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Wedding bells are ringing at the O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa in California’s postcard-perfect Blossom Valley. The entire staff is pitching in to send one of their own down the aisle. But no one knew the nuptials could turn up so many secrets—or that marriage and murder could go hand in hand . . .
Dana Lewis is marrying Jason Forrester, a talented reporter and the love of her life. She couldn’t dream of a better venue than the farm where she works, and her friends are determined to give her the wedding of her dreams. Even her florist, Bethany Lancaster, is making sure she has just the right flowers. But Dana’s happiness wilts when she finds Bethany shot dead—and discovers her friend was a busybody with a blackmail list longer than a cathedral veil. With so many enemies, finding Bethany’s killer seems all but impossible. And when Dana herself is eyed as a suspect, she’ll have to chase down the culprit faster than she can say, “I do”—or she’ll be trading in her wedding dress for prison stripes.
Island Confidential: Staci, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell us a little about your protagonist, Dana Lewis?
Staci McLaughlin: Dana is in her late twenties and living on her own when she is unexpectedly laid off from her marketing job in the San Francisco Bay Area. She finds herself moving back to the small Northern California town where she grew up. Now she has to put her life back together and rethink her career while living with her mom and annoying younger sister.
How much of you is in Dana? How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?
SM: Dana is a lot like me. We share the same core values and interests. She tries her best, even when she doesn’t always succeed, and values her family. I think Dana and I would have a lot of fun together, especially since we both love junk food!
Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
SM: Yes, definitely. Dana starts out a little uncertain about where her life is headed in the first book, but in each progressive book she starts to gain confidence in both her career and her personal life. Similarly, her younger sister Ashlee, who is an absolute brat in the first book, matures somewhat as the books progress.
Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
A: Not yet! I’ve heard of writers doing that, but I can’t think of anyone I have ever been so mad at that I would wish them dead, either on the page or in real life.
How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
SM: Blossom Valley is a fictional town, but it is loosely based on Ukiah, a real town in Northern California where I grew up. The population of Blossom Valley is considerably smaller, and the town more closely resembles the Ukiah of my childhood rather than today, but it has the same atmosphere and kinds of people. One thing I like about using a fictional place is the flexibility. I can create a new business at the spur of the moment if needed or add other features that are important to the plot.
When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
SM: I love how you say, “when”! I think Jennifer Lawrence would be a good pick for Dana, since Dana is mostly practical but can also be a bit goofy. Ryan Reynolds would be great as Dana’s love interest, Jason.
What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
SM: The best advice I have ever received was to just keep writing. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. When I make sure to write every day, it’s much easier to get into the proper mindset and come up with ideas. If I don’t write for a week or longer, it can take me a day or two to get back into the rhythm.
I guess the worst advice would be to write what you know. If I were to stick to only what I know, it would be a very short book! Plus, one of the fun aspects of writing is doing research and learning about new topics. I love to then share that information with the readers.
About The Author
Staci McLaughlin graduated from the California State University, East Bay before becoming a technical writer for a number of years. Now she is a stay-at-home mom and a cozy mystery writer in my spare time (Ha!). Once she can wrangle the kids into bed, my husband and I enjoy watching scary movies and playing both board games and video games.
She is currently a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as a contributor to the LadyKillers blog. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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