I am beyond thrilled to share an exclusive interview with an amazing author I’ve been following for several years. If you haven’t read the ‘Merry Muffin’ or ‘Vintage Kitchen’ cozy mystery series, you are missing out! Victoria Hamilton writes under a few names and has at least one other series too, which I’ll get to read in the upcoming months… but today, she’s agreed to stop by my blog for the launch of the 6th book in the ‘Merry Muffin’ series: Muffin But Trouble — it released today!
In the new Merry Muffin Mystery from the author of Muffin to Fear, baker Merry Wynter must confront a spiritual guru who may be up to something far from heavenly…
With plans for a new performing arts center at Wynter Castle taking up all her time, baker Merry Wynter has been all but unaware of the fringe group compound near her small town—until a street preacher accosts her with taunts of doom and damnation. Worried that some of her close friends may have been lured in by the group and its charismatic leader, Merry begins digging into the ministry—and soon suspects they may have ties to the recent death of a young woman and the disappearance of many others.
With her rebellious teen friend Lizzie at her side, Merry steps in to confront the eerily submissive community and its misguided members, skeptical of their supposed spiritual leanings. When another young woman vanishes and Merry realizes the lives of people close to her are at stake, she will stop at nothing to uncover the group’s sinister secrets before the murderous ministry can strike again . . .
Includes tasty baking recipes!
Praise for the Merry Muffin Mysteries:
“[Has] the ingredients for a wonderful cozy mystery series.” —New York Times bestselling author Paige Shelton
“A great cozy with varied and interesting characters, nice plot with a few twists, and a good main character . . . Loved it!” —Mysteries and My Musings
“Merry Wynter’s character is extremely well-developed . . . This is a great start to a promising new series for cozy mystery fans. Five Stars!” —Goodreads
***Check out my past reviews on all her wonderful books below. I will also be updating older reviews from many years ago. This page will be Victoria Hamilton’s dedicated author page on my blog. ***
Key Author Info:
Author Website – VictoriaHamiltonMysteries.com
Amazon and BookBub Links: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007T7LGAU
1 – Q – Who are you and what names do you write under?
A – My ‘real’ name is Donna Simpson, and I have written books under that name; I write as Victoria Hamilton, though I wrote one series as Amanda Cooper.
2 – Q – What is your location?
A – I’m a Canuck… a Canadian, and live in a small city in Ontario.
3 – Q – Tell us all about your available books.
4 – Q – Tell us a little bit about the genres of your books.
A – I have written, in past Regency romance, paranormal historical romance, historical romance mystery and just released in February a historical mystery A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Murder. Most of what I write now are cozy mysteries in the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series and the Merry Muffin Mystery series. July 2nd 2019, after a two year hiatus, #6 of the Merry Muffin Mystery series comes out, Muffin But Trouble!
5 – Q – Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
A – My goal always is to write, and to publish. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I don’t think I’d know who I am if I didn’t write every day.
6 – Q – What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
A – My books are character driven, though I do try to provide a strong plot (VERY important, of course, in a mystery!) so readers for whom character development is important will, I hope, enjoy my books.
7 – Q – What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
A – Keep trying. And if getting published is really important to you, though you do, of course have to write what speaks to you, you also need to have an audience in mind.
8 – Q – What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
A – It took a long time to get published and it was only after writing many books that didn’t make it. This was before self-publishing was a ‘thing’, so there was only traditional publishing or so-called ‘vanity’ presses. But it made me disciplined and it made me hungry, and I made it. I was never a ‘write one masterpiece and then I’m done’ kind of writer, I’m a ‘I want to write and be published’ kind of writer. So I wrote Regency romance to get my foot in the door, and paranormal and historical romance to keep it there, and worked into writing mysteries that way.
9 – Q – What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
A – I read, a lot! I’ve done lots of crafts, but not as much as I used to, and I like singing karaoke! Does eating brownies count as a hobby? If so, I do have one hobby I’m passionate about… brownies!
10 – Q – Some authors like to make an argument or address an issue when they write. Is there an issue that you’re addressing with your book? If so, what is it?
A – I think the only issue I ever addressed is that everyone deserves a voice. As a woman I kept mine quiet for too long, and I’m just beginning to make it heard.
11 – Q – What gave you the idea for your book?
A – Ideas are never a single entity… it’s like, you set your mind on writing a book, and the ether cooperates with bits and pieces and random tufts of fluff that come together to form a coherent plot. I think a writer’s mind works that way… always vigilant, always on the lookout for just that one piece of inspiration to make a plot come together.
12 – Q – What do you like about writing in your genre?
A – I absolutely love writing mystery, of any type; traditional or historical. I feel like it gives my writing a form, like a pattern, and then I fit my plots, characters and themes into that form. It’s not like it’s a straitjacket, something I have to conform to… it’s freeing, in a way, because although there are certain elements that are required, I am free to riff within that form.
