Interview with mystery author Laura Wharton

Today’s
special guest is Laura S. Wharton. She’s chatting with me about her newest
mystery, the first in a new series, In Julia’s Garden: A Lily
McGuire Mystery

During her virtual book tour, Laura will be awarding
a copy of In Julia’s Garden (U.S.) to
a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below.  To increase your chances of winning, feel free
to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Bio:
Referred
to as the American P.D. James, Laura S. Wharton is the author of sea
adventure/suspense/mystery novels for adults and mysteries for children.
Award-winning adult titles include Deceived:
A Sam McClellan Tale,
The Pirate’s Bastard, and Leaving Lukens.
Wharton also is the author of four mysteries for children, including the
popular award-winning Mystery at the Lake House series, and others. Most of her books involve
adventure, fun, a little history, and sailboats. (She is a recovering sailor
who could backslide at any moment!)

Welcome, Laura. Please tell us about
your current release.
My
newest release is titled, In Julia’s
Garden
, and its’ the first in the Lily McGuire Mystery series. I’m excited
about this story because I was able to combine gardening, a little bit of
history, and a fun contemporary mystery all in one book.
Lily
McGuire has her plants and her work as a landscape architect. What she doesn’t
have (a man to date or an adventure to have) is just fine with her, thank you
very much. Yet her world turns as chaotic as the grand old mansion’s garden she
is restoring when a stranger presents her with the gardening journal of a 1940s
socialite-gone-missing. Snarky and somewhat misanthropic, Lily must search its
pages for clues to the young beauty’s disappearance and a potentially deadly
mystery, despite the warning that she should tread carefully: the journal was
the cause of Lily’s best friend’s death.



What inspired you to write this book?
I read a short article in a gardening magazine about a historic property whose
gardens were in great need of restoration. The grand antebellum mansion had
received lots of attention over the years, but the garden was long neglected. I
toured the garden, and was taken by the setting. Then the age-old question,
“What If?” started rolling around in my head. My research on the property
uncovered a wealth of information, including several articles about what the
gardens looked like in their prime. From there, the idea just took off.

Excerpt from In Julia’s Garden:
“Are you the one they call ‘Lily McGuire’?” The man’s frame nearly filled the
doorway of my office. Solid as a statue, he waited for me to look up from my
cluttered desk.

