Thursday, April 4, 2013

Featured Character: Billie Thomas's Chloe Carstairs

Author Billie Thomas and I have a lot in common. We've both written a cozy mystery, both of our books feature women sleuths, both are the first in a series, both are peppered with humor, and both are set in the South. So I am thrilled to have Billie's main character, Chloe Carstairs, from Murder on the First Day of Christmas here today. Darlin's, sit yourself down and be prepared to be charmed by Chloe.

About the book:

Finding a severed hand at a client’s house might throw lesser decorators off their games. But Chloe Carstairs and her mother, Amanda, won’t let a little thing like murder keep them from decking the halls. With a body under the partridge’s pear tree and a dead Santa in a sleigh, they have to crack the case before the killer strikes again – this time much too close to home.

Filled with laugh-out-loud humor, romance and a delightfully difficult mother-daughter relationship, this new series from Billie Thomas offers a fast-paced caper as these two southern ladies try to keep their very merry Christmas from turning into the Noel from hell.

About Chloe:

Chloe Carstairs is an interior decorator, amateur investigator, and serial dater. Together, she and her mother, Amanda Carstairs, solve mysteries. And try not to get each other killed in the process. Chloe is always looking for a clue, trying to catch a killer and a man. As she says on her blog, Chloe Gets A Clue, romance is the one mystery she can't seem to solve.

Interview with Chloe Carstairs:

Welcome, Chloe! I loved your book and am anxious to talk to you about it. In Murder On The First Day of Christmas, you and your mom team up to find a killer. How did that partnership come about?

Mom is actually a degreed interior designer who had a very successful business for years. She retired a couple of years ago and was only doing projects that really interested her, plus the Christmas houses. I could tell she was getting restless. I’ve been helping her on jobs since I was a teen, and after I got burned out on graphic design, I began taking on decorating jobs with her guidance. We had so much fun decorating and investigating, this past Christmas, we’ve decided to team up for more jobs. I think we were both surprised at how well we worked together. Our relationship’s always been a bit of a roller coaster.

I cannot imagine being partners with my mother. She would constantly play the mom card. How’s it been going since you teamed up with your mom?

Trust me, Amanda Carstairs whips out the mom card almost as fast as she whips out her Saks card. But I’ve learned to hold my own. I think she’s coming to respect me as a decorator, and the danger we got into during our first case somehow brought us closer. We still clash sometimes, but this is the best we’ve gotten along in years, so I’m trying not to jinx it.

How did an interior decorator end up being a sleuth?

Two clients were killed in houses we decorated and then a family friend was accused of the crime. My mom was furious. And, like we say in the South, when Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Turns out, our interior decorating skills come in handy when we’re investigating. We can profile a suspect by their décor better than any agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. 

Chloe, how did you first meet your Billie?

I introduced myself at a coffee shop where she likes to hang out. We bonded over a mutual love of chai lattes and started spending a lot of time together during NaNo a few years ago.

Want to dish about her?

Always. Billie Thomas (not her real name) works at an advertising agency, which might explain why she’s constantly thinking up ways to kill people without getting caught. She lives in Birmingham, not far from me and has a really cute boyfriend (must be nice) and an even cuter dog.

Did you ever think your life would end up being in a book?

Not a mystery book, no. But then I never thought I’d find a severed hand or have two clients drop dead in homes I decorated.  Naturally, I blame Mom.

Natch. Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I loved when I was interrogating Robin Woodson, a woman suspected of killing two of her husbands. I felt like I was matching wits with a clever killer, but I was surprised to find I kind of liked her too. Like me, she loves chick flicks and going to movies by herself. A very cool girl. As homicidal maniacs go.

Well, don't hold that against her, bless her heart. Did you have a hard time convincing Billie to write any particular scenes for you?

No she pretty much does what she wants. If anything, I'd love her to delete the scenes where my mom shamelessly flirts with one of Birmingham’s most notorious criminals to extract information. I don’t know what was worse: watching her do it or seeing that it worked.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

That scene near the end where I have to tackle the killer and end up mooning half the Birmingham Police Department, including that cute Yankee cop, who’s never going to let me live it down. That was uncalled for, Billie. Uncalled for!

And to top it off, she made you wear polka dot panties that day. She could have at least put you into a hot little Victoria's Secret number. Okay, now tell the truth. What do you think of your fellow characters?

Well, most of them are family so I’m kind of stuck with them. My mom drives me crazy, but we’re getting along better these days. My dad, Alex, is wonderful, except for his habit of always taking my mom’s side. And my sister, Bridget is a little too much like my mom for my taste, but her habit of tangling up clichés (“I know this town like the back of my head”) is really endearing.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? Does that impression change after they've known you for a while?

I’ve been told I come off a little ditzy, but after people get to know me better they revise that to a lot ditzy.

