by Kathleen Costa
The week we have a review of the Pineapple Port Mystery series by Amy Vansant, and an interview with Amy. Details at the end of this post on how to win either a print or ebook copy of any one of the books from this series-winners choice-and a link to purchase the latest book from Amazon.
A Pineapple Port Mystery series by Amy Vansant
Review by Kathleen Costa
Charlotte has grown up in a fifty-five plus community since she was eleven. Her mother had passed and she went to live with her grandmother, but when she died, Mariska, her grandmother’s dear friend, arranged to be her primary caregiver. She became a permanent resident of Pineapple Port scrutinized by more nosy grandmothers than any dozen children could handle. Despite the age differences, she seems at times to have to explain the nuances of pop culture than at other times finds it hard keeping up with these senior citizens, but most times she and the group have a marvelous connection.
Everything started with Charlotte being thrown into a cold case murder mystery after her efforts to create a garden uncovered a skeleton. That unfortunate discovery has sent her on several murder investigations (skeletons, serial killers, random body parts), sparked a budding romance with a local heart throb (well, there is a hiccup when an ex-girlfriend adds dimension to their relationship), included weirdness with her numerous senior citizen friendships (book clubs, holiday gatherings, vacations), and given her the opportunity to officially become a private investigator. (Shouldn’t you get paid for all this?).
I am new to Amy Vansant’s work and although I started with Pineapple Beach House, the fifth book in the series, I was immediately hooked. They can be thought of as standalones, but the background and character connections are better understood by starting with the first book Pineapple Lies.
This delightful series has been very entertaining with clever mysteries that, although treat murder with some humor, provides adults with a bit of realism: ‘cozy with an edge,’ quirky characters, and always a “Wow!” ending. Amy’s characters already are well developed from the first book, although their quirks and vulnerabilities have been exciting to see how they affect relationships and the investigations. I love Charlotte: her patience with all her local ‘grandmas,’ her caution with the ‘green-eyed’ hunk, her reactions to his ex, and her evolving skill as a private detective. And, the “55+ers” are also delightful to follow along with the nuances of living at a retirement community, multi-generational perspectives, and the twists and turns on murder. I loved it!
The current release is an exciting adventure…
Pineapple Beach House earns 5/5 Vacation Fiascos!
This fifth book was my introduction to the Pineapple Port group, and despite the background and character connections not fully re-addressed, don’t worry I knew enough. The hook was immediate, a misunderstanding at a Goth book club? Road trip in a ‘snake’ bus? An impending ‘perfect storm’? Amy sets up the group with a free stay at the beach in exchange for some housekeeping and completing a handyman ‘to do’ list.
It’s hilarious that Charlotte was looking forward to this little getaway with boyfriend, Declan, with the Pineapple Port crew in tow; a multi-generational road trip is bound to have some trouble. Trouble! I guess it is relative because this page-turner has the weather turning ominous, the neighbors looking geriatric plus, the turkey dinner becoming dogs’ treats, and all is capped off with the discovery of a frozen human finger in the trash. What’s under the bed? Did you unclog the sink?
The characters were well developed, and I could see family in many of the quirks and vulnerabilities. It was a great read that culminated with my inner sleuth being stumped at the final “Oh, my!” conclusion.
This is where it all began…
Pineapple Lies earns 5/5 Bones in the Garden!
Audio version narrator: Rosemary Benson
To catch up on who is who and what is what, I started the first book and for a change of pace, I decided to listen instead of read. Audiobooks are vastly superior to just reading myself, enriching the experience with sound that so illustrates manners, emotions, and personalities. In this case, Rosemary Benson is brilliant with an extraordinary voice talent ranging from a southern drawl to a Chicago twang, from a gruff old man to a young guy, from calm and determined to just lost all control.
Rosemary enriched Amy Vansant’s story and I got answers to how Charlotte came to reside in a retirement community and an introduction to the many ‘grandmothers’ who enrich and irritate her life along with the beginning of her romantic interest and a new career path for her to follow. Her first murder investigation, a skeleton in her garden, ended with a ‘shocking’ conclusion, and Rosemary made me ‘hear’ every bit of it.
Pineapple Mystery Box earns 5/5 Hidden Mysteries!
