Kaz Delaney stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the fourth book in The Hart of Texas Murder Mysteries series, Murder Below the Mistletoe!
Where did you get the inspiration for Murder Below the Mistletoe?
My favorite mysteries—and probably all stories—are those set during the Holidays and I was itching to write a Christmas cozy, so when the timeline of the Hart Of Texas Mystery series naturally wound around to the Holiday season, I couldn’t wait. There’s a wonderful—if that’s the right word—juxtaposition of all the prettiness and joy of the Holiday season set alongside the ugly cold-heartedness of murder. I also love locked-room mysteries, and so having a murder take place in an isolated lodge that’s cut off by blizzards and snow dumps seemed to be a great place to start. I guess we could say this story is inspired by all the classic whodunits of time gone by.
In this story, we see Rosie outside of the Airlie Falls setting. Was it fun to get out of the town you created or were you eager to get back?
I live in a country where the Holiday season is hot and sticky, but also where our season parties are mostly outside under pretty lights, and the day itself is usually spent overindulging on luscious seafood or hot roast dinners (for my family, it’s both), diving into the pool, lounging on a beach or engaged in a hose-water fight with your kids. And while we love it nonetheless, the allure of cozy Christmases spent by a raging fire with snow outside the window and carols playing inside has always held a certain magic, probably because it’s the opposite to what we have here.
Moving Rosie to Colorado for a week or so, allowed me to fulfil my fantasy of a northern Christmas. So, initially I thought it was a great idea, but the first obstacle came when I had to have a legitimate and believable reason for Rosie to leave Airlie Falls at that time of year—which was where the wedding came in. What better idea than to have her invited to be an attendant at a Christmas wedding? Of course, she had misgivings about going, and why not? It was a crazy busy time for her From the Hart baking business, plus, leaving Jonah during the build-up to their first ever Christmas together, was a hard decision to make. However, there was something unsettling about the invitation and that intuition was proved correct when the first body was discovered. Had someone really murdered Santa? Surely not!
When I began writing it though, as much as I loved the mystery, I felt something was missing—and that something was the fun and color the folk of Airlie Falls bring to each story. So, I’m hoping that readers of the series will be delighted when some of the most loved characters manage to—hilariously—get themselves up that isolated lodge just before the whole place is completely cut off.
Was I anxious to get Rosie back to Airlie Falls? Not so much anxious, as contented. The tiny rural town of Airlie Falls is the heart of this series and its community warmth and inclusiveness has connected with readers, many of whom wish they, too, could live there. (Something that makes me cry with joy each time I hear or read that comment – thank you.) So, as beautiful and majestic as Colorado is, and as fun as it was to write about, for Rosie, Airlie Falls is home. And home is where the heart is, right?
If you were stuck in a blizzard like your heroine, what would you do to pass the time?
I love this question – and okay – as this is highly unlikely to ever happen to me, and as I have no experience, please know this is my fantasy answer. To set the scene: I’m in a very well-run private lodge with staff on hand who cannot wait to do my bidding, there are no shortages—food or otherwise—and heat and firewood are in indecent supply. So, what would I do? Easy. I’d read until my eyeballs fell out under protest! Specifically, I’d curl up beside a fire (that I hope someone else was stoking to maintain that cheerful blaze), have choc-topped cappuccinos delivered every hour or so, along with a selection of home baked cookies or cake—and just sink into all the stories currently lined up on my bedside table (and that I coincidentally had packed to take with me) or are on my kindle list. If, for some reason (that I cannot even contemplate) I tired of that, I’d welcome a fireside chat—as long as the person was happy to chat about books, ha!—or even a game of cards. Maybe some other board game, as well. Maybe watch the occasional movie—especially all those I’d intended to go see and missed. This lodge would also somehow have access to an array of fresh seafood and I’d dine like a queen every night before sinking into a feather bed in a bedroom warmed and lit by a log fire. Hey! The more I get into this, the more I really like this fantasy. Or maybe I just need a vacation. It has been a big year… Yep, it’s sounding better by the minute. Who wants to join me?
