Amy Corwin's A Rose Before Dying

My guest today is award-winning author Amy Corwin. Amy manages a dual career as a writer and an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies, paranormals, and mysteries, although to be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy lives out in the country, way out in the country, and deeply regrets not habitually carrying a camera. Without photographic evidence, no one will believe she nearly ran over a 20 lb barracuda lying in the middle of her road; saw a hot-air balloon land in her front yard; and found a dairy cow thoughtfully trimming the grass at her mailbox. She wishes she’d also had a rope when she came across the cow because she could have used the cow poo for her Old Garden roses, which currently number well over 100.

Her wildlife biologist husband, a chocolate lab, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and two cats enjoy the temperate climate on thirty acres near the coast of North Carolina.

Anne – It’s a joy to chat with you, Amy. When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Amy -I realized I was destined to be a mystery writer when I discovered that I could not complete a book without killing a character off. It’s a compulsion. Sometimes I worry there must be something terribly wrong with me. But then I write another book and that strange feeling goes away.

Anne – I have the same compulsion, and would never trade it for the world! ;-) Tell us about A Rose Before Dying.

Amy - Only Sir Edward had the motive, the opportunity, and a garden full of the identical roses sent to each victim before their death.

The first victim was Sir Edward’s ex-mistress, a woman who threw him over for a younger man. After receiving a mysterious rose, she dies while alone with Sir Edward. Then a second rose is delivered and a deadly game commences, where roses are the only clues to save the next victim.

However, Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor, refuses to believe his uncle, Sir Edward, could commit the murders, even when the renowned head of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency warns him there may be some truth behind the rumors. "The roses are Sir Edward’s attempt to cast suspicion elsewhere." "Misdirection." Or so the whispers say.

Convinced he can prove his uncle’s innocence, Vance enlists the aide of notable rosarian, Ariadne Wellfleet, little realizing his actions will involve the Wellfleet household in the killer’s game.

Before the week is out, another rose is delivered.

And someone else is missing.

Anne – I understand you also have another recent release. A novella?

Amy – Yes! It’s a historical mystery novella released just in time for the holidays. It’s titled Christmas Spirit.

Anne – Wonderful! It’s on my TBR list. Now, back to A Rose Before Dying. Is it part of a series? If so, include other titles. What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you loathe?

Amy - A Rose Before Dying is part of a series of books with characters who either work for the Second Sons Inquiry Agency or seek help from an inquiry agent there. The first book in the series, The Vital Principle, introduced the founder of the inquiry agency, Knighton Gaunt. I’m working on another one right now that I hope will be released next spring.

Anne - What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you loathe?

Amy - I love writing series because it’s like working with old friends. I’ve learned something about the characters in the first books, but as the series grows, you always seem to learn something new or unexpected about the characters, just like you do with real people. The process fascinates me.

The only difficult part about a series is keeping track of time and character traits, particularly secondary characters. There is a lot to keep straight and sometimes that gives me a headache.

Anne – I know what you mean about keeping track of things. I have a problem remembering stuff in my personal life, so keeping fictional info straight is a real problem. I’ve found an Excel spreadsheet helps…as long as I remember where I filed it!

Would you share an excerpt of A Rose Before Dying with us?

Amy – Of course!

“Is this our only clue, then?” Charles arranged the two calling cards in front of him before gently rewrapping the spray of yellow flowers. “Did anyone see the flowers delivered?”

“No. The butler found the first bundle on the stoop when he opened the door for Lady Banks and Sir Edward to attend church services. They assumed I’d left it there as a surprise when I arrived.”

“Surely the accident didn’t occur on your way to church?” Charles asked, appalled.

“No—no. We went for a walk. Later. In the garden,” Sir Edward said. “There was a shot. She fell into my arms….”

After a moment of silence, Gaunt picked up the threads of the story to spare Sir Edward. “The second note and rose were left at the French doors leading to the garden.”

“Inside the house?”

“No. Outside,” his uncle said.

“And no one saw anyone?” Charles asked. How was that possible?

“No. No one but me. The servants said no one but me had visited or been in the garden. The constable did his best. He questioned several of the lads—known poachers—but they all had witnesses to verify their whereabouts at the time. Then he had to look elsewhere. By then, the whispers had started. I was alone in the garden with her. They said I did it. I was the only one there.”

Charles touched his uncle’s shoulder. “Nonsense. Obviously, someone else had been there. Had she argued with anyone?”

