by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Book Clubbed, as well as a link to purchase the book where a percentage goes to help support KRL. After the review, we have an interesting interview with Lorna Barrett aka Loraine Bartlett and L.L. Bartlett.
Book Clubbed: A Booktown Mystery By Lorna Barrett
It’s been a long, hard winter for Stoneham, New Hampshire, but even with “Booktown” business at a virtual standstill, everyone seems to have their hands full with emotional dramas. Haven’t Got a Clue mystery bookstore owner Tricia Miles has two exes who want back into her good graces, never mind what she wants. That would be Police Chief Grant Baker and Tricia’s ex-husband Christopher. Tricia’s sister Angelica, the new president of the Chamber of Commerce, is saddled with an unhelpful receptionist as well as the difficult task of finding a new place for meetings. The real estate agent for most of the town is Angelica’s own ex-boyfriend. Since she defeated him in the election for Chamber president, despite his many previous terms, available space is somewhat limited.
Angelica also has her hands full with Betsy Dittmeyer, the Chamber’s unhelpful receptionist who is less than thrilled with the new president. Betsy receives a premature dismissal when she is literally booked to death and flattened by a bookshelf in Angela’s Cookery bookstore. Recent events and a track record for finding bodies have Tricia feeling that she is the village jinx, although at this point no one expects Tricia not to investigate.
The litigious Betsy was disliked by nearly everyone in Stoneham. Her cheap and penny pinching ways hid surprising wealth and a hoarding problem. When the facts of how Betsy attained her wealth emerge, it becomes a question of who didn’t have a motive for murder.
The theme of motherhood runs throughout this mystery, from the two pregnancies whose unhappy impending mothers are each in positions the other would envy, to Tricia’s discovery of the secret as to why her mother has always been so distant and indifferent.
Angelica and Tricia have formed a closer relationship and have overcome most of their mother-instilled rivalries and resentments. Angelica’s still not above leaving Tricia holding the bag or doing the dirty work. Tricia has become more assertive in both investigations and her life, as her former beaus seem to display stalkeresque levels of pursuit. One of the trademarks of this series has been the continual evolvement of characters; by this eighth installment former enemies are now allies and friends have turned out to be criminals. The fun comes from figuring out the next chapter. Strong writing from the many-named author Lorna Barrett/Lorraine Bartlett/L.L. Bartlett continues in this delightful, and often funny, mystery series about town that lives and dies by the love of books.
Interview with Lorna Barrett:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Lorna: Since I was a teenager.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Lorna: 2005, Murder on the Mind A Jeff Resnick Mystery. (It’s currently FREE for all e reader formats.) When a brain injury leaves mugging victim Jeff Resnick able to sense people’s secrets, he feels compelled to investigate a murder.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Lorna: I’ve written SF, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction, and many blog posts!
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.
Lorna: I was asked to write the Booktown Mysteries, which is set in a small (fictional) town in Southern New Hampshire called Stoneham, also known as Booktown because of the many used bookstores. My character is Tricia Miles, who owns the mystery bookshop, Haven’t Got a Clue.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Lorna: Both. I write about topics that interest me, and I’m very lucky that my editor allows me such freedom. (Many don’t.) I’ve teased him that I’ve given him more than a few gray hairs because of it. I’ve tackled such subjects as hoarding, dumpster diving, food pantries, homelessness, just to name a few.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Lorna: I try to write from 1-4:30 every afternoon. My mornings are spent networking, answering emails, etc.
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?
Lorna: I really don’t outline. I’d get bored if I knew how the story was going to go. It means I end up doing a fair amount of rewriting, but it works for me.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Lorna: It took me 11 years and 14 complete drafts to get published. It was a very discouraging decade.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Lorna: To keep writing.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Lorna: Barbara Michaels and Dick Francis.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Lorna: Mostly on the Internet. I’ll be writing along and all of a sudden need to know a fact. Google is my friend.
