Andrea: Andrea Taylor
Heather: Heather Shkuratoff
Barbara Jean: I am the shared pen name — Barbara Jean Coast
BJ: A woman never tells, as she is classically ageless
Where are you from
A: Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, raised in Oliver, BC and now reside in Kelowna, BC
H: Born in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, now residing in Kelowna, BC
BJ: Santa Lucia, California, my fictional town loosely based on Santa Barbara
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
A: I always imagined myself being a supersleuth girl detective and writing adventurous stories, full of mystery and intrigue since I was old enough to hold a pencil. After living for many years in Vancouver, BC and London, England I now reside in Kelowna, BC, Canada, although I travel often with my co-author friend to California to further develop our stories and escapades of the Poppy Cove Mystery Series. I have also published freelance articles about fashion, current events, and childcare, and is currently blogging on WordPress about creativity and poetry, as well as researching for my own literary novels.
H: As an avid mystery reader, I joined lifelong friend Andrea Taylor to create the Poppy Cove Mystery Series, written under the pen name of Barbara Jean Coast. Growing up in a family of talented crafters and sewers, I developed my own skills to become a dressmaker and designer, which helps to give rich detail and character to their stories. I live in Kelowna, BC, Canada, but spend a great deal of time in California, researching for the novels and doing my best to live like Barbara Jean.
BJ: I am the half-wit pen name for authors Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff. I am a resident of Santa Lucia, California (eerily similar to Santa Barbara), where I enjoy long lunches, cocktail parties, and fancy dinner dates with attractive and attentive gentlemen. My interests include Alfred Hitchcock movies, reading Carolyn Keene, music by popular musicians, such Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, shopping for new dresses, attending society events and always looking fabulous in kitten heels.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
A: We’re currently working on our fourth novel in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series, the follow-up to A NATE TO REMEMBER. The Future Homemakers of America Society and Barbara Lewis feature prominently.
H: We’re also bandying about ideas for a couple of other series, as well as keeping on in this one. The new ones would be set in different times, and we’re just having fun deciding what exactly we want to bring to fruition next.
BJ: I just do what the girls tell me, other than being the ‘bonne’ looking for my ‘vivant…’
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A: Since I could hold a pencil and found out that words could go together. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t write. It’s just in me to do.
H: Since my teens, I had kept a journal and free formed my thoughts onto paper. I just felt like I had stories to tell.
BJ: The girls brought me to life about twelve years ago. They wanted to have one name on the cover of the books that was easy to remember and spell, and something that reflected the era that they write about, which is the late 50’s/early 60’s.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A: When I was young, about nineteen. I had my first articles written about fashion published in a Vancouver entertainment newspaper.
H: When we saw the first Poppy Cove Mystery (STRANGLED BY SILK) take shape with a solid plot line.
BJ: When the girls told me to put down my cocktail and tell them a tale or two ;-)!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
H: I had always loved cozy mysteries, and had my own dressmaking/design shop for some years, but I did not know if I had it in me to write a series of books on my own. I knew Andrea was always writing and shared a joy of cozies as well, so I told her my idea and before long, she ran with it.
A: We wanted to set it in a time when dressmaking skills were revered, yet commonplace in the average society and as we started talking, I had sussed out a couple of major plots and the two main characters, then we thought we may have something and started working on the first book in earnest.
BJ: Santa Barbara, the muse for Santa Lucia cried out loud and strong, as well as my fun-loving views on life and love and the whole danged thing with a touch of harmless gossip gives them guidance.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
A: We talk. A lot. Out loud. Sometimes at the same time.
H: Yep. We sit side by side, and plot out the major story line and then the scenes and consult each other along the way as we write, edit and revise.
BJ: They do all the work, I take the glory.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
A: The stories revealed the titles to us as we wrote them. They showed themselves as we went along.
H: The first, STRANGLED BY SILK, came after we wrote the first chapter and it stuck. DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN was the headline that we came up with for the town’s local paper, The Santa Lucia Times, and the third, A NATE TO REMEMBER was a play on words. We were watching the movie A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and the romance concept of ‘a date to remember,’ and were just bantering back and forth and it showed up. We sat with it for a few days and it grew on us.