“No!” The single word exploded from his uncle’s white lips. “No. She argued with no one. This was—inexplicable. Inexcusable. She was an innocent victim. I—I believe it was aimed at me. The taunting flowers—what other reason could there be for those bloody roses?” His voice rasped with barely suppressed emotion. “He killed her—so they weren’t meant for her. The flowers were a message to me.”

“Why?” Charles glanced away from the pain in his uncle’s face, trying to drag the conversation into less terrible channels. “Who would hate you so much? Who do you suspect?”

Sir Edward took a deep, shuddering breath and then straightened. He shrugged. “No one. I can’t imagine who would hate me so. Or treat Lady Banks with such callous contempt. It’s beyond comprehension.”

The thought of shooting a woman for the purpose of bringing pain and suffering to another man was difficult for anyone to accept.

It took Charles a few moments to convince himself it was possible for a man to be that cold, that malicious. “Have you any other information? Perhaps a list of those who bear you malice?”

His uncle shook his head, his gaze fixed on the floor.

Charles glanced at Mr. Gaunt. He wanted to question him to see what the man might have to offer in his professional capacity. Surely he had some relevant experience. Something that might bring light to the awful events.

“Please, Lord Castlemoor. Hoopes was right, after all. I should have gone to you, first.” His uncle interrupted the silence in a rush as if he could no longer bear the company of his own thoughts. “Whatever scandal is flushed out is best kept within the family. You must see that.”

Scandal? Charles’s gut clenched. What skeletons did his uncle know about, that might creep out of the family’s closet?

Certainly, none that he wanted Gaunt to chat with.

Anne –Thank you! Of all the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?

Amy - Sarah Sanderson from The Bricklayer’s Helper never fails to make me laugh. Unlike me, she’s fearless and pretty much says the first thing that pops into her mouth. You definitely don’t want to ask her questions which you don’t want answered, truthfully.

Anne – She sounds like my kind of person! What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself from writing?

Amy - That I have an imagination. I know it sounds weird for a writer, but I always thought of myself as a ordinary person, completely lacking in imagination. Turns out, I was wrong.

Anne – Tell us about the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.

Amy - I’ll tell you when it happens. LOL.

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Amy - Keep writing no matter what. You will find your audience if you keep writing and honing your skills. And remember to be humble: no one’s writing is perfect. Be prepared to edit the heck out of it and even delete what may seem to be the best parts. But while you’re being humble, don’t forget to be proud of your work. It’s a huge accomplishment when you finally get to type, “The End.”

Anne – Where can readers reach you online?

Amy – At my website 
Amazon Author Central:

Anne – Thank you so much for visiting my little corner of cyberspace, Amy. It's always a pleasure to meet someone who shares my need to kill off a character!  ;-)  Happy writing.

As always your comments are welcome and appreciated. Happy reading!

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Amy said...

Thank you so much for the interview! I had a blast and I hope readers enjoy it, too.

Happy Reading!
Amy Corwin

Anne K. Albert said...

I'm sure they will, Amy! Thanks for being my guest today. :)

Beth Caudill said...

Great interview Amy.

So sad all my roses are hibernating for the winter. Or most of them. There are a few stragglers putting out blooms.

Kelly Hashway said...

Great interview. Only writers can kill off people and not get in trouble for it. ;)

Anne K. Albert said...

I have to agree, Beth. I felt so comfortable chatting with Amy!

Anne K. Albert said...

Funny you should say that, Kelly! But it's so true. Even better, we never run out of places to hide them!

Amy said...

We're lucky here in North Carolina--I still have roses blooming and it's almost Thanksgiving!

I remember when I went to university in Aberdeen, Scotland, that there were roses, there, blooming in November, too. Coastal areas are always so lucky with gardening since the ocean helps moderate the temperature and lets us enjoy our flowers much longer!

Thanks to everyone for your comments!

Nicola McKenna said...

Thanks for the 'chat' ladies! I am fascinated by mystery writers like yourselves and your ability to write a genre like this. Murder mysteries seem so very complex to me. I can never ever work out who the bad guy is in a book or a movie, so I'm in awe of writers of this genre.

Best of luck with all your writing endeavours.

Anne K. Albert said...

Hi Nicola, part of the fun of writing for me is finding out what happens next. I often don't know from sentence to sentence what is going on. Talk about a mystery!