4 out of 5 stars.
Welcome! This blog tour post was supposed to go up yesterday, but due to a health issue, it didn’t happen. Consequently, it’s going up today! The stop is for Playing with Bonbon Fire, the 2nd book in the Southern Chocolate Shop mystery series by Dorothy St. James and features a review and interview with the author below the review. It was a fun book to read.
About the Book
Playing With Bonbon Fire: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery
2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (March 13, 2018)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Digital ASIN: B074MBXLWX
Chocoholic Charity Penn must smoke out the killer to stop her newly inherited beachside chocolate shop from going up in flames in Dorothy St. James’ decadent follow-up to Asking for Truffle.
Chocolate shop owner Charity Penn is finally settling into life in the quirky South Carolina seaside town of Camellia Beach cooking up chocolate treats. She’s even helped organize the town’s lively beach music festival which has brought rollicking crowds eager to dance the Carolina shag. That is, until one of the band’s lead singers is found dead beside a beach bonfire.
While also trying to balance the amorous attention of music star Bixby Lewis, in town for the festival, and her quest to perfect a new hot flavored bonbon, Charity dives into the investigation. Though it’s more spice than sugar when she discovers a threatening note, comes across decades of age-old secrets, and Bixby comes into the line of fire when a gas grill explodes on the deck of a beachfront house.
Now Charity must turn up the heat and catch the killer before her chance melts away in Playing With Bonbon Fire, the delightful second Southern Chocolate Shop mystery served up just right for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.
This is a fun new series. I’m enjoying getting to know Charity (who prefers to go by Penn), Bertie, Harley and the rest of the characters. They’re well-written and developed characters. We find out a little more about their nature and backgrounds with each book, which is how I like it!
The setting descriptions are perfect. I’m not one for overly-wordy descriptions, but I still want to be able to imagine the place in my head. I can do that here without feeling tired of all the descriptions. Ms. St. James does a good job with this.
The plotline was well-thought-out, full of red herrings, and exciting. I did have an inkling of the killer before the book was done, but I wasn’t positive I was right until he/she was revealed.
If you choose to read the series, I would start with Asking for Truffle, the first book in the series. It really has some background information that you need to have for going forward. Each mystery itself stands on its own, but the overall arc of the series needs to be experienced by reading them in order!
Interview with Dorothy St. James
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. St. James’s answer: I used to be a full-time writer/beach bum. It was a great gig. But four years ago, my daughter was born and EVERYTHING changed. I now shoehorn in writing sessions when she’s in half-day preschool or at night after her bedtime. I enjoy (pretty much) every moment with her. And while it’s sometimes frustrating that I can’t write whenever the muse strikes, I’ve found I’ve become more disciplined in my writing approach, and it feels great.
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. St. James’s answer: Writing is my passion. When the muse is being kind to me, it’s the best feeling in the world. When I’m fighting to pull words from my mind, it’s the worst feeling in the world. If that happens, I keep writing while knowing I’m making progress.
I try to write every day. I aim for at least 500 words/day (that’s just two pages.) My writing goals are often based on when the book is due and how much more I need to get written in order to get to “the end.” I’ve just turned in my 11th full-length novel and now have a good feeling for how long each novel will turn out based on the synopsis.
I try to write in complete silence. Whenever I listen to music, I tend to listen to the songs instead of writing. Or I’ll start singing along. And trust me—no one wants me to start singing.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. St. James’s answer: While I start out with a detailed outline, there’s always a cheeky character doing something or saying something she shouldn’t. It’s usually something that’ll completely change the trajectory of the story. When that happens, my detailed and well-thought-out plot tends to go flying out the window. It’s crazy. But it’s the process I seem to be stuck with.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. St. James’s answer: I don’t know how many rejections I received before getting my first book published. Let’s just say it was too many to count. In 2005, Signet books published my fifth completed manuscript. When I was writing the book THE MARRIAGE LIST, I knew it was “the one.” And I was right. It didn’t receive any rejections. I went on to publish my fourth completed manuscript, THE NUDE, a few years later.
