Guest: Wendy Tyson

This is Edith, wondering what New England will give us for weather next! And happy to BitterHarvest fronthave the talented Wendy Tyson back as my guest. Her newest Greenhouse Mystery, Bitter Harvest, came out this week, and to celebrate she’s giving away an audiobook (on CDs) of the book to one commenter today. Wendy was kind enough to consent to an interview, so let’s go (my questions are in boldface)!

You wrote a darker standalone, plus the Allison Campbell series for Henery, about an image consultant. I haven’t read either the standalone or the series, but even the series seems a bit darker than the cozy Greenhouse Mysteries. Do you prefer one style over the other?

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction—from small-town cozy mysteries to great, sprawling international thrillers and everything in between. The Greenhouse Mystery Series is very dear to me because I love organic gardening, and I feel passionate about the regenerative farming movement. Plus, I’ve fallen quite in love with some of the characters.  And these days, when you turn on the news and you’re constantly confronted by some tragedy or another, it’s nice to return to a place that’s welcoming and just a little isolated from some of the world’s misery (even if that place is fictional). That’s how I feel about Winsome, PA, the setting of Bitter Harvest.

That said, I also enjoy writing darker mysteries and thrillers. These books provide a different kind of outlet as a writer, and it’s exciting to sink into an edgier, more complex novel. I guess the answer is no, I really don’t prefer one over the other. I like to think there is the flexibility for me to write and publish both.

Our readers are always curious about our writing schedules and habits. Do you have a day job in addition to writing fiction? When and where do you write your mysteries?

Vermont Respite

I do! I’m an attorney and I work full-time as a consultant at a mutual fund company. (I practice ERISA law. Bonus points for Wicked readers familiar with that area of the law.) I have a husband, three sons, and three dogs, and I split my time between Vermont and Pennsylvania. Life is hectic, but writing provides me with the quiet time I need to recharge. Making time for writing isn’t always easy, though.

A schedule? I get up early—around 5:30 am—and write every day before work, until about 7. If I’m up against a deadline, I’ll also write during my lunch break. I try to reserve evenings for my family and for any social media/marketing I need to do. That all sounds very disciplined, doesn’t it? The truth is, while I do stick to that schedule, it’s often not enough to meet my deadlines, and so I tend to be a binge writer. I write for hours during family vacations, on my days off from work, at soccer and lacrosse tournaments, in waiting rooms. I’ve learned the art of writing wherever and whenever. To do that without sacrificing family time, I integrate writing with my life. This means I can write at the kitchen island while the boys do homework or play and a meal is simmering on the stove. I’ve had to learn to block out distractions. (If only I had mastered that skill in college!)

I know you are an avid gardener, as is Megan Sawyer, your Greenhouse series protagonist. What’s your favorite crop to grow, and which give you the most problems? (I’ll add my own answers after yours!)Yard mico farm Tyson

Red peppers are a favorite crop. We plant red bell peppers and Hungarian peppers, and we eat the bells like apples (the kids love them). Peppers grow very well in our climate. Potatoes do as well, and we generally have excellent crops of red and Yukon potatoes. Homegrown potatoes are delicious—earthy and flavorful, even without butter.

Most problematic? That changes to some extent every year. Last summer, we had a tough time with tomatoes (another favorite crop), and mid-way through the summer our basil died for no apparent reason. The year before we had more tomatoes than we could possibly eat, and fresh, fragrant basil until well into fall. We almost always get aphids on our spring kale and spinach eventually…something you learn to live with when you’re planting an organic garden on a small piece of property.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

E: Oh, man, broccoli was such a pain. It’s good to plant, because it’s healthy and doesn’t mind cold weather. But when the cabbage moth lays its eggs in the head and you’re in the kitchen getting ready to chop one up for your dinner and there are MOVING CREATURES hidden in the florets? Gah! Forget it. I’ll buy broccoli at the farm stand. When I was selling my own produce, the tiny holes the flea beetles chew in arugula and other leafy green crops was a big pain but not harmful, just cosmetically unpleasing. But I love growing my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes every year. I used to start those from seed before hardly anybody knew about them – now all the garden centers sell seedlings.

Bitter Harvest takes place in the fall. Here in New England more and more family farms are putting up hoop houses and nurturing crops like hardy greens all winter long. Do you try to grow year round? 

Absolutely. We were inspired some years back after reading Eliot Coleman’s book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, and my husband built an unheated hoop house and low tunnels in our yard. It’s been a little bit of heaven to go out into a snowy yard and pick fresh spinach or kale. We’ve also grown arugula and pak choi in the low tunnels with decent success.

E: I’ve seen Coleman speak! And still own my copy of Four Season Harvest.

Other than writing about murders and growing food (and being a wife, mom, and dog owner…), what else do you do for fun in your “free” time? Believe me, I’ve been there except for the dog part, which is why I put free in quotes!

