by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert and we also have a fun interview with Victoria. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Murder for the Books, and a link to purchase it from Amazon and an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
A Murder for the Books: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery By Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
It was a rocky path that led Amy Webber to her position as the director of Virginia’s Taylorsford Public Library. She preferred being Clarion University’s academic librarian, but seeing her fiancé dallying with a violinist at a faculty reception made staying there impossible. Aunt Lydia’s poor health prevents Amy from leaving the area, making the admittedly impressive historic public library the only viable alternative. Their archival building appeals to both tourists and historians, but unfortunately it also becomes the last resting place of former library volunteer Doris Virts. Amy can’t explain why the room was unlocked, nor why someone stabbed the dementia-prone woman to death.
With the library temporarily closed, Amy has enough time on her hands to help her handsome new neighbor with his own cold-case investigation. Dance choreographer and instructor Richard Muir moved to Taylorsford to renovate a home and prove that Eleanora Cooper did not murder her husband, something the town continues to believe despite her acquittal. Richard’s great-uncle wrote a book covering Eleanora’s trial, and in the process fell in love with her. Eleanora’s connection to Amy’s own family makes their search for the truth all that more compelling, especially when it stirs up further mysteries and scandals within Taylorsford.
Since she rather publicly ended her engagement, Amy is understandably brittle and wary of anything that resembles a new relationship. That makes Richard’s interest in her all the more uncomfortable, as her insecurities are at their highest levels and doesn’t believe that she could trust someone accustomed to dancers’ physiques. Many will relate to Amy’s fears, and seeing her cope with them is both appealing and admirable. Letting down her guard will not be easy for Amy, although her Aunt Lydia’s encouragement and support does much to bolster her courage.
Further assisting Amy’s growth and development is her assistant and friend Sunny Fields, whose boisterous personality and confidence is a delight to behold. The connections and interwoven histories of families hide secrets that have been worthy of murder for generations, placing our heroes at risk despite the time that has past. The small town setting, not to mention a librarian heroine whose romantic prospects may be on the upswing, will appeal to fans who adore humor-filled cozy mysteries.
Interview with Victoria Gilbert:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Victoria: I created stories, plays, and poetry ever since I learned how to write, but I didn’t actually complete a full-length book until six years ago. I always said I was going to write a novel, but somehow life intervened and I never did. Then in late 2011 I decided that I was going to finish writing one book, just so I could say that I had accomplished that life goal. I didn’t initially even consider publication, which is good, since my first two books weren’t “ready for prime time”! It was only after my third book, a YA Fantasy written as Vicki L. Weavil, that I seriously queried and landed an agent and publisher.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Victoria: My first novel written as Victoria Gilbert is A Murder for the Books, the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. It came out in December 2017. It’s a cozy mystery that features a librarian protagonist who uses her research skills to help the authorities investigate murders, both historical and current, in her small town. I have written a few other books under my other penname, Vicki L. Weavil. I’ll describe those below.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Victoria: No, I started out writing YA fantasy and science fiction. My first published book (written as Vicki L. Weavil) was Crown of Ice, a fantasy retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Snow Queen. That book was first published in 2014. It was re-released by Snowy Wings Publishing in early 2017, along with its companion book, Scepter of Fire – a mash-up retelling of The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Ugly Duckling. I also have published a YA Sci-Fi, Facsimile, which was released in 2016 though that book is currently out-of-print.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Victoria: The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series is set in the present day, in northern Virginia. The main location is a small, historic town at the foot of the mountains. Although Taylorsford is fictional, it is based on the small towns I knew growing up, as I’m a native of that region. (My mother’s family has lived in that area for generations). Another important factor in selecting this setting is its rich history, which allows me to weave facts and folklore from the area into my books.
