Charleston Conundrum by Stacy Wilder an Interview with Shelley Blanton Stroud

Author of the Liz Adams cozy mysteries, Stacy Wilder has traveled to six out of seven continents but her favorite place in the world is Charleston, South Carolina. Books have shaped her life and her travels. Her love of mysteries began with Nancy Drew. 

Stacy’s debut novel, Charleston Conundrum, is the first in the Liz Adams mystery series. Liz’s sidekick, a Labrador retriever named Duke, is able to detect when people are lying which comes in handy when Liz is solving a case. The Charleston Conundrum cover and manuscript placed first in their respective categories in a national When Words Count Pitch Week competition.

In addition to mysteries, Stacy writes children’s stories, short stories, and poetry. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and a totally spoiled Labrador retriever, Eve.

A Video Transcript of my interview with Stacy Wilder!

Shelley: I see that you donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of your books to causes that support wildlife conservation and the homeless, both people and pets. Can you tell us a little bit about a favorite cause that you’re able to support through your writing? 

Stacy: So for Charleston Conundrum, I donate a portion of the proceeds to National Alliance for the mentally Ill and I’ve been pleased so far to write three checks and for the next book I’m donating part of the proceeds to the organization where we adopted our Labrador Retriever Eve. 

Shelley: Oh, that’s wonderful. And what provoked you in the case of the donations through from Book one, how did you choose this charity? What was it about it that spoke to you? 

Stacy: So my brother-in-law was schizophrenic. He’s since passed and he could have easily been on the streets if it hadn’t been for National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which really helped educate my fearless mother-in-law and helped her go through the court system to get the rights she needed to get. And it’s a really great organization that made a difference in our lives. 

Shelley: I love that. Not only is it an altruistic move, which we all approve of and cheer, but also it’s connected to your lived experience as a family member. That’s how most of us get hooked on one thing we give to. Well, great. Thank you for doing that. Now let’s get back to your books. What is it about cozy mysteries that drew you in as a writer and continues to draw you in? And also what do you think it is about a cozy mystery that appeals to readers? Especially now? 

Stacy: I’ve always been attracted to mysteries ever since I was little. Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy—that is my go-to genre. I enjoy all kinds of mysteries, but especially a cozy mystery. It doesn’t have a lot of graphic violence doesn’t have a lot of language, and all the sex happens behind closed doors.

Shelley: I know that there’s a real resurgence of poses through an unexpected audience that millennials more and more are attuned to cozy mysteries. And I wonder if you have any idea about why that might be? 

Stacy: I think just because they’re kind of feel good and with what we’ve been through the last couple of years, it’s a bit of an escape. 

Shelley: I agree. And there’s a lot of our bandwidth is being taken up by complicated, divisive stories. I know I personally love disappearing into something that does whisk me away a little. I’m watching Magpie Murders. It’s a cozy really, and it gets your mind thinking about the mystery and solving it, the pleasures of revelation, but also not the gore and not the dark nihilistic view of humanity and so on. I can really appreciate that. 

Stacy: We get bombarded with that stuff enough and it’s nice to escape for a little while. 

Shelley: Charleston Conundrum is your first book in an expected series. It’s going to feature Pi Liz Adams. Can you tell us about Liz? 

Stacy: So Liz quit her corporate job. She moved to Charleston, South Carolina after a divorce and pursued her dream of becoming involved in the justice system by becoming a private investigator. She moves into this tight-knit town home, community, and gets to know her best friend who lives across the street and that who winds up being the murder victim. 

Shelley: How about your choice to make her a PI? Was there anything already in your experience that made that easier for you? Did you learn about the PI life by reading other novels or by doing research or how did you find out what the life of PI might be? 

Stacy: Well, this book was 15 years in the making. Oh my God. So the words for the first chapter came to me one morning when we were on the Eastern coast and it evolved. So I can’t say that I chose to make her a PI. It kind of chose me. And I did do quite a bit of research and I do enjoy mysteries where a private investigator as part of the story. 

Shelley: And what is Liz’s personality like? 

Stacy: She’s kind of spunky, and she’s a little bit of a foodie. She likes her hot tea. She doesn’t like coffee—she likes her wine. She loves her iced tea with a splash of sweet. 

Shelley: Just like you’ve got this morning. I understand. 

Stacy: And of course she adores her Labrador retriever 

Shelley: She sounds like someone a lot of your readers will relate to. Cozy mysteries often feature a small hometown, which can sometimes be almost a character itself. What is it about Charleston that drove you to put it as the setting for this series and how does it play a role in the series?

Stacy: Charleston is definitely a character in the book. And the first time I visited Charleston, I just fell in love. It’s just very charming and friendly. All the historic sites that are in the city, the colored houses on Rainbow Row, the food, I just fell in love and, being right on the eastern coast, I love the Atlantic Ocean. Everybody that I’ve said talked to and told them that the book was set in Charleston, they go, Oh, I just love Charleston 

Shelley: And then how does Charleston itself play a role in the novel? 

Stacy: The, it’s definitely has a southern vibe to it. So the fact that it’s set in the south in Charleston and the town home community is very, very closely knit. A couple of the people in the town home community are suspects. 

Shelley: Charleston Conundrum has the added attraction of a Labrador retriever Duke. What role does Duke play in this series and why do we love dogs so much, especially in the role they play in this story? 

Stacy: Well, they’re such great companions and they give you unconditional love. Rescues in particular are very grateful when they get a home. And so I was told early on that when I started writing the book that Duke couldn’t just be a puppy prop. He couldn’t just sit on the front cover and look pretty. So he had to have a job. So his job is detecting when someone is lying, and that comes in handy while Liz is investigating her best friend’s murder. 

