Four Paws Up for ‘Tell-Tale Bones’ by Carolyn Haines

A big thanks to publisher for offering me an ARC! As with all of Sarah Booth Delaney’s adventures the deep South, this one did not disappoint! Returning to this delightful mystery series after a long hiatus really felt like a long-overdue reunion with some old friends. This is the 26th in the series (wow!), and it’s clear that these characters have really come into their own over the decades.

Really, for me, the whodunnit is secondary to the beautiful Zinnia, Mississippi setting, where Sarah and her soulmate Sheriff Coleman Peters ride horses together amidst the rolling green hills to watch the sunrise…ah, such sweet bliss. Might I just add that it is about dang time these two finally got together! Ugh…all that silliness between Sarah and Graf is over and Coleman’s certifiably insane ex-wife is no longer imprisoning him by sheer guilt alone!

As for the cold-case mystery, I really must give it five stars! We’re dealing with a distraught woman looking for her missing daughter, an evil woman abuser with powerful connections, a mysterious raven, and an Edgar Allen Poe theme. The plot thickens when we learn the missing daughter is one of many troubled teens who vanished over the years. The intrigue really had me tearing through the pages until I finally reached the satisfying ending with zero plot holes.

This book really has it all—ghosts, seances, grave diggings and cute animal sidekicks to boot! I just loved this entire adventure and look forward to accompanying my girls, Tinkie and Sarah, as they embark on their next escapade through the Mississippi Delta alongside their fur-babies.

Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

23014631After finishing Plantation Shudders, I was in the mood for another Southern cozy mystery. As luck would have it, Carolyn Haines has a new hardback out – and I’ve been dying to know what’s next for Sarah Booth Delany now that her ex fiancé is finally out of the picture!

The book begins with a big mope-fest as Sarah Booth pines over her lost love. Her resident ghost/life coach Jitty doesn’t help matters as she constantly nags her to get married and make babies. Thankfully another dead body gives us all a welcome distraction from the gloom and doom.

The mystery unfolds at a Black-and-Orange Halloween ball in New Orleans, where party revelers are tearing up the dancefloor to the beat of Scott Hampton’s sexy blues band. Turns out, Scott is Sarah Booth’s ex beau and they’re both dangerously close to rekindling that old spark. Of course, it isn’t all moonlight and magnolias for this fledgling romance. A murderous fiend is determined to knock off Scott and his entire band. The motive is unclear, but it appears as though someone really hates live music and will stop at nothing to keep Scott from fulfilling his dream of opening a blues club.

When a drive-by-shooter kills off a friendly bartender, it becomes very clear that that Scott and his fellow musicians are all sitting ducks. It’s up to Sarah Booth to ferret out the killer before it’s too late!

This is how I picture Sarah Booth's ancestral home, Daliah House
This is how I picture Sarah Booth’s ancestral home, Dahlia House

As she searches for clues with her trusty sidekicks, she discovers a whole slew of suspects with possible motives. And if that’s not stressful enough, another psycho from a previous novel is out on bail. Her sole purpose in life is to destroy Sarah Booth, so how could she not be involved in this puzzling string of murders? Then there’s the pathological religious cult leader who gets his jollies by oppressing women. He loathes everything in life that brings joy—especially music and dancing. Since he believes Scott and his music are the root of all evil, how could he not be a suspect?

There’s a ton of characters, so readers need to stay sharp and take a lot of mental notes. But that’s not to say that it’s a chore keeping tabs on it all. There’s plenty of breathers from the case—including a hint of a love triangle among Sarah Booth and her two ex flames. I’m sure most longtime fans of this series are on Team Coleman–myself included–but it’s a lot of fun watching the sparks fly between her and Scott as they go horseback riding by moonlight and dance together in steamy clubs.

If you love a good mystery filled with colorful characters, romance and adorable heroic critters, I highly recommend this series. Even the most experienced Agatha Christie fans will have a hard time piecing this one together. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I will say that there’s one heck of a cliffhanger at the end. Carolyn, you better hurry up with that next book!

Audiobook Pick of the Month: Booty Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

18404222From the Publisher:  Sarah Booth Delaney’s fiancé, Graf Milieu, has become depressed while recovering from a severe leg injury, but Sarah Booth knows just how to help him heal. She’s arranged a romantic getaway for the two of them at a lovely beach cottage on Dauphin Island off the Gulf Coast. On the first day of their island adventure, they take a historical tour led by Angela Trotter, a young woman well-versed in local lore, including rumors of pirate treasure hidden somewhere on the island. In fact, Angela confides to Sarah Booth and Graf that her father, a sailor and treasure hunter, was murdered just when he thought he was closing in on the treasure. Angela’s convinced that the wrong man was imprisoned for her father’s murder, and she manages to persuade Sarah Booth to take the case. And Sarah Booth soon realizes that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. With untold amounts of treasure offering plenty of motive for murder and a fiancé falling deeper into depression, Sarah Booth’s peaceful island vacation is quickly spinning out of control.

Why I liked it:   As always, Carolyn Haines delivers a puzzling mystery filled with complex characters, four-legged sidekicks, ghostly shenanigans and intriguing subplots.  The mystery in this installment is twofold: Who killed the treasure hunter? And what in tarnations  is wrong with Graf?  With a big storm a’brewin and a slew of dark secrets about to bubble up from under the surface, our sassy Southern sleuth is in for a wild ride!

What really shines in this book is the foreshadowing, which is a key ingredient in a quality whodunit. As Sarah Booth navigates the rocky waters of her relationship with Graf, I couldn’t think of a more perfect setting than a beach town under the threat of a monster hurricane.  At the risk of revealing any spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. But I will say that you’ll have a very strong opinion about him after she weathers the storm.

What irked me: Normally I love Jitty’s antics, but in this book she seemed to be tormenting Sarah Booth with her cryptic warnings. She’s known for popping up at random moments in outlandish outfits only to offer a few pieces of advice and puzzling riddles . This time, she’s appearing as iconic celebrities in mourning, hinting that death and despair is just around the corner.  So while Graf is inexplicably withdrawing from Sarah Booth, Jitty is constantly torturing her with bad omens. Of course, they finally stopped dangling their carrots at the end of the book. But it just didn’t seem right for them to keep her in the dark for so long. There were many points in the story when I wanted to shake Graf and Jitty and scream, “Out with it already, you fools!”

The narrator: Kate Forbes is the perfect narrator for the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries. She does a fantastic job performing each of the characters’ voices in a believable way, which can be rather tricky when you’re dealing with a broad range of personalities. Her pensive, somber tone was the perfect match for Sarah Booth and Jittie, who were both in the midst of exposing some serious life—and afterlife—revelations.

Summed up in three words: Suspenseful, foreboding, intriguing.


Gizzy’s Portrait has Arrived!

Gizzy approves this message.

Gizmo’s portrait has arrived and it couldn’t be more perfect! The artist, Elizabeth Wade, did a fantastic job capturing his ever-curious expression and all around adorableness. I won this through Carolyn Haine’s book review contest for Bonefire of the Vanities. The 12th installment of her popular Southern Belle mystery series, this rollicking adventure takes amateur sleuth, Sarah Booth Delaney, to a “psychic healing” resort filled with disembodied voices, ghostly apparitions, scheming psychics, murder and mayhem.  I especially enjoyed this book because of the creepy setting and the four-legged sidekicks. Go here for the full review.

In addition to authoring my favorite cozy mystery series, Haines is a devout animal lover. She has rescued many orphaned critters and champions animal rights causes. So basically, she’s my hero. A big thanks goes out to Carolyn and Elizabeth for giving me a timeless piece of art that I will treasure forever!

Want to know more about this talented portrait artist? Go check out her website.

Bonefire of the Vanities by Carolyn Haines

 In this 12th installment of Carolyn Haines’ Bones series,  Sarah Booth Delaney slips on her high-heeled gumshoes yet again to investigate a possible scam involving a porn-star-turned ghost whisperer and a “psychic healing” resort. Promising reunions with dead loved ones and opportunities to “invest” in good causes, the shady psychic preys upon emotionally fragile rich people. And their new billionaire client, Marjorie Littlefield, certainly fits the profile.

Shattered after her daughter’s “accidental” drowning, she’s desperate to get some answers. Considering her fragile state, the psychics have ample opportunity to throw her off the deep end. And to make matters worse, she plans on leaving all her riches to her scrappy cat, Pluto.  Sounds pretty cold, right? Well considering her only son is the No. 1 suspect in his sister’s death, he’s pretty much on his own.

 Now on to the tricky part. How can a girl detective probe into the case if she can’t get inside the high-security estate?  Nestled in the backwoods of the Mississippi Delta, the sprawling resort is surrounded by an army of security guards and burglar-proof fences. With no other option but to pose as a member of the staff, she and her fellow PI, Tinkie, grab some brooms and masquerade as maids. In between laundry duty and window washing, the two sassy sleuths snoop around the spooky halls of Heart’s Desire and unearth some rather some rather unsettling clues. Are the disembodied voices a part of the scam? Or are supernatural forces at work? As the body count rises, Sarah Booth and Tinkie must stop at nothing to ferret out the killer and put an end to the charade.  

What I liked most: The creepy atmosphere. Confession – there are some parts in this book that really raised the little hairs on the back of my neck. I didn’t expect Carolyn Haines to creep me out with one of her cozy little Bones mysteries, but she never ceases to surprise me! Some of the happenings in the psychic reading room, located in the bellows of the resort, were really spooky. This particular scene gave me some serious goosebumps:

A soft moaning emanated from the end of the hallway. My mind leaped instantly to the classics of horror written by Edgar Allan Poe. This was a moment the melancholy master would employ to great effect. Corpse in the wall, living person in a coffin, pendulum. Black cat!

Favorite secondary character:  This mystery series is packed with a slew of colorful characters – from a sassy transgender reporter to a local resident psychic to a Southern belle best friend. But of all the eclectic characters, Jitty is my fave. The resident ghost of Sarah Booth’s beloved Dahlia house, Jitty has a way of making surprise appearances in unexpected places.  I especially love her outlandish disguises – and in this book she dresses up as two of my favorite detectives: Jessica Fletcher and Nancy Drew!

The romance: Yes, the romantic tension between Sarah Booth and her actor fiancé Graf Milieu, is pretty hot, but I still hope in my heart of hearts that she gets back together with Cole. They’re destined to be together, but whenever they find a happy place a stupid wrench gets thrown in the works. In Cole’s case, the wrench is his psychotic, control freak ex-wife. But being the Southern gentleman that he is, Cole must always save the perpetual damsel in distress whenever she has a meltdown. Ugh!  That kind of thing can really wear on a girl, so I don’t blame Sarah Booth for calling it quits. But hopefully someday, they’ll find their way back into each other’s arms!

This book is best paired with: A super-sweet glass of iced tea and a Rosanne Cash playlist.

Overall: As I expected, Carolyn Haines delivers a tightly-plotted mystery filled with rollicking adventures, loveable characters, four-legged sidekicks and surprise twists! I’m really good at pinpointing the killer, but this author always gets me at the end! Of all the cozy mystery series out there, this is my absolute favorite. That says a lot because I read a TON of mysteries! The author’s love of the Mississippi Delta clearly comes through in her writing. Through her lyrical prose, I can smell the earthy scent of red dirt, see the sun sparkling through the moss-covered trees, and hear the humming of cicadas on a hot summer’s day. Oh how I love Southern fiction! Want to know more about this fabulous author? Check out her Q&A!

Top Five Books of 2011

The Times Square ball has dropped, the confetti has cleared and millions of partygoers are nursing their hangovers. 2012 has arrived – and like clockwork we are bombarded with guilt-inducing gym equipment ads and a plethora of “best of” lists. So here’s my contribution to the annual tradition of cherry picking. These fabulous books –packed with family dysfunction, strong, revolutionary women, and personal transformation – are my top five faves of 2011.

1.) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Some nay-sayers claim that this book is nothing more than “white liberal self-congratulation,” but for me, it’s an eye-opening account of prejudice and ignorance in the Jim Crow South. Sure, I’ve read about the civil rights movement in politically-correct history classes, but this book gave me a more insightful perspective of what it was like to be a black maid in a racially-divided Mississippi.  Read my review here.

2.) A War of Her Own by Sylvia Dickey Smith
Like a hearty plate of beef brisket, this book will stick with you long after you devour it in one sitting! In true Sylvia Dickey Smith style, the story centers around a strong, gutsy woman who strives to make a life for herself in defiance of adversity. Set in a small East Texas town during World War II, Bea Meade (the Texified version of Rosie the Riveter) must fight her own battle against a philandering husband and sexist men in the shipyard. As she struggles to find love and happiness as a single working mother, she must solve the mysteries of her past. Sylvia’s skillful unraveling of family secrets and betrayal left me breathless. Bea is an enduring character with a fierce and unstoppable spirit. This is a beautifully written story about an important time in American history. You must read this book!  Read my review here.

