Cheré Dastugue Coen
Southern Writer Spotlight: Heather Weidner
Name: Heather Weidner
Book(s): "Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers" (The Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries)
"Film Crews and Rendezvous" (The Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries – October 2022)
"Sticks and Stones and a Bag of Bones" (The Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries – January 2023)
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Gives us a brief description of your book(s).
I write the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, set in Central Virginia. "Glitter, Glam, and Contraband" features a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations like helping sleezy strip club owner, Chaz Smith on his quest to become Richmond’s next mayor, tracking down missing reptiles, and uncovering hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.
I also write the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries. There is nothing like finding a dead body, clad only in a red satin thong, on your property to jolt you from a quiet routine. Jules Keene, owner of the posh Fern Valley Camping Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is thrust into the world of the Dark Web when one of her guests, Ira Perkins, is found murdered in the woods near her vintage trailers. Jules quickly discovers that the man who claimed to be on a writing retreat was not what he seemed, and someone will go to any length to find what he left at her resort. Jules, along with her Jack Russell Terrier sidekick Bijou, has to put the rest of the missing pieces of a blackmailing scheme together before her business is ruined.
Jules’s resort, set in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville in the quaint town of Fern Valley, offers guests a unique vacation in refurbished and upcycled vintage trailers. Hoping to expand her offerings, she partners with her maintenance/security guy to create a village of tiny houses, the latest home DIY craze.
My new cozy series, the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries debuts in January 2023. It’s set in a tiny beach town near the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia.
What brought you to write these stories? For instance, was it a personal experience that inspired you, your “day job” or perhaps an overactive imagination?
I get ideas from everywhere (and probably the overactive imagination). I also write where I know. All of my novels, novellas, and short stories are set in Virginia. We’re in a great geographic location with access to gorgeous beaches and the mountains. We’re close to rural areas and larger cities, full of lots of museums, historic sites, and amazing restaurants.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I do get ideas from everywhere (e.g. conversations, funny stories, news articles). I also like to write about things that I’m interested in. Delanie Fitzgerald gets herself in and out of a lot of humorous (and precarious) situations as a private investigator. These stories feature a lot of the culture and locales in and around Central Virginia. In this series, Delanie encounters larping (live-action role playing), roller derby gals, drag queens, exotic pets, and a historic time capsule with ties to Edgar Allan Poe.
I am fascinated with glamorous camping, tiny houses, and pop culture, and they were the inspiration for Jules’s career in the Jules Keene Glamping mysteries. Jules’s resort has refurbished vintage trailers, tiny houses, and a tree house for her guests. Each of the accommodations are decorated based on a literary or pop-cultural theme.
The Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries take place in a tiny beach town in Coastal Virginia. I have always loved visiting the Christmas shops in Williamsburg and Manteo, North Carolina, and I thought that would be a perfect job for my amateur sleuth, Jade Hicks.
Where does the story(stories) take place?
The Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries take place in and around Central Virginia (Richmond, Chesterfield County, Amelia County, Henrico County, and Goochland County). We moved here in the early 90s, and it’s a wonderful place. Readers will recognize a lot of the restaurants, museums, and historic sites.
The Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries are set in Fern Valley, Virginia, a fictional town near Charlottesville. The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful all year round, and it’s a great setting for Jules’s glamorous camping resort.
The Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries are set in the fictious town of Mermaid Bay near Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, Virginia. I wanted to create a tiny beach town that was fighting to preserve its quaintness when all the areas around it were undergoing a growth spurt with lots of construction.
My short stories and novellas are set all over the Commonwealth of Virginia in places like Virginia Beach, Richmond, Amelia County, Roanoke, and Chesterfield County.
How does setting play in the telling of the story?
I think setting is almost another character in the story. It brings its past and present qualities together to enhance the story and provide background for the characters and their actions.
What do you think makes a good story/book?
I like lots of action and a good mystery to solve. I also like stories that have humor and interesting characters.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved reading. I started with Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew and moved on to the Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and so many other great books and stories. I’ve always loved to write. I think my first mystery was “Share-a-lot Bones” that I wrote for language arts class in elementary school.
When did you write your first book? And how was that experience?
It took me forever to write my first book. (I wrote two manuscripts before this one that will never see the light of day.) Secret Lives and Private Eyes took about five years to write and edit (and revise and rewrite), and then it took almost another two years to get published. I have learned so much along my writing journey. The best thing I did was to find my crew of writers. The members of Sisters and Crime have been so helpful and generous with their time and advice.
Is writing your primary job or do you have another career?
I am an IT Quality Assurance and Governance Manager by day, and writer at night. So I juggle my day job in technology with the murder, mayhem, and capers in my stories.
What does your family think of your writing?
I’m a C.K. (cop’s kid), so stories of true crime, dumb crooks, murders, and mayhem have always been part of our dinner conversation. One of my first jobs as a kid was to pick up the shell casings for my dad after he was done practicing at the range.
They know that it takes a huge investment of time to write, revise, and market, and they’ve been so supportive and helpful along the journey. Plus, no one is safe. You never know what will show up in a book.
What was the most surprising thing you learned writing your stories?
I’m an outliner, and I usually have a good plan of what’s going to happen as the story progresses. I’m always surprised when a character has a different idea, and the story goes in a different direction than what I originally planned for.
Did writing your book(s) lead you to other things?
My writing life has led me to several writing groups like Sisters in Crime and lots of amazing authors. These have opened up so many opportunities for blogs, podcasts, workshops, anthologies, and events. I met my agent at one of these events, and with her help, she’s opened doors for lots of writing opportunities.
What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Writing is work. It takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s worth it.
How can readers find and purchase your books?
My books are available at your favorite bookseller, and they come in a variety of formats (e.g. paperback, hardback, and ebook). The Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries are also now available in audio. You can always find me at my website: http://HeatherWeidner.com and on all the social media sites.