KRL: What do you read?
Lorna: Mostly non-fiction and women’s fiction. I also ready my friends’ books, and most of them are cozy mystery authors.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Lorna: For the most part, I gave up watching TV. I’ll get suckered into things like Sherlock and Downton Abbey, but I haven’t watched network TV since the mid-1990s. As for movies, I like comedies, but I’m also a passionate Star Trek fan. I watch it on DVD. (I’m just finishing up Voyager as I write this. I think I’ve seen all the episodes at least 5-6 times.)
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Lorna: Find a critique a group and listen to them.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Lorna: I’m a chicken and I don’t fly. (Actually, chickens DON’T fly as a rule.)
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
www.facebook.com/LorraineBartlett.author, www.facebook.com/L.L.Bartlett.author,www.facebook.com/LornaBarrett.author,www.facebook.com/TheJeffResnickMysteries, and www.facebook.com/BooktownMysteries
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Lorna: I work my butt off on promotion, and the sad thing is you often don’t know what works.
KRL: I think all readers would find the concept of Booktown, a town composed entirely of bookstores and stores with a book theme, absolutely delightful. What were the stores you absolutely had to include?
Lorna: A Comic Book store (which I’ve never really explored. Must remedy that).
A romance bookstore, history bookstore (since blown up), craft bookshop, travel bookstore, and there are several eateries, and lately a pub, plus the Chamber of Commerce, a real estate office, a couple of inns. It’s fun to add new businesses to the mix.
KRL: Tricia and Angelica have a unique sibling relationship that has matured throughout the series. What was their inspiration? Do you have a sister?
Lorna: I don’t have a sister, but if I did, I would want Angelica. They have the kind of relationship I would wish to have. They get on each other’s nerves, but they’re loyalty to each other knows know boundaries.
KRL: I believe you were once a bookseller yourself. What do you see as the future of bookstores and the way books are sold? Could Booktown actually exist?
Lorna: It seems that indie bookshops are making a comeback, which is great for booklovers, and I think it’s because they haven’t forgotten their core audience: readers. A successful bookshop keeps reinventing itself. I think most businesses have to do so these days to stay afloat. There is a Booktown in Hay on Wey in Wales.
KRL: Cookbooks, cooking, and celebrity chefs appear throughout the series. How did you develop this affection and knowledge of cooking?
Lorna: I like to eat! I collect cookbooks, especially those with photographs.
KRL: Tricia and Angelica have had some less-than-successful experiences with their author appearances and book signings. Did any real life experiences you have had as an author yourself inspire the scenes in your books?
Lorna: For the most part, I’ve had pretty good experiences with booksignings, but they are few and far between these days. Bookselling has changed. People don’t seem to want to go to signings anymore. It’s expensive for a bookseller to put them on. Other venues seem to work better. My friend Leann Sweeney writes about quilts and cats and has done better at big quilt and cat shows than bookstores.
KRL: You’ve written mysteries featuring a man with PSTD, fantasies, craft-themed mysteries, and of course the Booktown mystery series. In there another genre or theme you still want to explore writing?
Lorna: I think that’s enough, and I want to keep writing in all of them!
KRL: You write under the names Lorna Barrett, L.L. Bartlett, and Loraine Bartlett. Do you ever get confused about your identities? And why did you chose to write under the different names?
Lorna: My third agent convinced me (and at the time rightly so) that men wouldn’t buy books written by a woman. Thanks to e readers, that’s changed. Lots of times the covers were turn offs. I’ve been surprised and very pleased at how many men now read cozy mysteries (and romance, for that matter). I took a pseudonym for the Booktown series because I was asked to. (Cozies are a lot lighter fare than psychological suspense, which is what I was writing under my L.L. Bartlett name.) I wrote the Victoria Square books under my own name because … well, it’s my name and I wanted the credit!
To enter to win a copy of Book Clubbed, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Book,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 19, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL!