A charity ball. A dead guest. Can an amateur sleuth solve the case or will it ruin Christmas forever?
Aspiring antiques expert, Dotty Sayers, is excited about organising a ball in a Cotswold country house. When a lecture on modern art leads to a kiss under the mistletoe she thinks all her Christmases have come at once. But her festive cheer turns sour when a partygoer is found dead on the dance floor.
The police ask Dotty to help wrap up the case of a stolen painting, but as the search continues she becomes entangled in the murder investigation. When this amateur detective realises the culprit could be a close friend, will she face the Yuletide music?
Can Dotty put aside her personal feelings and herald a murderer?
Gavels, Tinsel and Murder is the fourth book in the charming Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series. If you like to eat, drink and be merry with a group of entertaining characters, then you’ll be entertained by Victoria Tait’s festive tale.
Christmas comes but once a year so buy Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder today!
Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder is another lovely entry in the Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series by author Victoria Tait. I loved that over the course of the series, Dotty has come out of the shell that had been constructed around her growing up and maintained by her much older military spouse. She’s still mourning his death, but time has passed, and healing has started to occur. She’s gotten to a place emotionally where when handsome art buyer, Gilmore Chapman, shows her some very pointed attention, she responds favorably.
I had the delightful opportunity to interview Victoria Tait, author of Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder, for today's virtual blog tour post!
Would you like to share a little of your backstory? (Where were you born/grew up? Education?)
I was born and brought up in Yorkshire, a fiercely proud county in the north-east of England. I had a happy childhood surrounded by horses, cats, hens, and my brother's not-so-friendly geese. I was committed and diligent at school, went on to university, and secured myself a job in London, where I worked hard and played hard.
From being one of your readers and getting your newsletter, I know you've traveled quite a bit as a military spouse. But do you still have a Travel Bucket List? And if so, what locations are on it?
Thank you for being on my newsletter. There are still so many places I want to visit. Indeed, I dream about converting my old Landcruiser and seeing where the fancy takes me, writing as I travel the world. But the reality is I have family commitments.
We discussed this question at supper yesterday, and I said I'd love to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway, starting by visiting the palaces and museums of St Petersburg and ending in Hong Kong. My oldest son suggested returning via the Silk Route. Unfortunately, neither trip would be safe to undertake at the moment. But perhaps my son and I will go in a few years when he finishes school.
When some readers asserted that Dotty was too naïve, you mentioned that you'd met new, young military wives who were exactly so. That led me to wonder if any of your characters are modeled after real people.
I think all my characters are, to some degree, based on real people and characters on TV and in books. I take in information about them, my surroundings, and my experiences, and they bubble away in my mind and come out in a different configuration as I write my books. My first books had a strong, older main character, and although she had much to deal with in life, she didn't grow.
With the Dotty series, I wanted to challenge myself and write a character who learnt from her experiences and changed into a stronger, independent woman. I thought this would also be more interesting for the readers who follow Dotty's journey.
What does your writing day look like?
Ideally, I wake and get up early, like today – I'm writing this at 6.15 am. I often grab a coffee and return to my bed when my husband is away, and write from there. It's warm and comfortable, and I can prop myself up with pillows which saves my back from always bending over my computer.
I'm a slow but what is termed clean writer, which means once I've written something, I rarely make changes apart from grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. I'm sure I'm an undiagnosed dyslexic. So once I've written for three to four hours, I get up and exercise or do jobs to clear my brain, and then return to my manuscript for an hour or so to edit that day's writing. If I don't, my terrible spelling combined with auto-spell check can result in some real nonsense on the page.
I've learnt so much from my journey as an author that I've secured myself a job as a virtual assistant to another author from whom I'm learning loads, as well as getting paid to help her. I'll do a couple of hours of her work after lunch. I then have admin etc., and, if possible, an hour or so of marketing. I often listen to courses, webinars, or podcasts while I'm cooking supper. After all this, I'm usually exhausted and go to bed early, hopefully reading a book for half an hour, but sometimes I just fall asleep.
With several successful novels under your belt, has anything changed about your writing process from when you started out to how you do things now?
I'm a methodical person, and I like structure, so what has always been important for me is to start my day writing. If I have too many days not writing, I lose my flow. I know this doesn't work for everyone.
The method and planning of each book always varies. I have an A4 series notebook, and at the front, I jot down information about characters and add something if they say, buy a new car, so I have a quick reference point.
I start planning each book by establishing where we are in the overall story and where I want to get to: I've always had a rough six books story arc for my Dotty series, which I'm sticking to (spoiler alert. Books 5 (written) and Book 6 (starting soon) will be closely linked) and actually this book is the catalyst for them.
Back to each book, I choose a theme like revenge or betrayal, and then a crime with a victim and a list of suspects. Usually, I know who the murderer is, although this can change during the book. Then I start writing until I'm about a third of the way through and the crime is committed. From that point on, I tend to plot out, in pencil, the next 5-10,000 words, write them and repeat. This ensures I include all the clues and other points, and I can start tying up loose ends as we reach the end of the book. This is particularly important with books 4, 5, and 6 in the Dotty series, as there are many threads running through them.
What have been your family members' reactions to your becoming a successful published author?
Ha-Ha. I don't think they'd call me successful – my books aren't on the shelves in Waterstones! But my husband is proud and my boys, who favour maths and computer science over English lessons, think I'm pretty crazy to enjoy writing so much.
What was your biggest surprise about the writing life or publishing process?
Gosh, there have been so many. I knew nothing when I started in 2019. I suppose it is the fantastic community of authors and readers who are supportive and helpful. Authors further along the journey, like the one I'm now working for, know the steps and that they take time, so they offer encouragement but show me that I can both enjoy writing and publishing and make a level of income to support myself and my family. Fingers crossed.
If you could go back in time to before you wrote your first novel and give yourself a tip or secret about writing, publishing, or marketing your work, what would you say?
Steady. Don't push the first book too much. But in fairness, I did keep writing and learning. I needed to write those first books, that first series, to learn about me and my writing process, to understand craft, but most importantly, to discover what readers want. But who knows, I could get this wrong with my next series, and it could be a disaster. But I'd still learn from it and keep moving forward. That's just my nature, luckily, as it's been all the other things going on in the world, my family, and my life which have made the process much harder but also helped me appreciate it.
How long does it usually take you to complete a new book? (From setting down that first scene to clicking "publish" (or whatever you have to do) for the ebook to go live?
From starting to plan, to finishing writing and editing myself takes about eight weeks. I then send it to my editor, who takes about a month (she's a friend and has other personal and business commitments). I like to have the title when I start, and part way through, as I know where the story is going, I'll commission the cover. This means by the time I finish my writing process, I can have the pre-order up.
I like to be launching a book, have one with my editor, and have a third nearly completed. But after personal issues this summer, I'm currently behind. I have two short stories to complete for anthologies being published in the New Year, and then I'll write book 6. I hope to have this written by Christmas in time for it to be on pre-order for the launch of Book 5 on Boxing Day. So rather than slow down for Christmas, which I prefer, I have lots to get done. But it'll be fun.
So to answer the question, four to six months, depending on how organized I am. But the writing part is usually around two months.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I've really struggled reading fiction since I started writing. I'm not sure if it's because I spend so much time in my head with my own characters. For work and pleasure, I'm reading books by the author I'm working for. I did enjoy returning in the literacy sense to Edinburgh recently, where I used to live, and reading Ian Rankin's last John Rebus book. He's just launched another, so I'll read that soon.
What is your favorite of your own books and why?
I honestly don't have one. And actually, I sometimes struggle to remember what happened in which book as my characters and I are on a journey together. And I always look forward to the next adventure and the next book.
Thank you so much for your time and for hosting me on your blog. It's great to answer questions from a reader who knows about me and my work.
I never expected to be an author, but all this moving is not ideal for holding down a job. Instead, I’ve taken the experiences of the places I’ve lived to write vivid and evocative cozy mystery books with determined female sleuths.
I have two fast growing teenage boys, and together we’ve learnt to ski on the Bosnian mountains. I also enjoy horse riding, mountain biking and I’ve started running as a way to improve my physical fitness, mental well-being and shed some excess pounds.
For access to exclusive content, giveaways and freebies, sign up for my newsletter at my website: VictoriaTait.com.