I'm pleased to welcome Laura Childs to the blog today. Laura is a New York Times best selling author who writes several mystery series as well as a thriller! Laura's longest running series just happens to center around a tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina.
LC: I’ve pretty much been a tea drinker all my life - really since college. I went to a private school where we had sit-down dinners at night served by waitresses. They would come around and pour fresh-brewed tea and I grew to love it.
Kathy: You’re more apt to find me drinking iced tea, even in winter, but I also drink hot tea. I drink in the more Asian style, drinking my tea neat, never adding cream or sugar. How do you like your tea?
LC: I never add cream or sugar, I think it masks the subtleties of tea.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite type of tea?
LC: I’m a huge fan of Japanese green teas – especially Genmaicha and Bancha. But when I want to go a little crazy, I select a tea with a kick – something with citrus, lemongrass, or cinnamon blended in.
Kathy: In addition to drinking tea many people collect tea cups, tea pots, and other tea things. Do you collect any tea accouterments?
LC: If I see a particularly charming teacup in an antique store I will buy it. But my husband is the teapot collector. Dr. Bob (professor of Chinese art history) has over 100 Chinese Yixing teapots. They are these adorable little purple clay pots that are often adorned with dragons or foo dogs.
Kathy: How does tea play a part in your writing?
LC: Well, since I write the Tea Shop Mystery series, it plays a huge part. I visit tea shops to sample new teas and treats, am always buying new teas, and I collect books about tea. Of course, I drink tea while I’m writing. A little caffeine always helps to rev me up!
Kathy: Back in 2001 Death by Darjeeling, the first book in your Tea Shop Mystery series, was published. Devonshire Scream, the 17th book was just released. Would you tell us a bit about this series?
LC: These are cozy mysteries (think kinder, gentler mysteries) that feature Theodosia Browning, the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, SC.
She’s a feisty small business owner who, along with her tea shop dog, Earl Grey, gets involved in murder, kidnappings, art heists, etc. The books are very fast-paced with critical action always taking place in the first chapter. This propels Theodosia and her regular cast of characters into a story that often features overwhelming odds, yet always yields justice in the end.
Interestingly enough, I found my “voice” for the character of Theodosia within the first few lines I ever wrote. I could even picture her sitting in her quaint little tea shop with balmy breezes wafting in off the Cooper River. From there it was easy to weave in her tea sommelier, Drayton, and her young baker, Haley, and set them on course for a murder mystery.
Kathy: Why choose a tea shop and a focus of tea for your series?
LC: I was looking for a fun theme to kind of “anchor” a cozy mystery, and tea had just started to take off like a bottle rocket. Tea shops were popping up like errant mushrooms, ladies were rediscovering tea parties, and tea parties were even coming into vogue as charity fund raisers. A tea theme seemed like a very fertile niche that had never been written about before - and I’m all about that!
Kathy: Were you quite knowledgeable about tea prior to writing the series?
LC: I’d always been a tea drinker. But when I started traveling to China, Japan, and Indonesia with my husband, I began to do tea tasting in a serious way. Still, I can’t claim to be any kind of expert – there’s so much I don’t know yet!
Kathy: Is the Indigo Tea Room based on a real tearoom or is it purely a product of your imagination?
LC: The Indigo Tea Room is a montage of the coziest tea shops I’ve ever visited in the U.S., Asia, and the UK.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite tearoom, or place to enjoy tea?
LC: There are terrific tearooms all over the place. But one of my most memorable tea experiences was in Kyoto, Japan. After visiting Kiyomizu Temple - built in the 1600’s upon a lovely mountain – my husband and I wandered down a narrow, winding street filled with tea shops. We went in one and sipped hot green tea and ate wafer-thin cookies and slices of baked yam in a 400 year-old tea shop. It was fantastic!
Kathy: What does tea mean to you?
LC: I find tea drinking to be a very relaxing experience. You take time out of your day to prepare a cup of tea, you’re enveloped in this lovely cloud of steam which is almost akin to aromatherapy, and then you sip your hot, subtly flavored beverage. It’s quite contemplative.
For more information about Laura Childs check out her website: http://www.laurachilds.com/
Laura has graciously offered a copy of her latest tea shop mystery, DEVONSHIRE SCREAM to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment on this blog post talking about your favorite type of tea. Leave your comment no later than 11:59 pm Saturday, March 26, 2016 along with an e-mail address so that I may contact you should you win. Sorry US addresses only.