by Julie, one of the few people grateful that we’re back to standard time
This weekend I am going to be moderating a panel “Murder Among Friends; Cozies” panel at the Midwest Mystery Conference. Juneau Black is on the panel, and I was delighted to be introduced to their work, and can’t wait to meet them in person. Writing duos fascinate me. Added to that, their books are a different take on a series, which I also enjoyed. They explain that below. I’m so glad they agreed to be on the blog to celebrate the release of Twilight Falls today.
Built for Comfort: Creating the World of Shady Hollow
By Juneau Black
We are so happy to be able to be here today, and share some of our inspiration for our cozy Shady Hollow Mysteries. The fourth book in the series is titled Twilight Falls, and it drops today! We’d call the books “traditional” mysteries, because they really are, with one exception: all the characters are animals.
From our amateur detective heroine (foxy journalist Vera Vixen) to the law enforcement (brown bear Deputy Orville Braun) to the first victim (Otto Sumpf, toad), the small town of Shady Hollow is a world without humans. Why? Because we thought it would be fun!
Imagine Agatha Christie meets Animal Crossing, and you’ve got it.
Our characters wear clothes, hold down jobs, go to school, enjoy a good dinner, and all the rest. But even though the characters are all animals, Shady Hollow is a typical small town, with typical small town problems…including the occasional murder.
A shocking crime is always intriguing. But to truly make a world that readers want to visit again and again, we had to make it place we like to visit. That’s why there’s a coffeeshop run by a moose name Joe, who prides himself on offering the finest seasonal pies for his local customers. Vera Vixen herself stops by nearly every day to grab coffee and muffin on those chilly fall mornings, because that’s exactly what we want to do.
We’ve built Shady Hollow to include everything a town needs. There’s a bookshop called Nevermore Books, run by raven Lenore Lee. Trust us, you’d spend hours there if you could. We’ve got a grocery store, the town pub, a fantastic restaurant, a library, and lots of cute shops. There’s a lovely park and millpond, not to mention the beautiful northern woods and mountains surrounding the town (plenty of pretty places to stash a body)!
With every location and side character we make in each book, our goal is to deepen the world, and give our readers the sense that this is a genuine place. Even though our world is technically a fantasy (real world animals rarely drink so much coffee), we want the motivations of our characters to feel real. After all, as mystery readers, we are drawn to the emotional complexity that murder or other crimes create. When somebody dies — even a fictional somebody — it stirs up strong feelings. We want to know everyone’s motives. We want to know why they’re keeping secrets. We want to believe that the detective is driven to solve the crime because of their passion for the truth. And a well-crafted, plausible world helps do all that. It doesn’t matter if the story is set in modern day New York City or the imaginary small town of Shady Hollow.
We hope that readers who visit Shady Hollow feel a sense of comfortable connection. You know: come for the murder, stay for the scones! In our new book, Twilight Falls, we do add new locations (such as the titular waterfall) and characters, but we work hard to maintain the core vibe of Shady Hollow. We want readers to be able to pick up any book in the series and know that they’ll encounter the same cozy, comfortable, coffee-filled world. Shady Hollow is a great place to visit. Just watch your back!
Readers: What’s something in a book that makes you feel like revisiting it when you can?
ABOUT JUNEAU BLACK
Juneau Black is the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel. They share a love of excellent bookshops, fine cheeses, and a good murder (in fictional form only). Though they are two separate people, if you ask either of them a question about their childhood, you are likely to get the same answer. This is a little unnerving for any number of reasons.
ABOUT TWILIGHT FALLS
It’s spring in Shady Hollow, and romance is in the air. Even reporter Vera Vixen is caught up in the season as her relationship with new police chief Orville Braun blossoms. But true love is not always smooth sailing, as two of the hollow’s young residents come to find. Jonah Atwater and Stasia von Beaverpelt find themselves battling their families in order to be together. And when Jonah’s father, Shelby, goes over the top of Twilight Falls, all signs point to Stasia being the murderer.
The evidence against Stasia appears overwhelming, and Orville arrests her. It looks like the case is closed, but Vera isn’t so sure. There are almost too many clues indicating Stasia is the killer, leading her to suspect someone is setting Stasia up. Besides, what about the mysterious ghostly creature skulking around town at night? Maybe he or she was involved? As Vera investigates further, her sleuthing puts her in direct opposition to Orville, and soon she’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble.
Learn more about Twilight Falls: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/721728/twilight-falls-by-juneau-black/