I'm happy to welcome Rachel Neuburger Reynolds to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Rachel writes the Red Frog Beach Mystery series. Drowning Lessons
is the first book in the series and was released earlier this month.
Kathy: Drowning Lessons
features a destination wedding. Have you ever participated in one?
RN: I’ve never taken part of one of the grandeur or crazy scheduling of Drowning Lessons
, but I have been to a few which have both been lovely. I went to an autumn wedding about 45-minutes outside of Charlottesville, VA quite a few years back. More recently, we went to a summer wedding on a beach in Portugal. It was very laid back and beautiful.
Now thinking about it, I guess that technically my wedding was a destination wedding. My husband and I live in England, but we got married in Boston, where I grew up. All of his friends came from Europe, and my friends are all scattered around the country. It wasn’t an exotic destination wedding for me, but a three-day holiday for everyone else!
Kathy: The first Red Frog Beach Mystery takes place in Bocas del Toro, a remote chain of islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. What made you decide to set your story here?
RN: I went to Panama on vacation in 2002 and we had randomly scheduled three days in Bocas del Toro. I completely fell in love with the place. We were in a water taxi and passed a snorkeling boat tour. There must have been something amazing to see, because everyone was just frozen; face down in identical life vests, maybe watching a sea turtle. So, seventeen years ago I looked at that image, thinking that could be the scene of the perfect crime, and have had it in my head since then.
Kathy: Lexie Marino is maid of honor to Olivia, a bridezilla. Have you known a bridezilla?
RN: I am lucky to say that every wedding that I have been a part of has been devoid of any bridezillas. None of my bride friends were out of control in the least. When I first thought about Drowning Lessons
, the main character was the bride. When I switched the protagonist to the maid of honor, I started asking friends if they had any crazy experiences with brides. Some of the stories shocked me!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
RN: My mother was definitely the reason that I became interested in cozy mysteries. We had a very small library on the second floor of our house when I grew up, and my mom had a huge collection of Agatha Christie books. I was too young to read the mysteries, but I loved opening the books and seeing her casts of characters on the first few pages. Truth be told, I secretly wanted to do that in Drowning Lessons
. My mom was a librarian, and mysteries and poetry were her things, so it all came from her!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
RN: In the world of novels, mysteries are the only thing I write. I am also a playwright, and I’ve had my plays produced in London, Edinburgh, and New York.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
RN: Drowning Lessons
is Book One of the Red Frog Beach Mystery series, all of which takes place in Bocas del Toro. The first book is maid of honor Lexie’s introduction to the island, where she relocates to in Book 2, The Wipeout Affair
. Some of the favorite members of the wedding party have also relocated, joining the fun locals we met in book one.
I am also working on The Evelyn Bay Murder Mystery series, which I’ll get back to when I finish the five books in the Red Frog Beach series. The series takes place on a fictional town on the North Fork of Long Island, NY, led by a recent divorcee and ex-Broadway dancer, who moves to Evelyn Bay for a second shot at happiness. It’s a very fun series that is very close to my heart.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
RN: The villains all have the best lines, don’t they?
I love my protagonist, Lexie. She’s nursing a broken heart but determined to make sure her best friend’s wedding stays on track, murder or not.
There were a few characters who I really enjoyed writing. One of them is Becky, the groom’s assistant. She’s very smart, but has a very stream of consciousness mile-a-minute way of talking. I could really go out on a limb with her in terms of fun.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
RN: Sometimes an image just gets stuck in your head. That snorkeling trip in 2002 inspired me and never let go.
The Evelyn Bay series is written in honor of my mother, Evelyn, who died of ALS in 2017.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
RN: I had a traditional publisher for Drowning Lessons
, and just before Thanksgiving I learned they were “closing their traditional publishing arm.” I was broken hearted for a brief bit of time, and then decided to go indie. Sometime you have to make your own luck!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
RN: This is going to be fun! My guest of honor would always be F Scott Fitzgerald! I’d also invite Raymond Chandler, as he was the first mystery author I discovered on my own. Then I’d round it out with True Blood’s Charlaine Harris and J K Rowling. I think it would be quite a party!
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
RN: I just finished The Death of Mrs. Westaway
by Ruth Hare. I loved it.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
RN: I’ll share my most recent hobby. I’ve wanted to play the guitar since I was 12, but never tried. My husband gave me a guitar for Christmas, so I’ve been taking lessons once a week and practicing every day. It’s hard work, but I love it.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
RN: Salted pistachios are my weakness. I’ve had to start hiding them in my desk because my husband will eat them all. Besides that, I’d say red pepper hummus, avocado, and cooked shrimp.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
RN: I’ve tied myself up for years with ideas! There will be five in the Red Frog Beach Series, the second of which will be released late-August. I’ve written book one of the Evelyn Bay series and have a total of seven in mind. Finally, I’ve got a non-mystery tentatively called Pinch Me Quick
that has been percolating for one day in the future.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
RN: I think that the ability to hold on to your imagination brings me a lot of joy. I’ve got my head in the clouds, always thinking about what’s going to come next with my characters. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The author has graciously offered a digital copy of Drowning Lessons
to one reader. In order to qualify, simply comment on this post no later than 11:59pm EDT Thursday, May 30, 2019. Tell us if you've ever been to a destination wedding or known a bridezilla. Also be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I can contact you, should your comment be chosen. Good luck!