This week two of our review partners (sisters Amber & Crystal) got to chat a bit with author Violet Howe about the newest release in her Cedar Creek world, WHISKEY FLIGHT. (And they also chatted about another kind of flight Violet has been on!!)
Violet: Thanks for having me!
A&C: What Inspired you to move your Cedar Creek family into the suspense genre?
Violet: At any given time, I have several stories ideas floating around my head, some demanding more thought and attention than others. I’ve been toying with a couple for a while now that involved Cedar Creek residents, but they didn’t fit into the categories I’d already created of mysteries and families. These stories are more fast-paced, and their storylines have more action and more of a sense of urgency. As I neared the end of The Phantom in the Footlights, I was intrigued by Dani’s back story and wanted to spend more time with her. Though I’d originally planned to work on Book 3 in Cedar Creek Families after Phantom, I started exploring Dani’s story instead, and with the loves of her life being a law enforcement officer and a mafia hit man, it was a natural fit that this would be a story based more in danger and suspense.
A & C: The Cedar Creek collection now spans the mystery, romance and suspense genres. Which one of those poses more challenges and which genre do you have the most fun with?
Violet: The mysteries are definitely the most challenging. I hate when I’m reading a book or watching a film/show and I figure it out right away, so it’s important to me that the reader is able to solve the mystery along with the characters. I don’t ever want to reveal too much too soon. I want to leave plenty of bread crumbs leading down different trails and throw in at least one twist that (hopefully) no one sees coming. That requires a lot of planning and plotting, and I’m much more comfortable writing as a “pantser”, someone who allows the story to unfold as I go. I need to make sure that the clues aren’t too obvious, but that the story makes sense and is airtight when the reader looks back on it. So, the mysteries take more time and give me more frustration trying to get them “right.”
Luckily, I have fun with all of the genres! Since they all have romance, I get the thrill of love’s spark and figuring out how the couple overcomes obstacles to find their happily ever afters no matter which genre I’m working in. I also enjoy getting to know my characters and seeing where life and decisions take them, and while I like the challenge of the mysteries and the fast pace and excitement of the suspense, I also enjoy the complexity and layers in the relationships of the family stories.
A & C: Fans of Cedar Creek will recognize Dani from past books. Will we be seeing other familiar faces from past books and do you have anyone you are particularly excited to write about?
Violet: We will definitely continue to see familiar faces! That’s one of my favorite things about setting the different series in the same town—once we meet someone, we never know when we might see them again around town! I love having the stories all interconnected through the people and through the location. I’m working on Piper’s story right now, which is Volume 3 in Cedar Creek Families, and she is nothing like me, so she’s interesting for me to get to know. I’m looking forward to writing a love story for Holden, who is definitely one of my favorite characters to write. And I am excited about the other two books I have planned for Cedar Creek Suspense as well.
A & C: Victor was a very dynamic villain. What kind of research goes into writing a character with mafia ties?
Violet: I consulted with an attorney who was very helpful in explaining how different charges would work with state laws vs federal laws—specifically the RICO Act that pertains to organized crime. I also read quite a bit about the Chicago Outfit, learning as much as I could about their hierarchies, their past bosses, and what is known about the Outfit’s reach and influence.
One thing in particular that influenced me when writing Victor was a documentary I watched about a convicted member of the mafia. The convicted man’s son talked about his complicated relationship with his father and the expectations his family had for him. It struck me how different those expectations are from those we normally experience outside the mafia. It seemed to me that growing up in a family connected to the mafia has similar challenges to growing up in royalty…you already have your destiny laid out before you, and your options for choosing something different are limited. In some ways, you’re locked into a life not necessarily of your own choosing but rather the choices of those who came before you.
I understood Victor to be someone who had grown up seeking the approval of his family and peers much as any of us do, and he was very successful in the family’s “business.” But then he meets someone (Dani) who embodies a much different life, and suddenly, everything he’s known is called into question.
