Christmas at Canterville!

Lisa Wellman and Simon Canterville are surprised to find a dead man on their roof in the midst of rushing to open the Canterville Book Shop in time for the holidays. And not just any dead man – Ebenezer Hart – the man who opposed the book shop opening in Olde Town, Portsmouth, Virginia.
What might be more surprising is when Daniel Fairhaven – Lisa’s ex – turns up at the door of the three-story Victorian house to head the police investigation. She hasn’t seen him in years but the sparks start to fly as soon as they are in the same room together.

Simon and Lisa are obviously the best suspects for the murder. Each of them had something to gain by Hart’s death. Then an attempt on Simon’s life throws that theory into a tailspin.
But the biggest surprise yet comes when the ghost of Charles Dickens turns up to help Lisa with the murder investigation – and writing the mystery novel she has been working on for years.
Without a doubt, Daniel and Dickens in Lisa’s life means trouble. And there’s still the matter of trying to get the book shop open with a killer on their heels.

Joyce and Jim stopped by to chat about their first Canterville Book Shop mystery, A Dickens of a Murder.

Q: Can you tell us what the book is about? How did you come up with the idea?

A: A librarian/mystery writer moves into a haunted house to become a partner in a book shop.
That was our original idea. But filled in a little more it reads like this:

Lisa Wellman and Simon Canterville are surprised to find a dead man on their roof in the midst of rushing to open the Canterville Book Shop in time for the holidays. And not just any dead man – Ebenezer Hart – the man who opposed the book shop opening in Olde Town, Portsmouth, Virginia.

I’m not sure how we came up with the idea. We were in Olde Town doing some research and looking at the old houses there and we thought, wouldn’t that house make a great book shop? And what if it was haunted? And what if the owner’s name was Simon Canterville, like in the Canterville Ghost (one of our favorite stories) and the woman who was helping him was also an ex-librarian (because she’d know so much about books) and a mystery writer? I guess that was it.

Q: Tell us about Charles Dickens; why did he pick Portsmouth, VA, to manifest himself, and what does he think of it?

A: We think he chose Portsmouth because he’s from Portsmouth, England. But it could be the affinity the house has with books, which we will be exploring in the future when other writers pay a call on Simon and Lisa. We think he likes it, from what he can see from the house anyway. It reminds him of a place he might have lived in.

Q: How does your collaboration work? Does one person outline and the other fill in? Do you take turns writing chapters? Each person has one hand on the keyboard? How do you do this?

A: We have our computers networked together – which means we can see each other’s screens as we write. Jim used to work as a network admin at Bank of America. After we have our synopsis sorted out so we both know what each of us has in mind, we sit down to write, telling each other the story across the desk as we type it in until we have a rough draft.

For instance – I might say, “She goes outside and the car is there.” And Jim says, “The car can’t be there because he took it last night, remember.” And I say, “Really? I don’t remember that. Are you sure?” And he says, “It doesn’t matter. There’s a bus.” And so on.

Q: What kind of research did you do? Did it involve food at all?

A: Absolutely no food was involved in the researching of this book. It isn’t a culinary mystery. There is tea and coffee and a few daily meals but nothing foodie. We researched Charles Dickens, Portsmouth, VA, ghosts, starting a bookstore, and French dueling pistols.

Q: Are there characters with whom you particularly identify?

A: Joyce: I like Lisa. She lost her mother earlier in the year and is facing her first Christmas without her. She’s propelled herself into this new venture and quit her job as a librarian as a direct result of her mother’s death. It seems like something I might have done.
Jim: I like Simon Canterville. He’s very eclectic and knows what he wants. Also he’s kind of rich. I like that in a man.

Q: You’ve published over seventy novels and hundreds of articles. What is your secret to being so productive? Can you give us one or two tips?

A: Definitely one of our secrets is having two people. The only thing we do together is actually writing the book. We split up for promo, web work, formatting, everything else. That is a huge labor saver. Jim is in charge of mailing off the books and stuff that I give away in contests. You get the idea. Imagine if someone could always be there to do half of your work. You’d get more done too.

Q: What’s next?

A: Glad you asked. Our favorite question! In December the first book in our Christmas Tree Valley Mysteries, Murder Fir Christmas, will be out. It is set in the world of our Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries (writing as J.J. Cook) and our protagonist is a wildlife officer.

Also in December is the third book in our Biscuit Bowl mysteries, Fat Tuesday Fricassee.
In January is the fourth book in our Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mysteries, Sweet Pepper Hero.
Thanks for having us here!


Dickens Photo

Joyce Lavene passed away Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at her home. She was 61. Joyce and Jim were married 44 years, and since 1999 they’ve written award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. Their collaboration resulted in more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. Jim and the rest of the family appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts.

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9 thoughts on “In memory of Joyce Lavene: Author interview and giveaway, A Dickens of a Murder

  1. So sorry for a great loss of two wonderful writers and so close together :( They are now holding hands together in heaven 💟 They will surely be missed :( Thank you for a chance to win one if their wonderful books

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