Hi. Barb here. Julie, Sherry and I met author Jenna St. James at the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend back in April. Jenna is a terrific, high-energy, fun person and we invited her to come tell us about her mysteries.
The latest is Murder on the Vine: A Sullivan Sisters Mystery. Bookstore and bar owner, Jaycee Sullivan, figured it was just another day when her pastry chef sister, Jax, asked her to help deliver chocolates to a local winery. However, the discovery of a dead body was anything but typical for Jaycee. When it looks like the girls will be questioned further about the murder, Jaycee decides to do some snooping around of her own. When the hunky new detective in town, Mike Connors, demands Jaycee keep her nose out of the investigation, she decides to take matters into her own hands. With the help of Gramps, a retired Army colonel, her mom, and Tillie, a former trapeze artist and contortionist, Jaycee picks up the investigation gauntlet and runs. Between numerous wine tastings and hilarious stakeouts, Jaycee must ditch a certain detective and bring down the killer before Jax is next in line.
Take it away, Jenna!
I decided to write the Sullivan Sisters Mystery series as a way to honor my grandfather, a WWII veteran who passed away almost nine years ago. Like the Gramps in this series, my own grandfather could sometimes be a little curmudgeonly (ha!), but he was also a kind man who loved his family…and John Wayne! Not long before he died, I stayed with him and my grandmother for a couple weeks. He and I would pretty much sit all day and watch John Wayne movies one after the other. I’d like to think if my grandpa were still alive, he’d love the characters and setting I developed in his honor.
My immediate family—dad, mom, sister—all still live in Sonoma County, CA. I’m the only one that left and is now living in the Midwest. Not only did I write this series for my grandpa, but writing this series also allows me to feel closer to my family. My real-life sister is a lot like the sister, Jax, in that she loves to boozy bake. I also have other real-life friends, Heidi and Bridget, who make an appearance in every book.
I always tell people there are three “ingredients” I put into every book I write—whether it’s the Sullivan Sisters series, the Ryli Sinclair series, or the new series I’m writing with my stepdaughter, Maddy—and that is: The older generation will teach the younger generation, family/friends are important, and you’ll always find some sort of a positive military presence.
Building the Future
My sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, Maddy, has been one of my BETA readers for a while now. Recently she asked if we could write something together. I’d had a series idea I was playing around with and intended to start writing in 2020. When Maddy said she wanted the protagonist to be in high school, I thought I was going to have to come up with a whole new series concept. But after tossing around ideas, I realized if I just took the series I was going to write and bring the main characters (protagonist has two sidekicks) back to when they were in high school instead of in their early twenties, I could (hopefully) pull it off. So that’s what we did! Maddy is a fabulous artist on top of being a tremendously talented writer…so she went to work sketching the town as I worked on trying to take the girls back to their senior year of high school. We worked together on the plot, and then since this was Maddy’s first cozy novel, I did most of the bulk writing of each chapter. Using Google Docs, she’s then put in her part or made any changes she wanted for each chapter. We did this chapter by chapter until we had Seaside and Homicide completed. We are very proud of this co-authored series and plan to have Book 2 out by Christmas.
A question for readers and a giveaway: I have boozy dessert recipes in the Sullivan Sisters Mystery series. What recipe(s) from other culinary cozy books have you tried? I’ll send a signed copy of Murder on the Vine to one commenter!
Jenna writes in the genre of cozy/paranormal. Her humorous characters and stories revolve around over-the-top family members, creative murders, and there’s always a positive element of the military in her stories. Jenna currently lives in Missouri with her fiancé, stepdaughter, and myriad animals. She is a former court reporter turned educator turned full-time writer. She has a Master’s degree in Education, and an Education Specialist degree in Curriculum/Instruction. She also spent twelve years in full-time ministry.
That’s a wrap, folks! A winner has been chosen and notified. Thanks for commenting.