Guest blogger Jill Marie Landisand I have been writers in the trenches and friends since the late 1980’s. (We were teenagers back then.) Not only have we known each other for years, but we share the same birthday. When I heard she is writing something new, I invited Jill to stop by and tell us all about her hilarious Tiki Goddess Mystery series from Bell Bridge Books.
Kathleen: It’s a big leap from Western/Americana Historicals set in the 1800’s to a contemporary mystery series set on Kauai, Hawaii. Was that like jumping off a cliff into dark water?
Jill: It would have been a terrifying leap if I hadn’t dreamed of writing a comedic mystery series set on Kauai for a long time. We’ve owned a home here for over thirty-five years in a small town on the North Shore which is an endless source of craziness and inspiration. I’m pretty crazy myself so I couldn’t resist.
Kathleen: Tell us a little about the concept of the series.
Jill: The books are centered around a fictional watering hole called the Tiki Goddess Bar. It’s inspired by a local hang out where my eccentric hula sisters and I go to dance hula. So many crazy things happen to us in the course of learning hula taking trips to other island together that my mind spins off in all directions with endless fictional possibilities.
The real tiki bar, the Tahiti Nui here on Kauai, provides inspiration. It was recently featured in the movie The Descendants. The “Nui” is the kind of place tourists, celebrities, and locals can all have fun and that’s what I wanted to create in my series.
Kathleen: Seeing as this is your first ever attempt at a mystery, how was Book #1 MAI TAI ONE ON received?
Jill: Once it was published, MAI TAI ONE ON sold really well and racked up rave reviews from readers. I won’t say it was easy to switch genres especially after I was so established in romance. Susan Elizabeth Phillips was one of the writers who encouraged me to keep sending it to publishers.
Susan Elizabeth said, “I want to be a Hula Maiden, too! Reading this fresh, funny mystery made me yearn to hang out at the Tiki Goddess, sip one of Uncle Louie’s drinks and watch a certain super sexy fire dancing detective entertain the crowd. This is a story for anyone who’s ever been to Hawaii, dreamed of going to Hawaii, or wondered what it would be like to live in our 50th State. I loved this book!”
Another “godmother” to the series was my friend Kristin Hannah. She was a bulldog when it came to not letting me give up. I kept hearing from publishers; “But Jill’s a romance writer…” I hung in there because I had so much encouragement and support from my friends. Kristin thought MAI TAI ONE ONwas “the rarest of novels—one that is both emotionally satisfying and laugh out loud funny.” So I kept submitting it.
Bell Bridge Books picked it up and really got behind MAI TAI ONE ONand the book performed fantastically. I’ve signed up for two more so far.
Kathleen: Laugh out loud funny? Tell us about that. (That first scene had me rolling on the floor, and you know me—rocker, yes, but roller? That’s rare.)
Jill: MAI TAI ONE ON opens with a body roasting in the luau pit at the Tiki Goddess Bar and things get crazier after that. There’s a handsome fire dancing detective, a tropical drink taste-testing parrot, a troupe of over the hill hula dancers and a couple of young women who are the “sane” members of the cast. The first book is funnier than it is mysterious. I’d classify the series as Cozy-Amateur Sleuth fiction. The zany cast propels the story.
Kathleen: What’s up next?
Jill: Actually, the second book in the series, TWO TO MANGO, is coming out this month, around June 20th. Here’s the promo blurb, which says it a lot better than I can:
Everyone at Em Johnson’s famous North Shore Kauai hang-out, The Tiki Goddess Bar, knows that the bar’s irrepressible Hula Maidens take their hula dancing seriously. So when famed hula instructors from a rival dance troop start dropping like over-ripe passion fruit, Em and the Hula Maidens go undercover at the Kukui Nut Festival Hula Competition to uncover the killer. Em is once again up to her okolein danger and mystery, not to mention the seductive challenge of working with hunky detective Roland Sharpe, who moonlights as one of the island’s sexiest fire dancers.
Kathleen: Anything else we should know?
Jill: You don’t have to read the books in any particular order. They’re both available as e-books and in trade paperback format. Along with the Hula Maidens, the fire dancing detective, and the taste testing parrot named David Letterman, there’s a wild ninety two year old who creates havoc on a “Gad-About” a motorized scooter. There are plenty of sane characters too who get caught up in the action.
Kathleen: Where can readers find you?
Jill: I love hearing from readers on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jill.m.landis and my website at www.thetikigoddess.com . They can also find out about all my other titles and books available at www.jillmarielandis.com
Kathleen: Anything you’d like to ask them?
Jill: I’d like to know if they read more than one genre or type of novel or are they strictly women’s fiction/romance readers, strictly historical or contemporary? Do they read what they’re in the mood for, or are they hooked on only one kind of fiction?
Should an author write what she’s inspired to write, or stick to what they have come to expect from her?
I’ll check in and try to answer your comments in a timely fashion, but please forgive me for I am on Kauai and on Hawaiian time…we’re six hours behind the East Coast!
Thank you for inviting me to drop by, Kathleen. I’d love to give away two autographed copies of MAI TAI ONE ON. I’ll let you choose two winners from those who have time to leave comments on my questions.
Until next time a big MAHALO (thanks) and ALOHA!