Featured Author Interview with Heather Weidner

This month we’re excited to welcome Mystery Author Heather Weidner! I first stumbled upon Heather Weidner’s books when I came across her Jules Keene Glamping Mystery Series (think small town cozy mystery series with vintage trailers and cute pets!) for an article I was crafting. Then low and behold she agreed to an interview! So without further ado let me introduce you to mystery writer Heather Weidner!

Here is our Author Interview With Heather!

Interview With Heather Weidner! Head shot of Heather wearing a Purple shirt with her name on the picture.

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Mermaid Bay is depicted as a charming, cozy beach town. What inspired you to choose this setting for your Christmas Shoppe Mystery series, and how does the town’s unique atmosphere contribute to the overall story?

I will always be a beach girl. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I thought it would be fun to run a Christmas shop in a small, tourist community. Mermaid Bay is a fictitious town near the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. I took a few little liberties with the area’s geography to put a bay in the area. Mermaid Bay is based on the small beach community of Chicks’ Beach on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach. 

The gang, including Lorelei, Peppermint Patti, Bernie, Chloe, and Neville the Devil Cat, play crucial roles in the story. Can you share insights into how you crafted these supporting characters and their contributions to both the mystery and the town’s dynamic?

My amateur sleuth needed a job and a support team where she could sneak off at all hours to do some sleuthing. I had so much fun coming up with the Mermaid Bay gang. Lorelei is Jade’s free-spirited and over-protective aunt. She helps out in the store and keeps her finger on the pulse of Mermaid Bay’s gossip mill. Patti is Jade’s part-time staffer who is the perfect ambassador for a Christmas shop. She is bubbly, friendly, and always looking for something fun to do. Bernie is Jade’s part-time handyman and Santa for the store. When he’s not holding court as the King of Christmas, he hangs around the pier with his fishing buddies. And last but not least, pets are so much a part of my life that I always have to include them in my mysteries. Chloe is Jade’s chubby white French bulldog, and Neville the Devil Cat is a stray who moved into the store, and he is determined to torment the dog every chance he gets. 

Combining a festive, Christmas-themed setting with a murder mystery is a unique blend. How do you maintain the cozy, holiday spirit while weaving in darker elements of crime and suspense, and what do you hope readers take away from this juxtaposition?

I think the fun, festive nature of the Christmas shop balances the dark side of life with the crime and murders that go on. Though I do write about crime and some horrible murders, I also write about justice. It thing the backdrop of the festive store creates a sense of hope and a world where good does win in the end. 

Can you share your journey to becoming an author? What inspired you to pursue a writing career?

I have always loved to read and write. Mysteries have been my favorite genre since elementary school, and I always wanted to try to write a mystery. I dabbled with writing through the years, but I didn’t have my first professional publication until I participated in an anthology project with my local Sisters in Crime chapter. That helped me make contacts for the eventual sale of my mysteries.

What was the first story or piece of writing you remember creating? How has your writing evolved since then?

I wrote (and illustrated) the Mystery of Share-a-lot Bones in the seventh grade for a project in my language arts class. It was a children’s mystery, and the dog was the sleuth. I have loved mysteries since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. My writing has evolved over the years. My first books featured Delanie Fitzgerald, a sassy private eye who got in more trouble than I ever did. The crimes were darker than my cozies. It’s considered a traditional mystery since the protagonist is a private eye. I have always loved cozy mysteries, so the next few series were all amateur sleuths who solved crimes in small towns in Virginia. I write the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries, and the Pearly Girls Mysteries (March 2025).

How do you approach the process of generating new ideas and translating them into fully-fledged stories?

Ideas are everywhere. My problem is keeping them all straight. I finally got rid of all the scraps of paper and notebooks with ideas for stories, crazy crime tales, interesting names, and cool places. I’m an IT Manager by day, so I broke out Excel and created a massive spreadsheet where I keep my ideas. And no one is safe near a writer. We are always taking notes of neat ideas or snippets of dialog that may come in handy later. 

Can you describe your typical writing routine? Do you have any specific habits or rituals that aid your creative process?

Before I start a new manuscript, I go through my idea spreadsheet, and I come up with the premise of the mystery. I draft a quick mind map on my white board that helps me outline the book. I have a day gig, and I’ve found that I stay on track better if I have the entire book mapped out. When I start writing, I like to have a writing goal for each day. I try to do 1,000 words on workdays and 3,000 on weekends. If I can stick to my schedule, I can usually have a completed first draft in two to three months. Then it takes several months for edits and revisions. Then there’s working with critique group and my critique partners. And after all that, it’s finally ready for my agent to look at it.

Are you a planner or a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants)? How do you approach structuring your stories?