Onto the second book, anxiously turning the pages after the first line…”He didn’t mean to kill her.” Boom! Hooked right off. Amy adds some ‘dark’ into the mix sending the killer on a collision course with the residents of Pineapple Port. There, everyone is upset about a prank that has mixed up lawn decorations, a staple of any retirement community. And as for my favorite character Charlotte, she has decided to become an official licensed private detective, and in the wake of violating US Postal laws and state licensing guidelines, she accepts assistance from Seamus, the boyfriend’s uncle, another delightful character. Where’s Witchy Poo? Her first case…The Case of the Missing Lawn Decoration, and then, murder. But that is all the easy part. The boyfriend’s ex just came into town. And I loved every moment!
Pineapple Puzzles earns 5/5 Jellybean Puzzle Pieces!
Third time is a ‘charmer’…Oh, my, Amy really sharpened the edge on this murder mystery with Puzzle Man. Creative murders, at first look, appear to be accidents. Ok, do alligators really just happen to wind up in a pool? And Charlotte, PI wannabe, is apprenticing with one of her Pineapple Port adopted uncles Sheriff Frank and PI mentor Seamus primarily to stack up the hours toward her private detective’s license, gain experience, and hone her skills.
She is clever offering a refreshing viewpoint to Frank, but when it is determined a serial killer is back in town and a second killer makes an appearance, all could be in jeopardy. Of course, not without laughs, I am again entertained by the “55+ers,” Aunt Carolina’s grating personality and continued ups and downs of the romance between Charlotte and Declan, but I was so engaged by the clever cat and mouse between Puzzle Man and his victims, his rival and law enforcement. What an ending!
Pineapple Land Wars earns 5/5 Murderous Masts, Matey!
The last in my journey, although I know my travels are not over. Amy has provided another story that despite the proverbial “the wife did it,” you can’t fool this amateur sleuth! Bucky may have fallen, or been pushed, from the rooftop deck of his condo and “Like a cocktail olive” right onto the mast of his sailboat, but Amy always provides a myriad of suspects that could have been the “pusher.”
Charlotte has been hired by Penny, the owner of Pineapple Port facility, to help facilitate her efforts to sabotage any bids for property owned by the deceased. But, as always, what else will Amy throw into the mix for Charlotte to find? Amy also sprinkles in characters rich with the quirky, like Blade with his eye patch, two-legged cat, and captivating tales ending in a sale or two at Declan’s pawn shop. The absorbing story, engaging characters, and “WOW, I didn’t see that coming!” ending makes Amy Vansant a favorite author…
The Pineapple Port Mystery series earns 5/5 New PI Licenses!
Our Guest…Amy Vansant:
KRL: It is great to have with us Amy Vansant, author of several entertaining series including Pineapple Port Mystery series, celebrating the new release of the fifth book, Pineapple Beach House. Can you give us a mini biography of Amy Vansant? Who is she and what influenced her to become a writer?
Amy: I’ll try and make this “Bullety”:
• I did freelance writing in high school and college.
• I sent an article to Surfer about colleges near waves and they bought it.
• A week later their east coast editor quit and I think I was the only east coast writer they knew.
• They asked if I wanted to be east coast editor and I just about fell over with happiness.
• I did that along with freelancing for five years or so, and then I started to do graphic design for some extra money.
• That turned into web design, I started a company and then I quit writing for about thirteen years like an idiot.
• Then in 2010 I had literally had a dream that would turn into my novel, Angeli.
• I started blogging to get used to writing again and all of a sudden I remembered I was supposed to be writing.
• For the blog I went back to humor, which is what I’d always liked to write best. After Angeli was finally done, I decided it was time to do straight humor and wrote Slightly Stalky and then started the Pineapple series that felt like the best fit.
KRL: Is there a reason you chose to write in the cozy mystery genre? What is it about cozies that interested you? What made you stray into Time Travel Romance with your Kilty series?
Amy: My cozy series is a little less cozy than some–it can be a bit darker, though always handled with humor. I wanted to be a little edgier and didn’t want to get too edgy in Pineapple, so I started the Kilty series! That was supposed to be a lot moodier…and then I started cracking jokes, so Kilty ended up mostly humor, too. I’m hopeless.
KRL: Pineapple Lies, published in April 2015, was the first book in the Pineapple Port series. Can you give us some insights into how the series started? Tell us a little about Charlotte and the residents of Pineapple Port. Even after five books, what can we expect in the future for the Pineapple Port gang?
Amy: I was visiting my mother-in-law in Florida and was struck by the crazy characters living in her retirement community. I thought, “What if you grew up with these people?” and thought that would be a neat thing to write about–a girl who grows up with retirees and naturally solves mysteries.
