Since my childhood days of devouring Nancy Drew mysteries, I’ve never been able to resist spunky amateur sleuths, and author Jackie Layton specializes in irresistible Southern ones! Below, she talks about her new series and her writing journey:
First off, congratulations on the recent release of CLUTTER FREE, the first book in An Organized Crime Cozy Mystery Series. Can you share with our readers what the first book is about?
The first book is about a single woman in her fifties who returns home to get a new lease on life. She’s a widow and an empty-nester. Her brothers and old friends live in Fox Island, Georgia. So, Kate Sloan returns. One brother is accused of having an affair, and Kate is going to prove he’s innocent. Things take a drastic turn when the young woman turns up dead. Kate must juggle starting her new business, getting reacquainted with old friends, and solving the crime.
I was fascinated that for this series you chose the career of professional organizer for Kate Sloan, your amateur sleuth. What made you decide to make Kate a professional organizer? What kinds of research did you do to lend authenticity to portraying her life as an organizer?
I tend to be a messy person, and I’m always looking for ways to get better organized. I also wanted a sleuth with the ability to move around town and get into homes and businesses. It occurred to me a professional organizer would be a good career. I have read books and magazines on getting organized. I also follow blogs of professional organizers, and I’ve met a local organizer. Then I tried some of the techniques at my home.
I love that you describe yourself as a writer of “cozy mysteries with Spunky Southern Sleuths.” How much of your personality and outlook finds its way into your amateur sleuth characters?
I have made some spunky decisions in my life, and as a pharmacist, I’ve had to stand up to some people who weren’t always honest. But my amateur sleuths are spunkier than I am. They are braver too.
I read that you didn’t begin working on your writing until your youngest son was in high school. How did you go about developing your skills and craft as a writer?
I took some online classes, joined a local writing group, and attended writing conferences. I also joined a critique group, and I learned a lot from those ladies.
You’re also the author of the Low Country Dog Walker Mystery Series. Can you share with our readers a bit about that series?
Andi Grace Scott is a dog walker in Heyward Beach, South Carolina. She’s a younger sleuth, and she has always lived in Heyward Beach. One morning when she goes to walk a dog, she finds the owner in the living room, and he’s dead. Her parents were killed by a hit-and-run driver when she was eighteen, and she never felt like there was justice for their deaths. She was busy raising her siblings and couldn’t spend time trying to figure out who the driver was. When the series begins, she makes time to find the killer and get justice for her client and friend.
What is your writing process like? And what’s a typical writing day like for you?
I try to be at my desk no later than nine o’clock. I do better if I start writing first thing. Later in the day, I can look at emails and social media. If I have a blog tour or something special, I will look at that first thing in the morning. I take a break for lunch and take a short walk and eat. Then I get busy writing again. When I finish for the day, I write down goals for the next day. This makes it easier for me to get started. I’m also a part-time pharmacist, and when I work a full day, I don’t get much writing accomplished.
Are there particular authors whose work you find especially inspiring?
There are so many great authors. I discovered cozy mysteries from Agatha Christie and Diane Mott Davidson, and I would say they are two of my heroes. Heather Weidner is also amazing. She is talented, and she can juggle writing, marketing, blogging, and she has a full-time job. When I met Heather in person, she was so nice. She blew me away. I met Hank Phillippi Ryan, and I was so overwhelmed that I could barely talk. She is also one of the nicest people around.
What’s next for you writing-wise?
I am contracted to write one more book in A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series, and it should come out in February 2024. I’m also blessed to have contracts to write two more books in An Organized Crime Cozy Mystery Series and two more books in A Texas Flower Farmer Cozy Mystery Series.
What advice would you give anyone who dreams of writing cozy mysteries?
Read cozies! Then read more cozies. Join a group of writers. Take classes and then start writing. Don’t be afraid to go to conferences. There are many nice authors, and we all had to start somewhere. Most of us are willing to share what we’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to ask us questions.
About CLUTTER FREE:
Returning to Fox Island where she grew up, Kate Sloan begins her career as a professional organizer. When a woman accuses Kate’s police chief brother of having an affair, Kate’s priority shifts from organizing to proving her brother’s innocence. Kate visits the woman, hoping for a confession. The woman won’t admit she lied, and to make the situation worse, the accuser is found dead the next day by Kate and her business partner.
Kate has an eye for seeing what’s out of place, and she knows how to fix problems. Can she utilize her organizational skills to toss red herrings and focus on legitimate clues? Emma’s business is at risk as well as her brother’s career. The clock is ticking, and this could be the deadliest deadline of Kate’s life. She must discover the truth behind the victim’s vicious lies, but most of all, she needs to solve the murder before she becomes the next victim.
Jackie Layton is the author of cozy mysteries with Spunky Southern Sleuths. Her stories are set in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. She lives on the coast of South Carolina, where she enjoys walks on the beach and golf cart rides around the marsh. Reading, gardening, and traveling are some of her favorite hobbies. She always keeps a notebook handy to write down ideas for future stories. Be careful what you say around her, because it might end up in a book.
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BUY LINKS FOR CLUTTER FREE:
Kobo Canada: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/clutter-free-2
B&N paperback: https://bit.ly/44TLxdC