Monday, May 6, 2013

Fearured Author: Billie Thomas

Another of the fantastic four authors from Cozy Mystery Book Tours is here today. Don't miss the details of how to enter at the bottom of this post. In April, the main character in Murder on the First Day of Christmas, Chloe Carstairs, was here, and I'm delighted to have her author, Billie Thomas, here today. I love Billie's book as well as her sense of humor. Meet Billie Thomas and her debut novel...

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.

Interview with Billie Thomas:

Billie, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve been a writer since before I could hold a pencil. In school, I would actually write the books I did book reports on. (I can’t believe my teachers let me do that.) It always came so naturally to me that it was – and still is – a joy.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m an Associate Creative Director at an advertising agency, which means I get to make a living writing. I come up with ideas for television commercials, radio spots, print ads, and websites. If you’ve had a craving for a Little Debbie snack cake or a burning desire to bundle your services with AT&T, you might have me to thank.

That's so cool! You're like a real live Peggy Olsen. Okay, Mad Lady, give me a tweet about your book. (140 characters or less.)

He was making a list. Checking it twice. Till someone put Santa permanently on ice.

What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

If books were boys, I’d be considered a stage-five clinger. I latch onto one and won’t let go. I read the same books over and over, loving the way my interpretation changes – or doesn’t change – with whatever’s going on in my life at the moment. Some of the ones I go back to time and again are The Shining, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, A Confederacy of Dunces, all the Harry Potter books, all the Sue Grafton and Lee Harris’s, I really do have a problem.

Not a problem--just a passion! What do you do to market your book?

I let my main character Chloe Carstairs do most of my marketing. Chloe has her own website, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. She’s got her own distinct voice and personality, so I let her live in the spotlight. I prefer to stay under the paparazzi’s radar.

Something tells me you have just a distinct voice and fun personality as Chloe. She's obviously one of your imaginary friends. Do you have others?

I have my muse. Or maybe I should say she has me. I call her Stella because of her fondness for Belgian beer. We brainstorm ideas together – whether it’s for a book, an ad campaign or a problem I’m wrestling with in real life. When I’m writing, I make a concerted effort not to control the narrative. To jump in with how I think the story should go or what I need my character to do. I find if I let Stella take the lead while I daydream and free-write in my journal I catch her flights of fancy like butterflies in a net, which helps me make intuitive leaps in my writing – and, often, in my life – that surprise and delight me.

I love that. Does Stella have a sister you could send my way? Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

Several of my characters are inspired by real people in my life. The mother-daughter relationship is like a greatest-hits version of the one I had with my own mother. When my mom died unexpectedly of an aneurism at the end of 2011, I was so glad I had this book and that it was the first in a series. Working on it makes me feel close to her.

Are you and Chloe alike?

Chloe and I are more than I’d like to admit, especially since I’m older than her. It doesn’t bode well for her that I’m still trying to solve the mystery of my own love life.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I love the scene in which Chloe questions Lance, the smarmy Pilates instructor about his affair with one of the women she considers a suspect. Here’s an excerpt:

     Lance Martin was strutting in from the pool like an over-tanned god in his tiny Stars-and-Stripes Speedo. Apparently, he was the only one who hadn’t noticed that the unheated water had him flying at half-mast. Ignoring two girls giggling by the smoothie machine, I approached him, my eyes fixed squarely on his.

     “Hey, Chloe-Jo. Whattaya know?” He gave a satisfied nod, as if he had known this moment would come and I was right on schedule.

     “Not much. Just wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions.”

     He smiled indulgently. Questions. Yeah, that’s what they all say.

     “It’s about Nancy Browley. One of your clients?”

     He nodded, fixing me with an intense look that probably made dozens of bored housewives slide the passenger seat of their SUV’s into the recline position. “I hear you,” the look said, “and I think what you’re saying is important.”

     Trying not to be completely grossed out as Lance toweled off his sinewy muscles in a suggestive manner, I pushed on. “It’s just that some people are saying you and she have more than a client-trainer relationship.”

     His intense gaze never wavered as he nodded thoughtfully.

     “I mean, I don’t care if it’s true. I’m certainly not some big stickler for the rules. I was just wondering if, you know, it was.” He was really weirding me out with that stare.

     “Was what?” he asked finally.

     “Was true.”

     “What’s true?”

     “That you and Nancy have a relationship.”

     “Nancy who?”

     I managed to hide my frustration, but really. That Speedo must’ve been tighter than it looked.

     “Nancy Browley. Are you”

     He smiled broadly, his towel now covered in the bronzer that enhanced his golden tan. God, I hate being single.

That is a great scene. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or interviewing
smarmy Pilates instructors?

I love cooking, hiking with my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kamali, and traveling. Every chance I get, I take off for somewhere exotic: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peru, and Costa Rico just to name a few.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the second in the Chloe Carstairs Mysteries series, Murder in a Two-Seater. After helping transform an old – and supposedly haunted – castle into a bed-and-breakfast, Chloe and Amanda find themselves embroiled in another investigation when the wife of their client winds up dead in a classic car.

I'm looking forward to reading it and having you back here to talk about it!

Hey, y'all, I told you Billie has a great sense of humor, and here's evidence in her tweets. They're always entertaining. Check it:

Recent Chloe Carstairs tweets:

  • When I said add a splash of color, I meant throw pillows. Not blood splatter.
  • Shift into neutral this season. Soothing earth tones make yellow crime scene tape pop.
  • A cold draft, shadowy corners and creaky floorboards transform any room into a panic room!
  • Color on the ceiling draws the eye upward. As will that body hanging from the rafters.
  • A real wood fire adds instant ambiance. And quickly burns the will you’re left out of.
  • Opt for heavy fabrics in light colors so your wingback chair won’t feel as cold and stiff as the body slumped in it.

About the author:

Billie Thomas 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, has a really cute boyfriend and an even cuter dog. She is a founding member of the writing collective, IndieVisible. Murder on the First Day of Christmas is her first novel. Other publications include Bar Code: Your Personal Pocket Decoder to the Modern Dating Scene.

Connect with Billie Thomas and her protagonist Chloe Carstairs:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Links to books

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

The Fantastic 4 Cozy Mystery Book Tour Giveaway

There will be four prize packages:

Prize 1 (US/Canada only)
* a Kindle Touch
* a $15 giftcard

Prize 2 (International)
* a Kindle copy of Topped Chef and Bowled Over
* a $15 Book Depository giftcard

Prize 3 (International)
* a Kindle copy of Murder on the First Day of Christmas & Game Drive
* a $15 giftcard

Prize 4 (US/Canada)
* your choice of a cozy mystery paperback (up to $25 in value)

To enter:
1. Fill in the form here.
2. There is no requirement to follow any of the blogs participating, but we hope you will support these amazing blogs by following them. They do a great job, many of whom host for us every month.
3. Giveaway ends on May 15, 2013 at midnight and the winners will be contacted via email.