13 – Q – What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
A – Mostly, I love doing it… every day, my preference is to sit down and write, first thing in the morning, and because I do it full time I have that freedom. People always say to me ‘I’d never have the discipline’, but if you have a chance to do what you love most in the world, wouldn’t you do it? If it’s sailing, or knitting, or mountain climbing and you loved it and you could do it every day… it’s the dream job. What I like least is, the flow being interrupted by life. The toughest challenge is managing time: writers now are not just writers, they are publicists and their own assistants, and with social media there are so many drains on one’s time, that it’s a constant struggle to prioritize writing. I feel guilty sometimes that I’m not promoting enough, because I know I could do a better job at that.
14 – Q – Do you work from an outline or plot or do you just see where the characters take you?
A – There are, it is said, two types of writers, plotters and pantsers… meaning those who plot their books out and outline copiously, and those who fly by the seat of their pants, just writing. I’ve been both in my career. When I started out, an editor would only buy a book if I presented a fairly comprehensive synopsis, which I then turned into a chapter by chapter outline. But over the years, the synopsis got shorter and the outline just didn’t happen and I inadvertently turned into a pantser. I can do it; over the years with many books written I have developed a feel for pacing and length, etc.
But lately it has felt like I am just making myself crazy by pantsing… I have to go back time and again through the book to build consistency, which often doesn’t work that well and needs to be corrected by my editor (thank God for editors… really!). I end up in dead ends and problems happen for which I have no solution. Much tearing of hair and beating of the head with the computer keyboard results. So… with the book I’m currently writing I have gone back to plotting, writing in advance the scenes I need based on a synopsis of the book. I am revisiting the outline as I go, adjusting to meet the needs that develop as some things inevitably change. So far, it is proving to be a great way to speed up the writing and prevent unnecessary hair loss.
We’ll see how long these good intentions last.
15 – Q – Do you think that the cover plays an important part in someone buying your book(s)? Who designs your book covers?
A – I actually do think the cover plays an important role. I don’t know if other readers feel the same, but I can recognize a writer I like or a series I’m reading based on similarities from one cover to another. Julie Mulhern covers are iconic; you can tell the series just from one glance. I can always tell a historical mystery I’m going to enjoy by the cover… books by Deanna Raybourne, Darcie Wilde, Anne Perry, and others. And traditional/cozy mystery readers can certainly tell by the cover what they are getting.
As an example… when my Vintage Kitchen Mystery series was moving to a new publisher (from Berkley to Beyond the Page) I had a grand idea for the cover; it would be an image of the musty far corner of a basement and there would be a trunk lit by one beam of light from a basement window, and peeking out of the trunk would be a skull with a hank of hair and a hatchet imbedded. Loved the idea… spooky, fun, kinda retro. Sketched it out, scanned it and sent it to my editor and agent.
They HATED it! Oh, they were polite about it, but they pointed out how it had nothing to do with previous titles, didn’t look anything like other covers in the genre or my series and just didn’t work, from a promotional point of view.
And of course they were exactly right. Look at the cover for Leave it to Cleaver and you will see a fairly standard attractive traditional mystery cover, with the skull and hatchet atop a very pretty wedding cake and my little Yorkie Poo character Hoppy reaching up to sniff. Now, THAT is the perfect cover for a traditional or cozy murder mystery! It was designed by Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs; she is brilliant, easy to work with, and can design a cover that works well with a series. She has designed the cover of my latest mystery to come out, Muffin But Trouble, and has magically captured the feel of the Merry Muffin Berkley covers, important now that I’ve moved the series to Beyond the Page.
The bottom line… the covers sell well. There is no point in putting road blocks in your own way when it comes to publishing and selling books.
16 – Q – What type of books do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?
A – I read a lot of different genres, and I tend to binge. I read traditional mysteries, like Julie Mulhern’s Country Club series. I read historical mysteries like Darcie Wilde’s series that started with A Useful Woman. I read suspense thrillers, like Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, and The Woman in the Window. I read a lot of research books, classic literature, biographies, books about religions, and especially true crime books.
17 – Q – What have you learned about yourself since becoming an author?
A – I’ve learned that my brain never stops working, but that not everyone’s brain works that way. I think being inside of ourselves we don’t realize that how we do or see things is not always how others do. I watch a fair bit of TV because it is one of the few OFF buttons for my brain, though that doesn’t work all that well. Things on TV… conversations, plot twists, locations, news items… they all contribute to plots I’m working on. So I often have to jump up and jot something down on the WIP or for future reference.
Excerpt of Muffin but Trouble:
“Who, me?” I asked, pointing to my chest like I was playing a weirdly personal game of charades. I was the only female around at that moment except for an elderly woman pushing a rolling walker down the sidewalk along the line of mostly abandoned brick and boarded-up glass storefronts.
“Yes, you. Jezebel!” This time he—the shouter—pointed his finger at me, I suppose so there could be no further cause for confusion. “Harlot!” he yelped, wide-eyed and with a hint of a smile still tilting his lips upward at the corners.
