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Between volunteering for the annual pumpkin festival and coaching her girls to the state soccer finals, high school teacher Tj Jensen finds her good friend Zachary Collins dead in his favorite chair.
When the handsome new deputy closes the case without so much as a “why” or “how,” Tj turns her attention from chili cook-offs and pumpkin carving to complex puzzles, prophetic riddles, and a decades-old secret she seems destined to unravel.
Q: Kathi Daley joins us today to talk about the first book in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series, Pumpkins in Paradise. Kathi, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us something about Tj Jensen?
A: Tj Jensen is a petite and spunky tomboy with a huge heart. She is a coach and teacher at the local high school, as well as surrogate mother to two half –sisters who came to live with her after their mother died. Tj is the type of person who seems to have a knack for getting involved in everyone’s life. She is the sort of friend, teacher, and neighbor who people will naturally gravitate toward when they have a problem, and she is the sort of person who is intelligent and industrious enough to actually help those who seek her out.
Q: How much of you is in Tj? How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?
A: Like Tj, I used to be a teacher and I also used to be the teacher all the students hung out with. I always ate lunch in my room rather than in the teacher’s lounge and I always had a room full of students who brought their lunches in and joined me. I also live in a small town in the mountains and I enjoy a large multi-generation family. I am a tomboy and enjoy being outdoors with my dogs, and like Tj, I find puzzles and problems to solve energizing.
Tj is a lot more fearless than I am however. She seems to be willing to put herself into danger to help the people she loves while I’d most likely coach from the sidelines. She is also more social than I am as I tend toward being an introvert while Tj is very much an extrovert.
I would love to meet Tj in real life. In a way I feel like she is a real person. I love hanging out with her and catching up on the developments in her life.
Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
A: Absolutely. I write 5 series and the characters have grown and developed to varying degrees. Tj was already pretty level headed and focused from book 1 so she had probably changed less over the six books in the series I have written so far, than say Zoe, from the Zoe Donovan series, who was an immature and reactive but loveable mess in book one and is now married and raising children in book 21 which was just recently launched.
Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
A: No. I think that would be a little too real for me. I do have readers who write to me and ask me to kill them off but I think I’ll let my victims and well as my killers remain fictional. I have characters in some of my books who are not the victim or killer who are loosely based on people I actually know.
Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
A: Paradise Lake is a fictionalized Lake Tahoe. The overall feel of the small town perched on a large alpine lake is true to life, as are the interactions Tj has with wildlife that lives in the area, but the specifics of the town and the people in the town have been fictionalized to suite my purposes.
Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
A: LOL, I haven’t given this a single thought. I’m not sure I’d even want to do a movie. I get so frustrated with the movies that have been made from other series when they change sooo many things that really don’t need to be changed. Fiction allows each reader to create an image of the characters based on their own set of references and experiences. I never have people on my covers preferring to let the reader fill in the blanks.
Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
A: Best advice – when I was starting out a fellow author told me that I’d have people and opportunities coming to me from all directions. She warned me that it could become overwhelming, (and she was right). Her advice was when deciding what to do and what to pass on – just do what you want to do and pass on the rest.
Worst advice? Hum, I guess the worst advice I ever received was from an agent I met at a writing seminar at a local college who told me that it was almost impossible to be successful as a self-published author and that finding an agent and trying for trade publication was the only way to truly make a name for myself. I sold over 100,000 books in my first year as a self-published author and twice as many my second year. I think I’d consider that to be a success. Having said that, I do think there is a place for traditional publishing in an author’s overall portfolio which is why I am thrilled to be working with Henery Press on the Tj Jensen series.
Henery Press is releasing the first 6 books in this series on September 6, 2016
Snowmen in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery Book 2)
Winter Carnival comes to Serenity, and with it Tj finds her schedule busier than ever. Not only is her ski and snowboard team heavily involved in demonstrations and local competitions, but her ragtag choir is about to debut in their first live performance. To make matters even more complicated, someone has killed Travis Davidson, a town favorite son, world-class snowboarder, and Olympic hopeful. Tj is determined not to get involved in the subsequent investigation until she learns the prime suspect is Chelsea Hanson, high-school boyfriend Hunter Hanson’s sister.
Although there’s no shortage of Sereninites with a grudge against the hometown hero, even Tj has to admit there’s good cause to suspect Chelsea of the murder. Balancing bridesmaid duties, Winter Carnival obligations, show choir duty, and after-hours investigation, Tj sets out to prove Chelsea innocent.
Bikinis in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery Book 3)
When the Tropical Tan Corporation descends on Maggie’s Hideaway, the lakeside resort where Tj Jensen lives, she must juggle a bikini contest, a BBQ cook-off, a missing model, and a dead chaperone while her father is out of town. Lead Deputy Dylan Caine is on vacation while his sister is visiting, leaving Assistant Deputy Roy Fisher in charge. When Roy asks Tj for her help they find there may be more going on than anyone realized. With Kyle and Jenna’s help, they dig into the lives of those involved, only to find a mystery more complex than anything they could ever have imagined.
Christmas in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery Book 4) Christmas in Serenity is a magical time of year Tj has always looked forward to with happy anticipation. This year her holiday spirit is marred by the impending arrival of two new men in her life. When one of them ends up dead, Tj must juggle community plays, Christmas tree cuttings, sleigh rides, and holiday shopping with a complex murder investigation. As the facts begin to unravel, she realizes she may have to risk everything to save someone she loves.
Puppies in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery Book 5)
When a friend of Tj’s is injured in a car accident during a blizzard, Tj takes responsibility for the litter of puppies left behind. Meanwhile, she works with Kyle, Jenna, and the gang to catch the person responsible for the death of a close family friend. When it turns out that the main suspects are also close to the Jensens, Tj must deal with one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever had to make.
Halloween in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery Book 6)
In the midst of the annual Halloween frenzy, Tj finds herself pulled into a series of events at the high school where she works. Not only must she help one of the girls on her team deal with a case of cyberbullying, but she must help a student who has recently suffered a personal tragedy. And as if Tj wasn’t busy enough, in walks Samantha Colton, a reporter for Second Look, a television series that takes a look back at unsolved murders. This time the case is the death of a popular student after the homecoming dance ten years before. To make matters even worse—or maybe more convenient—the graduating class of the victim is in town for their ten-year reunion and all the suspects just happen to have converged on Serenity for the weekend. When Samantha turns up dead, Tj must track down someone who seems willing to kill again to keep their secret.
About the Author
Author of the Zoe Donovan cozy Mystery Series, Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery series, Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery Series, Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mysteries, and Seacliff High Teen Cozy Mystery Series.
Come for the murder, stay for the romance.
Kathi lives in the beautiful alpine community of Lake Tahoe with her husband Ken and dog Echo. When she’s not writing she enjoys hanging out on the beach with her children and grandchildren. During the summer she enjoys hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, wakeboarding, and sunset cruises on the lake. During the winter she enjoys cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and curling up by a fire with a good book.
Kathi uses her mountain home as inspiration for her books, all which include appearances by the wildlife she shares her life with.
Visit Kathi Daley:
Blog – http://kathidaleyblog.com
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Kathi Daley Books Group Page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/569578823146850/
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