I'm pleased to welcome Rebecca Lee Smith to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Rebecca's latest release is The House on Crow Mountain.
In The House on Crow Mountain we meet portrait artist Emory Austen. How did you choose this unusual career for your protagonist?
RLS: Before I went to college, I thought I wanted to major in art but soon realized that my lack of drawing and painting talent was a going to be real drawback. Not far from where I live, there is a Smoky Mountain Tennessee town called Gatlinburg (right down the road from Dollywood), where artists used to set up shop on the sidewalk and paint portraits of tourists from the local ski resort. It was fascinating to watch them work, and I always thought it would be such an amazing gift to have. And seriously cool.
Kathy: Emory returns to the North Carolina mountains after her aunt's death. How does that setting influence the story?
RLS: Growing up, Emory’s aunt’s old Victorian house on Crow Mountain was the one place Emory felt she belonged, even though she thought her aunt didn’t want her there. The misty mountains on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, where the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains meet, have always seemed so magical to me, drawing me in, calling to me. I wanted Emory to feel that magic as well.
Kathy: Crows are unique animals with a good deal of folklore and mystery associated with them. Is there significance related to that in your choice of naming Crow Mountain as your homestead?
RLS: In an earlier draft, the mountain was actually named something else, but crows kept showing up in scene after scene until I took the hint and named it after them. Crows are indeed unique. They can recognize human faces, make and use tools, and when one of their own dies, the others gather around the dead crow to pay their respects. And then, there’s the fact that three or more crows is called a murder. A murder of crows. What mystery writer doesn’t love that?
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
RLS: For awhile, I tried writing romance, but for some reason, a dead body kept turning up in the manuscript with a mystery to solve. Also, I was reading a lot more cozy mysteries than romance, so I thought maybe that’s what I should be writing. I love creating a puzzle to solve, using quirky characters as suspects, unexpected twists and turns, and finally piecing things together so it all makes sense in the end. It’s so satisfying to me. Not to mention fun.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
RLS: My first two books were published in the romantic suspense genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
RLS: So far, The House on Crow Mountain is a standalone cozy mystery. But I’m not ruling out the possibility of developing it into a series. I love reading series.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
RLS: Mrs. Etta Shipley, an elderly nursing home resident who becomes Emory’s friend and helps her solve the mystery. When I was growing up, both my grandmothers lived with me. I shared a room with my maternal grandmother until I was fifteen, and she was funny, sassy, and the most down-to-earth no-nonsense person I’ve ever known. I’m sure I based Mrs. Shipley on her. (I really hadn’t thought about that until now.)
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
RLS: I love to read, and after spending years working in theater honing my dialogue skills (and getting a little burned out in the process), writing seemed like the next logical step. Seeing a book cover with my name on it had always been a secret dream of mine, but it took years, writing several books that will never see the light of day, to get published.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
RLS: I love this question! And wow. Okay…Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Nora Ephron, and Nora Roberts (because, in addition to picking her brain about the sheer volume of great work she can produce, she would just be so much fun.)
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
RLS: I’m between books right now. I just finished a beautiful, lyrical book called The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister, and I’m ready (and excited) to start A Time to Swill, Book #2 in Sherry Harris’ Sea Glass Saloon mystery series.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
RLS: Pre-pandemic, I loved hanging out at the local pub. But now, it’s mostly reading, writing, watching English murder mysteries, crocheting while watching English murder mysteries, deadheading the marigolds (one of the few plants the neighborhood deer won’t eat), and visiting with my (vaccinated) kids. I also walk a rather lively Jack Russell terrier named Wilbur twice a day, does that count?
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
RLS: Vanilla yogurt, pimento cheese, peanut butter, and Reduced-fat Triscuits.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
RLS: I have Book One of a new series finished and ready to go to my editor. It’s about what happens when the richest, most despised woman in town leaves her fortune to an unemployed elementary art teacher out of spite, then turns up dead.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
RLS: The surprised look on someone’s face when they ask what I do for a living and I say, “I write books.”
The House on Crow Mountain by Rebecca Lee Smith
About The House on Crow Mountain
Cozy Mystery Publisher : Wild Rose Press (July 14, 2021)
Paperback : 310 pages
When her aunt suffers a stroke, New York portrait artist Emory Austen returns home to the North Carolina mountains to mend fences and deal with the guilt over her husband's senseless death. But that won't be as easy as she hoped.
Someone in the quirky little town doesn't like Emory. Is it the sexy architect who needs the Austen land to redeem himself? The untrustworthy matriarch? The grudge-bearing local bad boy? Or the teenage bombshell who has raised snooping to an art form? Even the local evangelist has something to hide. Who wrote the cryptic note warning her to "Give it back or you'll be dead? And what is 'it'? As the clues pile up and secrets are exposed, Emory must discover what her family has that someone would kill for.
About Rebecca Lee Smith
Rebecca lives with her husband and a dog named Wilbur in the beautiful misty mountains of East Tennessee, where the people are charming, soulful, and just a little bit crazy. She's been everything from a tax collector to a stay-at-home-mom to an award-winning professional actress and director. When she's not churning out small-town cozy-ish mysteries, she loves to travel the world, go to the Outer Banks for her ocean fix, watch old movies, and make her day complete by answering the Final Jeopardy! question. Her Southern roots and the affectionate appreciation she has for the rural towns she lives near inspire the settings and characters she writes about.
Website - https://rebeccaleesmith.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.l.smith.18
Twitter - https://twitter.com/rbeccaleesmith
Could it be something of Kent's they were after? Something he’d kept hidden? He was good at keeping secrets. In fact, he’d been a master at it. After his death, I’d packed the few possessions he hadn’t moved out of the apartment and sent them to his parents. I’d kept nothing except the gold wedding band he’d thrown at me from across the room and his cell phone.
Hard to even think those words, much less say them out loud. It was all still so surreal.
Maybe everything that had happened in Bitter Ridge was karma. Maybe the Universe was finally giving me exactly what I deserved. Kent's death had been my fault. And no matter how much he had deceived me, or betrayed me, or reduced my sad little trusting heart to shrapnel, I could never forgive myself.
I laid my head on my knees and closed my eyes. I rocked my body back and forth, like a child trying to soothe itself when sleep will not come. Then at last, in the cool dark shadows of the night, I began to cry.
Oh, God, I am so sorry.
I hadn’t loved Kent for a long time. At the end of our marriage, I hadn't even liked him. But I had never wished him dead.a Rafflecopter giveaway