Oh, honey, that's not true. Well, maybe a little bit. We'd best move on. Tell us about your best friend.

You think I’m romantically challenged? My best friend Dana is a mess. She caught her fiancé cheating and had to call off the wedding. Then a dating site only found one match for her in all of Birmingham. Her brother.


She said she was going to take a break from dating and just work on herself for a while, but the way she keeps going on and on about how hot her therapist is doesn’t bode well for that plan.  

What are you most afraid of?

Turning into my mother and being totally okay with that. Shudder.

What’s the best trait Billie has given you?  

My sense of humor is by far my best trait. It’s gotten me out of some pretty sticky situations, let me tell you.

Laugh or cry, that's what I say. What’s the worst trait she's given you?

I’d say the worst trait is my small-breastedness. Billie’d argue that the former contributes to the latter, but I’m not buying it.

What do you like best about your mother, Amanda? 

Okay, she’s not going to see this, right?

I can't say never, because you know mothers--they tend to find out everything, but chances are slim.

Because, while I admire her confidence, I don’t think she needs any more of it. But yeah, I like the way she just projects this air of self-assurance that other people –especially men – respond to. I could definitely use a little more of that.

What do you dislike about her?

My least favorite quality is the way she always has to be right. Followed closely by the way she usually is.

Oh, that can be annoying. But that's not as bad as having a mother who's frequently wrong but never uncertain. Know what I mean? I'm not naming names, I'm just sayin'. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
This uncertainty about my relationship with Jacob is taking its toll. I’m thirty now and a little surprised to find I’m ready to be married and start a family. I never thought I’d be “that girl.” I just wish I knew definitively if it were going to work out for us, so I could move forward or move on. Billie’s not one for spoilers though, which is really an annoying trait in a writer.

So you’re...romantically challenged and a serial dater? Are you a serial dater because you’re romantically challenged?

I’m afraid so. I’d rather be with just Jacob, but when I hinted that I could see us getting married, he got a little freaked out. And then called my bluff when I suggested we see other people. So yeah, I’ve been dating like crazy – and I use that term deliberately – because I can’t just sit around waiting for Jacob to come to his senses. 

Can you tell us a little about Jacob?

He’s a very cute architect with soccer player calves and commitment issues. Right up my alley. We’re working together on a project right now – turning an old castle into a bed-and-breakfast. I think collaborating is bringing us closer, but we’re still not officially back together.

Tell the truth—-were you attracted to that detective, or that cute DA—-you know, the one you called "Mr. Six Feet of Sex Appeal?"

The detective, Max McGowan was too infuriating to be attractive at first, but I admit, he grew on me. He’s not my type, really, but I can see the appeal. Maybe I’ll introduce him to my friend Dana. Jack Lassiter, on the other hand, is every girl’s type, and the perfect way to make a commitment-phobic boyfriend jealous. Appearances can be deceiving however. That guy had some major issues.

You just come on down to Goose Pimple Junction, Chloe. There are a few eligible men Tess could introduce you to. She or Louetta will fix you right up. But I wonder if Billie would let you go. What aspect of her writing style do you like best?

She really captures the humor and affection between my mom and myself. The reviews usually mention this, so I’m not alone in thinking she gets it right. I have the feeling she’s basing us on the real-life relationship she had with her mom, so it comes across as very genuine.

Yes it does. If your story were a movie, who would play you?

That’s a hard one. I’d definitely say a fifty-something Debbie Reynolds to play my mom, Amanda. She’s the perfect combination of sophistication and dry humor. As for me, Julia Louis-Dryfus at thirty, maybe. Or Mindy Kaling, though Billie would have to revise the plot quite a bit to accommodate Mindy’s ability to tan. 

Will you encourage Billie to write a sequel?

She’s already working on Murder in a Two-Seater.

Yay! Tell us about it.

Mom and I investigate a homicide at a spooky old castle during a classic car show. I’m not looking forward to it, to be honest. The castle is rumored to be haunted, and while I ain’t scared of no ghosts, I’m not about to go fooling around with the afterworld, especially when my dad’s being accused of murder in this one.

Oooh, that sounds so good. I can't wait to read it. And you better come back to tell us about it once it's out, or Tess will hunt you down and make you drink regular tea--sans the sweet or the lemon. Gasp!

Chloe, thanks for chatting with us
. And thanks for talking with Tess on your blog about life in Goose Pimple Junction. She had a blast.

About the author:

Billie Thomas is the pseudonym of a Birmingham-based author. After the real Billie passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2011, getting Murder on the First Day of Christmas, the first of a series, revised and published was her daughter’s top priority as a way to honor the mom who had given her a lifelong love of books.

In her real life, Ms. Thomas writes within the advertising industry and is a founding member of the writing collective, IndieVisible.

Other publications include Bar Code: Your Personal Pocket Decoder to the Modern Dating Scene.

Connect with Billie:
Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Buy the book: