by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of A Reference to Murder by Kym Roberts, along with an interesting interview with Kym. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Reference to Murder, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
A Reference to Murder: A Book Barn Mystery By Kym Roberts
Review by Cynthia Chow
When Charli Rae Warren left Hazel Rock, Texas, she hoped to leave behind the Princess nickname that was passed on to her parents’ converted historic barn and their albino pink armadillo. Now that Charli has returned to Hazel Rock to run The Book Barn Princess, Charli is finding that memories are long, and that it is inevitable that all three Princesses will be sharing space together. Fortunately, the former elementary school teacher adores teaching classes on how to repurpose damaged books into useable works of art, as some of Charli’s pieces are to be auctioned off for charity during the Cowboy Ranch Invitational rodeo. The competition has brought to town a number of swaggering cowboys, with the most braggish being Dalton Hibbs, a handsome cowboy who romances Scarlet, Beaus and Beauties hair salon owner and Charli’s best friend. When Dalton misses a scheduled appearance, Scarlet refuses to believe that he would have done so voluntarily and break her heart. Scarlet’s drunken reenactment of a “Say Anything” moment with phone doesn’t exactly inspire the police, who happens to come in the handsome form of Sheriff Mateo Espinosa. He has distinctly friend-zoned Charli in light of his being best friends with her ex-boyfriend, Hazel Rock’s mayor Cade Calloway. It’s more than a little frustrating for Charli, to say the least.
It turns out that Dalton wasn’t the first Hibbs brother to disappear from the Champion Bull Circuit, and coincidentally, or not, he was also last seen in Scarlet’s company. Scarlet unwavering supported Charli when she herself was suspected of murder, so Charli feels compelled to return the favor. Rival bull rider Travis Sinclair’s literal mike drop during his “eulogy” of Dalton places him high on the suspect list, but Charli is more than a little distracted by a series of attacks against her, one by a branding iron that nearly redefines her having a bad hair day.
In this second of the Book Barn Mystery series readers will again delight in following the adventures of a heroine who feels out-of-place even within a town of eccentrics. Charli’s mixed-race heritage has given her an outsider complex, yet it is a status that seems mostly self-inflicted. Now that she has returned home, Charli is growing to embrace both her hometown and her Princess name. The humor flows naturally, with the residents’ quirks portrayed so realistically that one never doubts in Hazel Rock’s existence. This would be less of achievement if it didn’t stem from the imagination of an author whose background is a career in SVU law enforcement.
Charli’s romantic complications never overwhelm the main mystery, yet the love from family and friends reigns supreme. The conclusion proves to be as unexpected as it is satisfying, and it is delivered realistically considering Charli’s amateur detective status. Fans of the mysteries by Joan Hess and Margaret Maron will find much to appreciate in this series, which highlights the humor of Southern culture while simultaneously celebrating it.
Interview with Kym Roberts:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Kym: I wrote my first novella right out of high school, but then I got caught up in college, life, marriage, kids, and my career. I didn’t really get back into it until I was forty-six. Yikes!
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Kym: My first novel, Handled By Officer was a romantic suspense I released in 2014. Having just retired from the Special Victims Unit at KCPD, it was a cathartic exercise that helped me deal with the memories of the victims who slipped through the cracks in the system. A victim’s inability to escape the vicious circle of domestic violence can be heartbreaking to those who witness it. I had to delve into those feelings and come out with a happily ever after—escaping is never an easy task, and the danger is real for everyone.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Kym: I’ve written three chapters on a YA thriller, but it’s been sitting incomplete in my files since I signed my contract for The Book Barn Mysteries. I will get to it one day!
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.