3.) Backseat Saints by Joshylin Jackson
This is one heavy-duty read that will make you think differently about women who suffer from domestic abuse. Trapped in a marriage with a dangerous psychopath, Rose Mae Lolley lives in a torturous world of misery and fear. After enduring a near-fatal blow to the head, she finally snaps and hits the road running. On a quest to find a murderous ex-boyfriend who can do her husband in, she heads back to her hometown in Fruiton, Alabama. When she reluctantly meets with her estranged father, she realizes she must come to terms with her past in order to break out of the vicious cycle of abuse and neglect. This is one heart-wrenching story of family psychodrama that will linger on with you long after you read it.

4.) Fever Moon by Carolyn Haines
Carolyn Haines is well known for her light-hearted Bones Mysteries, but she also has a few darker stand-alones that rival James Lee Burke’s and Joe Lansdale’s Deep South detective novels.  Set in New Iberia, Louisiana during World War II, the mystery begins when a stark-raving wild woman is found hovering over a ravaged murder victim in the woods. The town is convinced she’s the loup-garou, a legendary shape-shifting monster, yet Deputy Raymond Thibodeaux knows she’s been set up.  Haunted by the ravages of war and the loss of his kid brother, Raymond feels a strong connection to the feral woman who lost her mind after the death of her sister and two twin sons. On a quest to clear her name, he puts his life on the line and faces his own demons in the process. Whether I’m reading a cozy whodunit  or a dark and atmospheric thriller, I’m always swept away by Carolyn’s world of sprawling horse pastures, sugar cane fields and spooky bayous!  Read my review here.

5.) Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
They say you can never come home again, but for Catherine Grace Cline, that’s perfectly okay. Restless and bored of small-town life, she spends her days plotting her great escape out of Ringgold, Georgia. Every Saturday afternoon, she sits with her best friend outside the DQ licking a Dilly Bar and daydreaming about her new life in the big city of Atlanta. When her dream finally becomes a reality, tragedy brings her back home. Shortly after her arrival, she discovers an earth-shattering betrayal and must find it within herself to forgive the ones she holds most dear. Brimming with sentiments of love, redemption and perseverence, this book had me reaching for the Kleenex and made me want to hug my daddy. I know, I’m a total sap. If you’re into books by authors like Billie Letts or Fannie Flagg, you’re bound to enjoy this sweet Southern yarn.

What’s your favorite book of 2011?

Cindy Lou’s Last Minute Gift Guide

The stockings are hung, the tree is trimmed, and I’m totally freaking out!  Christmas is almost here and I still have a ton of shopping to do! If you, like me, need some help finding the perfect gift for that “hard to buy for” person on your list, check out Cindy Lou’s handy-dandy gift guide. Books make fabulous gifts. They’re cheap, easy to wrap, and offer hours of entertainment!  E-books are great, but you can’t wrap them up in a pretty little bow. Be sure to search for these titles and more at your local independent bookstore. BookPeople here I come!

Isn’t Cindy Lou the cutest? You should pay her a visit at the former Town Lake Animal Shelter. She’s sweet, adorable and looking for a good home! For more info, go to the Austin Pets Alive website. [UPDATE: This sweet pup just got adopted! But if you’re in the market for a new four-legged friend, check out the available doggies and kitties on the APA! website.]

Hot Guys and Baby Animals by Audrey Khuner and Carolyn Newman

Hot guys and baby animals!!!! Need I say more? Whoever thought of this concept is a freaking genius. My only complaint is that not all of the men are shirtless. But other than that, this book is a win-win for hot guy appreciators and nonprofit animal rescues. That’s right – proceeds from this book go to nonprofits like SPCA. I think it is my civic duty to go out and buy this book for each of my gal pals!


