Please help us welcome Teresa Trent to our blog for another crime writers interview. I just love her Pecan Bayou cozy series, and now she has a new series out… oh goody!
Teresa enjoys creating small towns filled with quirky characters and high crime rates. She lives in Houston, Texas with her family and spends her time as a writer and caregiver. Teresa started the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series in 2011 and adds to it yearly. Her Piney Woods Mystery Series, published by Camel Press, debuted in 2018 and will also have a new mystery each year. Teresa loves to write with just a little humor and to include characters you might not find in other cozies, including Danny who was influenced by her own son with Down syndrome.
Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?
Teresa Trent: My life experience plays into my writing. My Pecan Bayou Series has a character with Down syndrome because I have a son with Down syndrome. Because of that, I am around many people like him. I couldn’t “world create” without my character Danny because without him it wouldn’t be my world.
I love a certain kind of story. I want to be touched emotionally but I also want to laugh, so characters need to be human. When I decided to start writing seriously I wanted my voice to be unique and my stories to touch other people’s hearts. I know I’ve written my book correctly when I find myself crying in the final scene. I also laugh at my own jokes.
Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?
Teresa: I was an English teacher once upon a time, and one of my favorite novels to teach about was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I loved solving the puzzle of finding the murderer.
With romance you know the guy and the girl are going to get together in the end. With a mystery you are never sure if your suspected villain is the right villain, so, the ending in this genre is unpredictable. I love sci-fi, but have never felt I know enough of the science side to write it.
Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?
Teresa: I write cozy mysteries because I enjoy the small-town characters and the less graphic situations. I have written some light horror short stories but find I keep coming home to cozies.
As a reader, I enjoy all types of stories. To me a good story is found in the writing more than the genre, so if a book hits the best seller list, I want to read it, not only for pleasure but to see what that author did right!
Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?
Teresa: I love writing a first draft. I love collecting thoughts, characters, plot lines, settings and then putting them all into a story. After that comes several drafts where I drag through the story looking for grammatical errors and plot holes and I usually have plenty of both!
Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.
Teresa: I write the Pecan Bayou Cozy Mystery Series and the Piney Woods Cozy Mystery Series which both occur in Texas.
Pecan Bayou is in the Hill Country famous for wildflowers in the Spring and German food. Austin is also a part of the hill country and politically a little more left-leaning than the rest of the state. It is no mistake that Rocky, my newspaper editor has a Christmas tree that always leans slightly to the left. I so enjoyed creating this cast of characters starting with my amateur sleuth, Betsy, a woman who writes helpful hints for a living, and is constantly having to tackle those pesky bloodstains.
The Piney Woods Mystery Series is in East Texas, close to the Louisiana border. Nora is very different from Betsy and works in the historic Tunie hotel. Piney Woods is an oil boom-bust town heavily influenced by close neighbor, Louisiana. Gumbo is a popular dish on the menu and running across the state line to gamble is a major attraction. Nora and her law man boyfriend, Tuck Watson solve murders together while Nora tries to keep the hotel afloat.
Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?
Teresa: That would be how to explode a port-a-potty. You would be amazed how many You Tube videos there are on the subject.
Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?
Teresa: My latest book, Murder of a Good Man, was a little darker than some of my other stories, so I had to work to bring it up to the lighter form of the cozy mystery. When I first started writing this book, the news had just come out about Bill Cosby, and that was the inspiration for the plot line. What if a guy the whole world loved was really not such a fine gentleman?
Here is her latest release, folks…
Murder of a Good Man, Book 1 in the Piney Woods Mysteries
When Nora Alexander drives into Piney Woods, Texas, to fulfill her dying mother’s last wish, she has no idea what awaits her. First, she is run off the road, then the sealed letter she delivers turns out to be a scathing rebuke to the town’s most beloved citizen and favored candidate for Piney Woods Pioneer: Adam Brockwell. Next thing you know, Adam has been murdered in a nasty knife attack.
Suspicion instantly falls on Nora, one of the last people to see him alive. After all, everyone in Piney Woods loved him. Or did they? Nora learns that her mother had a complicated past she never shared with her daughter. Told not to leave town by Tuck the flirty sheriff, Nora finds a job with Tuck’s Aunt Marty trying to get the rundown Tunie Hotel back in the black. The old hotel was Piney Woods’ heart and soul in its heyday as an oil boomtown.
Now the secrets it harbors may be the key to getting Nora off the hook. She’s going to need to solve the mystery quickly to avoid arrest, or worse: becoming the killer’s next victim.
Note: I am going to be traveling when this interview goes live, so K.B. Owen will be fielding comments.
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