BJ: I like a little punny drama in my life.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A: The books are set in the late 50’s/early 60’s, and there is change afoot as we move on and how it affects the community we write about.
H: Cozies give that unique perspective of black humor. Although it seems bucolic on the surface, there’s always something brewing underneath.
BJ: Everyone has a story, and the books are about a certain character’s past, present, or future, depending on who is featured in that story.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?:
H: Our town, Santa Lucia, California is loosely based on Santa Barbara. We have taken into account a great deal of the location, the climate, the general vibe of the place. However, all of our people are fictional, and the situations are not based on actual events of the town.
A: We have been in touch with the Historical Society of Santa Barbara and they have been very helpful to us, providing us information about certain details, such as highways and routes, as well as the types of businesses and lifestyles that were popular during the time in the places we write about.
BJ: Being that I am a fictional entity and a resident of Santa Lucia, from my perspective, every word of it is the gospel truth.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A: No, more of a composite of people or personality traits.
H: We think about how different personalities would interact and handle certain situations.
BJ: For me, the more drama, the better in my made up world.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
A: Specifically for writing our mysteries, authors such as Donna Andrews, Susan Wittig Albert, and Jeri Westerson have been a great inspiration with their style of storytelling.
H: Also Carola Dunn, Rhys Bowen, and Laura Childs to add a few more. I like how they set up their time and place. The worlds they create are so full and inviting.
BJ: Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Josephine Tey and Carolyn Keene.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A: BODY OF WORK by Christine Montross, THE DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE SILVER DOLLAR BUSH by Susan Wittig Albert, and HOTTUB OF DEATH by Rita Strombeck.
H: A TOUCH OF STARDUST by Kate Alcott, MILLION DOLLAR BABY by Amy Patricia Meade, and DEAD MAN DANCING by Kate O’Connell.
BJ: MADAM, WILL YOU TALK? by Mary Stewart, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, by Rona Jaffe and PEYTON PLACE by Grace Metalious.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A: There are so many great books out there, it’s hard to pin down just a few, but the first that comes to mind is Eleanor Catton who wrote THE LUMINARIES.
H: Hmm, hard to pin down. I do find it really exciting when an author is new to me and I discover they have more than one book. Then I binge read on all of their books. That just happened for me with Kate Alcott, and now I’m on her third.
BJ: My publisher, Cozy Cat Press has some awfully good newly published writers. All of them have a great stories to tell.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
A: Currently, we’re working on our fourth book in our Poppy Cove Mystery Series, as yet untitled (it’ll come to us). Also, I’ve got a couple of other standalone novels I am percolating at the moment.
H: We’ve also been sussing out a couple of other cozy mystery series that we’d like to do outside of the Poppy Cove ones. We’re figuring out how and when we want to develop them as we keep writing the current series.
BJ: The girls keep me very busy with being the social butterfly in Santa Lucia and on social media. It’s all I can do to keep up.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
A: The readers who have embraced Poppy Cove. They have been wonderful.
H: Also the author community who write cozies and other mystery writers. They have been so generous with their encouragement and comradery.
BJ: The social set of Santa Lucia, who let me tell their stories.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
A: No. We were really happy with how A NATE TO REMEMBER turned out.
H: It was a story we wanted to tell right from the very beginning.
BJ: I’m happy with it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
A: I was always telling stories and making things up since I was a child. Once I could hold a pencil, they ended up forming stories.
H: I’ve loved a good story since I could remember. The ideas in my head just became something I wanted to have down as a record of events.
BJ: I think good gossip and tales of murder and mayhem need a place to be safely out in the world.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
A: The fourth book in our Poppy Cove Mystery series concerns the Homemakers Society of America and the idea of the Happy Homemaker.
H: Some of it turns out to be not so happy.
