Baby, it’s getting cold outside—but I think Diane Kelly’s victim in her new release is a bit colder than the rest of us. (Actually in Texas colder means 90 degrees today—I guess that’s colder than our smoldering summer of 2023!) For the rest of the country, fall is getting chilly and winter is just around the corner—what better way to welcome the cooler temps and shorter days than with the latest release of a talented mystery author.
I met Diane when she lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area but she moved on to the greener and colder mountain tops of North Carolina. When a writer moves, a new story line starts, and luckily for us, the oldie but goodies are still continuing—you can take the writer out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas stories out of the writer;)
Kym Roberts: Hi Diane, welcome back to the Cozy Corner! October 26th marks the release of your third Mountain Lodge Mystery, SNOW PLACE FOR MURDER featuring amateur sleuth Misty Murphy, the owner of the Mountaintop lodge in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Your town, with its paradoxical name, is absolutely adorable like many of the real small mountain towns located in the state. Have you come across any town names in North Carolina that just made you smile?
Diane Kelly: Believe it or not, Beech Mountain is an actual town in North Carolina, though a very small one off the beaten track with only slightly over 600 year-round residents. Most people have never heard of it, even folks who live in North Carolina, though those who ski are familiar with it because of its small ski resort. It was better known back in the heyday of the Land of Oz amusement park, which operated on Beech Mountain from 1970-1980. The park is now open only for seasonal events, but the yellow brick road remains and is visible from satellite views of the town. In fact, it was the beech trees on the mountain that led to the park developers choosing a Wizard of Oz theme for the park, because many of the trees in the iconic movie are beech trees. At 5506’ in elevation, it’s the highest American town east of the rockies. My husband and I have a modest vacation home there, a partially pre-fab “roundhouse” that looks like a rustic version of the Jetsons’ home.
North Carolina has lots of funny town names. There’s one called Seven Devils not far from Beech Mountain. Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks is another, along with Duck which is right up the road on the island. We recently visited one of my favorites – Cashiers – which is in the southwestern part of the state in an area known for its beautiful waterfalls.
Kym: I love those names, and the history of the yellow brick road! I guess it’s true—Dorthy wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Growing up in the midwest, our neighborhood developer put in a small hill for mountain bike riding in the summer and sledding in the winter for the neighborhood kids. When I read your resident handyman Rocky Crowder made a hill out of snow, I fell in love with his boyish heart. What heartwarming memories came back for you while writing about sledding? (Hopefully no dead bodies buried in the snow!)
Diane: Haha! Nope, I’ve never found a dead body in snow, though I have happy memories of sledding as a kid in Papillion, Nebraska, where we lived at the time. We also built a snowman that looked like Snoopy, which was my sister’s favorite cartoon character. It was amazing Snoopy’s heavy snow nose didn’t fall off! We’d put a piece of charcoal on the end of it to look like a dog’s black nose. Just last Christmas, my adult kids, husband, and I sledded and snow-tubed on the town sledding hill in Beech Mountain. It was so much fun! The drive over was a little uncomfortable for me, though. I was squished behind the inflated snow tube in the back seat (see photo on instagram).
Kym: LOL, a worthy trip even if you were scrunched in. With the Lodge full of stranded guests due to a storm in your latest Mountain Lodge Mystery, you can’t help wishing there was a butler in the midst:) You lead the reader on a merry trip of twists and turns as to whodunit until the very end. What was the biggest challenge while writing about so many characters trapped together?
Diane: It was a little difficult to keep the story moving since only limited action could happen while everyone was trapped in the lodge. But I took advantage of that time in the story for Misty to do some pondering about the guests, and to watch their interactions and overhear conversations when they would otherwise be away from the lodge at the ski resort. She took advantage of the time to surreptitiously spy on the guests and gather intel.
Kym: A little bit of reality makes it into every book an author writes. Whether it’s an impression of a holiday visit in quaint town, a fond memory of childhood, an obnoxious person on television, or crime reports in the media; ideas are sparked to life and develop into an original story. Where do you look to or find inspiration?
Diane: As much as I hate to say “everywhere” since it’s so broad, it’s a true statement. A lot of my ideas come from something I see, such as the real-life dilapidated lodge in Beech Mountain that inspired my Mountain Lodge Mysteries and the female motorcycle cop that inspired my Busted series. Luckily, the female officer had someone else pulled over, not me. But many ideas come from something I learn in conversation with others, or overhear someone talking about. I also get ideas from news stories, television shows or movies, other books, or things I read online. The world is wide open! I never know when inspiration will strike, but it strikes often. I only wish I had time to write all of the story ideas that are stacking up in my head.
Kym: So true! You currently have three series your working on, The Mountain Lodge Mysteries, Southern Home Brew Mysteries, and your House Flipper Mysteries—PLUS you’ve had two anthologies this year, The Cozy Case Files,—how many hours are in your days!?! How do you keep track of so many different stories, plots, characters, what is your method of organization?
