4 out of 5 stars.
Welcome! Today I’m hosting a spot on the Great Lakes Virtual Book Tour for Cookies, Corpses & the Deadly Haunt by Rachael Stapleton. This is the first book in the Haunted House Flippers, Inc. series. It was a fun read all the way through. Following my review of the book, I’ll also be including an interview with the author, Rachael Stapleton.
Purchase Links: Amazon
House flippers Jack & Juniper agree to lend and help prep their latest purchase—The Doctors House—an old Victorian mansion to act as the eerie setting for the town’s Halloween bash, they’re expecting to find missing floor boards, and pesky bats, not the ghostly specter of the murdered Doctors Wife. But when the head of the council is found stuffed in a trunk in the attic, it appears history is repeating.
As Junie and the team, carry on with party preparations, they unravel a century of family secrets, whispers of lunacy—and the number one suspect goes on the run. But the victim’s family insists that the ball must go on, even with a killer on the loose. With Halloween fast approaching, Junie sees the woman in white and wonders if keeping the killer out was ever really a possibility. Now she’s desperate to unmask the killer before the Annual Halloween Bash turns into even more of a deadly haunt…
As I said above, this was a fun read all the way through. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
The main characters, Juniper, Jack, and Pike seem to be well-rounded, complex characters. I’m looking forward to learning more about them further in the series. The side characters were also interesting. I was pretty sure who the villain was (and I was right), but that didn’t take away from the characters or even the story line.
The setting descriptions were well done. I could imagine the restoration that Jack and Junie were doing, the town, and the Halloween bash easily, but with still enough room to let my imagination fill in some of the details.
The story line moved along at a decent pace. As I said, even tho’ I figured out who the villain was way before the end, that didn’t take away from the story line. It still held my attention. That doesn’t always happen for me. Sometimes if I figure out who the villain is, the rest of the book just doesn’t hold my attention. Thankfully this one did.
All in all, I enjoyed this book and found it fun to read. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series!
Today, not only do I have the review for you, but also an interview with the author, Rachael Stapleton. Thank you to Ms. Stapleton for being willing to answer my questions!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: I worked in advertising for ten years prior to writing full-time. The only thing I miss is strutting about in pretty pencil skirts and heels every day. I tried doing it at home but my animals were judging me. So, now I stick to pajamas, rompers, yoga pants and knits. It’s a tough life.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: Writing is a full-time job for me, so I treat it as a business, and most definitely write every day. I wake up around 7am and prep the kids for school (after a large mug of coffee). Once I’ve taken them to school and done my morning fasted cardio, I make egg whites and have another coffee. Then I sit with my laptop in my recliner chair in my home office and handle my marketing until about 10:30am. If I am in the writing phase of a book, I’ll most likely find myself sucked into the magical cozy little world I’ve created until it’s time to pick the kids up at 3pm. During my writing phase it’s hard for me to break to eat or drink. I get pretty absorbed in my world. And yes, noise really bothers me. If I’m editing, I typically take a break around 1:30 for lunch and then get back to it. After I pick the kids up, it’s usually back to work, either to continue writing or to focus on marketing and revising for an hour. Then it’s time to make dinner and usually the gym to lift weights/kids after-school activities/sports.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: Yes, they hijack and I love it I have supporting characters that refused to play nicely, so much so, that I had to create an alternate series. Then the same thing happened again, so I had to create a third crossover series, which is why Penning Trouble, Haunted House Flippers and Bohemian Murder Manor are all set in Bohemian Lake. I’m finding in all three of these story lines, there is still one character that pretty much writes herself, and that is the rebellious Eve Berns. She is politically incorrect, narcissist, and funny as hell, and she is a combination of the feisty no-nonsense women in my life.
I don’t sit down to physically outline, but I do create scaffolding. I start by recording my overall story when the idea hits me. My fingers can’t keep up with my brain at this point, so I have to use dictation. After that, I go through the summary; usually my rants will include detailed scenes and sections of the book, so I’ll start there. From that point on, I make sure there’s a frame for the entire story. It’s like building a house. You need the walls to go up before you can paint and decorate. I typically start to write chapter by chapter, but I’m not ruled by order. Sometimes chapter ten gets written before chapter two. It’s whatever characters and scenes are popping up in my head that day. That’s just how it goes.
Q4: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: I have written books in a slew of different ways, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that setting books aside to percolate does not work for me. I am a start to finish, obsessive writer. My ideas come to me usually in a dream, after a long walk or in the shower, and the idea is pretty much a full story when it hits me. My mind is bursting, and it is impossible for my fingers to keep up with my brain (I’ve tried) so I dictate the whole book right there in that moment. I wind up with a full outline including detailed scenes, and chapters where key elements/red herrings etc. must happen. When I’m done it kind of looks like a 10-20 page synopsis with detailed scenes written out in spots. After that, I download it to my Kindle, and read it while relaxing in the sun. Then I make revisions and in the past I had a writers group that I went to weekly. We did a chapter a week, but that hasn’t happened regularly since I moved. I typically have two editors now that read everything I write and while my editor is going through book one; I’m wrapping up book two so it can be sent off immediately after. I like to think of myself as a well-organized machine, or at least I’m getting there.
Q5: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: My editor, Susan says I have a gift for writing the creepiest characters. I take that as a compliment. Now that I’m writing more cozies as opposed to straight mysteries, I’ve lightened up, but I truly never just write one bad guy. I typically write three, and then I decide at the end just who the red herrings are. I used to write a story with a twist, and then once it was written, I’d twist it upside down again, and make the most unsuspecting person the villain. This is the case with my time travelling bibliophile series, people are usually floored when they get to the final book. I think the best villains are the most unsuspecting people. However, cozy mysteries are a little bit more formulaic, so I don’t twist quite as much as I used to, but that also allows me to write much faster.
Q6: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: I like to read the top books in my category so that I can verify that I’m writing to market, and I read a book in about two days so there are too many to list. Some of my fave authors off the top of my head are: Leighann Dobbs, Diane Vallere, Josie Brown, Lorna Barrett, Jana Deleon, Amanda Lee, Heather Graham & Sara Rosette. Outside of cozy, let me see, I’ve just finished, The Wrong Girl by C.J Archer, which I really enjoyed. I also really liked, How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.
Q7: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: Jana DeLeon’s books made me realize it was okay to be funny when I wrote. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series inspired me to write in the first place.
Q8: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: It would be a toss-up between Juniper, Penelope and Eve. Juniper’s super handy and loves to paint and decorate just as I do. Penelope’s into martial arts and she likes to run, so I’d probably train with her. After that, the three of us could get into some trouble drinking booze from Eve’s inconspicuous medicinal bottles while hatching plans and breaking rules. Perhaps we’d get in a good skinny dip as well. Who knows, maybe the rest of the Bohemian gang would join us.
Q9: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Stapleton’s Answer: Oh yes, I have read each and every review so far. I read three just today. I can’t wait until I’m so bogged down with reviews that this is impossible, but truly, fan response is irreplaceable. I write for my readers. I like to think I’m giving them a cozy world to crawl into for a couple of hours, the same thing I get from the books I read. There is no better feeling than hearing back from fans that they love my books and can’t wait for the next one. We need more people to write customer reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. These are critically important for our books to attract new readers. And without new readers, we can’t make a sustainable living.
Thank you again to Ms. Stapleton for being willing to answer my questions! Thank YOU for joining me today. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. That will take you to the main tour page where you can find a list of other tour participants.