Edith here, so excited to have Annette Dashofy back as a guest on the blog. Her Zoe Chambers mysteries are some of my favorites, and this new book is a biggie. Books in the series have been nominated for an Agatha Award five times. Happy book birthday #10, Annette. Read down for the giveaway!
When one of Chief Pete Adams’ first murder convictions is overturned, he and County Detective Wayne Baronick are assigned to reinvestigate the case. As new theories about the murder surface, Pete begins to question not only the original suspect’s guilt, but his own investigative skills from the days when he first took over the Vance Township Police Department.
Meanwhile, Zoe Chambers, Monongahela County’s new chief deputy coroner, struggles with the turmoil of two mysterious deaths—including someone close to her heart—as she tries to master her new job and plan her upcoming wedding. But her investigation soon links to Pete’s case, making Zoe the target of a killer determined to keep the truth from getting out. Can Zoe see the danger in time, and get to the church for her wedding…alive?
Take it away, Annette!
When I wrote Circle of Influence, the first in my Zoe Chambers series, I was clueless about so many things. Would it ever get published? Would anyone like my characters? Would it be a stand-alone or would the second in the series also someday see the light of day? The question of whether or not Zoe and Pete would become more than friends never entered my mind. I was, after all, writing a mystery, not a romance.
(insert me smacking my head here)
Early on, I outlined the crimes in detail. I knew at the beginning of each book who the killer was and why he’d committed the murder. I mostly knew how the case would be solved. What I did not plot out was the budding relationship between Police Chief Pete Adams and Zoe. They started out with a ton of emotional baggage. Zoe didn’t want to ruin a beautiful friendship by becoming romantically involved. Pete had already gone through one divorce and was onboard with Zoe’s wishes.
My readers were not.
I figured this out one day shortly after Lost Legacy, the second in the series, came out. A male reader marched up to me at an event for another author and demanded to know when Pete and Zoe were getting together. The question didn’t stun me as much as the person doing the asking. Not a stereotypical romantic-at-heart, but a guy in camo. (Note to self: never make assumptions about your readership.)
When the third book, Bridges Burned, came out, I really started getting flak because the Pete and Zoe relationship had taken two steps forward and three steps back. That’s when I came to realize my readers were more concerned about my characters than about the mystery du jour. And since I’d just signed a contract for three more books, it’s also when I realized I couldn’t keep throwing obstacles in the path of true love.
I’ve continued to toss boulders in their path, but by the end of each book, Zoe and Pete have been in a good place, edging closer to each other, growing more secure in their relationship. And now, the tenth in the series, Til Death, has brought them within a week of their impending Valentine’s Day nuptials. Besides the normal stress of being days away from their wedding, Zoe has to deal with a new full-time job in the coroner’s office and a couple of mysterious deaths, one of which strikes too close to home. Pete is ordered to reopen an investigation into a homicide from his early days in Vance Township when the verdict is thrown out. Plus there’s the little matter of selling his home and moving into Zoe’s farmhouse. And Zoe’s mom is coming to town. And…
You get the idea. They’re thinking they should’ve eloped.
But I couldn’t do that to all the readers who’ve been demanding a wedding. Therefore, you’re all invited to the marriage ceremony! You’ll just have to get through the mystery at hand first.
Readers: which is more important to you when you’re reading a series? The murder mystery or the characters? Wickeds and fellow authors: do you plot out your characters’ love lives as much or more than the crimes in your novels? I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of the new book (US only)!
USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her 5-time Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series includes Circle of Influence (also nominated for the David Award for Best Mystery), Lost Legacy, Bridges Burned, With A Vengeance, No Way Home, Uneasy Prey, Cry Wolf, Fair Game, Under the Radar, as well as Til Death.
Order Til Death from Mystery Lover Bookstore and request a signed/personalized copy, or find at Amazon or B&N .
Congratulations, Annette, on the release of Til Death! I have enjoyed reading the entire series, as well as being part of your Zoe Chambers and Friends FB group and a member of your Review Crew.
