Please welcome Joyce LaVene, my Wednesday Guest. She and her husband, Jim Lavene, write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com and www.jjcook.net
A new book is like a new baby. Everyone fawns over it, and fusses about it. If you’re lucky—there is more cooing than mudslinging at the parents. Its arrival is always exciting, full of promise and wonder. You can’t feel the birth pains anymore because you’re too overwhelmed by the glory of having done it. The end result is pretty much the only thing that gets most authors through the process.
Not surprisingly, since I’m here today, I have a new baby/book that came out at the beginning of January. The title is Playing with Fire. It’s the second book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries.
The protagonist is a little different than most cozy mystery readers are used to. Stella Griffin is a ten-year veteran firefighter from Chicago who comes to the small town of Sweet Pepper, Tennessee to jumpstart their new volunteer fire brigade. She’s strong, professional, and able to lead her small band of men and women in and out of danger. She doesn’t plan to stay after the fire brigade is up and running.
Then she meets Eric.
Eric Gamlyn is the former Sweet Pepper fire chief. He was killed in a fire forty years ago and ended up back at the log cabin he built. He’s been there ever since. His main source of enjoyment has been frightening away people who want to live in his cabin, and watching the Little Pigeon River run by his deck. When Stella shows up, the situation changes. He wants her to stay in Sweet Pepper and rebuild his fire brigade.
And he finds out that he didn’t really die in the silo fire he thought had claimed his life. His bones were found in the walls of the firehouse he’d built, along with his badge and his uniform.
Stella and Eric met for the first time in That Old Flame of Mine, book one in the series. Hero’s Journey is a novella between the two books that tells the story of the fire brigade’s mascot, a Dalmatian named Hero. He’s training to be a rescue dog so he can work with the team.
In Playing with Fire, Stella has to make a decision about staying in Sweet Pepper or going home to Chicago. Her job there won’t be on hold forever. Her parents come to Sweet Pepper to convince her that she shouldn’t stay. But Stella is determined to figure out what really happened to Eric, no matter what it takes. She’s also more than halfway in love with the small mountain town. It’s not an easy decision. She knows she’ll never be fire chief at home, another factor that weighs in Sweet Pepper’s favor.
And there’s the Pepper Festival. It’s the town’s yearly celebration of all things pepper. Sweet Pepper gets its name from growing, packaging, and selling the hottest, sweetest peppers in the world. The festival is three days of pepper-eating contests, pepper-recipe contests, pepper hats, and pepper games.
A lot of research went into creating Sweet Pepper, which is close to the Smoky Mountains NationalPark, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. Even more research went into what it would take to set up a small volunteer group. Writing about fighting fires was easier. There are firefighters in my family, both volunteers, and professionals in Chicago. Creating the volunteer firefighters, who race into fires and learn as they go, was fun and exhausting at times.
A third book will be out in 2015, In Hot Water, which continues the story of Eric, Stella, Hero, and all the others. A new book is only as exciting as the feelings and characters we create for it. This story has been a wild ride. I want to thank all of the readers who have written such nice letters and reviews. It’s only because of you that the story goes on.
Thanks for reading!