by Kris Neri
Today the Femmes welcome new author Kari Lee Townsend. Her first mystery, Tempest in the Tea Leaves, has just been released from Berkley Prime Crime. This mother of four from New York State likes writing stories set in small towns, with mystical elements and quirky characters, and Tempest in the Tea Leaves delivers all that and more. She stopped by today to answer some of our questions about her fun new series.
KLT: Thanks, Kris, and the rest of the Femmes I am so excited to be here today.
KN: Tempest in the Tea Leaves is subtitled “A Fortune Teller Mystery.” Has the paranormal always interested you?
KLT: I have always been fascinated by the paranormal. Movies, books, real life…there’s just something so intriguing about people who have the ability to tell someone’s future, see into someone’s past, read someone’s mind, talk to ghosts, etc. There’s so much in this world that can’t be explained. I’ve always had an open mind and believe anything is possible.
KN: Do you have psychic abilities?
KLT: LOL, um, no…I wish. It’s like when they say I’m not a doctor; I just play one on TV. In my case I’m not a psychic; I just write about one in my books To have that sixth sense and learn to control it and use it would be truly amazing. I envy those people. Then again, I imagine it can be quite scary at times.
KN: I enjoyed spending time with your plucky protagonist, Sunshine Meadows. Can you tell us about Sunny?
KLT: I loved writing Sunny’s character. She comes from a father who’s a doctor and a mother who’s a lawyer. They don’t believe in her gift and want her to get on with her life by doing something “real.” So she moves away to do something she considers very real…open her fortune-telling business. Sunny has short blonde hair, wears no make-up, and lives in simple comfy clothes like flowy skirts and save the planet T-shirts. She loves hot cocoa, tea, and an occasional beer, but she’s a total light weight. She doesn’t have a TV, loves to read, and is fun-loving and carefree. But mostly she’s nothing like her stuffy, uptight parents.
KN: While I’m familiar with many things woo-woo, I’ve never had a tea leaf reading, and I found the process fascinating. Would you describe it for our readers? Have you ever had your tea leaves read?
KLT: I’ve had my tea leaves read, my palm read, my tarot cards read, and even a past life reading that was truly fascinating. Too many things have come true that have made me a believer. Like I said, I’m no expert, but I did a lot of research from people who are. There are many different methods, but here’s a short version of reading tea leaves. The person having their tea leaves read puts loose tea in a tea cup and then pours hot water over it, stirring to let it brew. Then they drink the unstrained tea and think about exactly what they wish to know until there is only a teaspoon of liquid left. They hold the cup in their left hand and swish three times in a counterclockwise motion, then tip the cup upside down on the saucer, letting the excess liquid drain out. The person reading the tea leaves then takes the cup and points the handle toward the person they are doing the reading for. Turning the cup in a counterclockwise motion, they read the tea leaves from top to bottom. Images in the white space are positive and good and images in the black tea leaves are negative and bad. Images on the right of the handle represent the future, and images on the left of the handle represent the past. Images at the top represent the immediate future, and images at the bottom represent the distant future. Each shape displayed has a different meaning for the fortune teller to interpret. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the basic gist.
KN: You’ve populated this town with delightfully quirky characters, but two of the most enjoyable ones aren’t even human. Morty the cat is quite engaging, and Vicky, the house Sunny buys, is an actual character in the book. Would you talk a bit about them?
KLT: When Sunny first buys the ancient Victorian house, she nicknames it Vicky. The townspeople are convinced it’s haunted, so Sunny gets her for a steal, and she comes fully furnished to boot. When Sunny moves in, a cat is already living there. Only, no one in town has ever seen him or taken care of him. As Sunny gets to know him, she realizes she never sees him eat or sleep. He’s big, beautiful, and almost a glowing pristine white, and he has piercing jet black eyes. He’s smart as a whip, finicky beyond belief, and doesn’t like many people. Sunny thinks he might be immortal, so she names him Morty, and she suspects he’s the real culprit who’s doing the haunting. Morty plays a big part in every book.
KN: Every amateur sleuth writer deals with how to involve the protagonist in the crime and how to give her access to what the police know. You got around all that by making your amateur an official sidekick of the professional, Detective Mitch Stone, who’s a pretty hot and hunky professional at that.
KLT: I love wounded, brooding, alpha males so I had a blast writing about Mitch. He’s such a cynic and definitely a non-believer. In fact, he thinks Sunny is a quack and is determined to prove it. He nicknames her Tink because he thinks she looks more like Tinker Bell the pixie than anything else. Meanwhile, Sunny vows to make Detective Grumpy Pants a true believer, if she doesn’t kill him first. He needs her as much as the town of Divinity does, he just doesn’t know it yet. They are so much fun to write together, and their chemistry is yummy.
KN: What’s next for Sunny and you?
KLT: Well, I just turned in book two, Corpse in the Crystal Ball. It won’t be out until June 2012. This time the victim is Mitch’s ex-girlfriend and he’s the suspect. Now it’s his turn to sit back and let Sunny take the lead to help him clear his name. I had a lot of fun writing book two, bringing back all those great characters, and even introducing a few new ones. And finally I will be starting on book three, Trouble in the Tarot, very soon. That book doesn’t come out until March of 2013, and I have no idea what it will be about yet. Any ideas? Whatever happens, you can expect a little romance, a few laughs, and a whole of mischief.
Thanks so much for having me here today. It’s been a joy. You can find out more about me and all my books at www.karileetownsend.com and my group mystery blog called Mysteries and Margaritas at www.mysteriesandmargaritasblogspot.com.
KN: Thanks for chatting with us!