“I am,” I sighed, aggravated at yet another
interruption. This day was turning out to be highly unproductive. Lowering my
tortoise-shell reading glasses past the bridge of my nose, I marked my place in
the dusty book lying open on my desk and looked up. A slightly audible gasp
slipped from my lips as I took in the sight in front of me. This man didn’t
look like the bureaucrats I had been dealing with during the many planning
meetings I’d had to attend in person, or sound like the ones who talked
incessantly during weekly phone conferences. No, this man looked more like
someone to avoid making eye contact with in the park on an early morning jog.
His shaggy silver hair and unkempt beard skewed in every direction. A ragged
brown coat hung loosely on his frame, which I guessed to be well over six feet
tall—and no hunched shoulders, either. Guessing his age, I pegged him to be
about ninety, though who could tell under all that hair? Regaining my
composure, I rose and extended my hand. Mud-caked boots stood rooted, even as I
motioned for him to enter my small office, which was tidy except for my desk.
“You have me at a disadvantage, Mister…?”
“Evans. You can call me Evans.” Still not
moving from his spot, Mr. Evans pulled a small package from under the enormous
coat. “I have something for you. It’s from…her. It may help.” Hesitating, Mr.
Evans carefully fingered the box, neatly wrapped in brown craft paper. His
fingers toyed slowly, seemingly absent-mindedly, with the pale blue ribbon
encircling the package. He looked at it, then at me, as if gauging my
trustworthiness.
Wondering whether Mr. Evans could sense my
discomfort, I got up from my chair and moved around the desk to stand in front
of him. Slowly, I held out my hand in an attempt to accept the package. Being
so close to him, I smelled a strong odor of decaying plant matter on him—not
just from his boots—it was emanating from his person. Above the smell of dirt,
though, were the most brilliant blue eyes I think I’ve ever seen. They were
almond-shaped and crinkled around the edges. He was smiling, like he knew a
dirty little secret.
“Interesting thing about this package, you
know,” he began, holding the small box firmly while stroking its encircling
ribbon tenderly with his other hand. “It contains all the secrets of Julia’s garden. She told me so herself, she
did.” Mr. Evans never looked away from my eyes, though his hands continued to
fondle the package. “I often watched her as she wrote things in it. Names of
plants, sure, you’ll find those. Dates of their plantings…you’ll find that,
too. There’s more, though. Much more. You may have to read it more than once to
find what you’re looking for. I read it so many times, I could quote passages
for you. The one item I never found mentioned in it was something I want to
find—have to find. Perhaps you will.” With these words, Mr. Evans relinquished
his treasure to me. No more hesitation, no flourish.
With some of its mystery diluted, I accepted
Mr. Evans’ package and smiled a well-practiced (though not entirely genuine)
smile. He had brought his treasure from South Carolina, a three-hour drive at
best. Fearing he might want to hang around while I looked it over, I quickly
spoke. “Thank you for bringing it. I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble to
do so. You could have mailed it to me. If you’ll leave an address with our
receptionist or your business card with me, I will return it when I’m done
reviewing it.” I extended my hand, expecting to shake Mr. Evans’ hand before he
left. He didn’t extend his hand. Nor did he budge.
I buffeted myself for what I thought would be
the inevitable speech to come, one more opinion on how my job should be done.
“Is there something else you’d like to share?”
The smile disappeared from Mr. Evans’ face as
he spoke. “Only this: many people have been hurt because of what’s inside. Your
boss lady died over it.” He looked away. His eyes focused sharply once again on
me. “Don’t be the next.” Mr. Evans turned and left my office like a man who had
completed his mission. He left me with a vacuum of thoughts to sift through.
And the package.
What exciting story
are you working on next?
I
am in editing mode on the second in another mystery series I started this year,
The Sam McClellan Tales. Sam McClellan is a retired detective who lives on a
dilapidated sailboat. Wherever he goes, trouble (and a strange sort of love
interest) will follow. In the first book titled Deceived (released May, 2015),
Sam’s partner was murdered. In uncovering the “who done it,” Sam also uncovered
a vast drug trafficking network running through resort beach towns in North
Carolina. (Of course, this never happens in real life.)

When did you first consider yourself a
writer?

I
was in third grade when I knew for certain that I wanted to be a writer. In
addition to the fact that I come from a reading family (we were reading on our
own before heading off to kindergarten), I had a wonderful teacher that year
who encouraged me to write down the stories I loved to tell to anyone who would
listen.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?

I
work fulltime as an analyst in the corporate risk division of a large financial
institution. This means I have a challenge of balancing work with family and
writing creatively. If I’m working on a manuscript, I’ll get up several hours
early each morning to focus on writing or a book-related task such as character
development. Evenings are generally devoted to family matters. With two books
being released this year, much of my writing time lately has been devoted to marketing.
That said, I’ve got to finish the edits of the Sam McClellan Tale before the
year is over so I can get it to the editor, so this month is extremely hectic.
I love it, though, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?

Writing
is a fun activity, and I take to it the way some people take to reading a book.
When I write, I curl up with a blanket on my lap, and I sit cross-legged in my
chair. With a cup of tea nearby, I can really loose myself in my story. I do
have to watch the clock in the mornings so I can get to work on time (which
means sliding my chair across the floor to my “work” desk, since I work from
home).

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

Besides a writer, I always wanted to be a mermaid. My parents took us to see
the mermaids in Weeki Wachee in Florida on a holiday one year and I was
fascinated with what I saw. I love to swim now just as I did back when I was
little, so it just made sense that I should be a mermaid. The ironic thing I’ve
learned is that nowadays, there is an active community of merfolks in this
country. One of my friends is Mermaid Linden (her company is Mermaids in
Motion), and she makes a fine living being a mermaid, traveling all over the
world, etc.

Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

Just
that I appreciate the time they take when they select new authors and their
works. If a reader does pick up one of my books, I’d really like to have
feedback.
Links:
Thank you, Laura!

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