by Cynthia Chow
The cold winter weather of Christmastime seems a perfect time to think about coffee, so this week we have another coffee related mystery, Death Before Decaf by Caroline Fardig. We also have a fun interview with Caroline. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it. This one is in ebook only
Death Before Decaf: A Java Jive Mystery By Caroline Fardig
Review by Cynthia Chow
A former music major with a degree in vocal performance, Juliet Langley has become accustomed to changing careers and starting over. Although she may be a talented singer, paralyzing stage fright has her working in her second-favorite passion, the food and restaurant industry. The café she owned failed, not because of her stellar professional skills, but as a result of her poor personal judgment in trusting the fiancé who stole all of her savings. That is why Juliet finds herself back in her college town of Nashville to help manage her best friend’s coffeehouse following his father’s death.
Pete Bennett may adore and believe in Juliet’s restaurant managing skills, but his staff has their doubts. None proves to be more resistant than Dave Hill, whose job Juliet just took over in Java Jive. Her efforts to clean up the coffeehouse, bring it up to health code, and start turning over a profit, go unappreciated by Dave, but no one expected him to get murdered over it.
What with worrying over the future of Java Jive, fearing that she may be a suspect in the murder, and figuring out if one of the staff is stealing, Juliet barely has time to contemplate the evolving relationship between herself and Pete. Neither is ready to admit to having more than “friendly” feelings for one another, despite their jealousy and disdain towards anyone who attempts to come between them. Juliet despises Pete’s shallow girlfriend Cecille, and Pete revels in mocking the new—and possibly duplicitous —gorgeous professor intent on learning everything he can about Juliet.
Flashbacks to their college years together lay out the complicated and often hilarious history between Pete and Juliet, setting the groundwork for why they are so supportive and caring for one another. It also helps to explain what they could risk losing should any romance between them eventually fail. Although their friendship supports this very relatable novel, the author succeeds in plotting out a complicated and very timely mystery that realistically blends into the characters’ lives. The author of mostly young adult novels, Fardig charmingly breaks out in this début mystery series full of fun characters, romance, and hilarious scenes of outrageous behavior.
You can use this link to purchase the book:
Interview with Caroline Fardig:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Caroline: I’ve been writing about five years now.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you share a little about it?
Caroline: My first novel was It’s Just a Little Crush, and I published it in January of 2013. It’s the first book in my Lizzie Hart Mysteries series, which is a fun mystery series about a newspaper copy editor/amateur sleuth in the fictional small town of Liberty. The books are a great mix of humor, mystery, and romance.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries? If not what else have you written?
Caroline: Yes. I tried to write a romance novel a couple of years ago, and without a mystery to solve, my characters didn’t seem to have much to do with their time.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Caroline: I love Nashville, especially the area of Midtown, where my series is set. And I’m a musician, so it was fun to write a series about people in the music industry.
KRL: Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Caroline: The Midtown area of Nashville is located just south of downtown between Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities. Being a college area, there are some great little coffeehouses, restaurants, and shops in the area. The primary setting of the Java Jive series is the fictional coffeehouse Java Jive. The main character is Juliet Langley, a former singer with stage fright who has turned to food service as a replacement career.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Caroline: I primarily write to entertain. I enjoy reading stories that are fun, romantic, and funny, and I try to bring those elements into everything I write. I think the main theme that resonates in this series is the strength and importance of friendship.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Caroline: I keep pretty strict hours. I write from the time my kids go to school until they’re home for the day. Sometimes when a story is on my mind, I write whenever I have a little extra time.
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?
Caroline: I usually make a rough list of the events that I want to happen during the story. Then, I make a timeline of those events, almost like a calendar of what happens each day. I use that to refer back to events that have already happened in the story.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Caroline: I feel like the schedule I have works well for me. When I first started writing, my kids weren’t in school full time, so I had to write late at night. That wasn’t always good, because when I’m tired, my writing isn’t always terribly coherent.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Caroline: It took me quite a while to find an agent, but when I did, I found a fantastic one. We tried to sell my Lizzie Hart series to publishers, but kept getting passes. Once we sent out the Java Jive series for consideration, it was snapped up immediately, so I feel very fortunate.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Caroline: The timing of the acceptance of the Java Jive series was really cool for me. My 40th birthday was fast approaching when I got the good news. I was on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee when the official contract came in, so I had to use the hotel’s business center to do the paperwork. I signed it on my 40th birthday. Best present ever.