Yes, mystery books need a mystery to be solved but for me to keep reading books in a series, I have to like/love the cast of characters. You have put Zoe and Pete through a lot in 10 books! The slow development of their romantic relationship as well as Zoe’s personal/professional growth is an integral part of the series.
Thank you, Grace! I’m so glad to have you as part of my reader community!
I’m so glad you could join us on your book birthday! I don’t think I plot out the love lives more than the crimes – but I sure include them Life has romance, why shouldn’t my characters?
Exactly, Edith. And thanks again for having me here today.
I am a fan of this series! When I read cozy mysteries I like a balance between the mystery and finding out more about the characters!
Thank you, Linda! I hope you enjoy this one as well.
Both parts of the story are equally important. You have to have a compelling mystery each time out or it becomes a kind of general fiction type read. But you also have to have characters the reader will care about when they aren’t out sleuthing.
I figure it is a delicate balance to be maintained but without that balance, I don’t think a series will be nearly as interesting to readers as it could be.
I totally agree, Jay!
Congratulations, Annette! You well know I spend a lot of time on Jim and Sally – but I can’t say I plot their lives more than the mystery. Just yesterday, they both took me completely by surprise. LOL
Thanks, Liz. And I’m super excited to see more of Jim and Sally!
Huge congratulations on the release of Til Death, Annette! What a wonderful milestone to reach book 10.
I so a ton of plotting for my books. Most of the focus is on the mystery, but I do have that thread which asks where are Allie and Brent headed next. So far, they’ve kept those plans to themselves!
J. C. I hate when my characters keep secrets from me!
I really like the mystery part the best but I do root for those are building relationships. I get vested in what these people are doing in a series. And I really enjoy this series. I think you’ve eased well into their relationship.
Thanks so much, Pam!
Congratulations on the release of “Til Death”! It’s most definitely been on my TBR list and can’t wait for my opportunity to read it.
In answer to your question – why can’t you have both? Yes, like everyone else, I love cozy mysteries because of how the authors present the crime and how and by who it’s solved. When it’s told well and the reveal is done right, it’s a great book. However, if an author can have us feeling like we are part of the community and loving the characters in a book as if they were dear friends or maybe a beloved relative, then you have an awesome book that we devour, share with others and can’t wait for the next installment to be published. Everyone enjoys a great book, but when an awesome book comes along we latch on and take a series ride along with the author.
Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of “Til Death”!
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Thank you, Kay!
I already have a signed copy on order so don’t enter me in the giveaway but I have to care about the characters when I read a book. Otherwise I don’t really care about what’s happening to them. I also want a well done mystery
Hi, Sandy! And I so agree.
I think the characters are more important. The person has to be likable or relatable for me to want to read the story. Thanks for the chance.
Same here, Lynn.
The characters can definitely make or break a series. I’m happy Pete and Zoe got together, and congrats to them on their wedding (and you on your release) day!
Thanks, Marla! (From me AND from Pete and Zoe!)
Annette, you are a “new to me” author and reading about your book is one of the reasons I enjoy reading The Wickeds Blog…meeting all of their fellow friend authors. Fascinating and intricate characters building relationships while solving the mystery are my favorite kind and are often times a make or break reason for me to keep reading a series. I want to know…what is going to happen to that relationship no matter if it is a best friend or group of best friends or a love interest. A book has to have that human connection in some way with characters that interact with one another to keep my interest. And, just like in the movie or TV show I watch, I like: some humor between the characters, affection and loyalty. Should they have some struggles…well, sure, but a satisfying ending/result is important in the character relationships as well as the solved mystery. So here is a CHEER for great fictional characters, may they ever evolve from your minds as authors and populate the pages of your books!!
Thank you, Judy!
Ten books!!!!! We have come a long way since meeting as Agatha Award nominees for best first books! I continue reading series because I love characters and then for great stories. Because of something Barbara Ross said once, I’m more mindful of the romance in my new series. And if I’d known there were going to be more than three Sarah books I would have handled things differently.
Sherry, isn’t that the truth? So many things I’d have done differently! But I guess long-running series are like real life. We have to work with what we’ve been dealt.
The best part of the Best First Agatha nomination was getting to be friends with you and the others, Sherry! It’s been quite the ride, hasn’t it?
