Today we welcome cozy mystery author Heather Day Gilbert to the hot seat to answer our interview questions. Welcome, Heather!
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?
I come up with the characters before I launch the series, and they develop more and more with each book. The plots are outlined before each book, so I always have a pretty clear idea of what will happen—although I always have room to change things as I go.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The protagonist, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?
Good question! I’d love to be an amateur sleuth. I try to portray my sleuths getting into situations I’d be willing to get into on the quest for justice. So yeah, I’d be on the side of hunting down murderers.
If you had the power to make any of your books into a film, which would it be and why?
Oh, that’s a great question. Honestly, I’d love to see the entire Barks & Beans Cafe series come to life, maybe on Hallmark channel. Lots of shelter dogs in a cafe, a strong brother/sister bond, and plenty of twisty mysteries in a small town. It seems a perfect match.
Is there a particular genre of fiction that you have always wanted to write, but haven’t yet tackled?
Psychological thrillers. It’s still on my backburner, trust me. 🙂
If you could meet a literary character or author, who would you most like to meet?
I’d want to meet Agatha Christie. I have so much respect for her, and her books are some of the only ones I like to reread, like comfort reads. I think she was a genius.
As with the rest of us, you have a real life to live. So, in your most recent book, what was happening in your life and how did it influence your writing?
That’s a great question. My amateur sleuth doesn’t have children (I have four), but there is a character at the end of the book who is finally able to adopt her grandson after fostering him, just like we adopted our daughter from foster care a couple of years ago. Adoption is a huge theme in this series, since it’s close to my heart.
Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy that you sometimes wish you would have kept?
Nope. I write really tightly. If I have any scene I can’t use, I jettison it. I’m pretty ruthless that way (I figure it’s my ENTJ Myers-Briggs type—we don’t spend a lot of time looking back and regretting things).
What do you do to prepare your mind to write? To get into the mind of your characters.
I guess I ponder them and their world awhile, then I basically watch them come to life as I write. I used to play Barbies a LOT as a teen, and I think that helped me create dialogue/action on the spot.
What book as a child/adolescent most influenced you as a writer?
That’s a hard question, since I loved so many books. Story-wise, I learned so much from Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, and Phyllis Whitney. One of my favorite books as a teen was Madeline L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, which made me want to become a marine biologist (hint—I didn’t do that!). As a child, I loved Richard Scarry books, and not surprisingly, one of the earliest books I recall reading (at age 4) and loving was The Little Engine that Could. Ironically, it’s like the story of my author life, because sometimes you just have to keep chugging along in the face of possible failure.
How much research went into your last book?
I put a lot of research into all my books—and I do on-the-spot research in the small town of Lewisburg, West Virginia, where this series is set. My husband and I often take our date nights there since it’s within driving distance, and we enjoy learning more about it each visit. TROUBLE BREWING took quite a bit of extra research, since it features the real-life story of the “Greenbrier ghost,” which you can read up online.
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I guess what defines me as a cozy mystery author is that since I grew up reading Agatha Christie, I like to be surprised by my mysteries, sometimes even as I’m writing them. I’m very good at guessing villains in shows/books, so satisfying twists are part of what makes me tick, and I strive for that in my books. Thankfully, my reviews seem to reflect that readers appreciate being surprised, too.
What is one thing about you that may surprise your readers?
My amateur sleuth, Macy Hatfield, isn’t exactly like me. My personality is much more like her protective big brother, Bo.
Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?
I was pretty fascinated with the story of the “Greenbrier ghost,” and after brainstorming things with my husband, I figured out a way to work it into a Halloween-set mystery in a fun way.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m working on my final Christian mystery, FALSE PRETENSE, which will conclude my Murder in the Mountains mystery series next year. Then it’s straight on to working on Book 6 in the Barks & Beans Cafe series, which is now up for preorder—COLD DRIP. That one is set in the caves near Lewisburg. 🙂
Thanks so much for joining us today and for your great answers! Come back any time!
Thanks for having me here today!
Barks & Beans Café Cozy Mystery: Book 5
Publication Date: October 18, 2021
Convinced that the elderly lady in her care didn’t die of natural causes, Macy’s friend Della determines to look into the broken relationships surrounding the woman. She books a Halloween-themed getaway at a local inn and talks Macy into coming along with her to spy on her prime suspect.
As they join a ghost tour of the candlelit town, Macy and Della feel their guide is a little too fanatical as he shares his spooky tales. He tells the story of the Greenbrier ghost, a newlywed who supposedly came back from the grave to tell her family that her husband murdered her.
When a disturbing apparition makes its presence known, guests at the inn become apprehensive…and for good reason, because soon after, a young bride turns up dead. Although everything points to a copycat killer replicating the historical Greenbrier murder, Macy has her doubts. She’s discovered that the inn harbors secrets of its own, and when she pokes into one darkened corner too many, she might not stand a ghost of a chance.
Join siblings Macy and Bo Hatfield as they sniff out crimes in their hometown…with plenty of dogs along for the ride! The Barks & Beans Cafe cozy mystery series features a small town, an amateur sleuth, and no swearing or graphic scenes.
Award-winning novelist Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing mysteries and Viking historicals. She brings authentic family relationships to the page, and she particularly delights in heroines who take a stand to protect those they love. Avid readers say Heather’s realistic characters—no matter what century—feel like best friends. When she’s not plotting stories, this native West Virginia gal can often be found hanging out with her husband and four children, playing video games, or reading Agatha Christie novels.