Today we sit down for a chat with Samantha Washington, bookseller and amateur sleuth protagonist of V.M. Burns’ Market Street Mysteries Bookstore series.
What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was a high school English teacher. I went to work every day and I enjoyed teaching, well mostly. I had a steady income. My classes were mostly the same with very little variation, but I was safe. Some might have called it boring, but it was familiar and as comfortable as an old bathrobe. I had my secret dreams of running a bookstore and writing British historic cozy mysteries, but few people knew about those. My life wasn’t exciting, but I didn’t have people trying to kill me. When my husband died and I quit my job to open the bookstore, I felt scared. I was in unfamiliar territory and alone. Now, I’m living my dream of running a mystery bookstore and writing, but I feel vulnerable. The vulnerability is not just because I keep finding dead bodies and catching murderers, but my dreams are now exposed for the world to see and judge.
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
Even though I may be afraid to try new things and put myself in dangerous situations, I am able to overcome those fears and do what needs to be done. I think it’s what I admire most about the British in World War II, the time period for the British cozy mysteries I write. Even though the United States didn’t enter the war until later, Britain didn’t wait until they had the support of the allies before they took action.
What do you like least about yourself?
I wish I were daring, like my Nana Jo. I don’t think she is afraid of anything. She is confident and embraces life with both hands. She and her friends say it comes with age. I hope when I’m her age, I can possess a fraction of her spunk and zeal.
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
The strangest and scariest thing that’s happened to me was when Nana Jo and I were almost shot for setting off the metal detectors at the local police station in The Read Herring Hunt. If it weren’t for my sister Jenna, who happens to be an attorney, coming to the police station, we could have died.
Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
We often argue. My author constantly pushes me into unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. I prefer to stay in my comfortable, familiar and safe world, surrounded by books. Yet, in each book, she continues to push me to do more things that cause me to stretch outside of my comfort zone. For example, in The Read Herring Hunt, she puts my life in danger while exploring the House of David. If she hadn’t pushed me into exploring a new relationship, I would have been home and safe.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that I won’t be able to put the clues together and someone I love will suffer. In The Read Herring Hunt my assistant, Dawson Alexander, is arrested for murdering his ex-girlfriend. The police are confident they’ve got their murderer and aren’t looking for anyone else. Nana Jo and the girls from the retirement village are great at using their extensive social network to find information. However, it’s up to me to put the information together and figure out whodunit. If I fail, someone I care about could pay for a crime he didn’t commit.
What makes you happy?
I love reading and writing mysteries. Spending time at my bookstore, Market Street Mysteries, helping people find new authors is one of the things I enjoy. Nana Jo is the only member of my family who reads mysteries, but having my family around me also makes me happy. I love when my nephews Christopher and Zaq come to help out at the bookstore. I also enjoy when the Sleuthing Seniors and other book clubs meet at the bookstore and enjoy Dawson’s baked goods and talk and read mysteries.
If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
If I could rewrite a part of my story, I would have taken a chance and quit my job sooner, while my husband Leon was alive. My husband’s death was the trigger that started me on this journey. We had often talked about opening a mystery bookstore some day. When Leon died, I realized life is too short not to take a chance. So I sold our house, quit my job and opened the mystery bookstore we’d always dreamed about. It’s bitter sweet to have the bookstore without Leon. So, if I could rewrite anything, I would not have been afraid to take chances. I would have opened the bookstore and started writing my British historic cozies sooner rather than later.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My mom, Grace Hamilton, is the one character who bugs me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom. However, after just a few days in her presence, I am no longer, the confident, independent woman who can quell an entire classroom of teenagers with one look. Instead, I become the insecure, teen who never felt like she measured up. Every Sunday, I spend time with my mom. We go to church and then go to lunch and a movie or shopping. However, invariably I end up going home questioning my life choices, my wardrobe or even my makeup.
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
If I could change places with any character in the book, I would love to spend a day in Lady Elizabeth Marsh’s shoes. Lady Elizabeth is the character I created in the Story within a story. She is married to Lord William Marsh and aunt to Ladies Penelope and Daphne Marsh. Lady Elizabeth is intelligent, confident and shrewd. She rules Wickfield Lodge in a time when women did not have a lot of power. Yet, she gains the respect of her friends, family, servants, and even Scotland Yard.
Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
V.M. Burns and I have a lot in common. We are both from the Midwestern United States, although, she currently lives in Eastern Tennessee. We are both very fond of dogs, especially poodles and both have two. We both secretly dream of owning a mystery bookstore and writing British historic cozy mysteries. In that regard, I’m further along than she is. She has two other mystery series that will release in 2018, but hasn’t yet quit her job and opened a mystery bookstore. You can read about her other mysteries on her website.
What's next for you?
Nana Jo and I are planning a trip to England. It’ll be a great opportunity for me to do some research. I’m hoping it will be very low key with no dead bodies and no international incidents. However, given our track record, anything’s possible.
Read Herring Hunt
Market Street Mysteries Bookstore is thriving thanks to owner and aspiring mystery writer, Samantha Washington. The local college football team is also thriving. MISU is undefeated thanks to Sam’s tenant, baker and local football hero, Dawson Alexander. When his ex-girlfriend, Melody Hardwick is found murdered, Dawson is arrested. Samantha’s sister, and lawyer, Jenna Rutherford, agrees to represent Dawson. But it’s up to Sam, her grandmother, Nana Jo, and the girls from the retirement village to use their connections to find the real murderer. At jeopardy is more than just a winning season, a football scholarship, and Dawson’s freedom. Failure to catch the real killer could cost another life.
Writing helps Samantha sort through the information she and the girls uncover, so she starts the second book in her British historic cozy mystery series. In the English countryside in November of 1938, Edward the VIII has abdicated from the throne to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Germany has rearmed and is threatening Poland. Britain is on edge and the world is on the brink of war. Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, attempts to help England avoid war and secure prominent positions for her and Edward by negotiating a diplomatic solution. In the age old British tradition, she invites prominent diplomats to a country shooting party. However, last minute plumbing issues at Fort Belvedere force her to move the diplomats to Wickfield Lodge, home of Lord William and Lady Elizabeth Marsh. When Wallis’ maid, Rebecca Minot is found murdered wearing the duchess’s clothes, the Marsh’s must determine not only, who the intended victim was, but must catch a cunning murderer and avoid a catastrophe that could send not only England but the entire world into another war.