Kathy: You start a new series with NATURAL THORN KILLER. What led you to do so?
KDS: I’ve lived in the Portland, Oregon area (also known as the Rose City) for my entire life, and when the idea began to form for this book I thought it would be fun to highlight Portland’s long love affair with roses. The city receives rivers of rain each winter. That means slogging through dreary, gray days, but the payoff comes in the spring when Portland blooms to life with lush color. There’s no better place on the planet than Portland in the spring, and I wanted to capture that in this series.
Kathy: Britta Johnston leaves her deadbeat husband and dead-end job to pursue an artistic endeavor. Have you given up things to pursue your creative dreams?
KDS: Good question. I haven’t given up anything in the same sense as Britta, who literally leaves everything she’s known behind. But, I have had to give things up to make more space for writing. I often have to say “no” to going out to lunch or coffee with friends when I’m working on a new manuscript. I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to read mysteries while writing a mystery. That’s been a hard transition because I love mysteries. I’ve had to learn how to manage my time and reading habits to meet my writing schedule.
Kathy: In your first Rose City Mystery we discover the floral boutique, Blomma, and a wine bar. Do you enjoy flowers and wine? What are your favorites?
KDS: Yes and yes! I loved getting to research this book! I spent many hours in flower shops and interviewing floral designers. It was such an immersive process and fascinating to learn how much work and creativity go into putting together a perfect bouquet. Personally, I’m a fan of really natural flower arrangements—blending textures, adding interesting herbs or even fruit and berries to a bouquet. My favorite flower is the hydrangea. I had to go back through the manuscript and make sure that I hadn’t mentioned hydrangeas too many times!
In terms of wine, I like red wines. The Pacific Northwest is known for its Pinot Noirs. I love a crisp, lovely raspberry-colored Pinot Noir on a sunny spring evening.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
KDS: My grandmother and mother were huge mystery readers. They introduced me to the genre at a very young age. I started with Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew and from there was hooked!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
KDS: The first book I wrote was a memoir. It was very different process to write a true story versus fiction. I’m currently exclusively writing mysteries, but I have some new ideas swimming in my head that don’t fall in the mystery genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
KDS: I have four different series.
Writing as Kate
The Rose City Mysteries: The first in a new series featuring floral artist Britta Johnston who has immersed herself in Riverplace Village on the banks of the Willamette River in the Rose City where she crafts beautiful blooms.
The Pacific Northwest Mysteries: Aspiring journalist, Meg Reed, embellishes her outdoor prowess in order to land a job writing for Northwest Extreme Magazine. When in reality she’s terrified of heights and has a tendency to trip over bodies on the trail.
Writing as Ellie Alexander
The Bakeshop Mysteries: Set in the charming hamlet of Ashland, Oregon, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and featuring an artisan pastry chef, Juliet Montague Capshaw (Jules), who has returned home to heal her broken heart and help run her family bakeshop, Torte.
The Sloan Krause Mysteries: Set in the charming Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington and featuring brewmistress Sloan Krause who has a nose for hops and a penchant for murder.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
KDS: No. That’s always the struggle. It’s like trying to name a favorite kid. I love them all!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
KDS: I had many real-life inspirations for this series. One of my favorite childhood memories is spending time in my grandparents’ urban farm. They had over an acre of property in the heart of the city. My grandfather would grow rows and rows of corn, tomatoes, berries, and flowers. I loved getting to dig in the dirt and pick fresh flowers to arrange in dainty bunches for their kitchen table. I think from a very early age my grandfather planted the seeds of being interested in and connected to nature. It’s a huge gift and one that I’m excited to share in this series.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
KDS: When I wrote my first mystery I set a goal to have it published. I wanted to be able to share theses fictional worlds I’ve created with readers and give them a glimpse into the Pacific Northwest. All of my books are set in the PNW and based on real places. They’re almost like love letters to the place I call home.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
KDS: Louise May Alcott
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
KDS: THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
KDS: I love to hike! I try to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors when the weather allows here in the Pacific Northwest. I also love to swim, walk, bake, and of course read!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
KDS: Yes. The 2nd book in this series, VIOLET TENDENCIES, will come out in the fall. This time Britta and her aunt Elin have been chosen as the showcase floral designers for Portland’s annual Rose Festival parade. They’re excited about the opportunity to create a magnificent float and participate in the region’s biggest flower event of the year. However, things aren’t all rosy for Britta. An anarchist group is threatening to shut down the parade. Then things take a violent turn. Britta finds herself mixed up with angry protesters, and in the middle of a murder investigation.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
KDS: Connecting with readers. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really believe that books bring us together, and that’s so important in today’s culture of disconnectedness.
NATURAL THORN KILLER by Kate Dyer-Seeley
The First Rose City Mystery
Britta Johnston lives a lackluster existence in Minnesota working at a mind numbing wholesale florist company to support her husband who's been writing the great American novel for years. When she discovers he's cheating on her, she stops kowtowing to him, packs her bags, and returns to Portland, Oregon and the aunt who raised her. The timing is perfect for Aunt Elin as she's getting ready to launch a new part of her floral boutique and wine bar, but not so perfect for the loud egocentric real estate developer who wants to raze the entire shopping village to make way for new development. After a contentious shop owner meeting, Britta finds him dead in Blomma surrounded by roses. Now Britta finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation while making a new life for herself.
NATURAL THORN KILLER is a delightful start to a new series. The setting is unique and described so vividly it was easy to see myself walking through the village and stopping at all of the wonderful shops. The characters are engaging with backstory evident and starting to ooze out. I especially liked how the author brought different cultures to the fore. The addition of Swedish language and culture not only brought interest, but a feeling of hygge. I also loved the character of Tomo, not only his fun loving attitude, but his Japanese culture. And I want some of his mom's noodles!
With attention to detail, well developed characterization, and a captivating plot NATURAL THORN KILLER is a winner.