In Conversation With Olivia Blacke & Olivia Matthews
By Crime HQDecember 20, 2022
BONUS: After you read, click through to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of both Vinyl Resting Place and Against the Currant!
Olivia Blacke’s Record Shop Mysteries follows Juni Jessup and her sisters as they run a record shop in Cedar River, Texas. The first book in the series, Vinyl Resting Place, releases Dec. 27, 2022.
Olivia Matthews’s Spice Isle Bakery Mysteries features a West Indian-American family who’ve opened a bakery in the Little Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The first book in the series, Against the Currant, releases Jan. 27, 2023.
The two authors are running a promotional campaign for their debut series—2 Olivias, 2X the Fun—which launches Dec. 20, 2022. The winner will received a signed copy of both Against the Currant and Vinyl Resting Place. For details and to enter, visit the campaign page.
What inspired your series idea?
Olivia Blacke: Music has always been an important part of my daily life, and with vinyl records making a big comeback, I was inspired to set a cozy in a small-town record shop. Growing up in Texas, I still have roots there. I briefly considered setting Vinyl Resting Place in Nashville or New Orleans for their vibrant music scenes, but the obvious choice for me was Austin, the live music capital of the world.
Olivia Matthews: I think it’s really cool that you picked up on the vinyl record comeback for your series. Very cool. My family inspired my Spice Isle Bakery Mystery series. We’re from the West Indies and the series gives me a way to share our myths and folklore and, like Olivia Blacke’s series, our music. And, of course, some Caribbean recipes.
Olivia Blacke: I love culinary cozies, and just the idea of Caribbean recipes makes my mouth water. You’ll have to excuse me a minute, I need to go order some fried plantains…
Why did you center your series around a family/family business?
Olivia Matthews: My family’s very important to me, and the neighborhood in which I set the series is based on the one in which I grew up. It was fun returning to those memories. So centering my Spice Isle Bakery Mystery series around a family and a family-owned business came naturally. I also I love to explore family dynamics, especially the connection between extended family members. And I enjoy exploring different generations within a family.
Olivia Blacke: I’m so happy that you have a multi-generational family at the heart of your story. That’s another thing (of many!) we have in common. When I was growing up, my grandparents ran a small family business near Austin that everyone in the family referred to as The Shop. As I was writing the first draft of Vinyl Resting Place, I realized that I always referred to Sip & Spin Records as the “shop” not a “store” because subconsciously, I was thinking of my grandparent’s shop. The Jessup sisters’ desire to revive something that their family history revolved (no pun intended) around resonates with me, and I feel like writing this series brings me a little closer to home.
Olivia Matthews: That’s wonderful. I love that you’re sharing those memories in your series.
What are the family dynamics between your main characters?
Olivia Blacke: Family is everything to the Jessups. Juni Jessup has two sisters, Maggie and Tansy, that are five and seven years older than her, respectively. They’re a close-knit bunch. But while there is obvious love and affection between the sisters, Juni is still treated like the baby of the family even though she’s nearly thirty.
Olivia Matthews: Really? Ouch. LOL! That sounds like a really good character arc for your series.
Olivia Blacke: Like Juni, I’m the baby in my family, and I moved away young so I know how it feels to be the perpetual kid sister no matter how old I am.
Olivia Matthews: Ooh! Intriguing. Well, my series family, the Murrays, are very close, including with their extended family. They’re nosy. They need to know what’s going on with each other at all times. They tease and boss each other around. They’re also very protective of each other. If someone outside the family threatens or insults a relative, they respond to the threat or insult as though it had been directed at them.
Olivia Blacke: I love this! You can always tell a close family by how much they tease each other (and how they won’t let anyone else tease their family members).
How do you use music in your series?
Olivia Blacke: Vinyl Resting Place is set in a music shop-slash-coffee bar, so there is always music playing in the background, ranging from Echo and the Bunnymen to Bad Bunny. Juni has an impressive selection of vintage concert t-shirts, and the shirt she chooses for each day reflects her mood. Additionally, there is always a music-themed beverage of the day, such as Java B. Goode, for customers at Sip & Spin Records.
Olivia Matthews: That’s fantastic! Give us an example of one of the t-shirts.
Olivia Blacke: There’s a day when Juni is feeling a little more vulnerable than usual, so she puts on a retro Violent Femmes t-shirt before going out to interrogate suspects.
Olivia Matthews: Ha! Love it! Well, music is really important to the Murrays as well. It’s a big part of building the world of the Spice Isle Bakery Mystery series. As in Olivia Blacke’s series, music’s always playing in the bakery. It’s often used to reflect the characters’ moods.
Olivia Blacke: Did you listen to the music the Murrays play in the bakery while you’re drafting?
Olivia Matthews: Yes, I did. I had to make sure the songs I picked were danceable. Ha!
What drew you to the cozy mystery subgenre?
Olivia Matthews: LOL! You take this one first, Olivia.
Olivia Blacke: OK. When I was little, I wanted to be either Wednesday Addams or Miss Marple. I majored in Criminology and Criminal Justice before realizing I didn’t want to go into that field. As an avid reader, I’ve always been drawn to cozies because they revolve around dark subjects like murder, but in a light, funny way. As a writer, I get to finally put my college degree to good use! Although, ironically, cozies are solved with minimal forensic evidence, so I’m not sure those credits in analyzing blood spatter patterns are ever going to pay off.
Olivia Matthews: Ha! Maybe they will vicariously. As for me, I love mysteries. I love trying to solve them along with the stories’ amateur sleuths or detectives. I think my success rate is about fifty-fifty. Ha! One of the things I love about cozy mysteries in particular is that often the stories place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This forces them far outside their comfort zones. I love the tension that creates.
Olivia Blacke: Fifty-fifty is a pretty good success rate, if you ask me. When you’re writing, what do you like better – when people solve your mystery or when the ending surprises them?
Olivia Matthews: Both. Ha! If readers solve the mystery along with our amateur sleuths, that means we did a good job of keeping them engaged in the story. (Insert fist pump here.) If they’re surprised—but satisfied!—that means there was still an element of the story, perhaps the motivation or the method, that still kept them guessing. It’s a win-win. Ha!
About the Authors
Olivia Blacke (she/her), author of the Record Shop Mysteries, beginning with Vinyl Resting Place, and the Brooklyn Murder Mysteries (Killer Content and No Memes of Escape), finally found a way to put her Criminology degree to good use by writing quirky, unconventional, character-driven cozy mysteries. Olivia is a little nerdy, a lot awkward, and just the right amount of weird. She is a recovering ex-Texan who resides with her husband Potassium and Baileycakes, their roly-poly rescue puggle. When not writing, reading, or spending way too much time on social media, Olivia enjoys Amigurumi crochet, scuba diving, collecting tattoos, watching hockey, and baking dog cookies. She wants to be a unicorn when she grows up.
Olivia Matthews (she/her) is the cozy mystery pseudonym of national best-selling author Patricia Sargeant. The Spice Isle Bakery Mysteries are inspired her family history and the history of her birth place. As Olivia Matthews, Patricia is also the author of the Sister Lou mysteries and Peach Coast Library mysteries, and writes romance as Patricia Sargeant and Regina Hart. Her work has been reviewed in national publications such as Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Kirkus Reviews, Suspense Magazine, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and RT Book Reviews. Patricia’s mysteries put ordinary people in extraordinary situations to have them find the Hero Inside. For more information about Patricia and her work, visit PatriciaSargeant.com.