I'm pleased to welcome Sharon Farrow back to Cozy With Kathy today. Sharon pens the Berry Basket Mystery series. HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE is the fifth book in the series and was released late last month.
Kathy: In HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE Marlee Jacob gets involved in Oriole Point's production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Is reading or seeing A CHRISTMAS CAROL a holiday tradition for you? What's your favorite adaptation? (I admit, mine is the Muppet's version.)
SF: I’ve read Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL many times. And since it plays such an important role in my latest mystery, I reread it before writing HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE. While working on the book, I also attended a performance of the popular annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL in Chicago. As for film adaptations, I’ve seen them all, from Scrooged to the Muppets to the musical starring Albert Finney. But my heart belongs to the animated Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Watching that every year was a highlight of my childhood Christmas season. Given how young I was when I first saw it, the cartoon was my introduction to A CHRISTMAS CAROL. And it did such an effective job, it remains my favorite holiday story.
Kathy: While many people consider berries more summer fare, they are popular in winter dining as well. What is your favorite holiday berry dish?
SF: Luckily, cranberries are in season during the holidays. As a fan of the tart berries, I can’t resist baking cranberry scones in the winter. However, my favorite holiday pastry is Noel Pound Cake, which is filled with red and green maraschino cherries. It tastes great, while looking properly festive.
Kathy: There is a lot of magick associated with hollyberries. Do you or Marlee follow any hollyberry traditions?
SF: As the owner of a berry-themed shop, Marlee not only dispenses lots of hollyberry lore in the latest book, she describes the holly traditions she follows. For example, Marlee keeps a vase of holly branches in her living room at Christmastime as a symbol of good luck and protection. This practice was handed down by the Celts, who brought branches of holly into their homes as a way to guard against evil spirits. It was also believed that holly branches in your home gave shelter to good fairies over the winter. And of course, fresh holly is an incredibly pretty way to decorate for the holidays. As for me, I am simply happy to watch the many fruit-eating birds who visit our snow-covered holly bushes each year. Especially the cedar waxwings.
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?
SF: Because I knew the fifth book would be set at Christmas, I always intended for A Christmas Carol to be an important part of the plot. And I took my inspiration from the themes found in Dickens’ tale. I even figured out how to include ghosts! I was also inspired by the annual production of the story in my own lakeshore village, which is performed by local residents.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Marlee?
SF: I thought the series would be done after ‘Killed on Blueberry Hill’, and I regarded it as the last in a trilogy. But the desire to involve Marlee in a Halloween murder and a Christmas homicide was irresistible. So the series became a quintet. At the moment, the future of the Berry Basket series is up in the air.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
SF: I started off my novel writing career in the 1990s as a pantser. Which worked fine until I signed a publishing contract and had an actual deadline. When I realized an outline or synopsis would help keep me on track, I became a detailed plotter. My outlines and synopses typically ran twenty to thirty pages. On a whim, I decided to fly by the seat of my pants once again with MULBERRY MISCHIEF. And it worked out fine. So I did it again with HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE. Although as deadline approached, I did have a few nervous moments about tying everything together. But I enjoyed the experience. However for my next book, I may combine the best elements of both writing approaches.
Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
SF: My favorite part of marketing my work is interacting with readers online. That is always a pleasure. The most difficult aspect is staying organized. Often a book release coincides with a publishing deadline. Trying to finish the book while fulfilling all the promotional commitments can get stressful.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
SF: The events of this past year have made it difficult for me to concentrate on writing. As my agent can attest to. But I am working on several projects at the moment. One of them is a suspense novel, inspired by my recent binge reading of Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley. I’m also researching and plotting a historical mystery, which is always fun. As a former history teacher, I have a soft spot for books set in the past. Then again, I may decide to return to the comforting world of a cozy village. Stay tuned.
The Fifth Berry Basket Mystery
The death Everett Hostetter is not that surprising. After all, Oriole Point's annual Jacob Marley was 95 years old. The curmudgeonly man had his fingers in lots of Oriole Point pies, but was not well liked and didn't seem to mind that fact. But the more Marlee Jacob learns of the man, the more suspicious she becomes of his death. As the town's Hollyberry Festivities start Marlee is drawn into Everett's life, from taking over his role in A CHRISTMAS CAROL to talking with those closest to him. The more she learns the more Marlee believes his death was not natural. But will she be able to prove it before his killer decides she knows too much?
The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in this fifth Berry Basket Mystery. Lake effect snow, holiday festivities, and the love of family and friends fill the pages of this mystery. I love Marlee's Christmas spirit as evidenced in her overly decorated store and home. More than that, I love how she cares for her friends, giving Natasha a home while hers is under construction, caring for Theo, and loving the animals in her life-pets and wildlife alike.
HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE brings the tale of A CHRISTMAS CAROL to Oriole Point, and not just with the town's annual theatrical production. It begs the question, will you be a Scrooge or a Marley? One was able to be redeemed in life with the other only able to give warnings after death. Or will you continue the cheating avaricious path you're on forever? Several characters are faced with these questions and their responses may be surprising!
I loved the application of the teachings within A CHRISTMAS CAROL mirrored in this modern cozy mystery. I love the characters and the manner in which they live and work together. The mystery was intriguing and complex and had me considering an A MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS scenario. The pulse pounding penultimate scene had me alternately holding my breath and swinging imaginary objects to help Marlee.
HOLLYBERRY HOMICIDE is a fast paced Christmas tale of redemption. It's a tale of friendship and family and the importance of both. It brings the spirit of Christmas to life.
Hollyberry Homicide (A Berry Basket Mystery) by Sharon Farrow
About Hollyberry Homicide
Cozy Mystery 5th in Series
Publisher: Kensington (September 29, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
A cold wind is blowing off Lake Michigan, and murder is scaring the dickens out of everyone . . .
Considering her name, Marlee Jacob is an obvious choice for the role of Jacob Marley in Oriole Point’s production of A Christmas Carol. It’s just sad that the role has opened up because of the death of the elderly actor who’d originally been cast.
But Marlee, the proprietor of The Berry Basket, will do her best to keep spirits high—that is, until clues start mounting that there’s danger behind the scenes. There are accidents on set, the tree in the village square topples over, and worst of all, a body is found with a sprig of holly draped over it. If Marlee can’t wrap up the case, she may not have a berry merry Christmas . . .
Includes Berry Recipes!
About Sharon Farrow
Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award-winning author Sharon Pisacreta. A freelance writer since her twenties, she has been published in mystery, fantasy, and romance. Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series for Kensington. The series debuted in 2016 and is set along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline where she now lives. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.
WEB PAGE http://sharonfarrowauthor.com/