Maggie Crozat, proprietor of a historic Cajun Country B&B, prefers to let the good times roll. But hard times rock her hostelry when a new cell phone app makes it easy for locals to rent their spare rooms to tourists. With October--and Halloween--approaching, she conjures up a witch-crafty marketing scheme to draw visitors to Pelican, Louisiana.
Five local plantation B&Bs host "Pelican's Spooky Past" packages, featuring regional crafts, unique menus, and a pet costume parade. Topping it off, the derelict Dupois cemetery is the suitably sepulchral setting for the spine-chilling play Resurrection of a Spirit. But all the witchcraft has inevitably conjured something: her B&B guests are being terrified out of town by sightings of the legendary rougarou, a cross between a werewolf and vampire.
When, in the Dupois cemetery, someone costumed as a rougarou stumbles onstage during the play--and promptly gives up the ghost, the rougarou mask having been poisoned with strychnine, Maggie is on the case. But as more murders stack up, Maggie fears that Pelican's spooky past has nothing on its bloodcurdling present.
LKBR: Thank you for joining us today, Ellen.
Ellen: My pleasure! Thanks so much for having me.
LKBR: Please tell us a bit about MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD.
Ellen: An AirBnB-type of app is stealing business from all the historic B&Bs in my protagonist Maggie Crozat’s hometown of Pelican, Louisiana. To capitalize on Halloween, Maggie comes up with the idea of a “Pelican’s Spooky Past” Package for the month of October that all the B&Bs can offer, with guests allowed to enjoy fun events at any of them if they’re staying at one of them. The Crozat family is also opening their brand-new spa, which will feature a masseuse who’s a long-lost cousin… and turns out to be a horror. The book is filled with unique Cajun and Creole mourning customs and spooky doings!
LKBR: Are you working on any new projects?
Ellen: Yes. I just turned in a draft of the seventh book in this series (The Cajun Country Mysteries). I’m also working on the third book in my Catering Hall Mystery series, which I write under the name Maria DiRico – which happens to be my late nonna’s maiden name. The series is set in Astoria, Queens, where most of my family lived while I was growing up. It’s very personal to me.
LKBR: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Ellen: Honestly, I kind of fell into it, although given that my father was an advertising copywriter and both my brothers are writers, it seems predestined. I was pursuing an acting career and hit a dry spell. I wrote a play to kill time, and suddenly I was a playwright instead of an actress. I began freelance writing for national magazines to support myself, and eventually moved to Los Angeles to write for TV. I’ve been a writer-producer on comedy series like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS.
LKBR: Was getting your first book published everything you thought it would be? The feelings? The process?
Ellen: It was so exciting! I’ll never forget getting that box of books. Wow, what a sight. Then I sent crazy buying swag to give out. I realize now it was tied to a big case of Imposter Syndrome. I doubted my own ability and felt like I had to give people gifts to make up for the guilt of them spending their hard-earned money on my books. I’ve come to be very proud of my series, I’m happy to say. I don’t give out as much swag, but that’s mostly because mailing costs have become so expensive.
LKBR: How did you handle it when changes were made to your first manuscript? I don’t have a thick skin, so I know how I would have felt.
Ellen: I have a VERY thick skin. You have to, if you want to earn your living as a writer. You may think it’s a solitary endeavor but it’s really very collaborative. As a playwright, I worked with actors and directors, constantly rewriting to make the play better. With freelance writing, my editor is the boss. I’m being paid to give them what they want. Same with television. Every script I wrote was rewritten in the writers’ room and then throughout the production week. If you can’t accept changes being made to your work, you stop working. This is not to say that I take every note without a question. Far from it. I evaluate each note to make sure I agree it will improve the script or manuscript. Sometimes you don’t take a suggestion directly. You analyze the core problem someone’s having and find your own way to address and fix it.
LKBR: What is your favorite part of being a writer?
LKBR: Have you ever read a book that has stayed with you long after reading it?
Ellen: Wuthering Heights. It was my book bible for years, although I re-read it not long ago and in the eyes of today, Heathcliff is a horrible, abusive human being! Still, I’m obsessed with the Brontes, especially Emily. The passion in her writing is astounding. #1 on my bucket list is making a pilgrimage to the Bronte Parsonage in England.
LKBR: Why are reviews, good or bad, so important to authors?
Ellen: Good reviews – honest ones – are essential to our survival. They inspire other readers to check us out. They also make us feel better when we’re having a bad day, lol. Bad reviews… that’s trickier. All reviews are subjective. Some point out legitimate flaws in a story. Some are more personal. I make it a point not to write bad reviews. If I don’t like a book, I simply don’t review it.
LKBR: On what sites do you recommend readers leave their reviews?
Ellen: Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub.
LKBR: If you could spend one hour with a reader, what would you want to talk about?
Ellen: Them! Certainly not me, lol. I’d much rather share about their life, dreams, obstacles, triumphs. Who knows? I might find a future story. With their permission, of course. 😉
LKBR: Thank you so much, Ellen, for letting us get to know you better!
Never really ever wanting to visit Louisiana, I read my first book in the Cajun Country Mystery series on request. The others I have read have been because I enjoyed that one so much! Now I’m always ready for a trip to Pelican LA (be it in the pages) with author Ellen Byron.
MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD may be my favorite in the series so far. However, I feel that way after each one I read because author Byron just keeps upping her game with each new tale. I don’t know how she does it!
All I can say about, MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD is, oh my goodness! This was one spooky, fun mystery. Everything from witchcraft and unkempt, creepy cemeteries (just say no to going into these places folks) and an original and unique choice of murder weapon, I can’t mask just how much I enjoyed this book! Seriously, this would have been a one sitting read for me if real life didn’t keep pulling me away.For returning fans of this series, you’re going to absolutely love, MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD. If you haven’t read any of this series, I don’t feel like you’d be lost starting with this one. And, once you have read it, I’m willing to bet you’ll go back and read the rest of the series.