Kathy: Amanda Tucker opens a fashion design shop in the first Ghostly Fashionista Mystery. Are you into fashion?
GL: I love fashion, Kathy! That said, I'm sitting here in jeans, a shirt, a cardigan, and extra-warm socks, and my hair in a ponytail...but I'm fashionable on the inside! LOL
Kathy: I love that Amanda's designs give a nod to the fashions of the 1930s and 40s. What is it about the clothing from that period that makes so many of us love it?
GL: For me, I love that the clothes are feminine without being too revealing, and they were made to flatter any woman's figure. Those A-line skirts are super-flattering for everyone.
Kathy: I've always wanted to have a dress custom designed and made for me. Have you ever been through the process?
GL: I did design my prom dress one year and had a seamstress make it for me. It was a beautiful gown. Very Antebellum--big skirt and lots of lace.
Kathy: I love that you included a spirit in your new series. Max is an absolute hoot! Why did you decide to add a paranormal aspect to your new series and why Max?
GL: When I decided to set the series in Abingdon, I thought it might be fun to have a ghost join Amanda in her detective work. Abingdon is an old town, so it's reputed that there are ghosts all over the place. The land was surveyed from 1748-1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker, who would later become partner to Peter Jefferson, little Thomas Jefferson's dad! The Town of Abingdon was established in 1778. The Greenway-Trigg building that I used as a model for my fictional Shops on Main was built in 1894 by a local man for his twin daughters. The building then became home to the Greenway and Trigg families. When I visited the Greenway-Trigg building to refresh my memory on the building (I hadn't been inside since there had been a bookstore inside the building more than twenty years ago), I asked an employee of the Olive Oil Company if there were reputed to be any ghosts in the building. She told me that she'd never experienced one personally, but other employees had claimed to have seen an apparition standing in the doorway. She also told me that another female employee was in the basement when she experienced what felt like a little girl holding the employee's hand. Of course, no one was there. When I heard that story, my maternal instincts kicked in, and I immediately wanted the little girl to be with her parents and to be happy. But I didn't volunteer to go down to the basement and try to draw her out or anything.
As for why Max, I love Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries television show, and Phryne Fisher inspired the character of Max to a great extent. Plus, since Amanda enjoys vintage fashion, I thought it would be fun if she had a vintage ghost!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
GL: I love cozies because even though there is a murder, there is a lightness to the genre. The murder happens off-screen, and the story is more about unraveling the mystery than it is frightening the reader. There's a lot of character development in cozies, especially mysteries. I enjoy showing my characters' development as they progress from one book to another.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
GL: I do have a series of chick-lit novellas set in a shopping mall redesigned to have micro-apartments on the upper level. The micro-apartments house seniors on one side and young professionals on the other. I enjoy illustrating how the two generations interact and learn from each other. The series is the Kinsey Falls series and currently consists of three books: HIGHTAIL IT TO KINSEY FALLS, PUTTING DOWN ROOTS IN KINSEY FALLS, and SLEIGHING IT IN KINSEY FALLS.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
GL: When Amanda decides to follow her dream of opening a fashion design studio and leases a space in historic Abingdon, Virginia's Shops On Main, she's surprised to learn that she has a resident ghost. But soon Maxine "Max", a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark, a web designer who rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office.
Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" is a killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--she can't end up the killer's next victim!
Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
GL: That's tough. My first instinct is to say Max because she was so much fun to write. But I also enjoy writing Amanda, Grandpa Dave, and the married shop owners Frank and Ella! I really enjoy character interactions, and I have a lot of fun with that.
Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
GL: I'd have to say Miss Fisher from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (on Netflix) was the inspiration for Max. My desire to be able to design and make my own clothing led me to Amanda's career choice.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
GL: I sent the manuscript to my editor at PRH, and she loved it but said they had something too similar in the works. I just couldn't abandon the project, so I decided to press on and to self-publish the series.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
GL: Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Edgar Allan Poe, and William Shakespeare.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
GL: I'm currently reading THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
GL: I enjoy needlework, knitting, calligraphy, and cryptograms. And, of course, reading!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
GL: Peanut butter, tuna, soup, and cheese.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
GL: Yes! The next book in the Ghostly Fashionista series is scheduled to be released in October. Also, if you've read my Down South Cafe series, book four in that series is scheduled for release in August of this year.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
GL: The readers. I love it when someone reads my stories and enjoys them as much as I enjoyed writing them. That's a wonderful feeling.
DESIGNS ON MURDER by Gayle Leeson
The First Ghostly Fashionista Mystery
When an opportunity to rent a space in a lovely historic building presents itself, Amanda Tucker takes a chance on a dream. The space is perfect for her fashion design shop and, with the help of her grandfather, Amanda sets up business. Amanda is surprised when she discovers her new friend, Max, is a ghost, but that's nothing compared to the shock when another tenant is found shot to death in his office! While Max encourages Amanda to solve the murder herself, Amanda is content to leave matters to the police. After all she has a fledgling business to maintain, as well as a budding romance. But Amanda can't help but notice the suspicious behavior of the other tenants of Shops on Main. Will Amanda uncover the murderer...or will she be the next victim?
A fashion designer who makes custom pieces as well as ready to wear designs, the start of a romance, and a ghost of a 1930s young woman make a unique one of a kind series and this first book got me hooked! I loved the setting, the mystery, and the characters. Max, the ghost, is an absolute hoot! Her commentaries had me giggling more than once. Maxine is more than just a fun side kick, however. There's a depth to her, and it was wonderful to see Amanda start to uncover the truth about Max's past...and her death. As for Amanda, she's a great protagonist. Her general optimism is tempered by her difficult relationship with her parents, making her more real. I also enjoyed her encounters with Jason. I remember similar feelings in my younger days, "Does he like me? No, he couldn't like me, he's just being nice." I look forward to seeing their relationship grow.
DESIGNS ON MURDER is a great start to a charming new series. Wonderfully interesting characters inhabit the historic Shops on Main in Virginia. Fashion, a saucy ghost, and a bit of romance provide a rich backdrop to an intriguing mystery.
Designs On Murder: A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery by Gayle Leeson
About the Book
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Grace Abraham Publishing (March 26, 2019)
Print Length: 229 pages ASIN: B07MYCQJHB
What if you discovered your lively new friend wasn't really...alive? Amanda Tucker is excited about opening her fashion design studio in Shops On Main, a charming old building in historic Abingdon, Virginia. She didn't realize a ghost came with the property! But soon Maxine "Max" Englebright, a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark Tinsley, a web designer with a know-it-all attitude who also rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office. Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" and fellow small business owners is his killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--the ghostly fashionista can't end up the killer's next victim!
About the Author
Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. Gayle has also written as Amanda Lee and Gayle Trent. As Amanda Lee, she wrote the Embroidery Mystery series, and as Gayle Trent, she writes the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. Going forward, Gayle intends to keep her writing until the Gayle Leeson name. She has a series of women's fiction novellas set in a shopping mall that has been converted to include micro-apartments (the Kinsey Falls series) and has just begun this new cozy series, the Ghostly Fashionista Mystery series. Another Down South Cafe novel is slated for release in August with book two in the Ghostly Fashionista series scheduled for October.
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