I'm pleased to welcome Iris March to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Iris writes the Succulent Sleuth Cozy Mystery series. THE BROKEN BRIDGE is the first book in the series and was released earlier this year.
Kathy: In THE BROKEN BRIDGE we meet Molly Green and her twin, May. Molly loves flowers and gardening and is very eco-friendly. Are you a gardener as well?
IM: I have lots of houseplants and a garden. However, I kill most of my house plants. I have had a few for more than ten years but there are not very many of them! And I really like having plants in gardens but just hate (hate!) weeding and maintaining the garden. So when I was creating the main character in my head, I wanted her to have a green thumb that I just really don't. My cousin-in-law, Allie, and my mom gave me lots of feedback about the plant content in this book.
Kathy: Everyone in Hawthorn Heights seems to love succulents. Are they a favorite of yours as well? Do you have a favorite variety?
IM: I do love succulents! The name "succulent sleuth" came to me on a run long before I had the story and knew that I had the name of my book series.
I had a huge aloe vera for a long time but then it didn't survive a house move. It was definitely a favorite plant and I miss it. I need to get another aloe. I have about four succulents right now but I don't know the names of them, only that they're cute and won't survive more than a couple of years in my care.
Kathy: Patty's Plant Place is adjacent to the Buckeye Trail and lots of the characters enjoy hiking. Is this a hobby you enjoy?
IM: Hiking is one of my favorite hobbies, for sure. I love hiking with my husband and son. We live two doors down from our local park district trail which is paved. I'm on the trail most days of the week, running or walking. We do also live nearby the Buckeye Trail and often dream of doing some overnight/ long term hikes but never have. Our park district has trails that aren't paved through the woods and we often hike there. We also live nearby the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which feels like it has endless hiking trails to explore. I love being in the woods and hiking.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
IM: In 2018, I had a huge reading slump. I went through so many "did not finish" books and just couldn't find anything I wanted to read. I love Sherlock Holmes and so was trying to find a mystery that I'd want to read and happened upon the cozy mystery genre. I hadn't read any before that and really clicked with the amateur sleuth aspect and clean nature of the genre. I certainly read books in other genres but keep going back to cozies!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
IM: I have a women's fiction book that is coming out this fall but I intend to write more cozy mysteries in the Succulent Sleuth series.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
IM: The Succulent Sleuth series is a set at a fictional garden center with the not fictional Buckeye Trail running behind it. Our main character, Molly, inherited the garden center from her grandparents along with her twin sister and cousin. No one gets along with the cousin well and this is meant to be a series-long arc about dealing with her. There's a garden center cat and Molly's husband loves books.
In the first book, a college-aged hiker comes into the shop one afternoon and hangs out with the staff for a bit. Then he goes missing and Molly finds some clues that the police aren't paying attention to.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
IM: It's hard to pick! Archie is really fun to write because he's super talkative and excitable. He's too nice and people aren't quite sure what to make of him.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
IM: When I picture the garden center in my novel, there are four real life garden centers meshed together that inspired it. Two of these garden centers have cats who inspired Sherlock, the tuxedo cat who lives at Patty's Plant Place. I've always admired tuxedo cats but have never had one.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
IM: I was an English major in college and have always been a writer. I do a lot of freelance writing now and was always the content writer for every job I've held (websites, newsletters, grants, reports). Writing a book always seemed so long, so far away and hard. But then a person I knew told me that he wrote a book and I said to myself "if he can do it, so can I."
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
IM: I used to claim F Scott Fitzgerald as my favorite author so I'd have to include him. I'd also really love to chat in person with Sara Rosett who is an auto-buy new release for me and writes cozy mysteries as I'm sure your readers know. I think I'd also invite along a local author from my area, D M Pulley. I attended one of her talks at a local writer's conference before covid and keep wanting to reach out and really talk to her more. And finally, I think I'd invite an author friend who I know and would make me feel more comfortable - I have lots of author friends at this point so it's hard to pick!
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
IM: I'm always reading something! Right now, I'm reading a cozy mystery: Sarah Burr's #FOLLOWME FOR MURDER.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
IM: We've covered my major hobbies already: reading, running, and hiking. I also really love kayaking but don't do it often enough and love to go to plays when I can.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
IM: Dark chocolate chips, popcorn, Parmesan cheese, homemade pickled red onions
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
IM: I am working on a short story that I intend to give away for free in this same series and have another novel running around in my head that I'm hoping will be in the world in 2023. I also have two more short stories outlined that need to get filled out. The characters just won't leave me alone!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
IM: Hearing from readers who enjoyed my book is extremely rewarding! Also, it's pretty cool to be the boss of a cast of characters and tell them what to do, even if they don't always end up doing what I first intended.
Succulent-savvy sleuth, Molly Green spends her day tending her eco-friendly garden center, inherited from her beloved grandparents. She wants nothing more than to nurture her nursery and share her plant passion with the world.