I chose a librarian as my protagonist because it’s a career I know quite a bit about, having been a professional librarian in public, special, and university libraries for over thirty years before I recently retired. Having worked at an arts university for many years, I also have knowledge about dance training and performance, which lead to my creation of the main male character in the series. Many of the other characters are based on my experiences with small town life.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Victoria: With the cozy mysteries, it’s primarily about the entertainment value, although I hope that my characters and their relationships also touch on some topics that resonate with readers. For example, I often choose to subvert some gender expectations, and to present older characters who are still vibrant individuals interested in many things, including love!
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Victoria: As of December 2017, I’ve retired from my position as a library director at a small university. That means I’m writing and promoting – or researching and planning new projects – almost every day. I’m under contract for two more books in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, so that’s my focus right now. The second book, Shelved Under Murder will be released on July 10 of this year. Shelved is already written and undergoing final proofing, so I’m now drafting the third book in the series, which will be published in early 2019.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Victoria: I outline extensively. I can’t honestly see how I could develop a complex mystery plot without outlining. However, I’m not overly rigid about following my outline – I do allow for adjustments as I write, since sometimes the actual development of the story changes things.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Victoria: Mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Victoria: No, I really can’t claim that it was terribly difficult. I have so many author friends who spent years querying (and yes, they prevailed!). I landed an agent and a publication deal within six months of querying my first book, so I am one of the fortunate ones.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Victoria: Not really, mainly because I didn’t hang onto rejections and I don’t really remember them now. As for an acceptance story – well, A Murder for the Books did get three full requests within a day after my agent sent it out to editors, so that was pretty cool!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Victoria: Not sure it’s terribly unusual, but I was gratified when I reader traveled quite a distance to meet me in person at a recent signing.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Victoria: Create as many new books and characters and series as I can, and keep my readers happy. Basically, keep writing until the day I die!
KRL: Writing heroes?
Victoria: Too many to list, but I will mention a few that are not on every other list I’ve seen: John Crowley, Dorothy Dunnett, Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Daphne Du Maurier, and Anne Tyler.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Victoria: As a former librarian, I love research – which is always helpful as a writer! I like to use a variety of sources, including books, articles, online resources, and primary materials at museums and other research institutions.
KRL: What do you read?
Victoria: I actually will read any book that is well-written and engaging. I don’t limit myself to certain genres, although I do love mysteries and thrillers. I’m not a big fan of horror, but I even like certain books in that genre. The last book I read that really impressed me was John Crowley’s latest novel – KA: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of YMR, which is fantasy, literary fiction, and… just plain amazing.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Victoria: My all-time favorite TV show is Fringe, although I also love Twelve Monkeys (Yes, I like the mind-twisty stuff). I also enjoy several BBC and PBS TV series. Since I am something of a film buff, it’s hard to list my favorite movies without creating a ten-page document, so I’ll just mention a few: Casablanca, Babette’s Feast, The Lives of Others, All About Eve, Beautify and the Beast (animated version), Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson version), Raiders of the Lost Ark, all of Star Wars (yes, even the prequels!), and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Victoria: There’s a lot of good advice out there, but one thing I rarely see is the suggestion to experiment with writing in different age categories and genres. Perhaps it’s just me, but I believe sometimes the things we think we should write are not the things we write the best. For instance, I feel that I am a much better writer in the adult mystery genre than I was in YA speculative fiction. Although I’m still proud of those first books, I believe my talents are better suited to what I am writing now. However, I wouldn’t have known that truth if I hadn’t taken the chance on writing something completely different. (Thanks to my agent for that suggestion, by the way!)
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Victoria: I’d just like to offer my thanks to you for this interview, and also send out thanks to all my readers for giving my books their time and attention.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Victoria: I have a Theatre degree and was once a costume designer. I also used to sing quite a bit and was a lyric soprano who could (once, not anymore) hit an F above High C.
KRL: Cool! Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Victoria: Website/blog: victoriagilbertmysteries.com
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/VictoriaGilbertMysteryAuthor
To enter to win a copy of A Murder for the Books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “boks,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 3, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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