Did I ever want to quit? Yes. Even after getting that first book published, there have been times I wanted to give up and do something else. I’ve quit three times during my career. But I keep coming back. Even when I quit, the stories refuse to go away. They keep nagging at me until I start writing them down again.
Q5: 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. St. James’s answer: Because I write and rewrite (and rewrite and rewrite) while I’m writing the first draft, I can’t say I have X number of drafts. When I get to the end, I’m done. I may have written the opening six times or twenty times. I may have reworked and deleted countless chapters. But it’s technically my first draft.
I don’t have an official set of beta readers for my books. But I do have a few trusted author friends that I’ll have read my books. They always give me the best critiques. Once I get back the editorial comments from my publisher, which is usually a month after I turn the book in, I’ll read through the manuscript with fresh eyes and create my own set of revision notes. I’m always finding ways to rewrite a sentence or rethink a scene. It’s hard to know when to stop.
Q6: 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. St. James’s answer: I love reading and writing about villains. They can be the most complicated and interesting characters in any story. I find that the best villains are the ones that believe they’re the heroes of their own stories. They have strong motivations for what they do. They believe they are doing the right thing. They believe they are taking the only option available to them.
For PLAYING WITH BONBON FIRE, my villain is on the surface a normal person. One bad decision leads to another and another, until things get terribly, terribly out of hand.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. St. James’s answer: No, never. (If you’re a friend or family member skip down to the next question now. There’s nothing more to read here.) Are they gone? Good. Let’s chat. This is fiction I’m writing. But there’s no way to keep certain people out of my books. In this series, a certain pain-in-my-you-know shows up. No, I don’t kill her. But it’s felt nice to be able to work out some demons by writing down the crazy things she’s down over the years. In turn, this fictionalized version of this nasty woman has done and said some surprising things. Perhaps she’ll find a way to redeem herself. One can always hope.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. St. James’s answer: I think it’d be fun to write a mystery series with Albert Einstein (Time Traveler) as the hero. I need to learn quite a bit more about quantum physics before I could tackle anything so advanced.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. St. James’s answer: This one is hard to answer, since I’m always reading and I’ve rarely met a book I didn’t like. I love reading fiction. Mysteries and romance are my go-to genres to read. Science fiction and fantasy novels are fun too. My most recent read has been Shari Randall’s new cozy mystery series. The first book is Curses, Boiled Again. It was great fun! I highly recommend it.
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. St. James’s answer:Anything by Elizabeth Peters or Kay Hooper or Mary Balogh or Ernest Hemingway. Reading their books inspire me to work harder and to become a better writer. Plus, reading their books is a joy.
Q11: 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. St. James’s answer: I’d spend the day with Tina Penn, Charity Penn’s half sister. She’s a fashion designer and has a stunning way with picking the right clothes for the right occasions. I’d love to spend the day with her shopping. I’d love to see what clothes she’d pick out of me.
Q12: 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. St. James’s answer: I’d love to say that I never read reviews, but that’d be a lie. I do read the reviews. I used to take them more seriously than I do now. Playing with Bonbon Fire is my 10th novel. And I’ve learned several things about the business over the years. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that no book can please everyone. Nor should it try. We all have different tastes, different needs. If one book would satisfy everybody in the world, there wouldn’t be a need for so many books to be published every year. So if someone didn’t connect with my characters or my book, I don’t worry about it too much. All it means is that my book isn’t what they needed. I’m sure everyone has read a book that their friends have loved, and ended up hating the book. It’s not the book’s fault. It’s not the reader’s fault either. The book and the reader simply weren’t a good match. The best reviews are the ones where the reader explains her expectations and why they were or were not met. If another’s readers’ expectations match, then that is the review that she should follow.
Thank you to Ms. St. James for being willing to answer my questions! Thank you for visiting today! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page with a list of tour participants.