A & C: I love learning interesting facts while I’m reading and there was a great whiskey tasting scene in Whiskey Flight that left me feeling like a connoisseur. Did you already know a lot about whiskey before writing this book and are you a fan of the drink yourself?
Violet: The first time I ever drank while in college, it was whiskey. Bourbon, to be exact. It was my drink of choice throughout college, but I knew very little about the distilling process or the myriad of options available. I just liked the taste and the identity that came with being a “whiskey girl”.
Fast-forward to present day when I “met” Dani in The Phantom of the Footlights, and I still didn’t know much more about whiskey. But one thing I did know was that the people in my circle who drink whiskey are SERIOUS about it. Whether they are loyal specifically to bourbons, craft whiskeys, Scottish whisky, Canadian ryes, or have an overall appreciation for it all, they are proud to be whiskey-drinkers, they LOVE talking about it to other people, and they are zealous in their passion for it.
I sought out their guidance in researching this book, and I also was fortunate to meet a bourbon aficionado who walked me through a tasting and shared a wealth of facts about bourbon and distilling, most of which didn’t make it on the page, but which all helped develop Dani’s relationship with her beverage of choice.
Dani is a passionate character, and I knew when writing Phantom that she was that same kind of whiskey drinker. Someone who dives all in, does the research, tours the distilleries, samples as many as possible, and then shares what she knows with others so they too can experience the same joy she finds in it.
A & C: Whiskey Flight is a fantastic name for the book. Will future titles in the series revolve around alcohol/whiskey or was that just special to Dani?
Violet: The first three stories I have planned for Cedar Creek Suspense all have titles with the word “Flight” in them, and the word flight has a different meaning in each book. Dani’s is the only one with the tie to alcohol or whiskey, but I enjoyed the research, so who knows? There could be another character with a particular affinity for a specific drink some day!
A & C: Do you have a favorite or unique Whiskey drink recipe to share and what would Dani order at a bar
Violet: Dani would order a Jameson on the rocks. Truth be told, I’m more likely to order a margarita or a mojito these days, but I do like a traditional whiskey sour, and a Kentucky mule is nice. I also love a Godfather, which is Scotch whisky and amaretto!
A & C: I saw recently that you went for a hot air balloon ride, which looked like so much fun! Do you have any other thrill-seeking hobbies that you enjoy? If you could go ballooning anywhere in the world right now where would that be?
Violet: I am too much of a worry wart to turn my thrill-seeking into a hobby, but I firmly believe that life is intended to be lived fully with as many meaningful experiences as possible, so I push myself to do things that are exciting and memorable. I once got invited by a friend on a Monday to join them in Paris that weekend, and I dropped everything and flew out on Thursday, spending an amazing twelve hours in Paris by myself until they arrived by train, and then flew back home on Sunday. (I got a GREAT deal on the flight or it wouldn’t have been possible!)
I’ve tried to instill that “you only live once” mantra in my sons, and as part of their Christmas every year, I plan some sort of family adventure. We’ve gone ziplining in the Caribbean, done an aerial obstacle course (I stayed on the ground), visited a giraffe ranch, attended a chimpanzee funeral (long story), and gone mountain biking. This year’s adventure was the hot air balloon.
I have always wanted to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival to see all the balloons, but if I could go ballooning anywhere, it would be probably be France.
A & C: Your fans can’t wait to see you virtually this year at the Coastal Magic Convention in February, but what are you most looking forward to when you get to have your first in-person convention experience again? What have you liked most about doing virtual events this past year?
Violet: The thing I’m most excited about for in-person experiences is being with my people! There’s nothing like being in a room filled with people who all share your same passion. The energy is off the charts, and I love being surrounded by book folks!
The best part about virtual events has been the availability for people to attend who might not have been able to travel. I’ve gotten the opportunity to connect with readers and authors I may never have “met” if the event hadn’t been online.