4.5 out of 5 stars.
Welcome! Today I’m hosting another spot on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Today’s tour is for Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins, the third book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson. I’m totally enamored with this series and this one doesn’t disappoint! After my review, there is an interview with the author, Erin Johnson!
Purchase Links: Amazon
The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.
But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.
Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.
As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.
As I stated above, I am absolutely enamored with this series. I love the characters, the settings, the plots, everything. This latest installment didn’t disappoint.
In this installment, many of our characters experience growth and changes in their lives. This is always great to continue to see in a series. When characters start to stagnate, it can spell the end of the series, so I’m thrilled to continue to see growth among the characters.
This installment took us away from the castle and into the Mermaid world. It’s a great change in scenery and offers new locations for Imogen and her friends to utilize in their investigation.
The plot line moves along smoothly and at a steady speed. It’s not so slow that you get bored, but it’s not so fast that you can’t keep up with the changes.
I thoroughly enjoyed the changes in various relationships and the characters themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t elaborate on those changes.
Overall, while there’s not that little extra pizzazz that’s needed to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a very solid 4.5 and I really enjoyed it. If you’re just starting with the series, I do suggest you start with the first book, Seashells, Spells, & Caramels as there is important back story that you will need to understand things in the second and third installments.
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. Johnson’s Answer: I do! I’m a Pilates instructor and have been for the last five years. I love my clients and really believe in what I’m teaching, so I do enjoy it. It’s kind of a nice compliment to writing, which can be a bit isolated and sedentary. When I teach, I’m forced to talk for hours straight and it inspires me to work out.
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. Johnson’s Answer: Sometimes, I’m in the outlining or editing phase, or just between books, and in those cases I’m not writing every day. But when it’s time to write, I generally do spend several weeks, writing daily. I usually have a word count goal—normally it’s about 3,000 words. But right now I’m on a crazy deadline to finish book 4 in the Spells & Caramels Series, and I’m doing between 4,000 and 8,000 words a day. Wish me luck—I need it! I like it quiet, though sometimes I put on music that puts me in the mood for certain scenes. For instance, book 4 is holiday themed, so I’m listening to a lot of old English Christmas carols (like “Good King Wenceslas”).
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. Johnson’s Answer: In order to write quickly, I tend to do a lot of outlining. During that phase, sometimes characters do take the story in an unexpected direction. In the first book, for instance, Imogen’s cooking flame, Iggy, revealed the reason for his surliness to her, and it was honestly unexpected and really moved me! Which might sound kind of funny, since I wrote it, but sometimes as an author, I get surprised, too. But after the outline, things don’t veer too off course.
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. Johnson’s Answer: So, I actually spent a lot of time deciding how I wanted to publish. I’d always assumed I’d traditionally publish and did research along those lines, even making a list of all the agents I intended to contact. But after reading about so many rejections being typical, and feeling like I’d procrastinated acting on my dream for too long, the idea of self-publishing really appealed to me. Especially, after reading and listening to Joann Penn and Chris Fox, both really positive, inspiring people, who made me excited about being an Indie author. So, I never contacted any agents, and just jumped full in to indie publishing.
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. Johnson’s Answer: So, I’ve modeled my writing and publishing of this series, almost exactly on the recommendations of Chris Fox, and they’ve worked great for me, though they might not for everybody. I write a draft, read through it fully making notes, then I edit it myself. Then I give it to my alpha readers (my mom and sis) and incorporate their notes. My editors are really great (Hot Tree Editing). I then give it to them, I incorporate their suggestions and send it back and they do a final pass, proofread and have volunteer beta readers who take a look at it. By that point, it’s pretty polished. All of those steps are pretty much one, immediately after the other. So no, I don’t let the book sit at all.
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. Johnson’s Answer: When I write villains, I try to make them intelligent and with motives that are relatable. I think lines can get blurred when you’re acting with the belief that you’re doing something for someone, or some cause, you really believe in. So, I usually try to give them something they really care about, that drives them to murder. No real life inspiration for this villain, though.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d say my sister and I show in most of the things I write, just because we’re close and make each other laugh, and I borrow a lot of our inside jokes. I haven’t written any character to be a straight parallel to a person I know in real life (though some TV personalities are in there), but I’m sure real people I know are influences.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Oh my gosh, I’m stumped on this one. Can I pass? Haha!
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’m reading both, “The Bear and The Nightingale” and the first in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, right now, and am really enjoying both.
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Probably the Harry Potter books. They’re beautifully written, imaginative and feel so real.
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. Johnson’s Answer: I’d probably hang out with Iggy, Imogen’s cooking flame. He makes me laugh and is brutally honest, yet loving. We’d wander around the cobblestoned streets of Bijou Mer, eating baguettes and his favorite, Linden tree branches.
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. Johnson’s Answer: I do read most of my reviews, though I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m hovering, so I don’t leave comments. I’ll for sure respond if someone emails me directly with a link to or a copy of their review, but I do that privately, to thank them. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that readers love Iggy and that I’d better put him future books.
Thank you for joining me today for the latest Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour stop! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of tour participants!