filled with rhododendrons and azaleas and I only recently learned that they are poisonous. I love foxglove, though I don’t currently grow any. Daphne is my nemesis—I love it though I just cannot get it to thrive for me. And I’ve always dreamed of living in a cottage with wisteria growing over the front door.
Kathy: There are "copious amounts of tea" in COME, BITTER POISON. What's your favorite type of tea?
MK: Ah, tea!! I favor a good, strong, dark English Breakfast blend for general purpose drinking, and I have a few favorite brands that I always keep on hand. Recently, I’ve started drinking Darjeeling in the afternoon.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MK: I’ve read mysteries all of my life, from Nancy Drew as a child, to traditional mysteries, police procedurals, and cozies. Cozies became a favorite when I went through a spell where I could NOT read anything with graphic violence in it. I still prefer my mysteries to skip the graphic parts, and as a writer I knew there was no way I could write graphic violence. Also, the cast of characters in cozy mysteries are always fun, intriguing, and a bit quirky!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MK: I do. I’ve written a couple of paranormal/historical romances, and in November I have a contemporary Young Adult book coming out. I’m an eclectic reader and writer.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MK: Maggie O’Flynn, ex-nun turned steamy romance writer and tea room owner, finds herself solving murders in her new hometown of Stratford Upon Avondale, a faux-English village renowned for its Shakespeare Festival. The Stratford Upon Avondale cozy mysteries come with a bit of Shakespeare, a little romance, copious amounts of tea, and plenty of sass and charm!
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MK: When I started planning this series, I knew I’d be spending a considerable amount of time with the characters so I set out to make most of them people I would want as friends. Having said that, I have to say my protagonist, Maggie O’Flynn, is my favorite. As a steamy romance writer and tea room owner who used to be a nun, Maggie offers unlimited possibilities for character development. And she’s fun to write! Maggie is confident, intelligent, kind, sassy, charming, and clever. I also adore her sidekick and best friend, Gina Mattucci. Writing Gina, a loud, brash, no-holds-barred character, is a kick and kind of liberating.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MK: I’m an unapologetic, lifelong Anglophile, so the faux-English setting, the tea room, the Shakespeare festival, and the copious amounts of tea were all inspired by that fact. Maggie is a combination of people I’ve known, in particular one of my best friends who was a nun for many years. She wouldn’t mind me telling you that the ‘sassy’ part of Maggie came from her. Every British mystery book or television show I’ve ever read or watched also inspired the series, both of which I indulge in maybe a little too much!
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MK: I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about eleven or twelve, and it took me a number of decades to finally get around to fulfilling that dream. My other books are all traditionally published, but with the cozy mystery series I wanted full control of the process so I decided to go the indie route. I’m loving it and am very happy with my choice for this particular series. So now I’m a hybrid author.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MK: I like a lively dinner party with plenty of interesting conversation, so I’d go with Jane Austen, Stephen King, Mark Twain, and Maggie Stiefvater. Yes, that would be an energetic group of authors in one room!
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MK: Louise Penny’s HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. Ms. Penny is my greatest discovery of the past year—she is a remarkably talented writer and storyteller. I always tell people unfamiliar with her that reading her books is like wrapping yourself in a warm, soft blanket and drinking your favorite hot beverage. With murder on the side. She writes with a great sense of humanity. I’m also reading THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING by Bill Bryson. His travel narratives are always so amusing and eye-opening.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MK: I love to travel, anywhere, anytime. Of course, I’ve been to England numerous times. I used to dabble in genealogy, and when I started writing I didn’t have the time for it anymore. But I recently spoke with a distant cousin who shared some family history with me and now I want to get back into it. My husband and I like to hike and bike. I live in an area of the country that boasts many wineries, and I love to go wine tasting with family and friends.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MK: Extra virgin olive oil, tea, whole-wheat pasta, Dubliner cheddar cheese.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MK: I’m currently writing book three in the Stratford Upon Avondale mystery series, O HAPPY DAGGER. In this book Maggie will be wrestling with a lot more beyond the murder itself.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MK: As a child I had a very active imagination, and now I’m getting to use that imagination in a wonderfully creative way. There is nothing like spending a day in a world of my own creation, with characters I’ve developed and nurtured. And best of all is after the books are published and readers write to tell me that they enjoyed them!
Kathy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
MK: Thank you, Kathy! These were wonderful questions that made me think!
Be sure to join the Rafflecopter, but I also have an e-copy of COME, BITTER POISON to give away. Simply leave a comment on this blog sharing your favorite Shakespearean play no later than 11:59pm EDT Monday. June 28, 2016. Be sure to leave your e-mail address and what format of e-reader you use. Good luck!
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