Free time…you’re right, there isn’t much left over. I love, love, love to travel. The entire part of a trip, from planning to execution, is great fun, and we’ve managed some interesting trips over the last five years or so. We drove to Montana from Pennsylvania one summer, another summer we did a “road trip” through parts of Western Europe and

Corfu, Greece

Slovenia, and we spent three weeks in a house on the Greek island of Corfu a few years back. These trips provide family time and writing time, and I find that a new locale always offers novel ideas and a fresh perspective. Aside from travel, I enjoy hiking and swimming with my kids, especially in our adopted state of Vermont.

Since this year is Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary, tell us how the organization has benefited you and helped you along as an author. Are you active in any chapters?

I value Sisters in Crime and the networking opportunities it provides. I’ve met so many inspiring authors through the organization, and I’ve learned a great deal about marketing and the writing industry in general. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, and I’ve been an editor and columnist for their two publications, The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins. I highly recommend that new and aspiring authors join SinC or ITW or another writing organization. Absolutely invaluable.

What’s one thing hardly anyone knows about you? 

I don’t own an e-reader. While I applaud the advent of the e-book, and I see the great value of e-readers for so many reasons, I’m hopelessly attached to paper books. My husband built me a wall of bookshelves, and even so we don’t have enough room for them all. I love the smell, the feel of a new book, the comfort of an old favorite. I am addicted. (There, I admitted it for all the world to see.)

You could do a lot worse with addictions, my friend! What’s next for you on the writing front?

My fourth Allison Campbell Mystery, Fatal Façade, launches on June 13, 2017. I just turned in Seeds of Revenge, Greenhouse Mystery No. 3, and that comes out in late 2017. This year promises to be a busy one!

Readers: Who has an e-reader and who doesn’t? How do you feel about gardening? Favorite vacation travel story? Remember,  Wendy is giving away an audiobook (on CD) of the book to one commenter today.

In Bitter Harvest, Megan Sawyer should be shouting from the barn roof. Washington Acres survived its first year, the café has become a hotspot for locals, and Winsome’s sexy Scottish veterinarian is making house calls—only not for the animals. But as summer slips into fall and Winsome prepares for its grand Oktoberfest celebration, beer isn’t the only thing brewing. When the town’s pub owner is killed in a freak accident, Megan suspects something sinister is afoot in Winsome—but no one is listening. As nights grow longer and temperatures chill, Megan must plow through Winsome’s fixation with autumn festivities to harvest the truth—before another dead body marks the season.Wendy Tyson

Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs.  Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.

29 Thoughts

  1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Edith. I love the Wickeds! A note about broccoli…my family went on a broccoli strike, refusing to eat ours because of the inevitable steamed cabbage moth worms that went along with it (“Extra protein,” said my engineer husband). We switched to organic broccoli seeds about four years ago and since then…no cabbage moths! I can’t remember the last time we picked a worm off a head. We’ve switched to organic seeds across the board, and other than for tomatoes, they seem to help tremendously by boosting natural resistance.

  2. This was such a wonderful article. I really enjoy learning something new about my favorite authors with interviews such as this. I have read all of Wendy’s books and listened to a Muddied Murder on CD as well as reading the book and I was hooked on the Greenhouse Mystery series by the end of Chapter one. I am thrilled that another Allison Campbell book will be released this year to tide me over until book 3 in the Greenhouse series is released. I enjoyed reading about gardening which we used to do until we retired and moved to a townhouse complex where only container gardening is allowed, and on a very limited basis too. Being handicapped prevents me from being able to do planting in a nearby community garden but at least we have some super organic farms locally where we can get fantastic produce and other products. Thank you for the great questions and answers ladies. It was a great way to begin my day thinking of juicy tomatoes and healthy green, etc. while sipping my morning coffee and watching the snow come down. Thank you for the mouth watering words.
    Cynthia B

  3. Welcome, Wendy! I am currently reading BITTER HARVEST on my Kindle app this week, and am loving it! Congratulations on this Greenhouse mystery series. I especially love reading food-based mysteries, but I also like your Alison Campbell series.

  4. Hi, Wendy! I love the Allison Campbell stories and I’m glad there will be another one.

    I read on my iPad and paper books. I find I have to switch between them because staring at the screen drives my eyes bonkers (I stare at a screen all day for my day job, too since I work in tech). But I love the convenience for travel AND there are so many authors I’ve “met” through ebook deals. But my daughter (who is 16)? She almost exclusively reads paper – at least for leisure.

    Favorite family trip? We used to go up to Lake Erie for a week in the summer when the kids were small. We loved it. Rent a trailer by the lake and spend a week on the beach. We had to stop because my son developed recurring eye infections that were aggravated by the sun on the water. And of course now you need a passport to get into Canada…

    We have a raised bed garden. Like you, our tomatoes didn’t do that well last year (usually it’s a bumper crop) and the basil died for no apparent reason. I’ve done broccoli (but my son hates broccoli). The green beans do well. We love yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, but ours never seem to color before the frost hits and they die – or they rot on the plant. So frustrating. Glad we don’t have to farm for a living because we kind of suck. 🙂

  5. How fun to see one of my favorite author friends on my favorite blog. Great interview! Wendy, you are truly amazing, and I’m just thrilled about the success of your new series! I love gardening, but I’ve learned to limit what I do. Too little time/space/skill…and way too many hungry deer and other animals. This year I’m sticking to some of my favorite deer-resistant flowers, although I welcome suggestions for “easy,” small-space, animal-resistant fruits or veggies.