Kym: I used to meet my critique partners at The Book Carriage in Roanoke, Texas. They have an incredible loft that overlooks the store for people to study, work, write. I incorporated that with my love of barns, and the Book Barn was born. The first character I thought about for the series was the pet. It needed to give the reader a visual of the small town of Hazel Rock, Texas, where everyone is rooting through your business. And since armadillos come to mind when people think of critters in Texas, Princess was a no brainer. Charli Rae just started talking to me all on her own; she’s a very independent woman. 😉
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Kym: Most of my romantic suspense novels have a message of survival behind them with a few smile-worthy moments to lighten the mood. My mysteries are all about entertainment. Being silly and laughing are good for the soul.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Kym: I’d like to say I have a schedule, but I have a family with kids at home, so they dictate when I can write. When I’m down to the wire, however, I have to let go of the perfect mommy/wife complex and get busy. 😉
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?
Kym: I used to write without an outline, but with a contract and a deadline, that’s not possible. I now plot out the entire book chapter by chapter.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Kym: It depends on the theme of the book. For A Reference to Murder, I had to research bull riding and the rodeo circuit. I knew nothing about it. Then throughout every book I tend to go over to the internet and do research on little things. Armadillos are a constant source of research—the amount of contradictory info out there is amazing! For Perilous Poetry, the third book in the series, I had to delve into the world of computer apps.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Kym: There are two times of day that really work for me, early morning and late at night. I’m not sure if this has to do with my shift work on the PD or what, but mid-day I lack the drive to write. At that time I want to create other things like memes, book trailers, carving, and book art. You name it, I just don’t want to sit in my office.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Kym: Absolutely. This is an entirely different business than police work, and there’s no academy to attend or training officer/sergeant/commander to rely on for answers. You just have to dive in head first and go for it. My fellow authors however, have always been very good at answering questions and assisting me on my path. It’s a very giving community.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Kym: My first appointment to pitch to an agent at a conference was with a fairly big agency. I was excited to say the least—until she belittled my career and my story. Luckily, I have a thick skin. I kept going and since then most of the agents and editors I’ve met have been great people. I’ve had a bunch of rejections, but my writing wasn’t what they were looking for and the last thing an author wants is a representative who doesn’t relate to their writing. I now have a wonderful agent and dedicated editors to work with—it doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂
KRL: Do you have an interesting story for a book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Kym: I’ve never done a solo book signing, and I have no desire to. I like the party atmosphere of conferences and group signings. It mixes meeting readers with seeing friends and having a great time.
KRL: What are some of your future writing goals?
Kym: My fourth and fifth Book Barn Mysteries are due July and February. In between those two books, I plan on finishing my second Malia Fern Mystery which is a paranormal mystery— not a cozy. Then I have a romantic suspense novella and my second Tickled to Death Mystery to write. Who knows if more Book Barn Mysteries will be contracted, I’ll have to wait and see about that. I will get that YA Thriller finished eventually!
KRL: Do you have any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Kym: Keep asking questions and learning different techniques. Take classes at conferences and on-line. Analyze why you like your favorite authors. Break down their story structure to see why it works for you. Join a writing group—they have seminars and speakers all the time to help with writing and the business of writing—they are two very different things.
Lorie: Do you have any writing heroes?
Kym: Easy—Janet Evanovich hands down. She makes me laugh every time. Sue Grafton, Suzanne Brockmann, and Karen Marie Moning each give me something I crave.
KRL: What do you read?
Kym: I feature a lot of mysteries on the Cozy Corner for Fresh Fiction, so I’m always down with a mystery. Otherwise, it’s everything and anything depending on my mood, but when one of my favs has a release—I’m there. 🙂
KRL: Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies?
Kym: For drama/action I turn to Grey’s Anatomy and Hawai’i 5-O. For irony and laughs, Brooklyn 99 and Lucifer. HGTV and the History Channel can be on anytime of the day. For movies, I’m all about action—give me a super-hero or Dwayne Johnson any day. I don’t go to cry fests or love stories with sad endings. I go for pure entertainment.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Kym: If it’s good ice cream, I’m not afraid to throw etiquette out the window and lick the bottom of the bowl. 😉
KRL: What are your social media sites for fans to find you? Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Thank you Lorie for the challenging questions, and thank you, King River Life, for an awesome venue for readers and writers alike!
To enter to win win a copy of A Reference to Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “reference,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 10, 2017. 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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