Killer Hair by Ellen Byerrum

This fun little mystery series is chick lit at its finest! I picked up Killer Hair after watching the movie adaptation on Lifetime. As a journalist and wannabe sleuth, I can’t resist mysteries involving snoopy reporters who solve crimes with their hot detective boyfriends. In this series, our fearless protagonist, Lacey Smithsonian (no relation to the museum) reluctantly writes a fashion column for a small daily in Washington D.C. Apparently our nation’s Capital is the home of the helmet hairdo, shoulder pads and boxy power-suits – yikes! In this book (the first installment in the series) she teams up with her two quirky gal pals to find the killer of an up-and-coming celebrity hair stylist. Filled with fashion tips, snappy dialogue, twists and turns, this is a really fun little whodunit!

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

If you’re looking for a book that will give you A LOT to talk about – this one’s for you! Wow – this is one powerful book about abandonment, domestic violence and personal transformation. Rose Mae Lolley is one character I will never forget. Abandoned by her mother and forced to live with an abusive father, she lost her innocence and love for life at a very young age. Caught in a vicious cycle of abuse, Rose marries a psychotic man who beats her to a pulp on a regular basis. When she finally snaps, she grabs a pistol and her dog and makes a run for it. When her survival instinct kicks into gear, she ditches her identity as the subservient wife and develops an ass-kicking, gun-toting alternate personality. I never really understood why women stay with their violent husbands until I read this book, which really delves into the psyche of abused women.

The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life by Kathy L. Patrick

This book makes a great gift for anyone who loves to read. While shopping at a super-cute old-timey drug store/soda fountain in Jefferson, I found this book sandwiched between racks of feather boas and floppy hats. The book cover depicting a gaggle of fun-loving women decked out in tiaras and leopard-print ensembles seemed to be calling my name. Filled with inspiring quotes, recommended reading lists and stories of family and friendship, this book has a little something for everyone. A lot of the essays  really struck a chord with me, especially the chapter about how Kathy (who actually avoided reading as a kid) found her passion for all things literary after her teacher recommended that she read “Honestly, Katie John.” Just that little bit of encouragement spurred her love of reading and gave her the confidence to write. On a personal note, this really reminded me of when a 9th grade teacher wrote a footnote in one of my essays that said, “You’re a talented writer. You should pursue this.” Mr. Demaro, wherever you are, THANK YOU!

Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

This book makes a great gift for anyone on your list who likes to laugh! You don’t even have to be a dog lover (though I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be!) to get hours of entertainment out of this collection of funny and inspiring essays.  From dealing with a terrible tween and aging parents to finding inspiration at an American Idol concert, this talented author expertly combines humor with some pretty weighty issues. Reading this book is like visiting with your best gal pal. I actually had to force myself to slow down and savor it because I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new dog-loving friend. The fact that she’s a Murder She Wrote Fan is just the icing on the cake!

The Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series by Carolyn Haines

This mystery series is sure to please any gal – Southern or not – who enjoys a good atmospheric mystery set in the Deep South. The leading lady, Sarah Booth Delaney is one of my favorite protagonists, which says a lot because I’m hooked on several mystery series. She’s smart, sassy and not afraid to risk life and limb to save her friends from fiendish murderers. How I wish I could hang out with Sarah Booth and her bestie, Tinkie, on a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking mint juleps on the porch of her beloved plantation home. Oh and did I mention that in between writing and teaching, this wonderful author rescues animals? She’s truly fabulous and anyone who reads her books will agree!

Paranormal State by Ryan Buell

Okay, okay I know this is not chick lit, but I have to include it! I’m a total sucker for ghost-hunting shows – even the ones that I know are fake! Although I have to admit that I mainly watch Ghost Adventures because Zach Bagans is a hottie. But out of all of them, Paranormal State is the spookiest. Ryan Buell genuinely wants to help people rid their houses of malevolent spirits – and he’s not afraid to confront even the most demonic entities. I’ve always wondered what happens behind the scenes, and this book really fills in the blanks. You learn more about the clients (the good and the bad) and the eerie encounters that were edited out of the 30-minute episodes. I made the mistake of reading this book while my hubby was out of town and had to sleep with all the lights on! If you’re looking for a good scare, check this one out.

Carolyn Haines on Writing Strong Women Blog Talk Radio!

Sylvia Dickey Smith

Attention all southern mystery fans! Check out Carolyn Haines’ interview on author Sylvia Dickey Smith’s “Writing Strong Women” blog talk radio! These are two charming women who really know their stuff about writing, southern culture and girl power! Listen to the podcast.

