Thursday, May 03, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Bailey Cates

 As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Bailey Cates (AKA Cricket McRae) is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

Above is the cover photo for her May 1st release, Brownies and Broomsticks, the first book in her Magical Bakery Mystery series. In the book, Katie Lightfoot’s tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah’s quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

In the Honeybee Bakery – named after Lucy’s orange tabby – Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren’t just tasty – Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

But when a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy will stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben’s name and find the real killer ...

Below is Bailey's guest article about how she researched Savannah, Georgia, so she could set this series in a place she had never been before:

Brownies and Broomsticks is the first in the Magical Bakery Mystery series, and my first book written as Bailey Cates. When my editor at Penguin/NAL suggested I set the series in Savannah, Georgia, I was skeptical. The Home Crafting Mysteries I write as Cricket McRae take place in a fictional town, so I can make up anything I want. I like that.

However, Savannah is a truly lovely city. And heaven knows there’s plenty of fodder for paranormal cozy mystery plots. It’s the most haunted city in America. There’s history going back before the Revolutionary War. There are odd, wild characters both now and then, the famous historic squares, and, of course, The Book.

Which I’ll get to in a minute.

So I agreed. All I had to do was figure out how to realistically set a mystery in a city I’d never actually been to. A city with a very distinct personality, loved by many. Piece of cake, right?

Naturally, the first thing I did was go there. No, wait, that’s not true. The first thing I did was have my protagonist move there in the first book. So she’s not a local. I knew better than to try and fake that.

Then we took the vacation. We did some of the touristy things, but mostly spent time with locals who were friends of a friend. They were generous with their time and in-depth information, sitting and chatting (and drinking) for hours. I walked away with a pile of varied, disjointed notes full of telling details and plot ideas to mine later. While in town, I talked to folks at the fire department (one of my characters is a fire fighter) and made contact with the police department (it’s a mystery, after all).

And then there’s The Book. One of the first things I learned when I went to Savannah is that the famous (infamous?) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is referred to simply as The Book.

The Book is responsible for a lot of money coming into the city. Tourist money. And tourism is a major source of revenue in Savannah. The Book is also responsible for what a lot of outsiders think about the fair city.

So I took another look at the copy of Midnight on my bookshelf. Then I read about two dozen other books about or set in Savannah. Now I have a shelf devoted to books on the city.

And I watched movies. Lots of them. Over 80 movies have been filmed in Savannah! In fact, when we were in town some of the streets were closed down – and covered with dirt – for the filming of Robert Redford’s The Conspirator.

As I wrote I looked up restaurant menus online, took virtual tours, kept a chart of sunrise and sunset times for the week in which the story takes place (which I do for every book), and checked out details about the local flora on nursery websites and through the botanical gardens. I read the Savannah Morning News online every day. And I followed Twitter feeds associated with the city, with the Savannah College of Art and Design, and with the tourist association.

Finally, I fell in love with Google Earth. Love, I say. I was able to virtually walk down streets to look at structural layout, architecture, plants and landscaping, parking – all sorts of things. It helped me get my characters from place to place, organize scene choreography, and provide descriptive details.

And last, but not least, I made a bunch of stuff up. As a fiction writer I am, after all, a professional liar. If something served the story, I invented it.

For more information about me or my books, please visit my website. I also blog at Hearth Cricket, and Katie Lightfoot, the main character of the Magical Bakery Mysteries, blogs at The Lightfoot Chronicles.

Thanks again, Beth!

And thank you, Bailey! Does anyone have a question for Bailey? Do you have an interesting story to tell about researching a setting? Have you ever thought about how much WORK is involved in researching a real setting?


Unknown said...

Great post. Isn't writing a great job - always an excuse to go somewhere or learn something new! I live up the coast in Wilmington, NC, and hope one of these days to just meander my way south along the coast to Charleston, Savannah, and points south. book setting? ;-)

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, I've heard lovely things said about Savannah. Another resource for writers are webcams. There are so many webcams that you can find out a lot of information about a place via them.

Your book sounds like a fun read. Good luck with the series. I'm falling in love with paranormal cozies. Will have to read yours.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Great Post, Beth. The book sounds a good read too!

Patricia Stoltey said...

At least the publisher picked a real city that's a joy to visit and research, Bailey. It could have been much worse.

Hi Beth, thanks for hosting this awesome author. She's a gem.

Janet said...

A book set in one of my favorite places by one of my favorite authors - what could be better. It's already working it's way up my TBR.

Bailey Cates said...

Thanks for hosting me today, Beth!

Maybe a series set in Hawaii, Sheila?

Thanks for the great suggestion, E.B.!

Glad you stopped by, Pat.

Yeah, I could have been asked to set the book someplace like Gillette, Wyoming, Patricia. Think I would have had to say no thanks. (I can say that since I lived there for a while ; >)

Hope you have fun with it, Janet!

G.M. Malliet said...

Lovely to see you at Malice!

G.M. Malliet said...

p.s. Savannah is a gem of a city.

Vicki Doudera said...

I LOVE Savannah! Lucky you!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for visiting, Bailey, and good luck with the new series!

Eunice Boeve said...

Loved this interview. You have a great voice, Bailey. I'd love to visit Savannah, but doesn't look like it'll be anytime soon. Maybe I can just visit it in your book. :-) I like that you call us fiction writers "professional liars." I call us "Emotional Vampires."