My day gig is in IT, so I’m definitely a planner. I outline the entire book before I start. My outline also helps me put together the dreaded synopsis. Sometimes, the characters take over the plot and the story veers from my original outlines, so there is a little bit of pantsing in my process. 

What sources of inspiration do you draw upon when crafting your stories? Are there particular life experiences that influence your writing?

I have always loved mysteries. I am a C. K. (cop’s kid) who grew up on the 70s Saturday morning mystery cartoons. One of my first jobs as a kid was to pick up the shell casings at the range after my dad practiced. When he was on the SWAT team (and this was way before paintball and other tools), he and I melted down a ton of my crayons to make dummy, practice bullets. My dad has been retired now for a while, but he’s still one of my best resources on law enforcement techniques and stupid crook stories. 

How do you come up with your book covers? Do you get a say in what they look like?

My publishers design the book covers. They usually have two or three samples that I can weigh in on. Usually, when I submit the manuscript, there’s a form where I list key things, places, and events in the book to give the artist an overview. 

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? What makes this character particularly special to you?

I love all my sleuths. They’re unique in their own way. I guess Delanie Fitzgerald will always hold a special place in my heart because she was my first sleuth.

Challenges and Rewards:

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being an author, and how do you navigate those challenges?

A lot goes into writing. First it’s a business, and you need to treat your writing that way. I have a day job, so balancing writing, networking, learning, and book marketing with all the other things I have to do is often a challenge. I am an early bird, so I write from 5 AM until I go to work. I usually write during my lunch hour. If I hit my daily word quota, then I’m done for the day. If not, I may need to do some more writing after work. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who are just starting their writing journey?

Don’t give up. If you want to be a writer, be persistent. Network, join writers’ groups, and always keep learning. And of course, make sure that you guard your writing time. Writing is a tough business.

Can you share a funny or heartwarming anecdote related to your writing journey?

I have two. At my very first book presentation and signing for the anthology that I was in, I decided to leave my purse in the car, so I wouldn’t have to cart it around with the papers, books, and other stuff I needed. When I got ready to sign books, the one pen I brought with me died. Thankfully, my Mom was there with several spares. 

Also, we were fortunate to be part of one of the Poe Birthday Bashes at the Poe Museum in Richmond. I had the honor of signing a book for a Poe relative. I’m ga-ga over that experience.

How do your personal interests, hobbies, or experiences influence the stories you choose to tell?

I am such a fan of pop culture, history, and all things Eighties. My likes and interests always worm their way into a story. I try to think of things that I’d like to learn about. I had so much fun researching Sears Catalog Houses (Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries), glamping, vintage trailer restoration, and tiny houses (Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries).

What do you hope your literary legacy will be? How would you like to be remembered as an author?

I would hope that people would remember me as a crime writer who always ensured that justice won in the end. I also hope that I’ve been able to help others along their writing journeys. 

Are there any exciting projects or new directions you’re planning to explore in your upcoming works?

The Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries have been renewed for six books in each series. I am so excited to continue to tell their stories and share the crazy characters with readers. I have a new series coming out in March called the Pearly Girls Mysteries. I describe it as Veronic Mars meets the Golden Girls. Cassidy Jamison inherits a property where she plans and holds events in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Staunton, VA. Her grandmother’s four zany friends help her with her projects and sleuthing. 

Christmas Lights and Catfights (Book 3 of 3: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery)

Christmas has come to Fern Valley, and the town’s decked out with enough glitter and sparkle for a month’s worth of celebrations, each more over-the-top than the previous one. The idyllic setting, filled with laughter, carols, and sweet treats, is shattered, along with some of the decorations, when the current wife and the ex-wife of a big-cat showman have a knock-down, drag-out fight in the center of town. Jules Keene, owner of the Fern Valley Glamping Resort, tries to keep peace among her guests and with the town council, but it turns into a catastrophe when Tabbi Morris, winds up dead in one of her ex-husband’s tiger cages.

And if the murder wasn’t enough, Jules discovers that some of the big cats are missing, but the owner and his family insists that nothing is wrong.

Curiosity gets the best of her, and she has to solve the murder and figure out if the owner of Cal’s Cats is pussy-footing around or whether it’s something more sinister before it ruins the holiday season and her business.

On Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

Secret Lives and Private Eyes (The Delanie Fitzgerald Series Book 1)

Business has been slow for Private Investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star Johnny Velvet. Could the singer—whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago—still be alive?

As if sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Delanie is hired by loud-mouth strip club owner Chaz Wellington Smith, III, to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz becomes the key suspect, and Delanie must clear his name. She also has to figure out why a landscaper keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder—possibly her own—takes place?

Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of difficult, and sometimes humorous, situations.

On Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

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