BJ: And a little deadly.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A: The editing process. That’s when you’re dealing with the nitty gritty minutiae and it can be a bit of a slog.
H: Sometimes when you are writing, and the words don’t come. Or you don’t like how it seems to be going, but it’s best not to overanalyze, because when you look back at it, sometimes those turn out to be the best passages.
BJ: Sometimes the act of work cuts into my socializing. Sigh.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
A: Tracy Chevalier. What strikes me about her work is her historical details.
H: Whitney Otto. Her work can leave me breathless in the way she transports a reader through her prose.
BJ: Mary Stewart. Her international glamour gives me aspirations to live a jet set life.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
A: We’ve spent extensive time in the Santa Barbara region, as well as the central California coast and Los Angeles regions, which served as the muse to our stories.
H: We still go as frequently as we can.
BJ: I love to travel, but Santa Lucia is my inspirational home.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A: Our publisher, Cozy Cat Press has some brilliant cover designers.
H: Being with a small press, we definitely had some say and approval over the covers. We are very happy with them.
BJ: Personally, I think they are suitable for framing in any home.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
A: Sometimes it can be a challenge finding time to write in a busy life.
H: Now that we have work published, we find it hard sometimes to balance between marketing what’s already out there and writing the new work.
BJ: Getting the girls to stop giggling and laughing to write down my stories.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
A: That writing a book is not as easy as it first seems. There is so much in the way of reshaping, honing and editing that has to go on past the initial idea.
H: How much fun and gratifying it is to tell a whole and complete story. That the hard work does pay off, just in itself for being recorded down.
BJ: Cocktails and Frank Sinatra make the writing process complete.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
A: Write. Just write.
H: Set aside the time and get your thoughts out. They’ll take shape later.
BJ: Dig in, tell your story.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A: Thank you. You make it all worthwhile.
H: We are so happy to share our stories with you.
BJ: You are always welcome in Santa Lucia. Just watch out for a little murder and mayhem among the fashion and fabulousness.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
A: THE POKEY LITTLE PUPPY
H: THE THREE LITTLE KITTENS
BJ: DICK AND JANE
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A: A good story, whether it be in the form of a book, movie or a personal tale can make me laugh or cry.
H: Those unexpected moments in life. The little things that make the human experience worth living.
BJ: Getting up in the morning and seeing what the day brings.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
A: Agatha Christie. A conversation with her would be so interesting.
H: Cole Porter. For his wit and wisdom in such a stylish manner.
BJ: Any red blooded male who will put me on a pedestal and never let me down.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
A: I actually don’t plan on having a head stone. I want my ashes scattered.
H: Same here. I plan on becoming part of the Big Sur coast.
BJ: Being that I am only fictional, I’ve not been born, so I won’t die. I kinda like it that way.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
A: I do collage, playing on Pinterest, reading, baking and listening to music.
H: I sew, love to cook, going out for walks.
BJ: There’s bound to be a happy hour always somewhere….
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
A: Really love British mysteries these days. Morse, Lewis, Endeavour come to mind, as well as Poirot. Oh, and the Thin Man movies.
H: I like those too. I’ll add Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders and Wallander to the list. Absolutely love anything with David Lean and Anthony Minghella in the director’s seat.
BJ: The Saint, The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
A: I like food, period. I’m not a picky eater and enjoy most ethnic foods. My favorite color is orange. I like classical, jazz, pop – whatever I’m in the mood for at the time.
H: I’m a big eater. There’s not much I don’t like to try. My favorite color is blue. The only music I don’t care for too much is country or explicit rap. I tend to listen the most to alt/indie and jazz, I guess.
BJ: Whatever is floating around at the cocktail circuit, usually served on toothpicks. I like pink. Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, and Nina Simone are some of the singers that really send me.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
A: I don’t really give that much thought. I’ve done other jobs that I have enjoyed to make a living, but I am always happy that I write.
H: I also have designed and been a professional dressmaker and have liked that as well as writing. I still dabble in it and sometimes think of doing more.
BJ: Being paid for just being a social butterfly.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?