Please give a big ole southern howdo to welcome Nancy Jill Thames as our guest today! She's was gracious enough to sit down in one of my white rockers with a glass of ice cold sweet tea and answer a few questions. After all, she is known as the QUEEN OF AFTERNOON TEA ;)
What’s the story behind the title of your book?
After reading so many murder mysteries and watching endless episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” I decided to write a mystery of my own as a personal challenge. I had no idea of what writing a book was about, much less how to publish. All I knew was how to tell a story.
My husband and I were at a business retreat at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay at the end September of 2001. This was immediately after 911.
With pen in hand, I wandered about the hotel taking notes, and imagining what it would be like for an amateur sleuth to be staying here. I created characters based on hotel staff, myself as the heroine, and my garden club friends. After I got home, I added more characters based on people I’d encounter running errands. The story got as far as 12 chapters before my 12 year old daughter told me how unbelievable it was. She said to abandon the project. What she was really saying was, “Pay more attention to me.” I complied.
But after eight years, at the insistence of my “techie” son, I started a blog, posting one chapter at a time as a way to get computer literate and back to writing. The Half Moon Bay Review noticed the location and showed an interest in the story. When they asked for an interview. I went into super writing mode, checked out a book from the library on how to write a murder mystery, and finished “Murder in Half Moon Bay” a few months later.
Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
The heroine, Jillian Bradley, is a feisty garden columnist with a nose for solving homicides, especially when they involve friends and family. Her clue-sniffing sidekick is a Yorkie weighing four and a half pounds named Teddy, who goes wherever Jillian does. Since she’s widowed and childless, her garden club friends play an important part in her life. The three women help Jillian solve mysteries in several of the books. Settings take place in the Bay Area; Scottsdale, Arizona; Half Moon Bay, California; London; Lake Placid, NY; and the most recent story is in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The hallmarks of my books are afternoon tea, fine art, and visits to lovely hotels. “Murder in Half Moon Bay” can be a standalone until you read the last line which says, “Not the End.” The rest of the books are stand alone with the exception of Books 6 and 7. Book 7, “The Ruby of Siam,” is a continuation of “Waiting for Santa.”
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
It’s not what happens to you – it’s how you react to what happens to you.
Have you been in any natural disasters? The earthquake of 1989 shook our home in Sacramento, sloshed the water out of the pool at my brother’s house a couple of blocks away, and collapsed the Nimitz freeway close to our home two weeks later in Fremont. It was a miracle that only 63 people lost their lives.
What makes you excited?
First of all, five star reviews for my books, and then book sales!
Do you have another job outside of writing?
Who are you?
My friends call me “Queen of Afternoon Tea.” I call myself “Author.”
How did you meet your spouse? Was it love at first sight?
He was sitting on the boy’s side of the college and career department of the First Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas. I was on the girl’s side sitting next to my dorm friend who’d taken me in over semester break, since I lived in California and going to Baylor University in Texas.
I thought he was skinny but nicely dressed. He thought I was a voluptuous blonde. After getting to know each other over the phone, we dated for a week, then I went back to school and forgot all about him. A month later, we had another date for one of my school functions. I never dated anyone else after that. It was love on the second date. When we kissed, I heard bells. True story!
What are your most cherished mementoes?
A pair of porcelain Geishas that my grandmother had on her mantle; a handmade black dress belonging to my other grandmother; and my tea cup collection.
If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?
My wedding photo album.
What brings you sheer delight?
Using my beautiful dishes and linens to entertain.
What are you working on now?
“Murder at the Empress Hotel,” which takes place in Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island. I wanted to write a book capturing the memory of a lovely family vacation years ago. It was also destined that I write about the hotel’s famous afternoon tea. What I didn’t realize was the existence of the aboriginal First Nations element on the island, upon which I then centered the story. A First Nations bitter fishing rights dispute turns deadly with the murder of a young attorney, which in turn, draws Jillian and Teddy into yet another intriguing adventure.
Be sure to check out Jill's website!!