  6. I love this interview. Now I know what you do…yes I googled ERISA.

    I love my e-reader. If I didn’t have one, I don’t know if I would be reading as many books as I do read. As for gardening, I’m the queen of a green thumb and those little animals you find in your veggies would scare me to pieces.

    I’m so happy that you have two more books coming out this year. Looking forward to reading them both.

  7. I’m not a huge fan of ebooks, either. I’ve just used the Kindle app on my phone, so that’s probably not a fair test, but I much prefer the feel of the real book – being able to see how many pages are left in my current chapter and now many pages there are in the book. The percentages they give you in the Kindle app just aren’t the same.

    Having said that, I am absolutely out of room in my condo and must do something about all my books. I just don’t want to!

  8. Hi everyone! Cynthia–farmers markets are great for getting fresh, organic produce. You can’t go wrong by getting to know your local farmers. Art, Grace, and Sherry–thank you! I’m so excited to be here.

  9. Liz–isn’t that something about the tomatoes and basil? We’re not sure what caused the problem. We never have enough room to rotate the veggies (especially tomatoes and potatoes), and think that may have contributed along with the weather.

    Susan–I will come up with some ideas for you! We don’t have a deer issue in Philly because our neighborhood is pretty urban. We have fox and very industrious squirrels. Even a small window box of cherry tomatoes and herbs (with some Marigolds?) might be fun.

    Kimberly–thank you! Extra points for Dru Ann (who now knows what ERISA is). Thank you for the kind words. I can’t wait to be on Dru’s Book Musings tomorrow! And I hear you, Mark. We’re at a crisis point in our house. We even have books stacked on dressers and bedside tables. :-/

    1. We did rotate last year. I wonder if that caused our problem!

      (Oh, PS: I used to work for a company that made financial software so I know what ERISA is.)

  10. Oh, I love my e-reader. It gets more use as a preview machine though. Samples, samples, samples, since you really can’t trust reviews much anymore. Also, many writers are doing e-only novellas and short stories. And, of course, self-pubs. That’s how I found the fabulous Karen Cantwell – her first book, Take the Monkeys and Run is available for free on Amazon right now – I saw the title and got a sample and promptly ruined a shirt spitting out a mouthful of coffee laughing. Plus I got to be her friend too. So I LURVE my Paperwhite.

    I can’t garden. I have a black thumb. I try and try and I kill things. So, I stopped trying and now I only kill fictionally.

  11. I love my ereader! It makes traveling with books so easy. Having always lived in apartments, I’ve never gardened before, but I love the idea of growing your own food. Maybe someday!

  12. Aimee–I will have to try Karen’s books. Thanks for sharing! Marla–travel is made easier with an e-reader. My husband has a Kindle and uses it for travel and nighttime reading. I, on the other hand, lug my books along. They take up a lot of carry-on space!

  13. I love to garden but I also love all the wild critters that live in our woods so I end up sharing most of it with the deer,, squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood. Last year somebody got almost all of my sweet peppers. I sure hope they enjoyed them.
    Thanks for the contest.

  14. Sue, my husband and I have that debate every year. I say share with the local animal population, but he likes fencing. We tried the fencing two years ago and it really didn’t help keep the squirrels or birds out, so we took it down. This year will be the big test. We’re planting a garden in Vermont, where we have far more critters, especially deer.

  15. Thanks for visiting the Wickeds, Wendy! I have an e reader which I enjoy using for downloadable library books. Sometimes you just want something new to read but can’t spend the time to go browsing in the stacks! But I prefer a physical book. Some of the ones I own are really like old friends! Best of luck with your new book!

  16. Thank you, Jessie! Have a wonderful weekend. It’s been great visiting with the Wickeds!

  17. Nice interview. I look forward to reading your new book.

  18. I bought a back-let e-reader several years to take on vacation because I was sharing a room with my daughter who can’t sleep if there is any light on, and I can’t sleep if I don’t read myself to sleep. It worked out fine. But I seldom have used it since. I like the feel of the real thing. I like turning pages instead of swiping a screen. I like not having to be “plugged in” or worry about the battery running down at a critical moment. The good things are the free or very low-priced books. But I would really rather pay the money for paper.

    1. Ginny, you are Wendy’s randomly selected winner of the audiobook. Check your email for something from Wentyso at verizon dot net. Congratulations!

      1. Wow! Thank you!! This is so exciting. I love audiobooks and seldom drive without one playing.

  19. Thank you, everyone! (And I read at night while wearing a headlamp. Otherwise the light bothers my husband….)

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