Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Christmas Peril Interview, Review, and Giveaway

I'm so happy to welcome J.A. Hennrikus to Cozy Up With Kathy. J.A. writes the Theater Cop Mystery series. A CHRISTMAS PERIL, the first book in the series, was released last week.

Kathy: As a former police officer with a background in theatre I knew I had to read A CHRISTMAS PERIL. What made you decide on this combination for your series?

JAH: I had a friend who was forced to retire from the police force, and she was devastated. I asked if she was going to become a PI, and she told me “If I can’t wear the badge, I’m not going to do the job.” She went to culinary school. That stuck with me—the love of the calling, and then not being able to do the job. So that’s why Sully is an ex-cop who loved her career, but can’t do it anymore.

Kathy: The Cliffside Theater is producing a production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL What is your favorite version of this classic show?

JAH: That’s SUCH a great question. I am a bit obsessed with A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I was lucky enough to see Patrick Stewart do it onstage in a one-man show. That was my favorite version. (There’s a book on tape of him reading the book, and it gives you an idea of how wonderful he was. Is.) Movie version? I love SCROOGE with Albert Finney. But George C. Scott was excellent—his bed jumping made me weep.

Kathy: Do you have theatre experience yourself?

JAH: I’ve never been an actor, but I have been working in arts administration for my entire career. I currently run an arts service organization called StageSource that serves the New England theater community. I love the arts, especially theater.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JAH: Well, I first started reading Agatha Christie was I was in high school, and fell in love with the puzzle mystery. (How many authors start with Agatha Christie? 99.99%?) But specifically cozies became a genre I loved to read, and to write. I love that they are about community and about justice being served, two very important elements. I also love “visiting” a cozy every year or so, and catching up with the characters. As a writer, it is so much fun to build a world, create characters, tell a story, and have some elements thread through the entire series.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JAH: I don’t, at least not yet. I would imagine that anything I write will have mystery elements to it, and I don’t like dark stories, so I’ll probably be staying in the cozy/traditional end of the spectrum. Maybe add more romance into future series.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JAH: The Theater Cop series is about an ex-cop who runs a small theater company on the North Shore of Massachusetts. She dusts off her investigative skills when her friend is accused of killing his father. A CHRISTMAS PERIL is the first in the series.

As Julianne Holmes I write the Clock Shop series. In those books, Ruth Clagan is a clock maker who inherited her grandfather’s shop in Orchard, MA. Another series, and character, I love to write!

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

JAH: One character I am enjoying writing more and more is Dimitri Traietti, the artistic director of the theater. He’s so theatrical, but at heart a really good guy who cares a lot about Sully. I like the balance he gives her, and he gives the book. At some point I’m going to make him a suspect, but for right now he’s her foil.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

JAH: This series is the first series I wrote and tried to get published, so it holds a very dear place in my heart. I did a lot of work on A CHRISTMAS PERIL when Midnight Ink agreed to publish it, and it was fun but challenging to revisit the manuscript after having written another series, several stories, and a few proposals. My inspiration is my love for the theater community, and figuring out a way to blend my two lives.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JAH: Being a published author has been a dream of mine for years. I took classes, went to workshops, attended conferences, joined Sisters in Crime, all to serve that dream. I am beyond thrilled that Midnight Ink bought this series, and is releasing it into the world.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

JAH: What a question! Wow. I would invite Agatha Christie, even though she was very shy. I’d want her to know how much she meant to me. I’d also invite William Shakespeare, and ask him if he really wrote all the plays. I’d invite J.K. Rowling, because I want to talk to her about story arcs. And I’d invite Elizabeth George, because I admire her writing and I think she’d enjoy the party.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JAH: True confession time. I have not read Louise Penny’s novels, so I am fixing that before Malice Domestic next year, and reading her series. I am also reading a new series by Cate Conte, CAT ABOUT TOWN. Cate is the alter ego of my friend Liz Mugavero, and I’m enjoying the book a lot!

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

JAH: I don’t know if this counts, but I am a planneraholic. I just invested in a traveler’s notebook, and I’m obsessing over inserts, calendars, and washi tape. I also knit, and am working on a shawl in some really lovely yarn. I go to the theater a lot, and also try to go to a concert or museum once a month. My oven just got fixed (the temperature was way off), so baking is back on the horizon.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

JAH: Black beans. Butter. Cheese. Kale.

Wow, that sounds terrible, doesn’t it.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

JAH: I have two more books on contract for this series. I am also working on a new series that I haven’t announced yet, but will soon.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

JAH: The writing community, especially the mystery writing community, is really, really wonderful. I have made great friends on this journey, especially the five women I blog with over at WickedCozyAuthors.com. The journey would not be the same without those women.



The First Theater Cop Mystery

Sully Sullivan may have given up her badge, but she retains her police smarts as her worlds collide.

After leaving the police force and her cheating husband, Sully returned to her hometown to become the general manager of the Cliffside Theater Company.  But when well to do Peter Whitehall, a once friend of the family, is murdered his family request Sully look into things. To cure her curiosity and save her good friend, who happens to be the son of the victim as well as the primary suspect, Sully agrees. She finds herself sorting out a dysfunctional family and business while also trying to keep a disastrous production of A Christmas Carol on track. Add the return of her ex-husband, serving as lawyer to the family, and a former fling in to save the show, and Sully must use all of her police training and theater know how to solve the mystery before she becomes the ghost of Christmas future! 

J.A. Hennrikus hits all the right marks in her first Theater Cop Mystery. Sully Sullivan is a tough protagonist with enough issues to make her endearing. While she doesn't carry a badge, Sully still has the heart and mind of a cop. She straddles more than one world, but is able to work well in both. Drama is heightened when two former loves come on the scene. Working with her ex-husband on the murder and a former fling in the theater, Sully has her hands, and heart, full.

The worlds of theater and law enforcement may appear incongruous at first, but they truly aren't as I, a former police officer with a degree in theatre, can attest! A CHRISTMAS PERIL is an intricately plotted mystery with fascinating characters. I look forward to the next act!

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  1. Thanks for the review. It reaffirms my desire to read A Christmas Peril.

  2. Enjoyed the interview, that is quite the mix in background the author has. Makes an interesting take on "write what you know."

  3. Lovely review and interview. Really appreciate the intro to a new author and read. So hope this will be a start with this author and series. Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc (dot) com

  4. Great interview. I really like the theater storyline. Sounds like a great read.

  5. Great interview. I really like the theater storyline. Sounds like a great read.