Holly's note: I'm very happy to host Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey on the blog today, because in the world of delightful authors in which I'm fortunate to reside, they are two of the delightfulest.
Shannon here: Thank you, Holly, for clearing some space on your virtual couch for me and Jess Lourey to plop down for a chat. I’ve poured some virtual bourbon and we’re settling in for some fun.
Let me introduce you to Jess Lourey, in case you haven’t met her, which would be a real shame. Jess has published 13 books, and might be best known for her award-winning and gut-bustingly funny Murder-by-the-Month series. By my count, she’s got two more months to go there, but we’ll get to that. In 2014, she released the most amazing magical realism book, CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS, that you should all read. But today, she’s going to tell us about her newest thriller, SALEM'S CIPHER. It hits the shelves September 6 but is available for preorder now.
And I’m Shannon Baker. My debut book in the Kate Fox mystery series, STRIPPED BARE, is also due to release on September 6 and is also available on preorder. (Thus the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour) It’s been called "Longmire meets The Good Wife," featuring a woman sheriff in rural Nebraska. I also wrote the Nora Abbott mystery series, a fast-paced mix of Hopi spiritualism, environmental issues and murder.
So let’s get going on the interview.
SB: First off, I’ve made my bourbon into a delicious Sazerac. Jess, I understand you aren’t fond of this heavenly mixture. Care to elaborate?
JL: I have a fun story about Sazeracs. I was in New Orleans, and I tried one, and it was gross.
Haha! I just made myself laugh out loud. That’s actually a true story, but to elaborate, I was in the French Quarter, relaxing after leading a writing workshop, and sitting across from David Morrell (who wrote FIRST BLOOD) and lots of other great writers. One of them suggested we try a Sazerac, a drink I was told was born in New Orleans. I am fond of alcohol. Some of my favorites are dirty martinis, red wine and whiskey ginger with three limes. The Sazerac, not so much it turns out. It tasted like Nyquil with a dirty diaper twist.
Why don’t you explain what it is you like about this drink, Shannon?
SB: *shaking and pouring over ice* What’s not to love? Bourbon, a little sweet, a whiff of absinth and lemon. *slurp*
What drove you to write SALEM'S CIPHER?
JL: I wrote SALEM'S CIPHER inspired by three motivators: an offhand (I think) Facebook post Chelsea Cain made about how she wished there were more female thriller writers, a desire to explore the ramifications to a child of one of their parents committing suicide and a deep wish to finally make money off of my books. How about you, Shannon? What led you to write STRIPPED BARE?
SB: I’ve been thinking about writing a Nebraska Sandhills book for a long time. I lived there for 20 years, always an outsider, and left because my husband had an affair and didn’t seem inclined to give it up. The Sandhills is a unique place, in many ways still the old west. But I didn’t want to go back there while I felt bitter (and I felt bitter as scorched coffee). Time really does heal, and finally the clouds lifted high enough I could write about it with humor. For instance, I can have Kate have a cheating husband and not kill him, and actually give him some admirable qualities.
But what really prompted me to write this book is you, Jess. You were in Denver to give a writing workshop and we were heading to hike at Chautauqua in Boulder. We were talking writing and books, of course, and I told you about wanting to write this one set in the Sandhills. You encouraged me to do it. And I did. So, if I haven’t said it before, thank you!
JL: Hearing that makes me feel so warm inside. You are an amazing writer, Shannon Baker, and all the credit for that goes to you.
SB: Jess, I love the CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS. Do you believe in magic?
JL: I absolutely, truly do. I see it all the time. For example, last April, I put my house on the market. A couple days later, walking to work, I thought to myself, what would be the absolute best day to close? After May 28 so my kids would be done with school, after June 22 so I wouldn’t have to move before I gave my TEDx Talk, and if we’re staying that long, why not until the day after the 4th of July because my house is a block from the best fireworks in this part of the state.
My realtor had emailed me on my drive, and I read it when I got to work. She had an offer on my house, and they wanted to close on July 5. A week later, I was worrying worrying worrying because my fiancé had been laid off, we didn’t know if we could sell his house, and I wasn’t getting an offer on the book I had out on submission. I was walking at the time of the worrying, and a fortune cookie fortune blew across my path. I picked it up. It said, “Don’t worry. A life of luxury is on its way.”
Wonderful, magical moments like this happen to me all the time, and the more I look for them, the more I see them. And that’s not even talking about the magic that brings two people together, or that blesses us with amazing children, or that helps us to evolve every day. Uff da. I get worked up talking about magic. Do you believe in it, Shannon?
SB: I believe in something like magic. Or maybe it’s Santa Claus. Because when my daughter was 6 and probably her last year of believing in Santa, she wanted the toy of the year, a PJ Sparkles doll. We lived in the Sandhills, where the nearest K-Mart was an hour drive away, and way before Amazon carried anything but books. Online shopping was a fantasy. I shopped everywhere in a 150 mile radius. I started calling stores from Cheyenne to Rapid City. No PJ Sparkles.
Then, on Christmas Eve, a friend called me from the town next to ours, population 250. Mable’s was a dry goods store, with a plank floor, only the front windows, which hadn’t been washed since the Eisenhower administration, run by Mable, who wore glasses so thick she had to anchor them to her head with duct tape.
On a back shelf near the ceiling, in the darkest part of the store, my friend spotted the last available PJ Sparkles doll in the western hemisphere. I drove there like Santa’s elves were chasing me. Mable had no recollection of ordering that doll, and frankly, I doubt she did. But because of PJ Sparkles, I believe anything is possible.
Jess, you’ve got ten books in the Murder-by-the-Month series, are we going to see March and April?
JL: If PJ Sparkles will help me to write them.
Jess and I are giving away a copy of SALEM'S CIPHER and STRIPPED BARE. For a chance to win, just leave a comment.
And wait, there’s more:
If you order SALEM'S CIPHER before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner's home!
If you order STRIPPED BARE before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to email@example.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.
Jump on the side car as we strap on our helmets and swing over to chat with Diana Belchase on Book Smart TV, where we’re going to do a woman protagonist throwdown.
Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, whichhave earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. SALEM'S CIPHER, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.