Kathy: Savanna Shepherd is an art expert turned elementary art teacher. Have you studied art? Do you have a favorite medium or period?
TG: I haven’t studied art, but I’ve always been fascinated with great art. During the research for this series, I learned so much about the art world, the masters, techniques, and the ways in which art authenticators are able to verify or disprove whether a piece is an original or a forgery. I don’t have a favorite period, my tastes run a little eclectic. My favorite piece of art is Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It’s so beautiful and makes me feel different things depending on my own mood and state of mind when I look at it. But I’m also a little infatuated with Banksy. I love how he speaks through his art and incorporates our modern world into his statements.
Kathy: Though I can't draw, I am very artistic and love making handmade cards and creating other paper arts. Do you make art?
TG: I WISH! How wonderful that you’re artistic and use that to create! I have no artistic talent at all. I’ve tried… nothing in my head ever remotely resembles what I try to create. I can’t draw or paint or sculpt or craft at all.
Kathy: In Behind the Frame a beloved statue in the park is destroyed. I love discovering statues and artworks in parks and am furious at vandalism towards them. Do you have any favorite outdoor statues?
TG: Well I really like Jessamina Carson! I imagine her as strong and regal, so finding her vandalized is jarring. I love our Monument to Joe Louis we have in Detroit. The 24-foot-long bronze and painted steel fist in Hart Plaza symbolizes not only boxer Joe Louis’ success but the general fight for racial equality.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
TG: I think I was writing sort of cozy before I knew it was called cozy. I love the idea of friendly, close knit communities where everyone knows everyone, at least indirectly. That premise is perfect for a good mystery. Anyone can end up a victim or a criminal. It’s the idea that you think you know someone, but maybe you don’t know them as well as you thought you did.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
TG: I do! I’ve got a few manuscripts “in the drawer,” put away. I wrote a young adult that’s loosely semi-autobiographical that I do hope to one day publish. It’s very close to my heart and honest, about me but also not totally about me. I read a lot of young adult, some of my favorite books are in that genre. I also have a couple contemporary romance manuscripts that I still love, but I don’t have any current plans for. And I published a women’s fiction through a small digital publisher in 2014, The Fall of Our Secrets, that’s still available on Amazon. That book is a romantic suspense with some grit about two childhood friends who are reunited as adults after one disappeared in the middle of the night when they were teenagers.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
TG: My cozy mystery series with Hallmark Publishing is about art authenticator turned art teacher Savanna Shepherd, who has a talent for spotting clues hiding in plain sight. She and her sisters solve mysteries in their small Lake Michigan town with occasional help from swoony Dr. Aidan Gallager and Detective Nick Jordan who is now a reluctant believer in Savanna’s skills.
I also have a new cozy mystery called Ruby Red Herring: An Avery Ayers Antique Mystery, coming out with Crooked Lane Books next spring. After her parents' deaths, Avery Ayers takes over the family business, Antiquities & Artifacts Appraised, and is shocked to learn that the rare ruby she’s just been hired to appraise might be connected to her parents’ demise.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
TG: I love them all! If I had to choose a favorite, it’d depend on the day. I think I’d love to be friends with easy-going youngest sister Sydney Shepherd. She’s probably my favorite most often, although newcomer Finn Gallager is a close second, just because he’s so much fun to write.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
TG: I didn’t. Savanna initially had a different name and didn’t have sisters. But once I realized she’s the middle sister of three, it helped bring her to life. I chose the setting because the coast of Lake Michigan is one of my favorite places in my state. The character of Caroline Carson actually was inspired by a couple elderly patients I’ve had in my R.N. career—tough, sharp, elegant women who made an impression on me.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
TG: I’m not exactly sure. And there’s a lifetime between deciding you want to publish and making it happen. As for the motivation, I can only speak for myself, but there seems to be this drive, once you’ve got words on paper, and you’ve played around with them and made them flow and then turned them into a whole world with people who have stories to tell, to share that.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
TG: Oh wow. What a great question. This is hard.
Stephen King. Rainbow Rowell. Agatha Christie. John Steinbeck.
Now that would be one incredible dinner conversation!
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
TG: I’m reading Savannah Hendricks’ Grounded in January. It’s so good, it’s hard to put down. I’m in love with Kate and Ox.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
TG: I really enjoy baking, and I’m always reading something. I love just hanging out with my husband and kids. I’m also a huge music lover and before the pandemic one of my favorite things to do was see live bands. I always go with the same friend, my “concert-wife,” and we still aren’t too old yet for general admission/main floor. I’m 50 and she’s a little older. There’s something about being in that setting, surrounded by the music, the sound, the energy, that feeds my soul. Now I can hardly imagine a time when that’ll be safely possible again, but I have hope.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
TG: I always have M&Ms, coffee, popcorn, and oatmeal. And probably in that order of preference!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
TG: I just turned in the manuscript for Book 3 in the Hallmark Shepherd Sisters series, Still Life and Death. And I’m really hoping to write Book 4! I also hope the upcoming Avery Ayers book becomes a series.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
TG: Another good question! I’d say it’s being able to take the little glimmer I get of these characters and stories and bring them to life; the process of writing and going on that journey with them. I think the best part of being an author is the writing.
Behind the Frame: A Shepherd Sisters Mystery by Tracy Gardner
About Behind the Frame
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing (August 11, 2020)
Paperback 360 Pages
When art in the park leads to murder in the dark, the Shepherd sisters have another crime to solve.
Savanna Shepherd, an art expert turned elementary art teacher, is planning the Art in the Park festival for her hometown of Carson. But apparently, someone isn’t happy that Carson got to host the event: the beloved statue in the park is destroyed. Not long after, Savanna finds the dead body of one of the people on the planning committee.
Savanna and her sisters are convinced that the arrested murder suspect didn’t do it, despite strong evidence to the contrary. With the help of Dr. Aidan Gallager, Savanna’s new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. Several people in Carson had a motive for the murder. Can they find out which one of them is behind the framing of an innocent person?
This intriguing mystery includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Mini Rhubarb Pies.
About Tracy Gardner
Tracy Gardner is a fiction author represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Tracy writes Hallmark Publishing's Shepherd Sisters Mystery series, intriguing, engaging stories about Art Authenticator turned elementary art teacher Savanna Shepherd and her sisters solving murder mysteries in a small Lake Michigan town. A Detroit native, Tracy is the daughter of two teachers. She grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries and rock and roll. Tracy lives with her husband and best friend of thirty years and a menagerie of spoiled rescue dogs and cats, her front door constantly revolving with her two daughters and son back and forth from college. She is a strong believer in the power of baked goods, live music, family, and friends as staples to a happy life.
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