Thursday, December 31, 2015

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!

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.


Thank you, Laura!


  1. Good morning! I'm excited to be here, and look forward to hearing from your readers!

  2. I liked the interview. Happy New Year!

  3. Thanks very much! Was there something in particular you enjoyed, Rita?

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