I have two serial killers and romantic story lines that thread through the books, so that will continue to develop as the smaller mysteries come and go. I can’t really say what will happen. Things change all the time. Most of the time I sit down and start a book with almost no idea where it is going. It comes to me as I go.
KRL: I was fascinated with your multi-generation characters. Are there any anecdotes to share about research you did to make these character and the community so realistic?
Amy: Most of it comes out of my head. I can hear them talking to each other, and I just write it down. The guy who stands at the front of the community with a hair dryer pretending to check people’s speeds is a real guy though!
KRL: The characters you’ve created could be our neighbors, shop owners, family. Do you have a personal connection to any of them? Are you like Charlotte? Did you write your characters by taking real-life people and “changing the names to…,” you get my drift?
Amy: Mariska is my mother-in-law, only a bit more doe-eyed, and her husband Bob is her real husband. Charlotte is her own creature: a little like me and a little like my mom, whose name is Charlotte… The lead in Slightly Stalky is almost entirely me. That is the story of how my husband and I met. I think they probably all start somewhere familiar and then grow into their own people.
KRL: This year you started writing the Kilty series: Kilty as Charged: Romance. Suspense. Haggis. (January) and Kilty Conscience: Passion. Intrigue. Poofy Dresses. (May). Can you tell us a bit about this series? What can we expect in the future for Catriona Broch and Sean?
Amy: It started with the title Kilty as Charged. My husband made that joke and suddenly I had to write a whole series around it. I watched some Outlander to get the feel for what people like in their kilted men and quickly realized I couldn’t get past the fact no one ever took a decent shower. No one worried about birth control. No one worried their breath smelled. It made me crazy. So I brought my kilted man to the present and made him fall in love with modern cleanliness, which I thought was both funny and sexy. In the future, Catriona’s sister will be up to no good…and her dad is a wild-card…
KRL: In 2016 you wrote fantasy books in the Angeli series: Angeli: The Pirate, the Angel & the Irishman, Cherubim, and Varymor. Can you tell us a bit about this series? What does the future hold for these angels?
Amy: I love this series. It’s finished for now because Urban Fantasy just doesn’t sell as well as cozy mysteries and romances, for me, anyway, and I can only write so many books, but one of these days I’m going to get back to pushing it and write a fourth! Kilty kind of bridges the gap between cozy and fantasy, so I’m thinking maybe Kilty will be a sort of gateway drug for Angeli…
KRL: You also wrote the romantic comedy Slightly Stalky: A Romantic Comedy Walks into a Bar…, a YA Novel The Magicatory, and you edited Moms are Nuts. What can you share about these projects? Any future plans with these type of books?
Amy: Every time I finish a book I mean to start Stalky 2, and then I end up doing a Kilty or Pineapple instead. The second is supposed to be Slightly Sweaty. The leads enter an Amazing Race type competition and zaniness ensues…
Magicatory I wrote for my nieces. Keeping it uber clean and more simplistic for kids kept me from “being me” writing-wise, and I hated writing it. The idea was to make it a three book series, but I dunno if I can put myself through it again. Plus for all my blood sweat and tears the nieces were like “cool, thanks.” *sigh*
Moms was a one time anthology. Getting authors together for that and getting them all to work together was like herding cats. That was another one time deal! Everyone is doing anthologies now anyway. It’s so 2010.
KRL: On your bios it mentions you were the East Coast editor for SURFER Magazine. How did this career compliment writing mysteries? Were you a surfer yourself? What exciting stories can you share about that?
Amy: Not at all. And no, I lied and told them I surfed when they called. I went out and tried after that, but never loved it. My best story was a surf contest in Panama on an island that ran out of food. I ended up wandering the island with Frieda Zamba, a pro surfer, begging food off the locals.
KRL: You definitely have provided a great deal of entertainment for your fans of cozies and romance, but is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Amy: I write pure fun. If people walk away from any of my books with a smile on their face, I’m happy. I know I’m not deep–it isn’t my forte. I like to think I’m light and goofy without being too simplistic. I want some meat there, a clever mystery, but mostly I want laughs. I’ve had a few people mention their mates being angry at them because they were in bed laughing, keeping the him/her awake. I LOVE that.
KRL: I know the writing process is unique to each writer. Can you give us an idea about the “Amy Vansant Technique” for writing: writing schedule, specific writing technique or time of day, outlines…are there lots of Post-it notes on the wall?
Amy: I write all different times for an hour or two a day if I can. I write until I hit a spot where I can’t think of anything else to write, and then I have to wander off and think about what happens next. Sometimes I have to mull on it for a day or two, and when it hits me, usually in my sleep or in the shower, I get back to it! I write very fast, if I had more time I’d do a book a month, but as it is it is more like 2.5-3.