Congratulations on #10. I’ve enjoyed your series and if I have to choose, I’d pick the relationships between the characters.
Thank you, Jean!
Welcome, Annette! Sherry has me wondering what I said to her. The romance has always been the most challenging part of the books for me–in all three series. Ultimately I would rather have my character kill someone than kiss them!
Haha, Barbara! (And I was wondering the same thing! Sherry???)
I read for the mystery, but I enjoy the romance and personal sub-plots. After all, I return to a series for the characters. But I do want a good mystery first and foremost.
I try to remember that book time isn’t always real time. If a series releases one book a month but it’s only been a month for the characters, I try to keep that in mind with my impatience with relationships. It always helps when I am behind on a series but I know that a happy ending is coming.
So true, Mark. It’s been six years since the first Zoe book but only a couple of years in the life of the series.
It is lovely to see you here on the Wickeds’ blog again, Annette! I love your question! A romance, or the possibility of one has been a part of each of my books. I plot out my books before I write them and think of the ways that the investigation and the trajectory of the romance intersect, support or divide characters. But, I think about it for all the relationships in my books, not just for the possible romances. I think the relationships between characters are the most interesting for me as a reader and as a writer so I put effort into that aspect of my books.
Jessie, it’s always a pleasure to visit with The Wickeds!
I think both characters and mystery have to blend well together to create the perfect read.
I totally agree, Alicia!
Such excitement! I care much about the friendships and loyalties between the characters, and the reminder that connections with other help us all make it through the difficulties of life. A friend once thought to have her wedding on Valentine’s Day but logistics were too hard. No florist would even guarantee flowers on their busiest day of the year, and that was just the beginning of the booking problems. Zoe’s problems, based on the careful no-spoilers (thanks for that) description, will make hers look like trifles. Hugs <3
Mary, also remember Zoe has her mother to make things happen. No florist stands a chance against Hurricane Kimberly! Haha!
The characters are the most important part because there would be no story without them. Thanks for the giveaway.
Very true, Doward.
Congratulations on your latest! As a reader, I think a slow-burning romance is part of the joy of returning to the characters we love in a series mystery. At least for me, one of the main reasons I pick up each new installment is to see what my friends are up to! And as a writer, I love using romantic developments to either drive the plot — or supply a distraction while I’m doing something sneaky!
Ha! Yes! Sneaky is good! And thank you, Kathleen!
I’m really into character and I think mystery series really provide a chance to develop the main character, the “confidant” and a number of other lesser characters that come back week to week. I love to see an arc that goes from book to book. In the Faith Fairchild series, I so enjoyed watching her kids grow up, and her husband’s job change. It was like following the adventures of a high school friend or someone you grew up with. The mystery to me is secondary to having that relationship with the characters.
I totally agree, Christina!
Congratulations on #10!
The murder mystery is an important part of the book, but the characters have to be relatable and likeable to keep the series moving along and to keep me wanting to read the series.
To me it is both the mystery and keeping the characters moving as well. If the book grabs me in the first few pages that is great and generally that is with the main characters and keeping me interested is a big plus.
I Love mystery series, I love to read how the characters grow and I get to know the characters more and more with each book. This book sounds very intriguing and like a very good page turner. Thank you for sharing about it.
My pleasure, Alicia!
I demand a mystery in my mysteries because I like the challenge of trying to solve it and because I also read romances. However, I do want character development including romance, especially in a series. Stay safe and well.
Thanks, Sally. You stay safe too!
Congratulations on the new book! I want the mystery to be strong and a substantial portion of the book, but hope to connect with the characters interesting lives as well.
You’ll get no argument from me, Katherine!
Love the wedding invitation Annette. The murder mystery in my Witch City books takes the most thought and plotting, while Lee and Pete seem to write their own lines and let the romance progress at the rate they want it to. I’m on Book #11 right now, and they threw me an unexpected curve on this one!
The characters make the mystery happen so they are most important.
I’ll read one book for the mystery, but if you want me to bump your next book up in my ARC queue there MUST be engaging characters!
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