Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Bogged Down
Bogged Down: A Vashon Island Mysteryby Charlotte Stuart
Cozy Mystery1st in Series
Publisher: Taylor and Seale Publishing (August 5, 2020)
Paperback: 244 pages
Digital ASIN : B08FBZMRYL
An ancient bog hidden away in a forest is the perfect backdrop for murder…
BOGGED DOWN is a mystery set on Vashon Island, a place that has been described as Mayberry-meets-Burning Man. Its motto: Keep Vashon Weird.
Lavender (Lew) Lewis moved there because it is only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Seattle, yet light years away in tempo and character. She grew up on a commune in Alaska, joined the army at 17, does woods parkour for exercise and HR investigations to earn a living. Life in her waterfront cabin with her two food-obsessed cats is predictable and relatively stress free. Until she leads a tour group into an ancient bog on the island and discovers a body.
This is where I meant to have a review. Unfortunately, as I read, I quickly encountered a scene where the police bring the news to the new widow, and I was unable to read on. I hope someday to be able to finish the book, but not this month, not this year. My apologies to the author, who is guilty only of writing an all-too-evocative scene.
However--read on to learn more about the author, and enjoy my interview with Charlotte Stuart!
About Charlotte Stuart
In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart has a passion for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. She began her career in academia, spent nine years commercial salmon fishing in Alaska, was a partner in a consulting group, and a VP for a credit union. Currently, she is the VP for Puget Sound Sisters in Crime and lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. She spends time each day entertained by herons, seals, eagles, and other wildlife.
Now for my interview with Charlotte Stuart, who was kind enough to answer my sometimes goofy questions!
1. First things first: I need to introduce myself. See, I’m a 3rd-generation graduate of Vashon High, so I was really excited to see you are an Islander and set your mystery there! I don’t live on the Island now, and I know things are a bit different than I remember, so… tell me first how long you’ve lived on Vashon, and what brought you there?
My husband and I lived on boats for quite few years and missed being close to the water after we became landlubbers. We were lucky enough to buy an older cabin on Vashon waterfront in 2012 before prices started going up. We spent four years remodeling the cabin before moving to the island full time. Each morning I look my office window at the water and see “my” heron fishing for breakfast and feel fortunate to live here.
2. You are braver than I, to set your mystery in your own town. I made my own version of Vashon a little to the north. How do your neighbors feel about you planting bodies in the bog?
I really wanted to portray the beauty of the island and the uniqueness of the culture. However, I didn’t want to have anyone traipsing around our fragile bog, so I made up a location for it. No one has complained yet, but who knows? My biggest concern is that readers might expect everything to be accurate, whereas I’ve employed a mix of fact and fiction when describing the island. Elizabeth George actually identifies specific streets, buildings and even residential homes in her books. But then, she’s a big name so people are probably flattered rather than annoyed.
Now a bit about your writing.
3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? And what do you think are the strengths and/or pitfalls of your approach?
I start with an idea. In Bogged Down, I wanted to have someone find a body in the bog. Then I make a list of characters I want to include, focusing on the protagonist. In this instance, the character’s background and profession ended up driving some of the action. At the point where I have my characters in mind, I become a plotter, a flexible plotter. The plot morphs as I work on an outline and then the rough draft and another rough draft and another less rough draft, etc. In Bogged Down, even the gender of the murderer changed in a late draft. Then it’s more writing with an eye on details and trying to eliminate repetitions and typos. But even when I think I’m done, the editor often comes up with something more to change or add. So far I’ve never disagreed with her suggestions.
The main strength of my approach is that I enjoy my process. I like living in the mind of a competent and upbeat protagonist who is capable of doing things I can only fantasize about. I’ve listened to many successful authors talk about their approach to writing. And I know some just sit down at their computer and start writing. Others do exhaustive outlines. Or draw everything up on a whiteboard. If I knew exactly where I wanted to end up, that might make my writing and story better, but I don’t seem to function that way.
4. We all have to write in our own way, and find what works for us!
What’s the most interesting/weird/disturbing thing you’ve had to research for your mysteries? In other words, what’s going to bring the FBI to your door (if they can scrounge up the ferry fare)?
If you are a published mystery writer, then purchasing books on topics related to murder might not seem too suspicious. But in the years before publication, I always wondered if a few red flags were going off somewhere on some invasive system dedicated to seeking out dangerous people. Books about forensics, blood splatter, lock picking, how to change your identity and Seal sniper training for example. Then there are the online searches about guns and survivalists and floaters to name but a few. I also assume that somewhere in an airless room filled with computers and storage units, there’s a tally of how many times I’ve browsed the Paladin Press website. And I admit to having potentially lethal tansy ragwort in my yard. If not the FBI, then the noxious weed police might come calling.
5. That tansy could get nasty, along with the Scotch broom!
Do you draft your books longhand, at the computer, or…?
Longhand? What’s that? Actually, I frequently start the draft in my head in the middle of the night. But all serious outlining and writing is done with my closest friend, my Lenovo computer.
Finally, the fun personal questions:
6. I remember the spiders Vashon harbors in the wood piles, so my standard personality question is a bit tougher than in some places! If there’s a spider in the corner of the room (or the woodbox), do you a) panic, b) have to drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it’s planning to eat the more annoying bugs that get in?
When I lived in Seattle we had tall ceilings and white walls. Occasionally, a large, fuzzy-legged black spider would make an appearance, silhouetted against the stark whiteness, freezing in place when it sensed someone looking at it. We haven’t encountered any of these Halloween props on the island, but we do get the occasional bathtub spider. Since they can’t get out on their own, there are only two options: elimination or draping a towel over the edge so they can get traction and climb out without assistance. I would rather not think about where they go after they escape.
7. Do you garden? If so, what do you grow: flowers or veggies? Or, this being Vashon, moss?
We have a vegetable garden, but I only like to participate in the harvest, not in the planting or tending. Our property has some lovely vegetation, but it’s starting to look like a scene from The Secret Garden. At least our front yard stays green all year round, although from weeds, moss and clover, not grass. I’ve been thinking about hiring someone with a pair of large clippers and a weed whacker. Maybe in the spring--.
Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?
Several readers have asked why I’ve started three different series before any one was well-established. The answer is simple – I was trying to attract an agent and a publisher, and when I didn’t immediately have luck with one approach, I moved on to another. Then they all found publishing homes within a year. That was exciting, but also a marketing challenge. Especially since I had no social media presence and not a clue about how to promote a book. It’s been a busy year and a steep learning curve. But I’m not complaining; well, maybe a little, but I don’t expect any sympathy.
Thanks for stopping by and answering my questions, and I apologize again for not being able to review the book. It's no reflection on your writing or the story, only my personal life!
Author Links Website - www.charlottestuart.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/quirkymysteries
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/clzstuart/?hl=en
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