Nothing like being called names on a Monday in mid-October in downtown Ridley Ridge. And the fellow who shouted at me had seemed such a pleasant dude at first, smiling and nodding, despite the sandwich-board sign he wore as he marched up and down the walk. He held another sign, a placard he hoisted high and proud announcing that all of Ridley Ridge was bound for Hell, its inhabitants the spawn of Satin (perhaps being born of a silkworm?), and were condemmed (yes, spelled that way) to etermity (those ns and ms will confuse you every time) in a lake of fire.
I may have called Ridley Ridge the center of hell, true—at times it does appear to be the cesspit of western New York State, with trash blowing along the street and doggie doo just waiting to be stepped in—but some of its inhabitants are lovely people and don’t deserve such a heated fate. Others do, but that is sad, and I try not to reflect on sad things on lovely October mornings.
“Jezebel!” he said again, as if I had failed to hear the first time, or the second time.
“Now, you don’t even know me.” I opened my plastic container and held it out, temptingly, wafting the fragrance of home-baked goodies his way. “Maybe you’re hungry. Or constipated. Have a bran muffin; it’ll solve both problems.”
“God has told me; you’re going to hell,” he said pleasantly, nodding earnestly. “You are abusing God’s grace on earth. You’re a made-up, pant-wearing Jezebel!”
Pant-wearing? Well, yes, I was wearing a pair of pinstripe Lane Bryant body-hugging slacks, with a tunic top and moto jacket. But women had been free to wear pants for decades now; how nineteen fifties of him to disapprove. And makeup . . . ? I don’t leave home without it. How very odd to have verbal brimstone rained down upon me by such a seemingly mild-mannered dude. I pushed my hair out of my eyes—the fall breeze was stiffening—and observed him. I’ll confess to feeling such dissonance that I thought I was hearing sirens in my head, like a brain wave, until the whoop of a police car pulling up to the curb and letting the siren blare in one brief blast told me it was real.
A female police officer, short but looking like she could bench press me and the kooky doomsayer, got out of the car, gave the zealot a look of disgust, and turned to me. “Ma’am, is he bothering you?”
I closed and tucked my plastic tote of muffins under my arm. “He did call me a jezebel, but that’s about it. Oh, and harlot! He did call me a harlot. Sticks and stones and all that.” I smiled. “And he didn’t want a muffin. I already asked.”
“Darn.” She seemed disappointed. Perhaps she would have liked it better if he’d hauled off and belted me. She turned to the street preacher, read his sign, and said, “Barney, I told you to lay off the crap. Now, why don’t you take your illiterate sign, go back to your encampment and leave all of us be?”
“You, Miss Police Officer, are the worst of all among the lost women of Ridley Ridge,” he said, waggling his finger at her, a smile plastered on his face. I could see now that he wore a cheery Hi. My Name Is Barney. Ask me about Salvation badge on his sandwich board, like someone marketing pricey herbal diet aids. Only he was apparently selling eternal afterlife, not just lengthy life on earth. “Usurping a man’s rightful place and wearing pants; disgusting,” he said to the cop, leering at her square, trim frame in neatly pressed khaki.
“All the better to agitate righteous types like you, Barney,” she said with a wry smile. “You should see me at the disco on a Friday night, dressed in sequins, waggling my tatas and bootie.”
He grimaced. I grinned.
“You should leave now, or I’ll cite you for loitering,” she said. “I’ve told you before to stop harassing folks. I won’t be so nice next time.”
“It’s against nature and God’s plan,” Barney said, as if she had not spoken. “My wife will never do that, wear pants, get a job. She knows her place, to provide for me whatever I so desire. That gun should be in the hands of your husband so he can keep you in line.”
“I’ll tell my husband that when we go out for target practice this weekend and I beat him on bull’s-eyes. He’ll laugh his ass off. Now go on . . . go,” she said sternly. “Beat it! Out of town. I have a badge and a gun; I’m not afraid to use either.”
That slimy smile, worse than any sneer, wedged on his unpleasantly moist mouth, he nodded, then waved to a fellow nearby, who was stapling the pamphlets to telephone poles, and trotted over to him. They bent together, whispering. I squinted, thinking I recognized the guy who had joined him, but he turned away before I could get a good look. They hustled away together, quickening into a gallop as a van with the words “The Message is with Us—Follow Us to Salivation!” painted on the side pulled up to the curb. He climbed in after it, as did the other fellow.
“What’s his problem?” I asked, about the guy who had called me a jezebel.
“Barney? Me,” the officer said, turning to me after the van sped off. “And you, and the whole of our sex who don’t conform to ankle-length dresses, long hair and modestly downturned gazes. We are to procreate, work for our master, and nothing more. That is the mission of the Light and the Way Ministry.”
“Oh well,” I said, walking away with a cheerful wave. “Nothing to do with me!”
Right then I should have known; nothing good comes of being cheerful in Ridley Ridge. Saying it was none of my business was like a cosmic taunt, a dare to the universe to come mess with me.
(Note: This interview will have a Part 2 Follow Up in a few months when the next book in the Vintage Kitchen series launches)
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.