Diane: It’s not easy, but I’m a plotter and I do outlines for each book, so I can refer back to those later when needed. I’m also admittedly obsessed with writing. If there’s not something else I absolutely have to be doing, I’m at my computer working on a story. As a result, my house is always a mess! Working every day helps me keep the momentum going. I also do occasional writing retreats during which I work 12-14 hours per day, so that helps with my productivity. Writing series makes things faster because I’m already familiar with my characters and know how they will act and react.
Kym: You frequently write about cats and dogs, and I’m pretty sure you’ve had both as pets. So deep down, are you Team Cat, or Team Dog?
Diane: Given that I have two dogs at my feet and a cat on either side of me right now, this question makes me squirm! Ha-ha. I enjoy both cats and dogs for different reasons. Having dogs forces me to get off my butt and go for a walk each day, and I like that they earn their keep by letting me know if someone is snooping around outside (usually the Amazon delivery person). The dogs are always happy to see me when I get home, and that makes me feel good. My cats are less exuberant, but all of them are affectionate and playful. The dogs and cats are equally demanding. But if I have to choose, I’d say I’m 51% Team Cat and 49% Team Dog if for the only reason that I travel a lot and it’s easier to make arrangements for the cats since they only have to be checked on once a day. The dogs require a bit more oversight and I worry more about them when I’m gone.
Kym: What are you working on now? Or should I ask what aren’t you working on now:)
Diane: I’m currently working on PAWFULLY WEDDED, the 10th book in my Paw Enforcement series. I’m having lots of fun with it! Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz and her firefighter/bomb squad officer boyfriend Seth will finally be tying the knot – assuming they live to see their wedding day. An arsonist seems intent on causing trouble for them …
Kym: Awesome—I can’t wait! You will be at Cozy Con (This week!) at the St. Louis County Library on October 27th. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Diane: The event will be so much fun, and it’s free! Woo hoo! I was invited to be one of the featured authors, along with Vivien Chien, Ellie Alexander, Korina Moss, and Mia P. Manansala. We’ll be talking about cozy mysteries and signing books for readers. I love meeting readers, so this will be a treat! It’s the first year for this event, so I hope it will be a big success and continued next year. Anyone who lives in the area, please come out and join in the fun!
Details at: https://www.slcl.org/events/cozy-con-2023
Kym: Where can our readers find you on social media?
Diane: I’m on Instagram, Twitter/X, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube. My YouTube channel playlist titled “Cackalacky Cabin Trail Cameras” shows videos of wildlife outside our place in Beech Mountain, including bears, foxes, turkeys, deer, skunks, and more. I have an Author Diane Kelly page on Facebook.
Kym: Thanks for joining us at the Cozy Corner!
Diane: Thanks so much for the interview! It’s always fun to chat about pets and books.
Mountain Lodge Mysteries #3
The third in the charming and engrossing Mountain Lodge mystery series by Diane Kelly, in Snow Place for Murder, the weather at the Mountaintop Lodge is truly frightful…
International resort developer Nigel Goodwin has traveled all the way from London, England to Misty Murphy’s little corner of North Carolina and bought out the Mountaintop Lodge for the week prior to Christmas. Their intention? To pitch an exclusive new resort concept to wealthy American investors.
But locals are at odds over the idea, and when a group comes to the lodge to express their worries to Mr. Goodwin and the potential investors, a blizzard hits Beech Mountain. Like the weather outside, things quickly get frosty, and Misty has to call local police to intervene. Handyman Rocky Crowder plows the lodge’s drive and, in an attempt to regain a jovial holiday atmosphere, smooths the snow pile into a makeshift sledding hill for the guests to enjoy.
Misty’s boys have finished their exams and are “home” from college for the winter break, planning to spend most of their time snowboarding at the ski resort. While taking a few runs down Rocky’s sledding hill, they discover a funny-looking, nose-shaped rock. Only it’s not a rock. It’s the frozen nose of Nigel Goodwin, who’s found dead and buried under the mound of snow.
Who put the developer on ice and why?
Mystery Cozy | Small Town [St. Martin's Paperbacks, On Sale: October 24, 2023, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250816016 / eISBN: 9781250816023]
A former tax advisor and assistant state attorney general, Diane Kelly is no stranger to white-collar crime. When she realized her experiences made great fodder for novels, her fingers hit the keyboard and thus began her award-winning Death and Taxes romantic mystery series. A dog lover and Citizens Police Academy graduate, Diane also writes the hilarious K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series. Her love of vintage homes and renovation shows was a natural segue into her House Flipper mysteries, which feature a fabulous feline. Diane’s other series include her Busted female motorcycle cop series, her Southern Homebrew moonshine mystery series, and her Mountain Lodge Mysteries series, which is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains not far from her home in North Carolina.
Kym Roberts writes by day and is a pro-surfer in her dreams by night. Her humor is often raunchy, her jokes are often bad, but her hunger for a story keeps the adventures coming fast. Experience the thrill & catch the wave of passion, mystery, and suspense with her on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
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