“Something moves among the birds, along the snowy lanes, skirting the light in favor of shadow. In Christmas Village, this night, a creature is stirring.”

–From Slay Bells by T.C. Wescott

T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.

The Christmas Village Mystery series launched in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple – mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.

Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as many essays and articles.

His latest book is the cozy mystery, Slay Bells (A Christmas Village Mystery).

Book Description:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!

Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring-

Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.

When the Inn’s guests begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But can she unmask the phantom killer in time and save Christmas?

Interview:

Welcome, T.C.!  Your new ChristmasVillage Mystery series sounds thrilling! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

T.C.: Years ago I conceived of a mystery happening in the actual Santa village at the North Pole. Only Santa would be the victim! What appealed to me about the idea was the cozy village full of cottages and quirky businesses. Time marched on and I increasingly became attracted to the idea of writing a cozy mystery series. The two ideas melded together and I came up with Christmas Village Mysteries. It was the coziest possible world I could imagine. There are SO many cozy series out there now that I figured if I was going to ask readers to spend their time and money on me then the least I could do was attempt to write the coziest, most mysterious cozy mysteries I could. Slay Bells is my first stab (pardon the pun) at that. With more to come!

Can you tell us a little about the main characters in your latest book, Slay Bells?

T.C.: The primary character is Maribel Claus who is very active about the business of the village. And some might say she’s active about the business of the villagers! She’s helping out an injured friend, Rose Willoughby, who runs a bed and breakfast called Plum Cottage. It’s the week of the grand Christmas Festival and the Inn is full with a troupe of traveling performers. When one by one they begin to die in the most mysterious fashion imaginable, the village is split between thinking a mythological creature of village lore or a flesh-and-blood human is behind it. Maribel knows an old-fashioned murder when she sees one. But to discover who committed the murders she must first figure out how they were committed. A Howdunit!

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?

T.C.: I hope the first page. But failing that I would say by the end of chapter 3. That’s when you have an idea of what kind of book you’re in for and you will want to stay until the end to discover how such an impossible murder could be committed. 

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

T.C.: Every author NEEDS a professional proofreader/copy editor. I don’t care who you are. Stephen King has one. My process is this: I’ll write several chapters and then when the mood hits me, I’ll read back through them, making corrections and changes. I continue this until the book is fully written. Then I do another read-through, catch more things. Then I put my book into an online system called AutoCrit which undoubtedly improves each manuscript it touches. After I’ve ran it through the AutoCrit gauntlet, I send the manuscript to my editor. When she is done, I enter in her corrections and do a final read-through. In spite of all this, the odd error will survive. But just because an author is publishing independently it’s not an excuse to be sloppy. If you want to compete with the big houses, you have to do what you can to bring your product up to their level, which is what the reader expects and deserves.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

T.C.: Think of how many bad books you’ve read that had a great cover. You probably can’t count that high. Now, think of how many great books you’ve purchased that had a terrible cover. Having trouble thinking of one? That’s because you don’t look at books with terrible covers. Invest in a competent cover artist.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

T.C.: An author, a rock star, an actor, an author. In that order.

Do your novels carry a message?

T.C.: I suppose little messages slip through, but cozy mysteries are escapism, and they’re about the puzzle. Or they should be. ‘Cozy’ should only come before ‘Mystery’ in the book department description. 

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

T.C.: Yes, thank you for choosing my book. If you left a review somewhere, then bless you. More on the way. And I DO pay attention to feedback. 

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