KRL: How cool. Future writing goals?
Caroline: I’m working on a forensics-based mystery series, and I’ve been taking criminology classes at a local college to make my crime writing more accurate.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Caroline: I love writers who can weave fun into a great story. I enjoy reading anything by Wendy Roberts, Kristan Higgins, and Gemma Halliday.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Caroline: For the Java Jive series, I bought an espresso machine and learned how to pour latte art so I could write intelligently about it. And I used the “research” excuse to take several weekend trips to Nashville to get a feel for the area. I also do a lot of internet research. And taking the criminology classes has really helped, too.
KRL: What do you read?
Caroline: I like Gone Girl-type thrillers, crime mysteries (Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly), chick-lit romances, and cozy (but not too cozy) mysteries.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Caroline: Where to start? I’m a TV junkie. The Following is probably my favorite series ever, besides The Office. My favorite movies are raunch-coms like Horrible Bosses and anything with Jonah Hill or Melissa McCarthy.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Caroline: I know every author says this, but my advice is to develop a thick skin. A bad review can sometimes feel like the equivalent of someone calling your baby ugly, but you can’t let it affect your confidence. Find experienced, honest beta-readers and editors and take their advice on how to improve your writing.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Caroline: I took a very long hiatus from reading books for pleasure. I quit reading after taking an American Literature class my junior year in high school. I think I had to read so much for that class it became work instead of fun. I didn’t read another book that wasn’t a school assignment until I was in my late twenties.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: What is it about a coffeehouse that made it so appealing to you as a setting?
Caroline: I love the laid-back vibe of coffeehouses. If you can find a good one, it’s like being in your living room with a bunch of old friends. That’s what I wanted Java Jive to feel like.
KRL: You weave in flashbacks to college throughout the novel, reflecting on how those times continue to affect the present. Were your college experiences as influential for you as they were for your characters? What is it about college life that is so memorable?
Caroline: My college experiences were absolutely every bit as influential to me as to my characters. College was the best experience I ever had. I met my husband there. I made lifetime friends there. I learned to be self-sufficient there. And one of Juliet’s college flashbacks is a true story that happened to my friends and me. I promised not to tell which one it was! I think college life is so memorable because you get to do things on your own for the first time. You’re learning so much and having such fun doing it. Your friends are always around, and there’s always something fun to do. It’s like a constant party.
KRL: You explore the friendship between Pete and Juliet, and how much they could lose by becoming more. Do you already have plans for their future, or are you developing it as you write each novel?
Caroline: I definitely know where I want their relationship to go. However, sometimes when I’m writing, the story seems to take on a mind of its own, so you never know what might happen!
KRL: How did you make the choice to use flashbacks in your narrative?
Caroline: Because Juliet and Pete’s relationship has so much history, I thought the flashback would be the best way to show that rather than them having a series of “do you remember when…” conversations.
KRL: Will we be seeing Ryder in the future?
Caroline: Absolutely. Ryder is one of my favorite characters.
KRL: You seem to have a varied history of work experiences in your biography. Do you have plans to explore these in your novels?
Caroline: I already have, for the most part. In my Lizzie Hart Mysteries series, Lizzie starts working at a funeral home as a second job. Juliet is a musician, which is what I have a college degree to be. In the unfinished romance novel I spoke about earlier, my main character was an insurance claims manager. Stay-at-home mom is off the list, because I can’t stand “mommy lit.” Reading for me needs to be an escape, not a narrative of my life!
To enter to win an ebook copy of Death Before Decaf, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “decaf,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 26, 2015. 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 & short stories in our mystery section.