Do you have any favorite Christmas or holiday traditions?
We’ve practiced many over the years, some of which have evolved as our children have grown and had their own families. Our family tree decorating parties were always a joy, often with many extended family members joining in. Lots of music, and loads of food (that required days of preparation) and much hijinx. Brothers and sisters hiding each other’s ‘name’ baubles, everyone crying foul and immediately planning payback. It’s been heart-warming to see our own children continue these traditions with their own families.
For me, the buildup to Christmas has always held the most magic. The stores all decorated, the music, the carol singing, the cards, the children’s school and or church pageants—the magical anticipation on the faces of the children so dear to me. A hushed church… And the aromas! Those particular smells that so quickly take you those magical moments of the past, and bring with them the promise of more in the future. Fresh tree boughs, scented candles… Puddings steaming; the spicy deliciousness of fruit cake baking in the oven. Sugary, buttery sweetness of shortbread. Many of our traditions still revolve around food—like steaming my mother-in-law’s ultra-delicious Christmas pudding; making my mom’s seafood sauce, her fruitcake recipe and the fruit punch she made for me first when I was a teenager having my first party and which my children, as adults, still associate with Christmas all these years later. It’s watching my wide-eyed grandchildren’s faces when they spy the first Christmas cookies in Nonna’s jar, and baking more with them when they’re all too-soon devoured! And for my husband, ensuring our pool is ready for a heavy workout!
We (or rather my husband!) decorate the exterior of our house each year with hundreds of colored lights and I just adore it. Each year, our neighbors all congregate in our yard under those lights a week before Christmas for our annual neighborhood party. We all bring food to share and in recent years I’ve begun reintroducing foods made from long-forgotten recipes that we all passed across fences in our early years of marriage and loving the memories and stories that has evoked. And we love to see how other people have decorated their houses. We still drive around before Christmas with our youngest grandchildren, sharing their delight at the houses decorated for the season and often sit on our own porch in the evening with a cool drink and wave to families doing the same thing.
This, to me, is what Christmas, or the Holidays, are all about. Family, friends, food, love and laughter and thanksgiving that we’ve all made it through another year.
What are you currently reading?
Being deep in the throes of another Hart of Texas Mystery, I haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d like (hence the fantasy above !!) However, here’s a couple that I’ve really enjoyed over the last month. The first, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland, is a thought-provoking story that follows a guilt-ridden wife who wants to fulfil the long-held wish of her dementia-suffering-husband, giving him one last adventure, which means breaking him out of his aged-care facility and going on the run.
Then, if you like romantic suspense, I can also give my tick of approval to Protecting their Destiny by Erin Moira O’Hara. It’s part of the famed Bindarra Creek series, and it’s quite a ride and will keep your heart racing from start to end. Just finished it and loved it.
Right now though, I have just dived into the first few pages of Fortune Whelan’s My Christmas With You and from the start it’s giving me all the right holiday feels! Loving it.
About the Author
Award winning YA & children’s author, Kaz Delaney, and her alter ego, have currently sold 73 titles between them over a 26 year career.
Her books have won many awards, among them the prestigious Aurealis Award for best paranormal and ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association) awards. Her novel ‘Dead, Actually’ (Allen & Unwin) was nominated for a Davitt Award, (Best crime novel, Sisters In Crime) in the YA section. Dividing her time between teaching and writing, Kaz formerly tutored Creative Writing for CSU’s Enrichment Program as well as teaching and creating courses for the Australian College of Journalism.
Having always had a love of cozy mysteries, Kaz is having so much fun writing her Hart of Texas Mystery Series for TULE Publishing, that she worries it’s not legal!
With their family grown and gone, Kaz lives with her wonderful husband at beautiful Lake Macquarie, Australia, a place she describes as a strip of land between the ocean and lake. Like Rosie, Kaz loves to bake and grow vegetables and unlike Rosie, manages to make a mess of every crochet task she undertakes.
I crave your kind of Christmas. I would love to spend the holidays on a beach some place one year. We rarely get snow where I am, so Christmas usually doesn’t have memorable weather.