Booth Talks Books: What inspired you to make your first book, Second-Hand Murder, a paranormal cozy? Would you define it as a paranormal cozy?
Blair Merrin: I don’t actually define it as a paranormal cozy, but I think it definitely has a foot in both worlds (pun fully intended, lol). Cozy readers will probably enjoy the tight-knit relationships and positive/funny interactions between characters. Bandit Hills has some decidedly different folks in town, and they all try to accept each others differences without making a fuss over them. Paranormal readers will hopefully appreciate the strange and creepy things that happen in Bandit Hills. If someone is strictly a paranormal/occult/horror reader, this book probably won’t scare them a bit, but Cozy readers can get a kick out of it, without having to double check the locks on the doors and windows.
I like to think outside of the box, and I think this flexible interpretation of the genre will illustrate that pretty well. If I had to invent a name for the genre that I think it falls into, it’d probably be “Creepy Cozies.”
BTB: What kind of research did you need to do for your first book?
BM: I happen to love ghost stories, and have always been fascinated by voodoo and other creepy or mysterious things, so, much of what came out in the book, I already knew. I did research some of the specifics regarding witches and voodoo dolls, though, as well as looking into the topography and climate in Tennessee – I’ve been through that beautiful state, but have never lived there.
BTB: What inspired the town of Bandit Hills? To most people it seems like a creepy place but the residents seem to be pretty cool with it.
BM: My mind wanders sometimes (occupational hazard, lol), and one day, I just started thinking…”What if I took a bunch of interesting people, some of whom had unusual habits and abilities, and put them in a secluded town, where weird was normal?” Yes, this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night…and Bandit Hills was born.
BTB: Have you ever personally been to New Orleans? What did you like most about it if you have?
BM: I love N’awlins! The beignets and coffee, crawfish etouffee, and the voodoo shops like Marie Laveau’s. I admire the magnificent architecture, priceless antiques – the colorful creativity of the French Quarter of course, and the Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulez attitude of this “laid-back, anything goes” city.
BTB: Which character was the most challenging to write about? Do you have a favorite?
BM: Actually, these folks are so fun, that it’s an absolute blast creating their world! I think it’ll probably be a bit more challenging in Book 3, because there will be some complicated relationships that are dealt with (teaser!).
BTB: Will we be able to visit Bandit Hills again in the future? If so, is there anything fun you can bate us with about book two?
BM: Oh goodness yes, I’m already working on book tow, and loving every minute of it! I think that there will be several ladies swooning about a particular character in the second book.
Review of Second-Hand Murder
If you like paranormal stories like I do, then you’ve often thought if would be pretty cool if there was a place you could visit that was almost like a para-vacation location. You know, where you could go and actually see real stuff going on, hear actual voices and interact with the spirits and it’s completely normal. No judgment from anyone and people actually believe you without that weird look after you tell them that you hear voices in your attic. Well, Blair Merrin has created that place, Bandit Hills, Tennessee. When something strange happens in Bandit Hills, they have a saying, “ That’s Bandit Hills for ya!”
We meet Cassie and her mom in their antique shop, Miss Miscellanea, which sells other people’s castaway treasures. Some items are junk but others are down right fascinating. On this particular day, one of the most interesting finds of all shows up in a box. In an unmarked box, sitting along with other boxes full of uninteresting items, is a small, roughly made burlap doll with button eyes and yellow hair and a photo of a recently deceased woman. Cue creepy music, right? For this town however, just another Tuesday. Well, things are about to change.
Cassie begins to wonder why someone would place a photo of a recently deceased woman with a voodoo doll and more than that, who the woman was. So, she begins looking into it out of pure curiosity. She then calls her old high-school friend turned investigator, Dash to see if he could help find out more about who she now knows is Stephanie Marshall after a quick look at recent obits on the internet. The woman has been dead all of a week.
Their investigation uncovers a lot; too much in fact. They discover an ominous note, speak to a spirit from beyond the grave, break into this deceased Stephanie’s home, find a photo of her with a mystery man which leads Cassie to take a trip to New Orleans in search of said mystery man and there, encounter evil magic beyond her imagination. Let’s just say she comes home with a doll that looks like her. I will leave it at that. The ending is heart stopping and leads one with more questions than answers. Glad to know book two is in the works.
Second-Hand Murder is an amazing premier paranormal book for author, Blair Merrin. She has hit upon several aspects that some authors have not yet explored. I love the theme, the characters and the constant action throughout the book. This is a town I would not only love to visit, but live in. I could see me visiting this little shop every week and being perfectly content with the crazy things that happen there on a regular basis, saying right along with the town folk, “That’s Bandit Hills for ya!”