Please welcome Juliet Blackwell, author of the Haunted Home Renovation mystery series, the Witchcraft mystery series, and (as Hailey Lind) the Art Lover’s mystery series. Murder on the House was just released this week!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Several hours of productive writing, a walk around the lake with a friend, more writing, meeting friends for drinks, meeting my boyfriend for a wonderful dinner he’s made for me, a motorcycle ride on a warm night.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Not really! I’m a Libra, so I can never decide what I like best. I like just about everything, depending on my mood. I guess Peet’s French Roast coffee is about the only item that I’m totally, completely sure is my *favorite* of anything.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels), Jane Austen, a wealthy client (he became a benefactor-–he’s a real supporter of the arts, and has proved inspirational–and helpful–in so many ways!)
Do you listen to music when you write?
No. The only thing I listen to while I write are the sounds that float up to my second story aerie: construction and yard work, street sounds, and children’s voices
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Great question! I’d say it’s dark chocolate, bitter and biting yet ultimately sweet…with a long finish. I’d throw some nuts in there, and a bit of piquant fruit, such as candied ginger.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Murder on the House takes place in an old, rather dilapidated house in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. It is based on a home I visited when I was doing decorative painting for a living. The new owners wanted us to play up the idea that the house might be haunted, because they were going to open a Bed & Breakfast and wanted it to have a special appeal. I based the “haunting” in the book on snippets of a ghost story I heard long ago, and blended it with the idea of a B&B full of ghosts.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
This is a fun question, because I never write with themes in mind, and then I’m so interested when readers/critics talk about the regular themes in my books! According to them, my recurrent themes are: family, developing community, and striving for justice and sense of self. But those are pretty broad, aren’t they? Personally, I think my books focus on main characters who feel out of step with–or misunderstood by–the world, but who try to do the right thing anyway.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Mel Turner is in her late thirties, and she came out of a painful divorce a couple of years prior to the first book in the series. She feels rather cynical about romance–and life in general. Mel is also extremely competent and responsible, and is looking after the family business since her father bowed out. And though all she really wants to do is run off to Paris and create a new life, she can’t keep herself from responding to the needs of the people around her–she puts their needs and desires above her own. As the series goes on, Mel is realizing that she really needs those connections in life, and that no matter how much she protests, she really is happiest when she’s with her friends and family. Also, she realizes she has a special talent for restoring historic homes!
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
This would be much easier for the protagonist of my Witchcraft Mystery series: Lily Ivory might be Samantha (Bewitched) mixed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hilary Clinton. She’s a magical outsider who sometimes struggles with her role as someone who is responsible for the safety of others, but she’s serious and introverted in many ways.
Mel Turner, on the other hand, might be a mix of the guy from This Old House, the Ghost Whisperer, and a rather cynical Auntie Mame (she wears wild outfits, loves to travel, and is always cooking up an outrageous scheme…but in the end, she’s there for her family)
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Oooh, that’s a hard one! I imagine my line-up would change every day. But right off the top of my head: Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Sherman Alexie, David Sedaris, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo.
What’s next for you?
Currently I’m writing the fourth Haunted Home Renovation book, entitled Home for the Haunting. It takes up Mel’s story after Murder on the House, which was just released December 4. The fifth Witchcraft Mystery, Tarnished and Torn, is already with my publishers and will come out in July of next year. So after I finish Home for the Haunting, I start on the sixth Witchcraft mystery…after spending six months with Mel and the gang, it’s always fun to check in with the characters from the other series!
Juliet Blackwell is the NYT bestselling author of the Haunted Home Renovation mystery series (If Walls Could Talk, Dead Bolt, Murder on the House) and the Witchcraft mystery series (Secondhand Spirits, A Cast-off Coven, Hexes and Hemlines, In a Witch’s Wardrobe). As Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover’s Mystery series, including Agatha-nominated Feint of Art. A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked and studied in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She now lives in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist and portrait painter. She was a two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. Visit Juliet at www.julietblackwell.net; http://www.facebook.com/JulietBlackwellAuthor; and Twitter @JulietBlackwell