by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Death on the Page by Essie Lang aka Linda Wiken, along with a fun interview with Essie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Death on the Page We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Death on the Page: A Castle Bookshop Mystery by Essie Lang
Review by Cynthia Chow
Now that Shelby Cox is co-owner of Bayside Books and running the branch operated on Blye Island’s Blye Castle, she is eagerly anticipating the promotional book-signing event by bestselling True Crime author Savannah Page. Savannah has chosen the site just off of Alexandria Bay, New York, to further her research for her next book, the murder of a rumored Mafia mobster during the days of Prohibition. Savannah even plans to stay overnight in the Castle as its first trial-run guest, wallowing in the atmosphere and hopefully catching a glimpse of the mobster’s legendary ghost. The well-organized book launch goes swimmingly until it’s interrupted by a woman accusing Savannah of plagiarism, but that snafu doesn’t compare to when police find Savannah’s body at the bottom of hidden stairs in Blye Castle.
After nearly meeting her own end while meddling in a previous case, there’s no shortage of friends — not to mention Police Chief Tekla Stone — warning Shelby away from investigating again. In the six months since she moved to Blye Island to help her aunt run the bookstores, Shelby has fully embraced her former hometown and is invested in protecting its future. That means that Shelby will do everything she can to discover what happened to Savannah’s missing laptop, whether her fiancé truly was in love with his intended, and why the writer had been sparring with her undeniably handsome agent. This doesn’t even take into account the desperation of aspiring and competitive authors, some who may be willing do to anything to get a foot in the door and a contract signed.
This is an entertaining second of the series that delights in exploring the personal lives of its characters and their romantic entanglements. Shelby does a little Middle School passing on of messages between the Brad Pitt-looking agent and her very interested BFF, while Shelby’s Aunt Edie has her own spark with a tragic former bestselling writer. At the forefront of Shelby’s mind is, of course, her relationship with handsome Coast Guard Investigative Agent Zack Griffin, who hasn’t yet resigned himself to seeing his girlfriend hurtle herself into the midst of danger. Providing relatable moments of humor is Taylor Fortune, Shelby’s extremely pregnant friend who is desperate for time away from her mother-in-law and overprotective husband. Mystery fans will enjoy the glimpses into the workings of the writing business, while all readers will be entertained by Shelby’s intrepid investigation and questioning of Blye Island’s quirky characters. The continual mystery of Shelby’s mother, a woman she long believed dead, promises further intrigue and personal growth for a very likable and spirited heroine.
Interview with Essie Lang:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Essie: I have been writing since junior high school days. Back then, I tried writing a book about horses but it didn’t go anywhere. Then wrote as a journalist for many years until finally trying fiction again. My short stories were the first to get published followed by, after many rejections, my first novel in 2012
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little
Essie: The first one was A Killer Read, written as Erika Chase. It was the first in
the Ashton Corner Book Club Mystery series, set in a small town in Alabama about, of course, a mystery book club! Lizzie Turner, a grade school reading specialist, and her fellow book club enthusiasts are drawn into putting their sleuthing skills to the test in real life. In the first book, a body is found in a car parked outside the house where the first ever book club meeting is being held. His life was tied to many in that room and his death uncovered many secrets.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Essie: I started out writing romances, mainly because I took a creative writing class at our community college while home on mat leave, and the instructor wrote romances. I soon learned that I’d rather kill them than love them.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Essie: The Castle Bookshop Mysteries, which I write as Essie Lang, are set on a fictitious island, in a castle, in the Thousand Islands, NY. The area is one I’ve always found to be full of beauty and mystery, while a bookshop, given that I once owned one, was a natural. My main character, Shelby Cox, just grew out of my imagination once I’d placed her in the store, in the castle.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take
away from your work?
Essie: I write mainly to entertain my readers, and myself. If they find a touch of history, suggestions of books to read, some armchair travel, then that’s all to the good.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Essie: My “schedule” has redefined itself over the years. Whereas I used to write in the mornings, I now find it suits me to do the business part of writing — answering emails, writing blogs, etc. — in the mornings. That is also the time I try to schedule any outside appointments, you know, real life. And then I write in the afternoon, usually striving for 1000 words a day, taking weekends off.
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?
Essie: In my “practice days” I didn’t outline, which I later found on re-reading my work led too many pages of rambling. My first editor wanted an outline, so I did one and have continued ever since. It steers me along when I flounder, but it’s not made in stone. It gets re-shaped as the book progresses.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to writ3?
Essie: I think I’ve found the ideal time. It works for me, anyway.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Essie: If by that you mean, did I have a lot of rejection letters? The answer is, yes. These days I can see why. My first contract came my way when I wasn’t looking, by luck and knowing the right people. Timing is everything in this game.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Essie: All the rejection letters were great in my mind — greatly letting me down and of course, very few had any concrete suggestions. My acceptance was in some ways, not a surprise as I had gained some more confidence by that point but at the same time, I was gobsmacked!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Essie: All bookstore signings are interesting, as that’s where I love to hang out.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Essie: The next book, #3 in the Castle Bookshop Mysteries is my immediate goal. It will be called Deadly Chapter.
KRL: Nice title! Writing heroes?
Essie: Carolyn Hart! It was her Death on Demand series that inspired all my attempts to bring mystery bookstores into my writings. I loved the setting and her characters stayed with me. Nancy Pickard is another. And, Susan Dunlap. I remember these as being top in their fields when I first ventured out to Malice Domestic for my annual mystery writing fix.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Essie: I try to get to the location as many times as possible and also read about it. Tourist brochures are great resources. I also read mainstream fiction and non-fiction from the area. Virtual tours on the internet also very useful, and I ask questions whenever possible.
KRL: What do you read?
Essie: I am part of a wonderful book club that reads a variety of mainstream fiction, and perhaps one mystery a year. I find their choices really stretch my tastes.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Essie: Loved Knives Out, which came out late last fall. Humor, particularly when mixed with murder is great. I lean towards the foreign TV shows — Vera from the Brits. Brokenwood Mysteries, and My Life is Murder from New Zealand.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Essie: Edit as long as it takes, in order to make the story become the best you can make it. But also, know when to stop editing. You could just keep doing it, forever, and never get around to sending the manuscript out.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Essie: If writing is something you love doing, then never give up! Keep honing your skills. Keep sending out those query letters!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Essie: My time organizational skills leave a lot to be desired, tending to write to deadline rather than taking advantage of longer timelines, much to my chagrin.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Death on the Page, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “page,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 2, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted when the contest is over. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE A LOT LONGER FOR THE WINNING BOOK TO BE SENT DUE TO COVID 19 LOCKDOWNS. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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