Shelley: I think that dogs do have that reputation about being able to sense authenticity or threat or something like that, that maybe a person doesn’t sense. 

Stacy: And our Labrador retriever, so Duke was, even though Duke’s not named Eve and Duke’s a male instead of a female he was modeled after our Labrador retriever. She can’t detect when people are lying, but she’s a big communicator. She howls the words, I love you for her breakfast in the morning. 

Shelley: Does Duke that do that also? 

Stacy: He does 

Shelley: I also imagine maybe even not in this book, but in books to come, that having a character like Duke, the reader’s going to love is also an opportunity for the writer to put Duke at risk to make that one of the dangers. Does that happen in this book at all? 

Stacy: Not so much in this one, but the second one, yeah. 

Shelley: Well that’s leading me to my next question. You had hinted before that you’ve got a second in the series coming out soon. Can you tell us about that book? 

Stacy: So the second book is set in Carmel by the Sea. And this one happened a lot quicker than the first one. Didn’t take me 15 years. Right. And it’s about stolen identities. So there’s a identity theft protection company that Liz’s romantic interest owns. And she goes to visit him to check out a piece of property that she inherited from Peg in book one. And so she ends up investigating these stolen identities. And in the meantime there’s quite a lot that happens in the book. There’s a cult and a cult leader that keeps visiting her property and I had a lot of fun writing it. 

Shelley: My first book Copy Boy took me 10 years to write and my second book took me six months to write the first draft. And the third book is going a lot faster than that. So I definitely know that trajectory. How long did this second one take you to write? 

Stacy: It took me about nine months. I started it pretty much right after Charleston was released. In fact, I already had, there’s a sneak peek of the book in the back of Charleston Conundrum. 

Shelley: Oh great. 

Stacy: And there’s also recipes and a playlist of songs that are on Spotify. 

Shelley: Nice. 

Stacy: So yeah, it went a lot faster. There wasn’t as steep a learning curve. There was so much to learn with that first one. I was not an English major in college. I have a day job. And so I was just learning as I went joined a writer’s group participated in that contest and I learned a lot from both of those things. 

Shelley: That was actually going to be my next question. What is your story as a writer and when did it begin and what steps did you go through to lead this life? Can you tell us a little bit more about it? Was it 15 years ago when you first got the idea to start writing? 

Stacy: So I’ve always been an avid reader. I love books. I’ve been a huge part of my life a big part of my travels as well. And I started out as a journalism major in college. So I was interested in writing, but I chose a different career path. And I guess about 15 years ago, maybe a little more than that, probably around 20 years ago I got involved in a group called Artist’s Way. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Julia Cameron. And my day job was very analytical. I started out as an accountant, a CPA, and then migrated into human resources. So the creative side had been squashed and that artist’s way just brought it flowing out. 

Shelley: So did it begin with morning words for you? 

Stacy: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m an avid journaler. A lot of times the ideas bubble up while I’m journaling ideas for a scene or for a character or something else maybe related to the marketing of the book. My day is not right if I don’t do my morning journaling and mine starts out with a letter to God in the morning and iit helps get all that stuff outta my head so that I can be a lot more open to ideas and the creative process. 

Shelley: It clears the pipes in a way. 

Stacy: Yes, yes. 

Shelley: Well thank you so much for visiting with us today, Stacy. Is there anything else you’d like to make sure that we know? For instance, where can people buy your books soon to be books right now, Charleston Conundrum, Where would you like them to go to buy? 

Stacy: So Charleston Conundrum is already out. It’s on Amazon, it’s Barnes and Noble. If you go to your favorite independent bookstore, you should be able to, probably won’t find it on the shelves, but you can go to their website and order it on Walmart. So it’s out there, lots of different channels. It’s also in the ebook as in libraries. So if somebody wanted to check out the ebook 

Shelley: And if an individual reader or a book club were interested, you mentioned things like the Spotify playlist and recipes and things like that. Where will they find that material? 

Stacy: So that’s also on my website,, and it’s in the back of Charleston Conundrum. The playlist for Carmel Conundrum is already out on Spotify. See. So if somebody wanted to get a glimpse at what that’s gonna be like that that’s out there. And I tried to make it fun for book clubs to where there was something to cook and something to listen to. And I have book club questions, I’m happy to join a book club either virtually or in person if it’s within the Houston area. And that’s really fun for me connecting with the actual reader. 

Shelley: Well thank you very much. I can’t wait to learn more and more about in particular, Duke and Charleston and then Carmel 

Stacy: And after that Cayman Conundrum is next. 

Shelley: Oh my gosh, <laugh>. Okay. We’ve got that to look forward to. Have a great breakfast. Stacy: Thank you.

See more Author Interviews from Shelley Blanton Stroud.

About Shelley Blanton-Stroud

I grew up in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of Dust Bowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field. I recently retired from teaching writing at Sacramento State University and still consult with writers in the energy industry. I co-direct Stories on Stage Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors, and serve on the advisory board of 916 Ink, an arts-based creative writing nonprofit for children. I’ve also served on the Writers’ Advisory Board for the Belize Writers’ Conference. Copy Boy is my first Jane Benjamin Novel. Tomboy (She Writes Press 2022) will be my second. The third, Poster Girl, will come out in November 2023. My writing has been a finalist in the Sarton Book Awards, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award, the American Fiction Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Awards. I and my husband live in Sacramento with an aging beagle, Ernie, and many photos of our out-of-town sons and their wonderful partners.

To find out more about Shelley Blanton-Stroud and her books, and to sign up for her newsletter, go here.

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