Carolyn Haines

From Sylvia’s Blog Talk Radio: Catch up with Carolyn Haines and learn why she chooses to write strong women, and where her inspiration comes from.

“A lot of people ask me how I started writing about the Mississippi Delta. My hometown, Lucedale, is way down in the Southeast corner of the state. That section is called the pine barrens, and it lives up to its name. Pine trees are a cash crop, and thousands of acres were once owned by the big paper companies. It’s a world very different from the Mississippi Delta.”

Fever Moon by Carolyn Haines

Legend has it the loup-garou, a shape-shifting fiend with a human body and the head of a wolf, prowls the swamps of Louisiana looking for its next meal.

Sure, the concept of a flesh-eating Cajun werewolf may seem far-fetched, but for the people of New Iberia parish, the legend is something to be feared.

The story begins when Deputy Ramond Thibodeaux stumbles upon the gruesome scene of Adele Herbert, the town outcast, crouching over the ravaged body of Henry Bastian, a wealthy plantation owner.

In all the horrors he witnessed while fighting in the war, he’d never seen anything that chilled him so deeply.

“For one long moment he stood and stared at the woman. At what lay at her feet. At the blood glistening in the moonlight on her hands and face and the rivulets of it tracing the path of the rain along the dirt road. At the long, twisted ropes of intestines that had been pulled from  the savaged abdomen of the dead man.”

And so begins Haines’ chilling story of murder and mysticism in post-World War II Louisiana. With the townsfolk in a panic about the loup-garou on the loose, Raymond is determined to restore order. Although his neighbors believe the woman is a mythical were-creature, Raymond suspects she was set up.

Tormented by the atrocities of war, Raymond feels a strange connection to Adele. After the death of her twin boys and the suicide of her sister, she lost everything, including her sense of reality. Haunted by guilt and wartime flashbacks, Raymond knows his only salvation is to prove Adele’s innocence and possibly give her a chance to rebuild her life.  

When a child goes missing and Adele breaks loose, the town spirals into a frenzy. And Raymond is forced to seek out the killer before it’s too late. With some help from a mystical healer and the town mistress, Raymond pieces together the clues and discovers something far more sinister than a loup-garou is at work.

Will Raymond prove Adele’s innocence before the townsfolk burn her alive?  What twisted secrets lie behind the walls of the Bastion plantation home? You’ll have to read to find out!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Haines’ cozy Bones mystery series, but I love it when she takes a spin on the dark side! Just like James Lee Burke and Joe Lansdale, she has a real talent for creating a deliciously atmospheric Southern mystery filled with complex characters.  

Whether her books are dark and spooky or cozy and warm, Haines knocks it out of the ballpark every time.  Keep ‘em coming Carolyn!

Want to know about this talented author? Well then check out her Q&A.

A Q&A with Carolyn Haines, Author of the Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series

I’m  thrilled to announce this gem of an interview with Carolyn Haines, acclaimed author of the beloved Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series!  From light-hearted mysteries to paranormal-infused crime thrillers,  Haines’ books have wide-reaching appeal to mystery lovers, ghost enthusiasts and fans of southern fiction. This prolific author has published 19 books and several stories in anthologies, including Many Bloody Returns, a collection of vampire stories co-edited by none other than Charlaine Harris!

In between rescuing animals at the Good Fortune Farm Refuge and writing her next whodunnit – this lovely lady was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Chick Lit Café about her love of ghost stories, the allure of southern fiction, Sarah Booth’s complicated love life, and what’s up next!

Welcome Carolyn! What made you want to write, and how did you get started?  

I was always a storyteller. And a reader. So it was a natural transition from reading and oral storytelling to writing. My parents were both journalists, and the written word was highly regarded in our house.

Unwed, over 30 and flat broke, Sarah Booth Delaney is not your typical southern belle. What inspired you to write about a down-on-her-luck southern woman with a penchant for solving crimes?   

Typical Southern belles were never of much interest to me—I wanted to be a cowgirl or a detective. Nancy Drew and Dale Evans were my role models, and while they were “good” girls, they could also hold their own in a man’s world. They were not “little ladies” who waited at home for their men to return. They got out and did things. Sarah Booth is of that model, but what she learns is that even women who present themselves as “helpless” are not always so.  

