by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Buzz Kill by Kate Thornton and an interesting interview with Kate. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon.
Buzz Kill: A Toni Carey MysteryBy Kate Thornton
Review by Cynthia Chow
After cashing out her work as a software product developer, Antonia “Toni” Carey has comfortably settled into a life working from home in Los Angeles as a trade magazine freelance writer. A note from her beloved Uncle Horace sends her on a visit to Loma Vista, where she has fond memories of spending her childhood with him and his beehives. Meeting her at his home instead of Uncle Horace is San Bernardino County Sheriff detective Peter Martin, who delivers the shocking news that Horace Carey is lying in a coma in the local hospital. Apparently the victim of a robbery, Peter and Toni have their suspicions not due to a smoking gun, but smoking bees. A notebook hidden in a beehive leads them to an astounding scientific breakthrough that could have a tremendous impact on the beekeeping world, which is why Toni takes it upon herself to track down Uncle Horace’s last steps and those with motivations to want him out of the picture. The more she learns about her uncle’s life, the more she regrets missing out on being away from him while she lived her own life and recovered from a disappointing marriage.
Toni admits to feeling more than a little attraction towards the handsome detective, but the arrival of her less-than-appealing family is more than a little distracting. Her socialite mother is intent on selling Uncle Horace’s property despite his still being very much alive, while her sisters only show disdain for Toni’s admittedly casual lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that Toni has lost her ability to pull together an appropriate outfit for a meet-up meal with Peter, although it seems that fate and a cascading serious of crimes doom them to cancellations and date-interuptus. A handsome attorney, nosy neighbors, jealous academics, and an inordinate amount of honeybee lore lead up to a suspenseful and very satisfying conclusion.
This debut mystery is a delightful blend of intrigue, romance, and bee facts. The information about bee society, their necessity for agriculture, and the practice of beekeeping is laid out in a fascinating — and just as important — comprehendible manner. Readers who love teasing banter will enjoy the quippy exchanges between Tori and Peter, who despite his handsomeness is a rather awkward flirter. Their hormones rival the pheromones being emitted by the bees, and seeing their relationship progress is fun as it builds up with tension and expectations. Buzz Kill is the start of a promising mystery series that makes the most of its California setting, highlighting the agricultural and city elements that make the state so unique. Romance and mystery readers should look forward to the next in this bee-centric new series.
Interview with Kate Thornton:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Kate: I wrote in high school, but I have only been seriously writing for publication since 1997.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Kate: Buzz Kill A Toni Cary Mystery was published in May of 2021. Magazine writer Toni Carey lives in a Los Angeles apartment with her scruffy cat, but a chance invitation from her Uncle Horace in the citrus town of Loma Vista changes her life. She spent much of her adolescence tending her uncle’s beehives, and the chance to help again brings romance, mystery, and murder.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Kate: For years, I was primarily a short story writer, specializing in mystery and science fiction. I also, like my mystery character Toni Carey, wrote non-fiction articles for trade journals. I have over 100 short stories in print.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Kate: I have toyed with the character of Toni Carey for years, basing her on a successful science fiction short story character of mine of whom I am particularly fond, Cookie Sullivan. (Toni’s nickname is even “Cookie.”) The setting of Loma Vista is reminiscent of the towns near Los Angeles where I spent my youth.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Kate: There is no overt message – other than that of strong women – and I guess I write to entertain and enlighten. Buzz Kill will tell you all you ever wanted to know about honeybees. The next in series, Medium Dead, explores dream research and faith healing.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Kate: I write in the mornings and usually do revisions in the afternoons. But there are some days when I just don’t to anything.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Kate: About seven in the morning.
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?
Kate: I am a pantser – but I pretty much know where the story is going before I write it. I keep track of details (hair and eye color, how many stories the house has, names, etc.) in a file on my desktop. But sometimes I forget stuff! (I am stuck with the height of a character because I put in the first book, and now he will be that height forever…)
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Kate: I found it pretty easy in the beginning, but I was writing for magazines. As long as you are strict about conforming to the guidelines and you have a good story or readable, accurate, and entertaining article, your chances of publication are great.
Novels are a whole other kettle of fish. I went through 3 agents, several offers, and dozens of rewrites before I decided to chance it on my own.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Kate: I was asked to rewrite Buzz Kill with a new setting and a different main character – I spent six months doing so and the editor didn’t like it. That’s when I decided that my original setting – the charming little town of Loma Vista – and my original character – the independent and sassy Toni Carey – should live their own literary lives.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Kate: I once signed with nearly everyone – I have been a member of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and Tucson Chapters and MWA and used to sign the chapter anthologies in Los Angeles. I manned the booth at the Los Angeles Festival of books one time and sat next to a revolving assortment of famous authors. It was wonderful, and now – after attending as many conferences as I could – I know most of them in person.
My most interesting book signing was at a library near Los Angeles in a very upscale neighborhood. It was a rainy day, and four of us from the Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles showed up to a nearly-empty room. No worries, we gave our talk anyway, and had plenty of books to sign, even if we didn’t have many people to buy them. In the front row was a shabby gentleman whom we all took to be a homeless man in out of the rain. The librarians had provided refreshment, and he partook heartily. It wasn’t until later that we discovered he was a very famous screenwriter who had won an Academy Award.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Kate: I am continuing to write in the Toni Carey series. Medium Dead will be out this fall, and I am currently working on Dead Dreams, which takes Toni into the realm of scientific research into telepathy.
I also have another series, the Kitty and Coco Mysteries. Book One, Kitty Takes a Chance was released on August 1st.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Kate: I love Carl Hiaasen, Sue Ann Jaffarian, and Samuel Delaney.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Kate: Whatever it takes. I try to do live research for real settings, but I also do online research, live interviews, and my favorite, eavesdropping.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Kate: I still love short stories and devour mysteries and romances. Right now, I am toggling between a vintage mystery, Andy Weinberger’s An Old Man’s Game and non-fiction, Peter Strzok’s Compromised.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Kate: My favorite movie is The Seven Year Itch. On television, I love anything with forensics and all the British mysteries on PBS. And I am a sucker for Scandinavian noir.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Kate: Keep writing. Your work will improve with every sentence you get right, and you will benefit greatly from the company of other writers, even online. Join the organizations, participate, but above all, keep writing.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Kate: I spent 22 years in the US Army as a counterintelligence agent and I once kissed French film director Francoise Truffaut.
Kate: My husband and I have two small dogs, a Corgi-Chihuahua and a Pug-hyena-Chihuahua. Missy and Mimi are fierce protectors. We are also the proud servants of two beautiful cats my sister left to us, Tootie (Desmond Tutu) and Oskar (Oskar Werner.)
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win either a Kindle or print copy of Buzz Kill, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “buzz,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 21, 2021. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email and you want a print copy please include your mailing address. BE SURE TO STATE WHETHER YOU WANT KINDLE OR PRINT. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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