When I started reading Karen Rose Smith’s new mystery, “Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes”, I knew I wanted to ask her to be my guest. Little did I know that the new book in her new series was nearly her 100th published book, nor did I realize the extensive list of awards that her writings have won for her!
Karen, I am truly impressed. Thank you for visiting with us.
Karen is also another Pennsylvanian! I seem to be finding more and more good writers to have as guests from my mother’s home state. Karen and I also share a love of cats, with concern for rescues and ferals.
What truly impressed me with “Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes” is the reasonable premise to the business, “Daisy’s Tea Garden”. Most cozies and romances have people moving to small towns with little money, yet their businesses take off, as do they, as often as they’d like. Daisy is a widow with a fair amount of insurance money to live on and she looks for alternative ways of bringing in business, with carry-out, diversified menu, catering and associative businesses, instead of waiting for all of her business to come in cold off the street. I had the same experience with a bakery/restaurant. How do you know so much about the food business?
Tonette-Thanks for having me. I have an Italian background and grew up with my mom, grandma and aunts cooking and baking wonderful food. I became more familiar with Pennsylvania Dutch dishes when I married. My husband’s family has a German background. Before writing my Daisy’s Tea Garden series, I researched tea, opening a tea garden and running one. I also spoke with a tea room owner. I’ve visited tea rooms over my lifetime so I had a good concept of the type I wanted Daisy and her aunt to run.
Do you cook and bake?
I love to cook and bake. I come from a long line of cooks and bakers…from lasagna, homemade pizza and lentil soup to cannoli, biscuits and muffins.
The teas! I like teas; I can’t tell you how many types I have in my kitchen right now. What spurred your interest in tea?
Since tea has become the new “healthy” drink, I had explored different types of tea before writing the series. Once I knew I was writing the series, I tried more of the exotic teas and tisanes. My favorite teas are White Symphony and herbal peach. I buy loose tea to brew in my tea pots when friends share a pot with me, but I also use select tea bags. My favorite for iced tea is Luzianne.
You also show great knowledge about fine clothing, tailoring and fabric by way of another business in Daisy’s town. Where did you learn about these?
I love to watch Project Runway. Starting as a teenager, I sewed my own clothes. For our first apartment, I sewed curtains for the baby’s room. Since I was also involved in home decorating, I learned about material types from tapestry to polished cotton. For Mens Trends (a men’s clothing store) in MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES, I researched the latest men’s styles by the most famous designers.
How did you know so much about police procedures? Do you have friends on the force?
Fortunately, one of my friends involved in pet rescue has a brother who is a police officer. I also have another friend whose son is on a local police force. I also consulted with a district magistrate whom my husband had taught in school. They all willing answered my questions.
In a past series, “Caprice De Luca”, the protagonist is a ‘home stager’ in Pennsylvania. Can you tell us about her, your own interest in interior decorating/staging, and the difference between the two?
Decorating our apartment or house was always fun for me. I enjoy mixing colors and decorating a room in a particular style. I was a decorator with Home Interiors and Gifts for many years. Women would invite me into their homes where I would advise their friends about groupings, styles and floral arrangements. A home decorator, which Caprice was to begin with, designs the ambiance for a room and the styles of furniture to put in it. They usually start with a blank slate and decorate according to a client’s wishes.
Home staging is very different. A home stager usually begins with a house “as is,” then makes improvement she feels would catch a buyer’s eye. The first thing she does is declutter so a potential buyer can imagine him or herself in that home. Staging can include sprucing up paint to replacing knobs on cabinets to pulling up carpet…all with the intent of pleasing a buyer. Real estate agents suggest home stagers to clients who are selling a house.
I wanted to make Caprice’s home staging business unique. So I decided to have her work with high-end clients and develop a unique theme around their home. She also plans an open house and serves dishes that accompany that theme. Her sister, Nikki, is a caterer who works with Caprice for the tastiest dishes.