KRL: How did you go about getting published? Do you have any anecdotes to share about getting your work published?
Amy: I remembered sending things to editors back in the day when I freelanced and it’s nerve-racking. I sent Angeli to one or two top tier houses and waited months to hear a “No.” So then I realized people were self-publishing and I’d never get anything written if I kept waiting for book one to be picked up, so I started the Indie route and never looked back.
KRL: Did you receive any sage advice or encouragement that you might share with an aspiring or beginning writer?
Amy: I learn something new every day from all sorts of places, including just reading and watching television. New words to use for common things writers tend to repeat, style tricks… My editor, Carolyn Steele, puts notes on things, and when I realize I’ve been doing something wrong I learn not to do it anymore, so things just get better ? I hope. So if I had to share one thing it would just be write. Don’t stop. You’ll never get better if you don’t do it, and don’t think you’re already great. You can always be better.
KRL: We know you write, a lot, but do you get a chance to read? Is there another author who inspires you or one you might consider a professional or personal hero?
Amy: I’m ashamed to say I don’t read much. I have three jobs: my web design business, AuthorsXP.com which I started to help Indie authors like me, and writer. Four if you count marketing my books. It’s terrible, because reading anything helps your writing so much. I’d say Kurt Vonnegut was my writer “hero,” but it is college cliché.
KRL: So many authors speak of connecting with their fans. I personally am a member of your “Pineapple Pack” review team and the “Kilty Clan” street team. Do you have any online events, bookstores, or conventions coming up?
Amy: I don’t do the “in person” thing. I probably should, but I haven’t. Right now I’m working on a Pineapple Port story for a big Christmas boxed set I’m in 12 Slays of Christmas, and I’m in another anthology right after that so they’ll be the big things I’m marketing in the next six months. Might sneak in another book, too, probably Kilty three.
KRL: So many authors say writing is all encompassing, but do you have any favorite hobbies you enjoy?
Amy: I’m in the all encompassing camp. Walking the dog and TV are my zen moments away from it all each day! Thinking about getting back into golf and tennis when it gets cooler, but… don’t hold me to it! And I’d like to get back to reading!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Amy: Anything interesting about me has probably been channeled into one of my characters, so nothing should be too big a surprise! I was third in South Jersey javelin champ in high school. I suppose that’s pretty weird. And I’m still waiting to find out I have super powers. I’m sure any day now…
KRL: Ok, here’s something fun, Amy…Rapid Fire!
Ready! Set! Go!
Coffee or Tea? — depends on the moment, but coffee.
Dog or Cat? — dog. I have two books now where cats do some suspect things…
Carnivore or Herbivore? — meat.
Pie or Cake? — pie.
Picnic or 5-star Restaurant? — 5 star. I like good wine and no bugs.
Print/eBook or Audio version? — Print/eBook
Theater or Wait for the DVD? — Netflix/Amazon/DirecTV
Favorite Actor? — Jimmy Stewart & Cary Grant
Favorite Actress? — Katherine Hepburn (Clearly The Philadelphia Story is my fav movie!)
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? — Martini. I don’t like sweet drinks.
Beachfront Property or Cabin in the Woods? —beach. *see note about bugs above. Plus you stay in a cabin long enough you’re going to get murdered. Everyone knows that.
Active or Cuddling in a Comfy Chair? — comfy.
Finish these sentences:
If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would – meeting them wouldn’t mean anything if they didn’t want to talk to me. I’d have to add a lot of addendums to this contract…I don’t know if I could pick one anyway.
If I had just one wish, it would be — more wishes. (yeah yeah, cliché too, but smart.)
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be — I wouldn’t. That seems like a Monkey’s Paw proposal.
KRL: This has been great connecting with you. We’ve covered so many topics and had some fun, too. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Amy: Not at the moment… that was pretty thorough! I want to write a screenplay for Pineapple Port and desperately want Kathy Bates to play a character. Anyone who knows Kathy or someone looking for a fun screenplay with great parts for older actresses call me!
Thank you, Amy, for joining us and sharing a little about yourself and your books.
To enter to win either a print or ebook copy of any one of books in the Pineapple Port series-winners choice-simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “pineapple,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 7, 2017. U.S. residents only for the print copy. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address. PLEASE STATE IN ENTRY WHETHER YOU WANT PRINT OR KINDLE & which book you want.
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