Eleven books into your series, I think it’s safe to say that you have a steady following of loyal fans. What is it about southern culture that readers find so fascinating?  

Not all readers are enamored of the South. I’ve had some pretty crummy remarks made—to my face and behind my back. The South is very misunderstood, but those who are willing to give books set in the Deep South a try often find that there is great charm in families who relish their eccentric relatives, who fly in the face of tradition while also having a deep commitment to tradition. Southerners have real humor about our humidity, our penchant for fried things, our crazy relatives, our dogs, and our land. Southerners are contradictory, on many levels. And like every other region, the people who live here can be wonderful, generous, and brilliant or they can be willfully ignorant, cruel, disgusting. 

I always look forward to appearances from Jitty, Sarah Booth’s wise-cracking resident ghost. It’s always entertaining when she pops up in fashionable ensembles – from Scarlet O’Hara gowns to Daisy Buchanan flapper dresses!  How did you come up with this character?  

I wish I could say I had something to do with Jitty, but she was simply there, brow-beating Sarah Booth over viable sperm and the need for a Delaney heir. I learn more about Jitty with each book. She is Sarah Booth’s subconscious, on many levels. While she never helps with solving the mystery (that would be cheating, now wouldn’t it?) she does keep Sarah Booth in line in all other ways. Sarah Booth needs Jitty to remind her about what’s important in life.

With a slew of hot suitors vying for Sarah Booth’s affections, the Mississippi summer heat isn’t all that’s steaming up your books! For the aspiring writers out there, could you share some advice on how to create and maintain romantic tension?

Many people write me and they want Sarah Booth to settle down. Coleman has legions of supporters. Graf is gaining ground, but I haven’t given up on Harold and Hamilton Garrett V. The truth is, once Sarah Booth is settled and happy, a lot of energy goes out of the books. It is that romantic tension that works as a counter-point to the external tension of the murder plot. Sarah Booth is like a dear friend. I don’t always agree with the decisions she makes, but I always love her. And she is so truly her own character by now that I wouldn’t dare try to force MY decision down her throat. Her life is a journey, as is mine. We will come to the answers in due time. But I will assure my readers that she will never move toHollywood, just as I will never move from the South (though hurricanes and humidity can truly test my resolve).

If you could spend an afternoon with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

Madame Tomeeka, I think. She does have a link to a different plane, and like Sarah Booth, I would give a lot to have a conversation with my family members who have gone to The Great Beyond. I should probably ask to spend time with Oscar for financial advice so I could one day afford to have a huge preserve for animals so they could never be hunted or chased. Or maybe if Sarah Booth acted “purdy” to Hamilton Garrett V, he would simply buy it for me. Hummm. So many possibilities.

Many of your books, including your standalones, infuse paranormal elements. What sparked your interest in ghost stories? 

My grandmother and my parents were both marvelous storytellers, and often they told ghost stories. Horror movies are a family tradition. Some people barbecue—the Haines clan goes to horror films. And we are always poorly behaved and play tricks on each other and our friends. I have seen ghosts on several occasions (When I told this in my class at the university, one of my students offered free psychiatric help from her father! I was flattered!). Although I have no special abilities myself, I sense there is far more to our world than what is on the surface, and I know that all living creatures are linked, which is why we should treat animals with more compassion that some people do.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what readers can expect from you next?

I’m working on the 12th bones—BONEFIRE OF THE VANITIES (I know, I just can’t help myself!) And I am going to see what this e-publishing is all about. I have a story set in South Dakota about a serial killer, and I’m going to give it a try as an e-book (in all formats) and also as a regular print book with print on demand capability. Long ago I started a small publishing company, KaliOka Books. I loved the idea, but distribution was a big, big problem. Now all of that has changed. So I just want to have the experience, and I think it will give my readers a chance to see a darker story from me. Many of them love the darker books. The title is SKIN DANCER and you’ll be hearing more about it in just a few weeks.

And in conclusion, I ask you all to spay and neuter your pets. Please don’t allow them to reproduce, no matter how cute they are. Thousands of unwanted cats, dogs, and now horses, are dying each month because no one wants them. If we can stop the supply, then the demand will grow and each creature can find a loving home.

Interested in learning more about Carolyn Haines’ books? Well then check out her website, which includes book event updates, giveaways, and Jitty’s love advice column!