You have written many romances, stand-alones, short story collections and the “Montana Maverick” series. Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from everywhere. I’ve taken research trips for settings. After my English degree, I pursued a Masters in counseling. I’ve always been fascinated by relationships and those counseling courses provided further insights. I like to create universal characters who my readers can connect with.
How did a Pennsylvania girl come to write so much about Montana?
I wrote a series of books set in New Mexico. I was terrifically drawn to the area and I took a trip there. The southwest calls to me…from the cliff dwellings to the medicine wheels to the mountains. To write my first Montana book, I wrote to bed and breakfasts in Montana. One of them invited us to visit, so we did. Her family owns a ranch near Billings and they all live on the ranch. We took a pickup truck ride over the property and saw everything from an antelope to tepee rings that date back to the beginning of civilization there. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.
You dedicated one of your books to your late father, mentioning the passing of his love of photography to you. Have you considered using your photos in a book? Do you use them as visuals to help you write?
I take hundreds of photos on a research trip. I wrote another series including the wild horses in Wyoming. I still refer to those photos often. At home, my favorite subjects are my cats and my gardens. I post photos on Facebook and Twitter every day. Putting photos in books is difficult to do and I don’t have that choice in the books that I write. But I do send photos to my editors for ideas for cover sheets. The tea pot on MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES resembles the tea pot in a photo I sent my editor.
Karen, you are very friendly and reach out to your readers. Please let people know how they can learn more about you and your work:
Romance Website: http://www.karenrosesmith.com/
Mystery Website: http://karenrosesmithmysteries.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Rose-Smith/e/B000AQ0608/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1516033626&sr=8-2-ent
Thank you for being with us, Karen Rose Smith!
It’s been an honor.
USA TODAY Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith is an only child who delved into books at an early age. She learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and wished she could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though she escaped often into story worlds, she had many aunts, uncles and cousins around her on weekends. Her sense of family and relationships began there. Maybe that’s why families are a strong theme in her novels, whether mysteries or romances. This award-winning and bestselling author will have her 100th novel released in 2018. At present she is working on two mystery series for Kensington Books–Caprice De Luca Home Staging cozies and Daisy’s Tea Garden mysteries. From time to time, she also writes romance for Harlequin Special Edition.
Readers often ask her about her pastimes. She has herb, flowers and vegetable gardens that help her relax. In the winter, she cooks and does watercolor paintings rather than gardens. And year round she spends most of her time with her husband, as well as her five rescued cats and two outside strays who are her constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding her life isn’t all about work, awards and bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.
Welcome to the blog, Karen! What a coup for Tonette to get you here. I’ve read MANY of your Silhouette and Harlequin romances, but I hadn’t realized you also write mysteries! I guess that makes sense, though, since many of your romances contain a heavy dose of suspense. The Daisy’s Tea Garden series sounds wonderful, and I’ve already ordered Murder With Lemon Tea Cakes. Thanks so much for sharing your research process.
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I won Karen’s latest mystery through another blog, Patty.I was taken with the story and the writing. I did not know her romances and only after inviting her did I know her fame! She is lovely and very down-to-earth. She and her cats now grace my FB page.
No spoilers but let me know after you have read Murder With Lemon Tea Cakes. I was so pleased with the behavior of some of the characters at the end!
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Welcome to 4F1H, Karen.
I lived in NM for a while — late March 1971 to about late July 1972. I was stationed at Cannon AFB, near Clovis, in the eastern part of the state, not far from Amarillo TX.
We lived in the mountain time zone, but all the TV — all two or three of them — stations were from TX, on central time.
I’ve also spent many decades in LA, where Louzianne tea and coffee reign supreme. Have you tried the coffee with chicory?
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Luzianne coffee! Oh yes, I remember it well. We had southern neighbors who would ask for it all the time.
Welcome to 4 Foxes 1 Hound! This was such an amazing interview. I enjoyed hearing about your research. I just purchased a copy of Murder With Lemon Tea Cakes and am looking forward to reading it.
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It’s a great cozy, Angie.It really keeps you guessing until the end and, as I said to Patty,the actions of characters at the end are inspiring!